I hope you are all enjoying the wonderful yet unexpected warm weather we are having these past few days. After such a long winter, I am energized seeing everyone out and about again. I am looking forward to reconnecting with you at our community events and summer festivals.
In this newsletter, you can learn about upcoming local events, my work at Queen’s Park and what the Ontario NDP are doing to advocate for you.
UPDATE: Bill 94 Progress and Misinformation
After I tabled my new private member’s bill, Bill 94, “Keeping 2SLGBTQI+ Communities Safe Act” earlier this month, my office received many incredibly heartwarming messages from people in support of it. The messages came from Ontarians from all walks of life who want to see drag artists and 2SLGBTQI+ communities protected from violent protests and the rise of homophobia and transphobia.
Along with the positive feedback, there has been disinformation about the content of this bill. Alt-right agitators and conservative fundamentalists have been deliberately posting lies and misrepresentation about the bill. Their disinformation campaign has been actively promoted by Trump sympathizers, as they try to foment further hate and violence against drag artists and 2SLGBTQI+ communities.
Let me be clear on what this proposed legislation actually does. Bill 94 was introduced to allow the Attorney General to create a temporary 100 metre safety zone around a specific address under the threat of violence. Its sole purpose is to protect drag artists and 2SLGBTQ+ communities at those venues from harassment and intimidation as defined by the Criminal Code. Hate crimes, based on sexual orientation rose nearly 60 per cent between 2019 and 2021 to the highest level in five years.
Last week, I used some of my time at Queen’s Park to address the anti-drag and anti-2SLGBTQI+ extremists directly.
I also want to echo what Scarlett BoBo from Canada’s Drag Race shared during our press conference,
"Drag is all about spreading love and acceptance and allows people to feel empowered and special. Drag artists and trans people have an inherent right to live freely and authentically in their truth. Everyone wants and deserves to feel safe and valued in their work. That is why these recent acts of organized protests and hate speech need to be halted and condemned immediately."
Local Food Bank Usage is Soaring
Last week, the Daily Bread Food Bank shared heart-breaking statistics about how record levels inflation are making it hard for Ontarians to make ends meet. Before the pandemic they had an average of 65,000 clients per month — today they have over 270,000 clients a month. They are calling on the province to increase social assistance. As you know, I firmly believe that we must double ODSP and end legislated poverty. You can sign the petition to double ODSP here, and watch my Member’s Statement calling on Ford to make life affordable.
International Day of Pink
April 12 marks the International Day of Pink, where communities come together across the world to celebrate our diversity and unite against homophobia, transphobia and all forms of bullying.
The Day of Pink was inspired by the kindness and empathy of two grade 12 students who witnessed a grade 9 student being bullied for wearing a pink shirt. As a result, both students, David Shepherd and Travis Price, bought and distributed 50 pink shirts and encouraged peers to arrive at school wearing pink. This act of courage, small but mighty, spread around the globe to advocate against bullying.
To make this day more meaningful, I had a wonderful time attending the Day of Pink Gala with CUPE Ontario and meeting all the educators who work tirelessly to make our province a more inclusive place for students.
2023 Ontario Budget Town Hall
This upcoming Saturday, April 15 at 12 PM, my colleagues MPPs Bhutila Karpoche, Doly Begum, Chris Glover and Jill Andrew, and I will be hosting a Virtual Town Hall for the 2023 Ontario Budget.
If you are interested in learning about this year’s provincial budget please use the following link to register.
The Change Make-Her Program
I am pleased to announce that the Change Make-Her program is accepting applications for Cohort 4!
The Change Make-Her program is a FREE interactive virtual program for women and gender-diverse folks who are interested in developing their entrepreneurship and
leadership skills through mentorship-based training workshops, community building, peer support, resource-sharing, and other opportunities.
The entrepreneurship space can be challenging to navigate — layering being a woman or gender-diverse with intersecting identities adds another path to navigate. Successful participants will receive up to $300 micro-grant for their business needs.
If you are interested, you can contact Mercy Ayesha Alohan-Eke at [email protected]
This Sunday, April 16, our Orthodox neighbours will be celebrating Easter according to the Julian calendar. As we gather with our loved ones to partake in the traditional customs and observe the sacred ceremonies, let us also reflect on the timeless values of love, compassion, and forgiveness that are at the core of Easter. On this holy day, I extend joyful wishes to my own extended Ukrainian-Canadian family.
May this auspicious occasion bring peace, unity, and blessings to all across Ontario!
Continuing to stand with Ukraine
Yesterday, I had the honour of being one of many MPPs forbidden from visiting Putin's fascist regime. If this was intended as an insult, it is having the opposite effect and only galvanizing me to do ensure Ontario does everything possible to stand with Ukraine — and people in Russia standing up to Putin.
Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust Remembrance Day
As we approach April 17, we are reminded of Holocaust Remembrance Day, a solemn occasion to reflect on the atrocities that occurred during the Holocaust.
The Holocaust resulted in the loss of over 6 million lives. We must ensure that the memory of those who suffered is not forgotten and the consequences of unchecked hatred, discrimination, and anti-Semitism. I stand united in condemning all forms of prejudice, bigotry, and intolerance.
On Holocaust Remembrance Day, let us renew our commitment to never forget those who have passed and to work towards a world where such atrocities never happen again.
Happy New Year!
Today our Bengali and Tamil neighbours are celebrating a new year in the Bengali and Tamil calendars. I wish everyone celebrating a joyous and prosperous day of festivities and renewal!
Thank you, and as always, it is an honour to serve you,
MPP, Toronto Centre