As you know, today was the first City Council meeting since Mayor Tory declared a State of Emergency in the City of Toronto. It was the first in Toronto’s history to take place during a State of Emergency, and the first to take place virtually. As with any new process there were a number of challenges, but we had to adapt, and I want to thank my colleagues, the City Clerk and her staff for being so flexible, and working so hard to ensure the meeting went smoothly.
I believe it is critically important that we work hard to maintain our democratic principles and processes, especially in times of emergency, and I wanted to share my opening remarks from today’s meeting with you.
I want to bring us back to the middle of March when we were first asked to stay home, and to not congregate in large groups or in public spaces. We were advised that we needed to stop all public consultations, which meant that we could not communicate with residents the way we normally would. It was absolutely the right thing to do, to save lives and flatten the curve.
The problem, and the reason this issue is so critically important, is that as a City Council, we need to hear from our residents, business owners and communities more than ever before. Today’s meeting, I believe, was quite long overdue, because we have been unable to give opportunities to residents to hear one another in open and transparent ways. In large part, it has been through informal conversations and communications with residents that we have been working tirelessly to bring your concerns to the attention of City Council and City staff.
Residents have lived experience, and you are going through very challenging times. Many residents don’t necessarily have access to their democratic institutions under normal conditions, or under conventional circumstances. I believe we were a bit slow to respond by way of creating a public forum for residents to speak and some of them are feeling like they’ve been silenced.
So while we are rolling out emergencies responses, to the very best of the ability of the Emergency Operations Centre leadership table, myself and all of us as members of Council must think about what has been lost in the shuffle, and that it is the civic responsibility we have to ensure that all our democratic institutions perform, even in times of crisis, so that community members and residents aren’t relinquishing control.
We have to check in with residents regularly so that they know that their voices and their lived experience, the issues that they care about, can influence government decision making and can actually change the way we respond in this emergency.
So while the City was absolutely right to pull back on public consultations, and pull back on committee meetings, I really do fear that those who already feel like they don’t have a voice when it comes to civic governments probably feel even more silenced and are hurting more than ever before. Those individuals are oftentimes held back because of class, because of the ability to access technology, or because of their precariously-waged situation, they are not always able to come out. Our response to COVID-19 has taken away what little voice they had.
I would just end by encouraging our incredible City Staff to do everything they can to accelerate and open up these committee proceedings and advisory bodies, so that we can come together in whatever form that we need to.
In how we roll out the emergency response, it is critically important for residents to provide their input. Their input will feed into how well we do in the emergency response setting. This is an issue about access, democratic institutions, and making sure that we do the very best we can to support the residents who are the most vulnerable.
Because the City Council went late today, I will share a larger update on what happened during the meeting in tomorrow’s e-blast. For now, please continue to stay safe and stay home. Take time to take care of yourselves. As always, if you need help or support, we have put together a list of resources that you can access 24/7 at www.kristynwongtam.ca/covid19.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Care in Ward 13
The Garden District Resident Association has created a fundraiser specifically to support both the frontline workers at St. Michael’s Hospital and restaurants in the neighbourhood. All of the funds raised will be used to provide nutritional meals prepared by a local restaurant and will be delivered to the hardworking healthcare workers at the hospital. If it’s $1, $5 or ANY amount, nothing is too small to contribute. Their goal is to begin delivery of boxed lunches to impacted doctors and nurses at St. Michael's Hospital on a weekly basis until the end of this pandemic. Any additional funds beyond our goal will be used to provide additional meals to other frontline workers in the area and may extend to others in need. Make a donation here. Thank you for everything you do for your community and for our frontline workers.
Please continue to email my office at firstname.lastname@example.org 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
Yesterday, the City of Toronto announced it will lead a comprehensive effort to move people staying in encampments into newly acquired, furnished temporary accommodations. Two buildings have been secured that will provide 24-hour staffing supports, harm reduction supports, meals and long-term housing support. I hope that with this news, the city’s actions will start to ease some of the pressure on our communities.
As is the case when moving any client from one space to another, it is done with dignity in consultation with the person based on their specific needs and consent. It has to be done with the needed supports in place including:
- On-site staffing supports, either through City staff or community partner agencies
- Fire & Life Safety assessments and completion of any work required
- Ensuring contracts are in place for facility operations - food, cleaning, linens, etc.
- Developing a transportation plan and schedule to coordinate moves of clients to hotel locations
During the pandemic, there is a moratorium on encampment clearing. The City is amending this policy in line with current City bylaws that allow encampment clearings in emergencies to clear specific encampments focused on public property.
