Mr. Seivwright worries that once the parks are empty, the urgent conversation about affordable housing will be quickly forgotten. He has hired lawyers to fight the city’s injunction on constitutional grounds.

While he waits for the court date, he has stopped making shelters. He has also delayed his plans to move to the country’s east coast to build his own community, with even fewer rules and more time to play music, make art and read.

“It’s worth it,” he said. “I had a funny thought: Life is long. It’s not so terrible to have to wait a little bit.”

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The Toronto Carpenter Who Built Tiny Homes for the Homeless

TORONTO — On his way to work on a construction site, Khaleel Seivwright surveyed the growing number of tents lining an intercity highway and in parks with increasing discomfort. How would these people survive Toronto’s damp, frigid winters, let alone the coronavirus, which had pushed so many out of overcrowded shelters?

He remembered the little shanty he had once built out of scrap wood while living on a commune in British Columbia.

So he hauled a new generator into his S.U.V., strapped $800 worth of wood onto the vehicle’s roof and drove down into one of the city’s ravines in the middle of the night to build another one: a wooden box — 7 feet 9 inches by 3 feet 9 inches — sealed with a vapor barrier and stuffed with enough insulation that, by his careful calculation, would keep it warm on nights when the thermometer dipped as low as minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

He put in one window for light, and attached smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Later, he taped a note to the side that read, “Anyone is welcome to stay here.”

more than $200,000 in donations. He has hauled them to parks across Toronto where homeless encampments have slumped into place — jarring reminders of the pandemic’s perversely uneven effects.

Encampment Support Network, dropping off food and supplies to people living in camps that now number 75, with up to 400 inhabitants, the government estimates.

He started a petition urging the city not to remove his shelters from the parks — an effort that to date has received almost 100,000 signatures. Many others followed, penned by health care providers, musicians, church groups, lawyers, academics, artists and authors.

“I’ve become the face of something that is a lot bigger than me,” he said.

not been swayed. Fires in the shelters, one of which proved fatal, have stiffened their opposition. They have the law on their side: In October, an Ontario judge ruled that the encampments impaired the use of park spaces and that the city had the right to remove them.

“I cannot accept having people in parks is the best that our country and city can do,” said Ana Bailão, Toronto’s deputy mayor, adding that the city had 2,040 units of affordable housing under construction and thousands more approved — a sizable increase from previous years, but hardly a notch in the city’s 80,000-plus waiting list for social housing.

Mr. Seivwright worries that once the parks are empty, the urgent conversation about affordable housing will be quickly forgotten. He has hired lawyers to fight the city’s injunction on constitutional grounds.

While he waits for the court date, he has stopped making shelters. He has also delayed his plans to move to the country’s east coast to build his own community, with even fewer rules and more time to play music, make art and read.

“It’s worth it,” he said. “I had a funny thought: Life is long. It’s not so terrible to have to wait a little bit.”

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Toronto Police Hindered by Anti-Gay Bias in Bruce McArthur Serial Killer Case

OTTAWA — A two-and-half-year investigation of the Toronto police found that “systemic discrimination” within the force enabled a serial killer to murder eight gay men, mostly of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent, over a span of seven years.

Several times the police interviewed the killer, Bruce McArthur, who was convicted in 2019, but did not link him to the deaths and released him — allowing him to continue his killing spree.

“There was institutional resistance to the notion that these cases night be linked and that a serial killer might be preying on” Toronto’s L.G.B.T.Q community, Gloria Epstein, a retired justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal, wrote in a report released on Tuesday. “This systemic failure is perhaps the most troubling.”

The investigation found that the police force repeatedly failed to enter evidence linking the killings to Mr. McArthur into case-tracking software.

The report makes 151 recommendations, among them proposals to allow civilians within the Toronto police force to coordinate missing persons investigations; to centralize those inquiries under one police unit; and to conduct them in concert with public health, social service and not-for-profit community groups.

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‘A Really Good Moment’ for Canada in Washington

While there’s no fast rule, the job of Canada’s ambassador to Washington often goes to a former politician or a high-profile Canadian who comes from outside of the ranks of career diplomats.

Kirsten Hillman, who took the post just over a year ago after serving as deputy ambassador, is very much from the public service side of Global Affairs Canada. A lawyer who grew up in southern Winnipeg and Calgary, she’s held various senior trade positions within the department.

