On the Friday before the Thanksgiving long weekend, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau encouraged Canadians to support their local food bank in a photo op at a Metro grocery store in Ottawa.

But in Toronto, Valerie Tarasuk was outraged. Canada’s foremost expert on food insecurity couldn’t believe the government was giving money to food banks.

“It’s craziness,” she said. “People like me spend all this time figuring this stuff out and then you watch these policy decisions and you think, ‘Why are we wasting our time doing this research?’ Nobody’s using it.”

Indigenous people have been largely left out of Toronto’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans, according to several prominent Indigenous health leaders.

“We’re ready as Indigenous organizations and Indigenous providers,” said Dr. Lisa Richardson, a clinician who is also the University of Toronto medical school’s strategic adviser on Indigenous Health. “We really want to mobilize.”

But Richardson, who spoke to the Star by phone from an acute-care hospital ward where she cares for COVID patients, said she and others working in Indigenous health care have not received the strategic planning or other support they need to get vaccines to the highly vulnerable urban Indigenous population.

With one site full and no one leaving, the city of London and a coalition of agencies have opened a second winter homeless shelter on York Street.

The second site at 415 York St. near the Men’s Mission will provide overnight shelter, three meals a day, onsite washroom and shower facilities and other supports for 30 people, the city announced Tuesday.

An open letter to Nicholas Simons, B.C.’s minister of social development and poverty reduction.

Many congratulations on your appointment in these fragile, unnerving pandemic times. As the NDP election platform and your mandate letter from the premier make clear, government policy on food banks is now your responsibility.

That means you have the opportunity — and responsibility — to reverse the province’s shocking embrace of U.S.-style food banks, which should be an embarrassment for Canada’s party of human rights and economic and social justice.

Quebec Premier François Legault says no exemption from the province’s mandatory overnight curfew will be given to people who really are homeless, despite calls to do so from advocates and Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante.

In a news conference Tuesday, Legault said he’s concerned an official exemption could encourage people to “pretend” to be homeless.

On Jan. 6, Quebec Premier Francois Legault announced that an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew would be in effect from Jan. 9 until at least Feb. 8. When asked about exemptions for unsheltered Quebecers, Legault falsely claimed that there is enough room for the unhoused in Montreal’s shelter infrastructure, leaving community organizations to fill in the gaps. While the response to Legault’s statement has rightfully been critical, it is disheartening to see many well-intentioned volunteers wondering how to help, and coming up blank.

This paralysis speaks to a troubling trend in citizen engagement on the question of supporting unhoused populations: That of always being in emergency aid mode. Certainly, the spike in the number of unsheltered people due to the pandemic has introduced a new need to put out fires, but as citizens focus on issues ranging from food insecurity, to the lack of public toilets, to the need for larger shelters, creative solutions to relieve pressure on the shelter system are not receiving the attention they deserve.

The Quebec coroner’s office is investigating the death of a 51-year-old homeless man in Montreal’s Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood over the weekend.

Raphael André’s body was discovered inside a portable toilet in the early morning hours of Sunday, Jan. 17, near the Open Door, a drop-in centre that provides services to the homeless and low-income earners in Montreal and one of the only wet shelters in the city.