Mr. Speaker, when we acknowledge today as the anniversary of this pandemic, it requires us to reflect on who has been impacted by this. We have all been impacted. We have all felt this pandemic in some way, but I want to take a moment to think about those who have been hardest hit by this pandemic. It is with great sadness that, when we reflect on who felt this pandemic the most and who bore the brunt of it, we come up with the answer that it was our seniors. Seniors, particularly those living in long-term care, bore the brunt of this pandemic with the worst conditions and with their lives. It is a national shame that it is the case.
I think about so many people, so many loved ones, who were lost when their families could not be with them in their last days. They were lost and families could not grieve their losses, many of which were preventable. It is hard to think about what losing 22,000 Canadians means, but an incredible event on the front lawn of Parliament really illustrated what that meant. Normally, when we see protests on the front lawn of Parliament, it is about the presence of people and how many people show up. In this moment it was about the absence of people. Empty shoes were laid out to represent those we had lost. We lost so many loved ones.
I think of a man I met in Windsor who talked about his father. With a lot of difficulty, he decided he needed to go into long-term care because of his complex care issues. He was in long-term care and caught COVID-19 right around the time the vaccines were announced. He ended up losing his life. To this day, his son is haunted with the thought that if his father had gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, maybe he would still be alive.
When we think about this pandemic, we need to think about those it has hit hardest. It is a national shame that our seniors in long-term care were the ones who bore the brunt of COVID-19. We always need to remember that we could have prevented those deaths. Had we made decisions, had we expedited the vaccination process, we could have saved lives. We need to think about that.
We also need to think about front-line workers, whose courage was incredible in this pandemic. They put their lives in front of the pandemic and put their lives on the line. We are so thankful to them. However, they deserve more than our thanks. They need to be properly cared for and compensated, and we will continue to work for that.
We need to remember that all front-line workers are among the hardest hit. I am not just talking about health care workers, but also about those who work in retail and who hold all sorts of other jobs. They are the true heroes of this pandemic.
I also think about indigenous and racialized people who have been among the hardest hit. Indigenous communities have lived with the constant fear that an outbreak would be devastating to communities that have faced a historic and ongoing lack of access to health care. A pandemic would be devastating. To live with that fear and worry has been completely wrong, and it is why we need to make sure that, in our response to this pandemic and in vaccinating, these vulnerable communities receive the vaccine as quickly as possible.
I also want to reflect on how racialized people have been hit hard by this pandemic. Workers in factories, logistics, transportation and warehouses, who brought us food and continued the supply chain, could not work from home. They did not have that option. As a result, they were among those who were more likely to get infected by COVID-19, and again felt the brunt of this pandemic.
The impact of this pandemic has not only meant a terrible, horrible loss of life, it has also meant the loss of jobs and that small businesses have had to shut down. Specifically, women have been disproportionately impacted. Women have been more likely to lose their jobs because of this pandemic.
In our recovery, we need to never let this happen again.
To honour the memory of those who lost their lives during this pandemic, we need to take special, concrete measures to prevent the same thing from ever happening again.
First, we need to take care of our seniors by taking profit out of long-term care and ensuring that we have national standards to guide us. We need to use all of the knowledge we have gained during this pandemic to ensure that our seniors receive the best care possible.
We need to make sure that, moving forward, we remove profit from long-term care so our seniors no longer bear the brunt of any future outbreak, pandemic or serious event. Our seniors need to be protected, and there are clear steps we can take.
We know front-line workers need to be paid a dignified salary so they can do their work and are protected. We know that when we have a good quality of work, and good conditions of work, it directly means better care for our loved ones in long-term care.
We need to also make sure we are building resilient communities and investing in child care so women can return to work. We need to make sure we build the capacity to produce a vaccine in our own country, ideally owning it publicly so we are never in the same situation of being at the whim of international logistics and supply chain issues.
To prevent what happened with COVID-19 from happening again in the event of another pandemic, we need to invest in child care so that women, who were among the hardest hit, can return to work.
We need to have the ability to manufacture vaccines here in Canada. We also need a Canadian-controlled Crown corporation to manufacture vaccines and essential medications.
It is also important to immediately take real action to prevent a future pandemic.
When we remember the impact of this pandemic, it is not enough to remember the lives lost or the impact on jobs and lost businesses. We also have to commit to preventing this from ever happening again. There are steps we can take, and New Democrats are committed to making that happen.