I spoke with her this week about the changes in the relationship between Canada and the United States now with Joseph R. Biden as president. Our conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

first detailed bilateral meeting, albeit virtual, was with the prime minister and some members of his cabinet. I myself was receiving calls from high-level White House executives literally hours after the inauguration, like two hours after they actually took over the administration.

The prime minister and the president, they know each other well, they have a strong relationship. But also really important, they share a lot of crucial policy objectives. It’s a really good moment in time for Canada-U.S. relations.

The new administration in Washington has a lot of big domestic priorities right now, particularly the post-pandemic economic recovery. Does it have the bandwidth to deal with issues of importance to Canada?

At the meeting between the president and the prime minister, we set up with the Americans what we are calling a road map. Often, statements at the leaders’ level are quite aspirational. They’re “we really believe in this, and we’re hoping to go that direction” — that kind of thing.

its overall economic policy, which is recovery.

So, this is a jobs plan and that’s not particularly different than what Canada is doing, right?

What’s really important to keep a close eye on is that as these policies are translated into concrete action, they achieve those goals and don’t unintentionally do what they’re not designed to do.

Like buy America provisions?

There’s a clear desire in the United States to use government procurement to support American workers and jobs.

We know from past experience that imposing these restrictions on the Canada-U. S. supply chain has the opposite effect. It actually harms U.S. companies and it harms U.S. workers.

particularly in the United States, is an expanded opening of the border on the horizon?

There is good news with respect to vaccination on both sides of the border. But we’re also seeing a resurgence of variants right now. And in Ontario, and down here in the United States, there are places where there is more transmission than ever.

So we’re constantly assessing the situation. Hopefully, we will be able to move forward with some reopenings. But it’s all going to depend on the facts on the ground.

Canadians have a long list of things they’d like to see from the United States. What does the Biden administration want to see from Canada?

obviously the environment.

But I also think the administration looks to us as the key partner on the international stage. You know, this is an administration that is very intent on rebuilding alliances with like-minded countries.

Both countries agree that the government of China jailed two Canadians, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, a telecommunications executive from China, at the request of the U.S. government. How has this affected our relationship with the American government?

I believe the U.S. administration understands this, but I’m not sure Americans understand this: The arbitrary detention is at its core retaliation, it’s an intimidation tactic. It’s designed to pressure Canada into walking away from our legal commitments to the United States under our extradition treaty.

Is it working?

Rather than weakening the Canada-U.S. partnership, I think that this hostage diplomacy tactic has drawn us closer together in defense of human rights and in defense of the rule of law. These tactics aren’t just about two people. There’s a broader objective at play that requires all similarly minded democracies to stand together.


nytcanada@nytimes.com.

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Elderly, Vaccinated and Still Lonely and Locked Inside

TORONTO — Devora Greenspon is among the lucky ones. She is one of the 1.4 percent of Canadians who has received two shots of a coronavirus vaccine. So have 90 percent of the residents in her nursing home.

How has it changed her life?

“It’s like it never happened,” says Ms. Greenspon, 88, who is still sequestered mostly in her room. Her walks have been confined to the corridor; she has not been allowed to leave the center for nonmedical reasons since October.

Long-term care homes, as they are called in Canada, were prioritized for the first precious doses of vaccines, to few objections — they were ground zero for the pandemic’s cruel ravage. Around 66 percent of the country’s terminal Covid-19 victims lived in nursing homes, among the highest rates in the world.

But while the vaccines have given the majority of nursing-home residents protection from death by the virus, so far they have not offered more life. Some residents have compared their lives to those of prisoners and caged animals.

game night or choir practice. And some homes are permitting indoor visits under U.S. federal guidelines put in place in September that allow them if a home has been virus-free for 14 days, and county positivity rates are below 10 percent, regardless of the home’s vaccination rate.

But elsewhere, homes are about to reach a full year of being closed to visitors, despite the plummeting of coronavirus cases.

AARP and other advocacy organizations have called on the U.S. government to ease visitation guidelines as vaccines are rolled out in nursing homes. Many note that with vaccinations, the likelihood of residents contracting and dying from Covid-19 is lower, but the harm to residents from social isolation continues unabated.

Ms. MacKenzie noted that the extended periods of isolation are having detrimental effects on residents’ health in Canada as well.

large survey of nursing-homes residents and their families by Ms. MacKenzie’s office found the majority reported a marked decline in cognitive function and emotional well-being, and almost half reported their physical functioning had worsened. The survey also found that the proportion of residents on antipsychotic medication — traditionally prescribed to manage behaviors like agitation related to dementia — had increased by 7 percent over six months.

