Here we are, at the end of another week and a full month into the City of Toronto’s declared emergency. I want to give my heartfelt thank you to everyone for continuing to do the hard work of staying physically distanced from one another.
Next week City Council will meet virtually for the first time to debate extending Mayor Tory’s emergency powers. I’m keen to have City Council meet again as I believe there are important issues that we need to desperately review such as the City’s care for the homeless and other vulnerable populations, the lack of proper physical distancing space on narrow sidewalks and the need to accelerate and expand financial support for struggling residents and small business owners.
I know how hard it is, especially as we still don’t have precise timelines on when this will end. This is a new disease, and everyone is learning as we go, doing our best to give good information as we get it. It is uncomfortable not having clear answers or an obvious path forward. I feel and share your frustration. But I am also impressed at how well Torontonians have risen to this challenge. This is why I am proud to call Toronto home and to represent the incredible community in Ward 13.
In the fight against COVID-19, it is clear how important reliable, regular and up-to-date data is for health equity. Public health officials use data to track cases and monitor the effectiveness of physical distancing, hospitals track the use of incubators and ICU beds, political leaders use data to decide what industries to close, to understand how many people require financial aid.
Recently the City of Toronto launched a new display to track the status of COVID-19 cases across Toronto. Here you can easily see the number of new confirmed and probable cases, recovered cases, deaths and institutional outbreaks. It also breaks down the cases by age group and gender.
These are important demographic breakdowns for all the reasons I stated above. Good information helps us make better decisions. But to make sure that we are most effective at helping people, we can’t restrict our demographic breakdown to just age and gender. Without a complete set of disaggregated data that includes the collection and analysis of how social and political identities crossover, such as race, income, abilities, sexual orientation etc, it will be a challenge to directly address the health inequities. COVID-19 is not affecting everyone in the same way because we are not all the same.
Questions about whether low-income workers are at greater risk of exposure because they are more likely to keep showing up to work, and whether Black or Indigenous peoples are disproportionately contracting and dying from the respiratory disease can be answered with the comprehensive collection of disaggregated data. We need to understand who is getting ticketed through the new enforcement measures to make sure existing inequities aren't further exacerbated.
Through research by University of Toronto Prof. David Hulchanski and his research team, we know that the City of Toronto is heavily segregated by race and income levels, with visible minorities concentrated in low-income neighbourhoods and white residents dominating affluent areas in numbers far higher than their share of the population. We also know from Katherine Scott’s analysis that women were most likely to have been laid off and that women and racialized people make up the bulk of our front line workers.
I have been calling for the creation of an Intersectional Gender Equity Strategy and Gender Equality Office for Toronto for many years, which was finally approved and funded as part of this year's budget. Intersectional analysis is the formal term for the relationship between the many different ways that people are kept in a lower social position, controlled, and left out of important parts of society because of their differences, race, gender, sexual orientation, income level, among others.
In neighbourhoods like St James Town, 19 high-rise buildings are home to at least 15,000 people, of whom more than half are immigrants and roughly two-thirds are visible minorities. Roughly one-third rent from Toronto Community Housing, and the rest from private landlords. This is a population in congregate living, who are at high risk. Having disaggregated data can help us understand how to more effectively support residents in some of the most diverse neighbourhoods in the city such as St James Town, Moss Park and Regent Park.
I am happy to say that after calls to the province to collect race-based data went unanswered, Toronto Public Health is expanding its own system to collect new data sets for COVID-19, including race-based data. This is an important progression in understanding how the pandemic affects distinct groups differently.
I will continue to push for greater reporting across all social determinants of health variables, such as occupation, income, the type of dwelling a person lives in, where one lives to help inform the planning and the managing of health outcomes through and beyond the COVID-19 response. We need to continue to work with experts to understand how to collect this data safely and transparently, and include those with lived experience in shaping policy and recovery programs.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
My Statement in Support of Dr. Tam
A long-shot PC leadership candidate MP Derek Sloan recently questioned the loyalty of Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam. This comes on the recent reveal of Mr. Sloan’s opinions that being gay is a choice, his support for conversion therapy to cure trans kids and his opposition to laws that protect people from discrimination based on gender expression and gender identity.
This aspirant for the highest political office in our country took a page out of the history books when he launched into a tirade against Dr. Tam, questioning her loyalty to Canada. He called for her removal and stated that Dr. Tam was actually working for China or another foreign entity such as the World Health Organization (WHO). Spouting anti-immigrant and anti-Asian sentiments that perpetuates a psycho-cultural threat of people from the East to Western world is nothing new.
From 1885, the Canadian government imposed a $50 fixed fee or “head tax” on all immigrants from China that increased to $500 or the equivalent to two years wages. This law was replaced in 1923 by the Chinese Exclusion Act that prohibited all immigration from China. The racist laws were passed by the Government of Canada then based on the existential danger of the racist metaphor, Yellow Peril, or Asian immigrants to the west. The legislated racism was unaddressed until 2006 when Conservative PM Stephen Harper led all parties in the House of Commons to offer a full apology for the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act. It tooks decades of lobbying from activists and descendants of head tax payers to ensure that justice would be delivered in time for those few remaining survivors. For the Chinese Canadian community, it was a historic moment of reconciliation and acknowledgement of long-time racist suffering.
Today because of anti-immigrant rants and dog-whistle racism from this fringe candidate and comments made by others like him, Asian children who have never even set foot in China are being taunted for bringing this coronavirus to Canadian shores. Trumpian-style politics rife with race-baiting and xenophobia that have Asian-Americans and their Canadian counterparts scared to leave their homes, not because of COVID-19 but the fear of being assaulted for their skin colour.
