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Housing In Crisis

October 26, 2020
10:00 AM EDT - 11:30 AM EDT
Online Platform: Zoom

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Opening of SJW by Elder Joanne Dallaire

Elder Joanne Dallaire is proudly Cree, her ancestry is Omushkego from Attawapiskat. Joanne has dedicated her career to counselling, advising and educating on Indigenous concerns, empowerment and capacity building, as well as advocating for change in terms of broader societal relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people through her business, Healing Works. Her social service career began in 1985 and has contributed to transforming the lives of individuals, the culture of agencies and the recognition and respect for Indigenous people’s concerns and contributions within mainstream society. Joanne facilitates and consults in the not for profit sector and the Toronto District School Board around hiring practices, staff training, group facilitation, and policy and procedure development. She sits on several councils and committees.

Event Description:

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite the often repeated phrase that “we are all in this together,” it is clear that the government – at all levels – fails to adequately address the needs and concerns of the homeless population. This panel will discuss how the lack of a COVID-19 plan for the homeless is only a continuation of decades of neglect on housing and shelter issues. Focusing on experiences in Toronto, the panel will also address how race and colonization intersect to further intensify the living conditions of those who have been denied the protection of a decent home to live in. Full shelters, inadequate dining and sleeping areas, forced migrations, “evictions” from public spaces, an aging population, and reduced access to health care all increase the risk of viral outbreaks and make homeless individuals more vulnerable to illness. What actions have homeless people taken to protect themselves? What steps have activists, frontline workers and lawyers taken to demand a public health plan that ensures the protection of all?

Co-sponsored by Ryerson Faculty of Law.


Steven Teekens

Steve Teekens, a member of Nipissing First Nation, has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Queen’s University. He is the Executive Director at Na-Me-Res (Native Men’s Residence) where he has worked since 2008. He has been working with the marginalized and homeless sector in Toronto since 1995. Steve is very active in Toronto’s Indigenous Community where he volunteers at Aboriginal Legal Services Community Council Program. Steve also teaches traditional drumming to the youth and men at various Native organizations inside and outside of Toronto. Steve enjoys working and volunteering in the Indigenous Community and wishes to see people overcome their obstacles and find the resilience in themselves to succeed in life.

Cathy Crowe

Cathy Crowe is a street nurse, author and filmmaker who works nationally and locally on health and social justice issues. Her work has included taking the pulse of health issues affecting homeless people including shelter conditions and inadequate housing, the return of tuberculosis and bedbugs, discrimination and a high mortality rate. She has fostered numerous coalitions and advocacy initiatives that have achieved significant public policy victories. Cathy is the recipient of numerous awards including honourary Doctorates in Law, Science and Nursing, an international Human Rights and Nursing Award and the prestigious Atkinson Economic Justice Award. Cathy is the author of Dying for a Home: Homeless Activists Speak Out and was the Executive Producer and researcher for the national documentary film and community development project Home Safe with filmmaker Laura Sky. She is the author of A Knapsack Full Of Dreams: Memoirs Of A Street Nurse.

Shalini Konanur

Shalini Konanur is a lawyer and the Executive Director at the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO). As a student at Osgoode Hall Law School, Shalini worked at both Parkdale Community Legal Services and C.L.A.S.P. in the workers’ rights division. Shalini has been actively involved in several areas of poverty law reform, including lobbying at the municipal, provincial, and federal level for social assistance, housing, immigration, employment, and family violence reform. Shalini has also spearheaded SALCO’s test case work, challenging issues of racial, gender, and religious discrimination at the Supreme Court of Canada, the Ontario Court of Appeal, and the Federal Court. Shalini’s work focuses on the promotion of access to justice for racialized communities in Canada and on addressing poverty for SALCO’s low-income constituency.


Emily Hill

Emily Hill is the Senior Staff Lawyer at Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS). ALS provides free legal assistance to low-income Indigenous people living in the City of Toronto. ALS is also involved in law reform, community organizing, public legal education, and test case litigation. Emily joined ALS in July 2011. Since then she has represented clients at administrative tribunals, inquests, the Ontario Court of Justice and Divisional Court. She has acted on behalf of ALS as an intervener at the Superior Court of Justice, the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. She also represents ALS in a number of working groups and research projects. Before that she completed her articles as a clerk of the Superior Court of Justice and worked as a staff lawyer at Yukon Legal Services Society (Legal Aid) for eight years, representing clients in the areas of criminal, family, child protection and mental health law. Emily is honoured to work with ALS towards the goal of Indigenous-controlled and culturally-based justice alternatives.