The question of how to care for the country’s senior population during a pandemic isn’t unique to Canada and the United States. Many nursing homes around the world banned visits as the coronavirus arrived around a year ago. Soon after, geriatricians sounded the alarm about the rapid decline in health and well-being of residents, triggering a debate about the balance between protection and quality of life, as well as the rights and autonomy of residents. As a result, many jurisdictions reintroduced some sort of visitor policy, as the first wave subsided.

Many are calling for a similar discussion to happen again in Canada.

“If we really don’t allow people more civil and social liberty, and allow them to meaningfully engage in social activities in some way, these people are going to give up, as many of them have already done,” said Dr. Nathan Stall, a geriatrician at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital.

Betty Hicks, 82, broke her hip a couple months before her nursing home went into lockdown and she never regained her ability to walk, says her daughter Marla Wilson. Without the regular visits from her large family, the mother of eight deteriorated quickly, losing nearly 20 pounds and the ability to even pick up a phone, her daughter says.

Now that Ms. Hicks has been vaccinated, like everyone else in her nursing home, the argument that she’s locked up for her own safety seems painfully weak, her daughter says.

“You always hear people say, ‘Oh they lived a long life,’” said Ms. Wilson. “Right now, they aren’t living. They are existing.”

While overprotective government regulations have prevented long-term care homes from adjusting their restrictions, they are only partially responsible, said Dr. Samir Sinha, co-chair of the National Institute on Ageing and director of geriatrics at Toronto’s Sinai Health System and University Health Network.

Many facilities have been so focused on preventing outbreaks that they’ve been unwilling to develop creative ways of keeping their residents mentally and physically stimulated, he said.

“The majority of nursing homes across the country have found an excuse to not do something,” he said. “You even have these homes who are marketing it, ‘We’re going above and beyond to keep you safe.’ We translate that to mean, ‘We are locking you in your room for good.’ They are actually violating people’s human rights.”

And for many residents, Dr. Sinha pointed out, time is running out: The average stay in a Canadian nursing home, to put it gingerly, is just two years.

“I’d like to take them on a bus to Niagara Falls, or anywhere, even if we can’t get off the bus. When can we do that?” said Sue Graham-Nutter, the head of two nursing homes in Toronto where 98 percent of residents have been vaccinated. She is haunted by last spring’s outbreak that killed many of her residents, but she worries many more will die before they are afforded some basic joy.

“They want to go and hang out with their friends,” said Ms. Graham-Nutter, the chief executive of Rekai Centres. “When can we do that?”

Lawyers say the rules restricting residents from leaving breach rights laid out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. “Long-term care residents should be able to come and go like everybody else,” said Jane Meadus, a lawyer at the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, a legal clinic for seniors. “Does the fact you live in long-term care give you less charter rights?”

Few of her clients are willing to challenge their home’s restrictions, however.

“They are afraid the home will somehow retaliate, or try to remove them from the home,” said Ms. Meadus. “We are talking about institutions that have a lot of power over a very vulnerable population.”

Jonathan Marchand is one exception. Last summer, he slipped out of his care home near Quebec City and moved into a makeshift cage erected near the provincial legislature, to stage a protest. Mr. Marchand, a 44-year-old network engineer, suffers from muscular dystrophy and requires a ventilator to breathe. For years, he’s fought to leave the institution and spend the government money to hire his own caregivers at home.

The pandemic gave him another powerful argument. After five nights sleeping in his motorized wheelchair and on a cot, he returned to the facility, with a government promise to work on a pilot project for community living.

Since then, he has not been allowed to leave the property except for medical reasons, he says. While he calls the rules unjust and unfair, he understands why they are there — because of the devastation an outbreak from variants could wreak.

“Long-term care facilities were the first things to close down; they will be the last thing to open up,” he said. “I think they will be very cautious in opening up, and I can’t blame them for it.”

Still, some people have decided not to wait for the rules to change, but to relish the small joys vaccination provides.

Suzanne Charest rushed to an Ottawa hospital last month after being notified by her father’s nursing home that he had suffered what seemed like another heart attack. He was in so much pain, she said, he talked frantically through the night, as if it might be their last time together. Thankfully, it was a false alarm.

The next day, after he was back in the nursing home, Ms. Charest, who like her father has been vaccinated, did something she hadn’t done in almost a year.

She hugged him.

Catherine Porter reported from Toronto. Reporting was contributed by Allison Hannaford in North Bay, Sarah Mervosh in New York and Danielle Ivory in New Jersey.

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