COVID-19 | Deputies in the red zone

Support a restaurateur who has suicidal thoughts, accompany a single mother to the grocery store or even find a hairdresser for a very isolated and vulnerable senior. It is the unusual daily life of certain deputies of the National Assembly who fight against the perverse effects of the pandemic in the red zone.

Charlevoix: “We thought we had saved someone’s life”

PHOTO EDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, THE PRESS

Émilie Foster, Member of Parliament for Charlevoix – Côte-de-Beaupré (Coalition d’avenir Québec)

It happened twice. On two occasions this fall, MP Émilie Foster had to support entrepreneurs in the hotel and restaurant sector – the economic engine of her region – so that they dispel their dark ideas.

“Sometimes it can be an hour, an hour and a half talking on the phone, calming the person down and then making sure the follow-up has been done with the suicide prevention center. There are two times when we said to ourselves: I think we saved someone’s life, ”recounts the member for the Coalition Avenir Québec.

Members of the National Assembly have been facing “a lot of human distress” since the start of the pandemic. But if, in the first wave, we were more in management, “the shock” and “the fear”, the second wave tires and shakes the most vulnerable in society, told four elected officials in The Press.

“Distress, we feel it in the counties”, indicates Mme Foster.

In Charlevoix, one third of the region’s jobs are in the tourism industry. “It’s stock,” she says.

Despite a milder summer when tourists were able to visit Charlevoix, the tightening of sanitary measures in mid-October, when the region went into “maximum alert” mode, with the closure of restaurants and bars, caused a surge of choc. The effect was immediate in Émilie Foster’s office.

“It didn’t bother anymore. The traders wanted to stay open, ”she pleads. He had to find a balance between supporting entrepreneurs in his region, making political representations to his own government and getting people to understand the importance of public health initiatives.

It is certain that there are entrepreneurs who are desperate. […] There are some who have built a business all their life and now things are going very, very badly. I remember one person who came to us literally in tears. She has been in the restaurant business for 27 years. Our role was to support him.

Émilie Foster, Member of Parliament for Charlevoix – Côte-de-Beaupré

Mme Foster and his team often have to help them navigate emergency aid programs in Quebec City and Ottawa. But sometimes it takes more than economic aid. “The human side takes up a lot of space,” she breathes.

She estimates that the workload of her constituency office has increased by “40 to 50%” since the region turned red. “We have adrenaline. It’s seven days a week, 24 hours a day. ”A few weeks ago, a lady arriving from Belgium was unable to go to her father’s bedside on Île d’Orléans.

“We took that call on a Friday evening at 9:30 pm I contacted the CEO of the CIUSSS, we brought down the directive. […] She returned on time, her father died the next day. When, afterwards, we call you to tell you that she was able to hold her father’s hand, it’s an incredible appreciation. It’s worth everything after. “

Villeray – Saint-Michel – Parc-Extension: “People live in a vacuum”

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PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, THE PRESS

Andrés Fontecilla, Member of Parliament for Laurier-Dorion (Québec solidaire)

“We are inundated with calls. The deputy for Laurier-Dorion, Andrés Fontecilla, admits it straight away: since the start of the health crisis, his work has been coupled with a large portion of “psychological listening”.

“It is above all the uncertainty that affects people’s morale,” slice the elected representative of Quebec solidaire.

We receive dozens of calls a week for all kinds of problems. Sometimes people just need to ventilate, to express themselves.

Andrés Fontecilla, Member of Parliament for Laurier-Dorion

He relates cases “which may seem anecdotal”, but which are far from being in the context of a pandemic.

“We had to help a very old man find someone to cut his toenails and hair. He hadn’t found anyone for months. He was at risk and people weren’t going to his house. He is an isolated person and it created a great level of distress in him. We mobilized and we succeeded ”, quotes Mr. Fontecilla.

Another isolated elder was very reluctant to use the health care system, but his illness was getting worse. Helping such vulnerable people also means “taking them by the hand”, continues the deputy. “This is not telling him to call such number. It is to do it with him, to go see him and accompany him in his process ”, he illustrates.

Bureaucratic delays

This second wave plunges into darkness those who were barely catching their breath, said the deputy. Newcomers, immigrants and seniors are particularly affected in his riding located in the borough of Villeray – Saint-Michel – Parc-Extension.

It no longer counts the appeals for “immigration reasons” while the crisis has caused “significant delays” in the processing of applications both at the federal and provincial levels.

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PHOTO ALAIN ROBERGE, THE PRESS

Government bureaucracy is not at all adapted to the aftermath of the pandemic: things stop and start again.

Andrés Fontecilla, Member of Parliament for Laurier-Dorion

He has in mind the story of a man who worked in a gym. “At the very end of the period in which he could submit his application to the Program de aventure québécoise […], containment arrives, the center closes. Then he is told that he has to do continuous work. […] This means that he no longer has access to the program, ”laments the elected official.

