On Thursday, the City of Toronto, through the Medical Officer of Health released data that confirmed what many people have been saying for months, that COVID-19 has been disproportionately impacting poor and racialized people.
These initial findings revealed Black people and other racialized communities who make up 83% of reported COVID-19 cases while making up only half of Toronto's population. The data also showed that lower-income groups are over-represented in COVID-19 infections. For example, 27% of our cases were from households with income levels of less than $30,000 per year, despite being just 14% of Toronto’s population. You can see the full presentation from the Medical Officer of Health here.
Adding this information to what we know about which neighbourhoods were most impacted, as this article from the Toronto Star shows “in Toronto’s 20 whitest, richest neighbourhoods – the ones with the lowest percentages of visible minorities and low-income residents, according to the 2016 census – non-essential workplace closures had an immediate and sustained effect. In the 20 poorest, most racialized neighbourhoods – those with the highest percentages of low-income and visible minority residents – the lockdown made little or no difference.”
The City of Toronto began collecting voluntary socio-demographic data on May 20, 2020, and the findings presented in Dr. Eileen de Villas’s report include data collected up until July 16. Dr. de Villa has said that this data is key to helping her team understand who is being impacted by COVID-19 in our city and to inform our public health actions including responses.
The collection of disaggregated data like this is why I have been calling for the creation of an Intersectional Gender Equity Strategy and Gender Equality Office for the City of Toronto for many years, which was finally approved and funded as part of this year's Operating Budget.
Collecting summarized measurements of data or aggregated data is not enough to solve the deep inequities in our city if we have a deeper understanding of the information to make decisions. The disaggregated data collection, which includes race, gender, and other categories, to be developed for the Intersectional Gender Equity Strategy and Gender Equality Office can be used to prioritize the communities most impacted by COVID-19. Beyond that, the detailed information should be properly collected and analyzed, to better assist our understanding of how different communities or population subsets are being impacted, positively or negatively, by the range of municipal services, programs, and policies. The collection of disaggregated data will enable us to apply focused and dedicated resources to our COVID-19 recovery strategy, with a clear results-based accountability framework to measure progress.
While COVID-19 has affected all of us, unfortunately, it has had a greater impact on those in our community who face greater health inequities. In the short term, addressing the needs of these members of our community will involve measures such as targeted testing, enhanced communications and increased access to social supports such as a voluntary self- isolation site for people with COVID-19, or those at risk of infection who cannot properly isolate at home.
In the longer-term, however, if we want to have a true impact on improving health, including COVID-19, we need to address these health inequities and get to the root cause of what underpins our overall health. We need to focus on the social determinants of health: affordable housing opportunities, access to employment and income supports, and educational opportunities. And yes, we need to address systemic racism. This observation on what needs to change in our city has been highlighted throughout this pandemic.
In Ward 13, that means investing immediately in affordable and supportive housing for people living in encampments and in shelters, addiction and mental health services, youth recreation and violence prevention programs, and pedestrian and cycling focused urban design initiatives.
In the fall, Toronto will begin its budget planning process for 2021. We know that the City of Toronto is under immense financial pressure because of COVID-19, so I encourage you to start thinking about what kind of City you want to see come out of this pandemic. You can access the 2020 budget here to better understand how your tax dollars are currently allocated, and I hope you will be in touch with your ideas.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Corner in Ward 13
On Friday, I was pleased to join my colleague Deputy Mayor Ana Bailao in announcing a partnership with Dixon Hall and Toronto Community Housing to renovate and revitalize affordable, supportive, multi-tenant (rooming house) units at 502-508 Parliament St.
Prior to the global pandemic, Toronto was already facing a housing crisis and since COVID-19, the situation has become more visible and increasingly more acute. Modernizing and beautifully restoring these underutilized heritage properties is the right thing to do and I’m pleased to support this long-term investment in dignified housing for our most vulnerable residents.
The properties, which are currently owned by Toronto Community Housing, require over $11 million of significant investment in renovation and heritage restoration. As authorized by City Council as part of the City’s Tenants First Project, work is underway to transfer ownership of these vacant multi-tenant homes to Dixon Hall. Dixon Hall is the lead agency providing support to tenants in Toronto Community Housing rooming houses. In addition to a $6 million Section 37 contribution, almost $1 million in funding and affordable housing incentives are being provided through the City’s Open Door program to support the revitalization.
The project will deliver approximately 44 revitalized multi-tenant units with shared kitchen space, restored heritage assets, and newly landscaped grounds. Support services will be provided onsite by Dixon Hall.
A virtual community information session is planned for August, and I will provide more details as they become available.
Apply to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ2S+) Council Advisory Body!
In 2017, I initiated the process to re-establish the LGBTQ2S+ community advisory committee at City Hall. I am excited to announce that the City of Toronto has officially launched the public appointment process for the new Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ2S+) Council Advisory Body. The application opened on June 25th and will stay open until August 7. The City of Toronto is looking to appoint 13 public members comprised of community and policy leaders with lived experience and/or expertise in LGBTQ2S+ issues and reflecting the diversity of the community to join the Advisory Body.
