Sick of the System

After covering production costs, Between the Lines is donating all proceeds of Sick of the System to the Migrant Rights Network.


Published May 2020

Sick of the System

Why the COVID-19 Recovery Must Be Revolutionary

Contributions by James T. Brophy, nicole marie burton, John Clarke, Anita Girvan, Harry Glasbeek, Hugh D.A. Goldring, Dallas Hunt, Andrew Jackson, Emma Jackson, El Jones, Margaret M. Keith, Gary Kinsman, Julie S. Lalonde, Wayne Lewchuk, Robyn Maynard, Jane E. McArthur, Alexander McClelland, Karen Messing, Justin Piché, Elaine Power, Gina Starblanket, Jamie Swift, Richard Swift, Kai Cheng Thom and Alberto Toscano


Families left grieving; small businesses shuttered; communities in lockdown; precarious workers set adrift; health care workers stressed beyond endurance. The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world to its core. But the cracks already ran deep.

Featuring essays on poverty, health care, incarceration, basic income, policing, Indigenous communities, and more, this anthology delivers a stinging rebuke of the pre-pandemic status quo and a stark exposé of the buried weaknesses in our social and political systems. As policy makers scramble to bail out corporations and preserve an unsustainable labour market, an even greater global catastrophe – in the form of ecological collapse, economic recession, and runaway inequality – looms large on the horizon.

What can we do? From professors to poets, the authors of Sick of the System speak in one voice: We can turn our backs on “normal.” We can demand divestment, redistribution, and mutual aid. We can seize new forms of solidarity with both hands. As the world holds its breath, revolutionary ideas have an unprecedented chance to gain ground. There should be no going back.

More by this Author


“The essays capture a truly visceral pain – all too often hidden in the daily bustle of pre-pandemic life – that’s further magnified in a lockdown world. Even for many in progressive politics, it is rare to hear such voices: prisoners, Black Nova Scotians, and Indigenous people long used to the failure of governments in providing accessible health care. Also represented are those living with the still stigmatizing diagnosis of AIDS, women fleeing male violence, and cleaners and grocery clerks who, despite their new-found hero status, continue to survive on poverty-level wages.”

– Matthew Behrens, Quill & Quire


Introduction Politics and Pandemics
Richard Swift
If It’s a War against COVID-19, Who Are the Soldiers on the Front Lines?
Karen Messing
Novel Virus, Old Story Government Failings Put Health Care Workers at Risk
Jane E. McArthur, Margaret M. Keith, and James T. Brophy
Whither the Medicine Chest? COVID-19 and the Histories and Contemporary Realities of Colonial Violence
Gina Starblanket and Dallas Hunt
Sheltered in Place Violence against Women in Lockdown
Julie S. Lalonde
The Pandemic and the War on the Poor
John Clarke
COVID-19 and Toxic Capitalism
Harry Glasbeek
A Good Idea Goes Viral Basic Income 2020
Jamie Swift and Elaine Power, with Wayne Lewchuk
Learning from AIDS Activism for Surviving the COVID-19 Pandemic
Gary Kinsman
We Can’t Police Our Way out of a Pandemic
Alexander McClelland
Doing Time during COVID-19 Accounts from three people who are incarcerated
Theo T., Cory B. and Jesse G.
No One Is Disposable Depopulating Carceral Sites during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond
Robyn Maynard and Justin Piché
Fighting the Virus, Fighting for Change
Andrew Jackson and Emma Jackson
Take Care A Community Response to COVID-19
Hugh Goldring and nicole marie burton
Fragments for a Pandemic
El Jones
How to Build a Better World Transformative Justice and the Apocalypse
Kai Cheng Thom
Wayfinding with Metaphors through Crises A View from Inside 2020
Anita Girvan
Beyond the Plague State
Alberto Toscano