Despite these uncertain times, I hope you are all finding moments to connect with friends and loved ones (virtually and/or at a distance of course!). Please take the time to check in with family and friends, while taking time to take care of yourself. I found it helpful to establish a new remote working from home routine, while practicing safe physical distancing when I do have to go outside. Thank you for everything that you’re doing to help stop the spread and please continue to urge others to do the same.
I’ve always considered myself fortunate to live in the best city in the world and during the crisis, this has been proven true, again and again. Caring residents and business owners are asking how they can help. The single best way for Torontonians to support each other right now is still to stay home and practice physical distancing to prevent COVID-19 spread. As Prime Minister Trudeau said this week, “listening to public health rules is your duty. Staying home is your way to serve. So be smart about what you do, about the choices you make. That is how you will serve your country and how we will all serve each other.”
Of course, there are additional ways to help from the safety of your home. Residents interested in volunteering should register with SPARK Ontario and/or with Volunteer Toronto to get alerts for volunteer opportunities (some of which may be remote). Call Volunteer Toronto at 416-961-6888 or email [email protected] to connect with an advisor to discuss volunteer opportunities.
Alternatively, ‘neighbourhood pods’ are another way people are connecting to make sure everyone’s needs are met by distributing food, medication, or anything else that might put those who are vulnerable to COVID-19 transmission at risk. To learn more about them, find a pod to join, or start your own neighbourhood pod, please see this toolkit.
I will continue to cover a number of topics in my daily updates which will always include a summary of the most current and important COVID-19 announcements from all governments. From your encouragement, I will continue writing about human topics of interest as it relates to the global pandemic.
Today, I write about the rapid spread of COVID-19 and how it has created an unprecedented humanitarian crisis around the world, including a look at who is disproportionately affected, namely women, girls and those already vulnerable.
In 2016, over a quarter of all violent crimes in Canada resulted from family violence, and 69 percent of victims are predominantly women or girls. That was before mass layoffs and financial hardship caused from COVID-19. Evidence indicates that in times of increased stress and anxiety, that’s when we see increased rates of violence.
It is with trepidation, that I anticipate Canada will follow the rising rates of domestic violence already seen in countries such as China, which saw a 50 percent jump in calls to gender-based violence helplines during their lockdown. Read ahead to learn more about this issue and about the community organizations that are here to help if you or someone you know is looking for such services.
My team and I will continue to update our website with information and resources as it changes, so please check back often. If there is a support missing, or information you would like us to include, please email me at [email protected].
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Gender-Based Violence and COVID-19
I was relieved to see that the Government of Canada committed to supporting women and children fleeing violence, by providing up to $50 million to women’s shelters and sexual assault centers to help with their capacity to manage or prevent an outbreak in their facilities.
Along with everyone else, women, children and the vulnerable were told to #StayHomeStaySafe. What happens when home isn't a safe place?
During the lockdown in China, reports of domestic violence tripled. In France, victims of domestic violence are now being housed in hotels and because women may not have the option of family planning, the government is looking to extend the legal abortion time.
At least 15 violence against women and girls organizations in the United Kingdom, including Women’s Aid, have signed a letter to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government calling for action over one of the unintended consequences of the coronavirus lockdown.
The COVID-19 outbreak presents huge challenges for shelters in terms of safety and training for staff, protection of clients, measures to contain an outbreak within a facility, helping staff work remotely while still supporting victims, and ensuring adequate resources are in place. In addition, as families are encouraged or forced to stay at home, women and children who are vulnerable to domestic abuse will be at greater risk.
As we ask everyone to stay home, it is critical to remember that home may not necessarily be a safe place for all. Folks experiencing gender-based violence (including but limited to sexual violence, intimate partner violence, transphobia, homophobia) are especially vulnerable during this challenging time.
If you are aware of anyone being harmed or you are experiencing gender-based violence yourself know you are not alone. Please reach out to trusted confidential community resources listed below for support. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.
- Toronto Rape Crisis Centre 24/7): 416-597-8808; www.trccmwar.ca
- Barbara Schlifer Clinic: 416-323-9149 x 234 or fill out the online intake form at: www.schliferclinic.com/intake
- Trans Lifeline (24/7): www.translifeline.org
- The Assaulted Women's Helpline (24/7): Toll-Free 1-866-863-0511; 416-863-0511 for violence against women shelter referral
- LGBT Youth Line (Ontario based support for LGBTQI2S youth): 1-800-268-9688; www.youthline.ca
- Support Service for Male Survivors of Sexual Assault (24/7) (Ontario based support line): 1-866-887-001
- Kids Help Phone (24/7): mental health service for children and youth text, call, chat: 1-800-668-6868; www.kidshelpphone.ca
- Ontario Victim Services
- Legal Aid Ontario – 24/7 Domestic Abuse Hotline
- Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses – 24/7 Staffed Shelters
If you know someone that is at risk of or is being harmed you can help
- Connect: Call one of the community resources listed above to talk about your concerns and make a plan to support your friend.
- Check In: Give them a call to check in on them. Make sure they know they are not alone. Be aware that the conversations could be monitored so be careful of what you share and ask.
- Provide: If you can offer tangibility supports i.e. offer to drop off food or other essentials if they don’t have access.