The LGBTQ2S+ Council Advisory Body provides advice to City staff and City Council on identified priority issues to support the elimination of barriers and inequities experienced by LGBTQ2S+ communities in accessing City of Toronto programs and services. The Council Advisory Body will bring government, policy, and community leaders to the table to focus on both service level barriers as well as structural and systemic challenges faced by LGBTQ2S+ communities. To learn more and to apply, please visit the City of Toronto’s website.
COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread
As we begin to ease our public health measures, we will all be living a new normal. Our commitment must be to continue minimizing the impact of COVID-19, especially on our most vulnerable residents, while reducing negative social, economic and broader health impacts on our community. In the coming months what this means for our residents is:
- Continuing to work remotely, wherever possible;
- Maintaining physical distance from people outside our household or social circle/bubble;
- Avoiding crowds and congregations in closed indoor settings;
- Wearing a cloth mask or face covering in any indoor, enclosed public spaces or where physical distancing is difficult to maintain; and
- Staying home whenever we are sick for any reason.
When you are unable to keep a six feet/two-metre distance from others, wear a mask or face covering. This includes when you are:
- In any indoor, enclosed public space;
- In elevators, common areas, waiting rooms or shopping;
- Using transit, taxi or rideshare services; and
- Sick and going to a medical appointment.
Be respectful of others who choose not to wear a mask. Some health conditions make it hard to breathe when wearing a face covering.
How to Create a Safe Social Circles
As we continue our shared fight against COVID-19, you can now establish a family or social circle of no more than 10 people who can interact with one another without physical distancing. Social circles are a way to safely expand the number of people with whom you can come in close contact. Think of your social circle as the people you can hug and touch, or those who can become part of your daily and weekly routines.
City of Toronto and Toronto Public Library Offering Free Public Wi-Fi in Select Parks From August 4 to 8
Wi-Fi on Wheels provides free outdoor internet access and onsite use of Internet-compatible devices for those without regular access. Anyone can bring their own device to connect to the public Wi-Fi network or can temporarily use a City device onsite. The Wi-Fi-enabled Bookmobile, provided by the Toronto Public Library, will be traveling to select parks between noon and 6:30 p.m. this week:
- August 4, 5 and 6 – Masseygrove Park (Elmbank Community Centre grounds), 80 Kendleton Drive
- August 7 and 8 – Edgeley Park (Driftwood Community Recreation Centre grounds), 4401 Jane Street
The Ontario government is encouraging everyone to download the new COVID Alert app on their smartphone from the Apple and Google Play app stores. This app, which is available beginning today, lets users know if they may have been exposed to the virus. It is free, easy, and safe to use. The more people who download the app, the more effective it will be in stopping the spread of COVID-19. COVID Alert is available for free use and download from the Apple and Google Play app stores.
Ontario Implementing Additional Measures at Bars and Restaurants to Help Limit the Spread of COVID-19
The Ontario government, in consultation with the Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, has amended orders O. Reg 364/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 3 and O. Reg. 263/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 2, under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, implementing additional measures for restaurants, bars, and other food or drink establishments, as the province carefully and gradually reopens.
The Government of Canada has launched the appointment process for the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC). The Government is currently seeking applications from diverse and talented Canadians for the positions of Commissioner for Workers and Commissioner for Employers. The commissioners are responsible for representing the views and positions of organizations and individuals that are clients of, or affected by, Employment and Social Development Canada’s programs and services, particularly the Employment Insurance (EI) program.
Government of Canada Invests in Measures to Boost Protections for Temporary Foreign Workers and Address COVID-19 Outbreaks on Farms
The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion and the Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced that the Government of Canada is taking additional action to reduce the incidence and impact of COVID-19 outbreaks on farms. With an investment of $58.6 million, the Government is strengthening the TFW Program and making further investments to safeguard the health and safety of Canadian and temporary foreign workers from COVID-19 by:
- Investing $7.4 million to increase supports to temporary foreign workers, including $6.0M for direct outreach to workers delivered through migrant worker support organizations;
- Strengthening the employer inspections regime, particularly on farms, and making improvements to how tips and allegations of employer non-compliance are addressed (such as by initiating an inspection) through an investment of $16.2 million; and
- Investing $35 million to improve health and safety on farms and in employee living quarters through direct infrastructure improvements to living quarters, temporary or emergency housing (on- or off-farm), as well as PPE, sanitary stations, and any other health and safety measures.
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.
Email: [email protected]
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services, or to report people
Email: [email protected]
Support for People Living with Homelessness
If you see someone living with homelessness and in need of support you can call Streets to Homes at 416-338-4766. For mental health support, the Gerstein Crisis Centre is a valuable 24-hours a day, seven days a week service in our community and they have crisis workers on standby at 416-929-5200. More resources, including additional how to report information, are available on my website at kristynwongtam.ca.
If you or someone else is confronted with life-threatening danger, please call 911 immediately. Alternatively, the Toronto Police request that online reports be submitted at torontopolice.on.ca/core or to torontopolice.on.ca/community-complaints. You can also call their non-emergency line at 416-808-2222. In the past, by diligently reporting criminal activity, residents were able to see our community policing and other service levels increase. You can do your part: see it, report it.