I am personally familiar with these stories, and like Dr. Tam, I was also born in Hong Kong, immigrated to Canada, educated in the west and have dedicated my life to public service. No matter what they call us, how they judge us - we are Canadians and have earned our place in Canada - and nothing they can say will ever take that away. And this is the lesson I will teach my son.
If you can, please send your well wishes using #ThankYouDrTam on Facebook and Twitter to show her how much we appreciate her work.
Community Care in Ward 13
Today’s Community Care shoutout goes to our neighbours just South of the Ward to the Lakeshore Village Business Improvement Area. They have begun a campaign to support our frontline workers and say thank you. They are asking their neighbourhood (and yours) to add to their campaign by putting up a Canadian flag in the window of their home or business. Don’t worry if you don’t have a flag, you can simply draw one. What a great way to stay creative, and support our frontline workers. Thank you for your ingenuity and the outpouring of love for our essential workers.
Please continue to email my office at email@example.com to share examples of community care in your neighbourhood and ways you are supporting your community at this time. I’ll be happy to promote it, space permitting, in our communication to the residents and business owners in Ward 13. Every bit goes a long way!
Keep Practising Physical Distance!
As the City of Toronto evokes these new measures for public health, please remember to keep practising social distancing. I know it’s challenging, and I thank you for your continued hard work. Please remember to stay off of closed parks amenities and facilities, or you may be subjected to a fine. If you must leave your home, please stay at least 6 ft (2 metres) away from others on the streets. These measures are crucial to protect the greater public health.
The single best way for Torontonians to support each other right now is to stay home and practise physical distancing to prevent COVID-19 spread.
- If you have symptoms of illness, do not leave your home under any circumstance until you have spoken with a medical professional and been given the all-clear.
- If you have just returned from travel, do not leave your home under any circumstance for 14 days.
- And even if you are not sick and have not travelled, unless you work in an essential industry, stay at home except for essential trips.
Thank you for doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help protect our communities. For more tips on social distancing, please visit toronto.ca/covid19.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates
Toronto Office of Recovery and Rebuild
Today, Mayor Tory announced the start of Toronto's Recovery and Rebuild Strategy including the establishment of an office led by Mr. Saad Rafi, with a public health strategy led by Dr. David Mowat. While the City’s priorities remain on reducing the spread of COVID-19, minimizing demand on the health care system, and ensuring the delivery of essential and critical City services, preparing Toronto for recovery and rebuild in the weeks and months to come must begin now.
Decisions about the timing of re-opening and relaxing current measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19 have not been determined and will be guided by advice from public health officials. A health strategy, led by Dr. Mowat in consultation with Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, will help inform recovery and rebuilding and will continue until all systems return to normal or better.
The City will work closely with institutions, communities and partners to ensure engagement throughout.
Targeted Spring Cleanup
The City of Toronto will have a targeted spring cleanup taking place across the city over the next few weeks. Unfortunately, the annual Clean Toronto Together community cleanup campaign was cancelled due to COVID-19.
During the pandemic, staff are out each day picking up litter, emptying garbage bins and sweeping our streets.
Spring cleanup activities include:
- Illegal dumping cleanup
- Boulevard and laneway cleaning
- Litter and debris removal in parks
- Fence-line litter clearing
- Street sweeping to clean up dirt and debris from Toronto’s streets.
Litter can have harmful effects on the environment and pose risks to both animals and people. The public can do their part to help keep Toronto clean and safe by properly disposing of items in available garbage bins and not littering items on the ground. To report litter hot spots, please call 311.
If you find PPE or other trash discarded on your property, please use gloves to pick it up and to discard it in the garbage, along with the gloves and then wash their hands.
Province of Ontario Updates
Provincial Government Provides Relief for Small Businesses and Landlords
The Ontario government is partnering with the federal government to provide urgent relief for small businesses and landlords affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. The province is committing $241 million through the new Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (OCECRA). The total amount of provincial-federal relief that would be provided is more than $900 million, helping to ensure small businesses are ready to reopen their doors when the emergency measures are lifted.
The OCECRA will provide forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners experiencing potential rent shortfalls because their small business tenants have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. To receive the loan, property owners will be required to reduce the rental costs of small business tenants for April to June 2020 by at least 75 percent and commit to a moratorium on evictions for three months.
Ontario has also suspended time-of-use electricity rates for eligible small businesses, as well as residential and farm time-of-use customers, holding electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 10.1 cents-per-kilowatt-hour, for 24 hours per day, seven days a week for 45 days, for all time-of-use customers, who make up the majority of electricity consumers in the province. By switching to a fixed off-peak rate, time-of-use customers will see rate reductions of over 50 percent compared to on-peak rates.
Government of Canada Updates
A virtual vigil for the tragic event in Nova Scotia last weekend will be held tonight, April 24, at 6pm EDT/ 7pm ADT. There will be several ways to virtually participate. Please visit heartcolchester.ca to learn more.
The federal government announced that following discussions with the provinces and territories, a new rent relief program called the Ontario-Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program was created. Please see the provincial update above for more details.
The federal government also wanted to recognize the work of health care workers, who have been putting in long hours to treat and prevent the spread of COVID-19. They specifically thanked those workers in long-term care homes, who have been carrying the bulk of the COVID-19 patients.
COVID-19 Information and Resources
Now is the time to stay informed through credible sources, and to follow the advice of our public health professionals. Together we can limit the spread of COVID-19.
Phone lines for telehealth, TPH and 311 continue to experience very high volumes. Please help keep the phones lines open for people who are sick by visiting the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 website for up-to-date information and resources: toronto.ca/covid-19
Call if you develop symptoms!
Toronto Public Health Hotline
8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Call if you have questions about COVID-19.
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services, or to report people
Telephone: 311 (The City is only accepting 311 requests through phone)