Mr. Fontecilla also campaigned publicly to avoid the expulsion of Mamadou Konaté, an asylum seeker who lent a hand in CHSLD during the first wave. He participated last Tuesday in a rally in solidarity with the man in front of Justin Trudeau’s offices.

Born in Santiago, Chile, Andrés Fontecilla does not hide the fact that these stories particularly affect him. “Immigration cases, these people live in a vacuum. They feel a great injustice compared to their situation and that touches me a lot. “

Montreal-North: “Social tensions have worsened”

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PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS

Paule Robitaille, Member of Parliament for Bourassa-Sauvé (Liberal Party of Quebec)

Montréal-Nord was hit hard by the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Bourassa-Sauvé, the backlash has fueled social tensions, believes Liberal MP Paule Robitaille.

The riding saw shootings in broad daylight last summer. “In my riding, we are among the poorest in Quebec, where there is the most underprivilege and we are particularly impacted [par la crise sanitaire] », Relates Mme Robitaille.

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PHOTO MARTIN CHAMBERLAND, THE PRESS

The way it manifested is that the social tensions escalated. There was an upsurge in violence this summer and there, we have community organizations that are exhausted.

Paule Robitaille, Member of Parliament for Bourassa-Sauvé

Making the government aware of the particular needs of his constituency in order to “top up the coffers” of local organizations takes up most of his time. “We only have two street workers. You will tell me: add some. If you knew how to get funding for that, it’s complicated, ”she says.

She is worried about the fate of vulnerable young people who find themselves unemployed or who can no longer practice their sports since the pandemic. “This summer, we had a lot of young people who met [à jouer ou se réunir dans la rue]. Obviously, there are people from street gangs. They are in contact with them… ”, she illustrates.

“Community organizations, street workers, they are there to prevent young people from being recruited, to help them find a job. Everything was in slow motion this summer and it still is this fall. ”

Considering the urgency of the situation, we think about it all the time. It’s 24/7. I always wonder how I can make sure that this or that project is accepted, how I will be able to have one more speaker.

Paule Robitaille, Member of Parliament for Bourassa-Sauvé

For her, the “blind spot” of this second wave is “the weakening of the most fragile” in circles like hers.

She says she visited a single mother last Saturday whose husband died of COVID-19 in the spring. “I was going to see how she was. When I saw the carton of pizza on the table, I asked her if it had been a while since she had done a grocery store. She said yes. ”

The lady does not have a car and with her three children, getting around is difficult. Mme Robitaille accompanied her to the supermarket. “I told myself that was the least of things,” she admits. There are all kinds of issues like this that explain why organizations are overwhelmed. “

Saguenay: “A close relationship” that bears fruit

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PHOTO EDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, THE PRESS

Sylvain Gaudreault, Member of Parliament for Jonquière (Parti Québécois)

While Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean, spared by the first wave, is hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the deputy for Jonquière, Sylvain Gaudreau, does not hide that the concern on the ground is palpable .

“I felt it a lot and it is obviously reflected in the contacts we have in the office with the team. It is certain that there is a greater concern of the population with the red zone ”, relates the member of the Parti Québécois.

As of Thursday, the region recorded more new confirmed cases of the disease than Montreal. Renowned for being an elected official close to his population, Sylvain Gaudreault, who has been the Member of Parliament for Jonquière since 2007, believes that the relationship he has been able to build with his community is of great benefit to him in these exceptional times.

“I have always had a close relationship with community organizations and citizens,” he argues.

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PHOTO EDOUARD PLANTE-FRÉCHETTE, THE PRESS

If, today, through the pandemic, the first wave and the red zone, we are able to be active to intervene, it is the result of several years of proximity with citizens.

Sylvain Gaudreault, Member of Parliament for Jonquière

He cites the local crisis management committee bringing together several actors from the community and health sectors. “We meet several times a week. We share information, we target interventions, together. It helps me a lot in my work, summarizes the elected PQ. It was very important that I was there. ”

Sylvain Gaudreault, who was defeated in the Parti Québécois leadership race in October, admits that “reconnecting” so intensely to his work as an MP is also a source of comfort. He says he draws his energy there.

“A lot, a lot,” answers the PQ. I have never abandoned my riding, but it is certain that my team has been more at the front [pendant certains moments de la course]. But to come back and dive back into it, it feels good. Really, really, ”he sums up with humility.

He cites the example of the closure of the Jonquière screening clinic three weeks ago, which was moved to Chicoutimi.

We have had a lot of calls on the subject. We have areas of poverty where there are mobility issues. People told us that they would not go to be tested.

Sylvain Gaudreault, Member of Parliament for Jonquière

“We pleaded very hard” to regain a clinic, he continues. Finally, the CIUSSS du Saguenay – Lac-Saint-Jean announced earlier this week the return of a screening site in Jonquière.

“Is it partly thanks to my intervention?” I don’t know and I will never know. But this is very good news and I am very happy. “



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