The first day of December is World AIDS Day, and in Canada it is also the beginning of Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week. It’s a time for us to remember those we have lost to this epidemic and to renew our commitment in creating a world free from HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination. If you can, please consider donating generously to local AIDS service organizations who have been working around the clock to support those in our communities living with HIV/AIDS.
It has also been nearly nine months since this city first started to experience the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are now seeing 727 new cases of COVID-19 in Toronto alone. This is not the downward trend many of us were hoping to see. If we cannot flatten the curve of this second wave, the impacts on our hospitals and health care system will be devastating. It will create cascading irreparable damage. This is a scary prospect. While I know we are doing our best to stay safe, we need to be taking extraordinary measures to help keep ourselves and each other safe.
While Toronto is in the midst of a second lockdown, businesses and schools remain open. I worry that if we are to see the downward trend in cases, our Premier needs to take immediate action in authorizing stricter health measures. It is incredibly confusing to be asked to stay home, while some businesses inconsistently remain open. I worry it fosters mistrust for the severity of what we are facing. I know we are feeling restless and frustrated. This is something we’ve not seen in our lifetime, and it is not only difficult on our physical health, but also our mental health.
I also know all levels of government are concerned about our small businesses, and I am too. Our businesses need direct and urgent support to survive. We need the Government of Canada to deliver more funds to support our provinces and municipalities if we are to truly manage this health crisis.
At last week’s City Council meeting, we unanimously adopted a motion requesting the Province reinstate a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions as well as directed our City Manager to track and report back on the several requests made by my colleagues and I to the Province. We have made numerous calls for paid sick leave, residential and commercial eviction moratoriums, and greater supports for our communities. The Province has yet to adequately respond to the concerns of Torontonians. City Council continues to put pressure on the Premier, and if there is no response from our Provincial government, we must hold them accountable. The Premier cannot keep neglecting the needs of Toronto, while simultaneously interfering with local jurisdiction through Ministerial Zoning Orders and local election processes.
I was also proud to support the Mayor’s motion for a targeted COVID-19 Community Education and Engagement Equity Measures in vulnerable communities with high infection rates as well as communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. This program will provide targeted outreach, case management for residents, food access supports, mental health supports and the provision of masks for the next five months and staff will be reporting back in early 2021. We know that there are some communities that are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and need urgent and direct support.
As the winter months (and the anticipated snow) approach, I have heard from many of you wanting harmonized winter maintenance, and accessible sidewalks. I know that the winter conditions of our Downtown sidewalks create hazardous conditions for those with low mobility or assistive devices. It is for this reason that City Council requested Transportation staff investigate the feasibility of how we can increase sidewalk plowing, and harmonize winter maintenance across our local streets. While this expanded service is not possible for this upcoming winter season, I am hopeful that our current pilot will be successful and we can find the path forward for the 2022 season.
We’ve also seen an increased demand on our cycling networks through the course of the pandemic as residents look for opportunities to get exercise and avoid congregate settings like transit. City Council also directed staff to find the appropriate equipment to plow our cycling infrastructure promoting year-round cycling.
Last week, City Council also requested our Provincial government respect local decision-making and withdraw their amendment to the Municipal Elections Act as it relates to ranked ballots. Ranked ballots give more choice to voters, and are more reflective of voter preference. In November, I co-authored an op-ed with Councillor Arielle Kavabaga and MPP Mitzie Hunter about the importance of a ranked balloting system for municipal elections. They open our elections up to more voices, more perspectives, and wider representation. After Premier Ford slashed City Council during the 2018 municipal election, he continued his assault on Toronto by meddling in the local jurisdiction. It’s an insult to our ability to self govern while simultaneously denying more support to our city during a global pandemic. It can be hard to look to our future when the coming months weigh on our collective hearts, but through these challenges, we must look to fight for the future we want to see.
Finally, I have heard from some of you sharing your concern for people staying in encampments. I am also concerned, especially as snow falls to the ground today. This is the result of a long-neglected housing crisis, and I know with intergovernmental support from our Federal and Provincial counterparts, we can do more. I want to thank advocates, volunteers, and the City’s own front-line staff who continue to work with residents sleeping outside on a path to permanent housing. Please read my full statement here, and if you’d like to learn more about how you can take action visit kristynwongtam.ca/homelessness.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Corner in Ward 13
Our friends at STEPS, a Toronto-based cultural organization who undertake public art initiatives across Canada, have launched their Place(makers) workshop series. This project is a series of four online workshops that will guide senior participants (over the age of 55), with a strong connection to the Regent Park community, through the process of creating their individual textile artworks in a virtual sewing circle format. These works will be installed and illuminated by blacklight for public display in the Regent Park area from December 2020 to February 2021. No textile experience is necessary. Simple embroidery techniques will be taught, perfect for all skill levels. Learn more and register to attend here.
