The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Canada’s young people & More News

Never in the modern history of Canada have the country’s children and youth been sacrificed on such a scale as the past two and a half years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through seven waves and multiple variants of the virus, at least half of Canada’s roughly 13 million young people aged 29 and under have been afflicted with COVID-19.

Students walking out of Winnipeg’s Kelvin High School on Monday, Jan. 17 to protest the lack of COVID-19 safety measures. (Striking Students/Reddit)

The pandemic’s deadly trajectory has been orchestrated by the capitalist ruling class, its government representatives at the federal, provincial and territorial levels, and the leadership of the trade unions. Declaring that the population had to learn to “live with the virus,” capitalist governments have forced public schools to remain open with virtually no protections in place for one simple reason: to ensure parents could go to work and generate profits for the country’s banks and corporations.

With schools set to return from summer break in the coming weeks, the political establishment is once again preparing to subject children and their families to a policy of mass infection and death. Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government announced earlier this week that there will not even be a mask mandate in the province’s schools, let alone any more substantial measures to curb COVID’s spread.

These mass infection policies were opposed by young people and workers over the past year, both in Canada and around the world. It is high time for workers and young people to draw the political lessons of these struggles in order to launch a political fight to put an end to wave after wave of infection by eliminating COVID-19 globally.

Lisa Diaz, a parent in the United Kingdom, organized a school strike on October 1, 2021, urging parents to keep their children home from school to protest governments’ forced infection of children around the world. Many parents in Canada took up her call and the hashtag #SchoolStrike2021 became one of the highest-trending on Twitter.

In Ontario, biostatistician and educator Ryan Imgrund called for a protest on October 14, 2021 against the education unions’ refusal to permit education workers to wear N95 respirators in COVID-infested schools. Illustrating the union leadership’s hostility to the rank-and-file membership, Imgrund was publicly censured by his union, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association. Other unions, like the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, warned their members that participating in the protest would be grounds for dismissal. 

The emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant in November and its rapid spread throughout the world prompted governments, including in Canada, to declare it “mild.” No additional measures were taken to protect the population and families were encouraged to gather over the holiday break. Except for brief delays, schools were reopened after the holidays in the midst of record infection rates.

Across the world, both students and education workers fought back. Throughout Europe, thousands of students marched at the beginning of January in France, Germany, Austria, Italy, and Greece, demanding that schools remain remote and that governments do more to protect the population from the disease. Teachers in France went on a nationwide strike to protest the mass infection policies of the widely-reviled government of President Emmanuel Macron.

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