The encampments that will be cleared are the ones where the City’s Streets to Homes outreach team, other divisions and partner agencies are approaching clients who sleep outdoors to offer spaces indoors in the interim housing program, shelter or hotels, as well as support to access permanent housing.
Access to units will be prioritized for clients in bedded down or in encampment sites that:
- are located in areas that lack sanitary and food resources;
- present health and safety concerns to self and general public; and
- are chronically homeless
- are identified as higher risk to COVID-19 related harms
Clients at sites identified for this program will be offered a variety of indoor spaces including this interim housing program and will be notified of clearing of the encampment sites they are on. Ultimately, it is up to clients if they decide to move indoors to spaces offered to them. Outreach teams will continue to engage with clients at these sites. The City will not currently be clearing encampments on private property but is focused on specific encampments on City property including George Hislop Park.
Only clients that are sleeping outside will be eligible to relocate to these new units. Referrals are only through Streets to Homes (S2H) and partnering agencies. Anyone that has a client they believe to be sleeping outside can communicate that with S2H and we will cross reference our own list. We need to be very clear we are targeting those outside, so if clients have a SMIS file showing shelter stays – they are not eligible.
Please keep in mind this new service will not eliminate encampments and house people overnight. Clients staying in outdoor locations identified for this program will be offered access to a variety of indoor spaces including this interim housing program and will be notified of clearing of the encampment sites they are on. Outreach teams will continue to engage with clients at these sites after these encampment clearing notices have been posted.
Province of Ontario Updates
Provincial Government Provides Employers with Workplace Safety Guidelines
The Ontario government is working to help provide employers with the safety guidelines they need to protect workers, customers, and the general public from COVID-19 as it prepares for a gradual reopening of the provincial economy.
The government safety guidelines released today will provide direction to those working in manufacturing, food manufacturing and processing, restaurant and food service, and the agricultural sector. These measures build on more than 60 guidelines developed by Ontario's health and safety associations in response to COVID-19 for various sectors such as retail, health care, construction, transportation, police services, firefighters, and transit employees.
These new sector-specific guidelines provide recommended actions for employers as they prepare to adapt to the new reality during COVID-19, including:
- Ways to ensure appropriate physical distancing, like eliminating pay-at-the-door options, holding team meetings outdoors, staggering shift times and using ground markings and barriers to manage traffic flow.
- Changes to the workplace, like installing plexiglass barriers, increasing the air intake on building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to increase air flow, and using boot sanitizing trays.
- Promoting proper workplace sanitation, providing personal protective equipment, substituting dry dusting with vacuuming, ensuring customer-facing staff are given hand sanitizer, providing a place to dispose of sanitizing wipes, and enforcing handwashing before and after breaks.
The government is also issuing posters to promote a variety of useful safety tips. The posters offer helpful advice on physical distancing and sanitation. They can be downloaded here so employers can print and post them in their workplaces.
The provincial government will be providing additional workplace safety guidelines for various factors in the upcoming weeks.
Starting this week, 58 new inspectors will join existing provincial labour inspectors on the ground. The inspectors, which include workers from the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) and the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT), will be tasked with communicating COVID-19 safety guidelines to essential workplaces or enforcing emergency measures, including physical distancing and the closure of non-essential businesses.
Government of Canada Updates
Prime Minister Trudeau and First Ministers, which include Premier Ford, released a joint statement about restarting the economy today. You can read the statement from the Prime Minister here and the statement from the First Ministers here.
The Prime Minister’s statement identifies the criteria and measures that have been mutually agreed upon to be in place in order to begin to take steps to restart the economy:
COVID-19 transmission is controlled, so new cases are contained at a level that our health care system can manage;
Sufficient public health capacity is in place to test, trace, isolate, and control the spread of the virus;
Expanded health care capacity exists to support all needs, including COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients;
Supports are in place for vulnerable groups, communities, and key populations. This includes the protection of seniors, residents of group living facilities, workers in close quarters, homeless people, and Indigenous people and those living in remote locations, health care workers and other essential workers, and inmates;
Support and monitoring of workplace protocols are in place to keep Canadians safe at their jobs, and prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19;
Restrictions on non-essential travel are eased and managed in a coordinated manner; and,
Communities are supported in managing local disease activity, including in child care; schools, and public transportation, and industry and economic sectors are engaged to support the health of Canadians, reduced viral activity, and protection of the economy as it restarts.
This week, the curve has been flat, but the Federal Government warned Canadians must be very cautious as the rate of infection begins to drop. They remind Canadians to #StayHome and continue to practice safe physical distancing and handwashing.
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)