Community Care in Ward 13
This weekend’s community care shout out goes to our friends at Gerstein Crisis Centre who is busier than ever during the COVID-19 crisis. They believe every person has the right to live a self-directed life and to pursue their greatest level of wellness and happiness.
The Gerstein Crisis Centre on Charles Street East has actively supported consumer survivor initiatives by employing consumer survivor run businesses (e.g. Abel Enterprises, Fresh Start Cleaning & Maintenance, Raging Spoon and Away Express) through all of their operations. They promote artists with lived experience and the Centre even has a beautiful collection of such artwork in their facilities. They house the Consumer Survivor Archives and remain strong supporters of their efforts.
Since 2009, hundreds of individuals have been working on their recovery through the FRESH (Finding Recovery through Exercise, Skills and Hope) Project, WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Planning) groups and WRAP Fitness sessions that we offer on an ongoing basis.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call 416-929-5200. It is free, confidential and open 24 hours a day for adults 16 years or older in the City of Toronto.
Please continue to email my office at [email protected] 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!
You can continue sharing our Links and Resources document with your network. Sharing this information is another great way to help one other. On Monday, I shared a resource document to my website to help make it easier for everyone to find the financial and social support they need. I will continue to update this document as information is made available. I am glad to hear that many of you found it helpful. I hope you will continue to share it with your family, friends and neighbours to make sure that anyone who needs help can get it.
I also deeply appreciate the feedback we have received on how to continue to make this important information even more accessible. We have updated our website to make it easier to find support by topic, although the option to download the full document still exists.
Finally, if you have the financial ability, and have been considering donating to a local non-profit or service organization, now is a good time. All of our community organizations rely on the generosity of individuals and companies to continue their critical work. I encourage you to find a cause that resonates with you and reach out to them directly to find out how best you can support their COVID-19 efforts.
Keep Practicing Social Distancing!
As the City of Toronto evokes these new measures for public health, please remember to keep practicing 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 traveled, unless you work in an essential industry, stay at home.
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
This weekend, parks staff, working with Toronto Police and by-law enforcement, are out in parks across the city providing public education and enforcing physical distancing. The enforcement blitz is targeting busy parks and the top 10 emerging problem areas. As the weather gets nicer, I know it’s challenging, but please stay home, and if you do leave your home and maintain a physical distance of 6 feet (or two metres).
311 continues to receive complaints about non-essential businesses remaining open and individuals gathering and not practising physical distancing, particularly in parks and green spaces. Since provincial orders under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act prohibiting gatherings and the City’s closure of park amenities including parking lots and playgrounds came into effect, 311 has received 1,409 complaints related to irresponsible or illegal behaviour in our parks.
On Friday, Mayor John Tory announced a $1,000 for people failing to keep at least two metres of distance from others in City of Toronto parks and public spaces. This new set fine comes on the heels of the new bylaw in place which prohibits any two people who don’t live together being within two metres of distance between them in a park or public square. Offices can issue higher tickets that would be subject to the courts where fines could escalate upwards to $5,000 upon conviction.
Province of Ontario Updates
On Friday, the province’s public health officials presented modelling projections about the spread of COVID-19. The head of Public Health Ontario, Dr. Peter Donelly, explained that had Ontario not enforced public health measures such as the closures of schools and physical distancing, the province may have suffered 100,000 deaths. With that being said, today’s projections demonstrated that with strict public health measures, the province may experience 3,000-15,000 deaths. Dr. Donnelly reinforced that people can change the province’s outcome by staying home and physically distancing. The province’s full briefing can be found here.
In order to ensure grocery store shelves remain full and families have food on the table during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Government of Ontario is launching a new web portal, connecting workers with employers looking to fill positions in the agri-food sector. This new online tool will make it easier to match people to essential jobs and training resources throughout the provincial food supply chain. The province’s full announcement can be found here.
As part of the Government of Ontario’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, the province is investing up to $40 million to support organizations that provide residential services for children and youth, people with developmental disabilities and emergency shelters for women and families fleeing domestic violence. The COVID-19 Residential Relief Fund will cover costs such as additional staffing, residential respite for caregivers; personal protective equipment and supplies; initiatives to support physical distancing and transportation to minimize client exposure. The province’s full briefing can be found here.
Mental Health Supports
Yesterday afternoon, the province announced the addition of $12 million in emergency funding for mental health support and resources, including virtual counselling, for Ontarians who are struggling with anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are a few details from the government’s increase for mental health supports:
- Province will provide $2.6 million in funding to hire new psychologists and other mental health workers to support Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) personnel
- Mental health agencies will receive emergency funding to hire and train more staff and purchase necessary equipment, appropriate technology and additional licenses
- Emergency funding will expand services for various mental health platforms: e.g. BounceBack and Kids Help Phone
Government of Canada Updates
The federal government announced that it will be investing $40 million for emergency shelters to help women suffering from domestic violence and an additional $10 million will go to emergency shelters helping Indigenous women and children fleeing violence.
Out of 309,000 Canadians tested, 4 percent positive. 12,924 current cases in Canada, 214 deaths. Most affected are seniors but there are patients in their 20s and 30s.
The Public Health Agency of Canada has launched a COVID-19 dashboard to view data online. Projections of COVID-19 are sensitive to our actions, referring to physical distancing, hand hygiene and self-isolation. Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam, continues to urge young adults to please be careful as their health will impact the health of their loved ones.
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 phone 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.
Email: [email protected]
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)