- Workshop #1: Intro to Project – November 26, 2020
- Workshop #2: Facilitated Design Workshop – December 1, 2020
- Workshop #3: Virtual Sewing Circle – December 3, 2020
- Workshop #4: Show & Tell – December 10, 2020
All workshops will be 1.5 hours and will take place virtually on Zoom. All participants would need access to a computer. For more information, please contact Janet Hinkle, STEPS Program Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 416-366-6565.
Community Care in Ward 13
Image description: promotional poster for Toronto's Miracles non-perishable food drive on December 5th. More details below.
With the arrival of COVID-19, we have seen many inequities exposed and highlighted. Food insecurity continues to be a challenge and food back visits continue to climb significantly. On December 5, our friends at Toronto Miracle are inviting every Torontonian to leave a non-perishable food item on their doorstep by 10:00 a.m. to be collected by volunteers.
Toronto Miracle is working with Second Harvest and Daily Bread Food Bank and North York Harvest to assist in the collection and distribution of the food to agencies across the city. Collectively these organizations serve over 350 community agencies across the city.
Their goal is to bring together all 140 Toronto neighbourhoods to raise 250,000 non-perishable food items in one day!
Volunteers and food donors are vital to the success of this event. If you have one piece of non-perishable food, please consider leaving it outside your door on December 5, 2020. Learn more about how you can make a difference here!
COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread
As we begin to again restrengthen our public health measures, we will all continue to live in this new normal. Wearing a mask or a face covering is mandatory in all public indoor spaces and on the TTC. 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 public indoor setting, including stores, transit, offices; and where
- physical distancing is difficult to maintain.
- Staying home whenever we are sick for any reason.
Face Masks and Coverings Offer Best Protection
Image description: Informational graphic from Toronto Public Health titled, "Face Masks & Coverings Offer Best Protection." Through visual examples, the graphic shows recommended and not recommended ways of wearing a mask. The recommended way for wearing a mask says, "should cover your nose, mouth, and chin without gaping." The following are not recommended: face shields, masks with exhalation valves, or clear plastic masks.
How to Safely Wear a Mask
Image description: Toronto Public Health infographic about how to safely wear a mask. Information on the infographic is listed below.
- Do wash your hands before putting it on and taking it off
- Do make sure it fits to cover your mouth and nose
- Do wash your cloth mask in the laundry
- Do clean surfaces that a dirty mask touches
- Don’t touch your face or mask while using it
- Don’t use masks on children under 2 or those who can’t breathe with them on
- Don’t share your mask with others
- Don’t wear medical masks, keep them for health care workers
- The best protection is to stay home, keep a 6-foot distance, and wash hands often.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates
City of Toronto Helps Small Businesses by Re-Opening CurbTO Registration for Temporary Pick-Up Zones
The City of Toronto will re-open registration for CurbTO temporary parking pick-up zones to help support main street businesses while Toronto is in the Grey – Lockdown category of the Province of Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework.
City of Toronto Weekend Update on Modified Services to Adhere to Provincial Lockdown Measures and Reduce the Spread of COVID-19
To help residents understand the new Grey – Lockdown category measures, the City has created a simple “Do” and “Don’t” guide. This guide clearly communicates what is – and what is not – permitted under the province’s lockdown stage that came into effect on Monday to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
The holiday season is officially here as Mayor John Tory has switched on the 60-foot Christmas tree on Nathan Phillips Square at City Hall. The tree and the lights on the Square will be lit for the season and into part of 2021.
Province of Ontario Updates
Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, issued the following statement after meeting with Ontario's Big City Mayors.
The Ministry of Long-Term Care has approved new voluntary management agreements for two long-term care homes in Scarborough and Richmond Hill to help address the current spread of COVID-19 in the homes and stabilize operations.
The Ontario government is again providing financial relief for families facing new education-related expenses in the COVID-19 era with support totalling $380 million. Starting today, parents or guardians residing in Ontario can complete a simple online application through the Support for Learners webpage. Applications will remain open until January 15, 2021.
The Ontario government, in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, local medical officers of health, and other health experts, is moving five public health regions to new levels with stronger public health measures. These steps are being taken to stop the spread of COVID-19 in order to keep schools open, safeguard health system capacity, and protect the province's most vulnerable populations. The regional levels and specific public health measures are set out in the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework.
Government of Canada Updates
Government of Canada Invests in Construction Projects Aimed to Improve the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Canada
In Canada, everyone deserves equal opportunities to fully participate in society. Many persons with disabilities continue to face barriers to inclusion, and these barriers have only been exacerbated by COVID-19. The Government of Canada recognizes the disproportionate impact this pandemic has had on persons with disabilities and continues to build on its efforts to create a more inclusive country for all.
Canada is well-positioned to obtain COVID-19 vaccines because of ongoing preparation over the last months. This work to provide every Canadian with access to a vaccine continues, and today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, and the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, announced that Major-General Dany Fortin and other general officers and staff of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the Department of National Defence (DND) are assisting the government’s efforts.
Additional COVID-19 Emergency Funding to Support the Sport Community Through the Provinces and Territories
Support sport: details of funding to the sport sector from the Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations.
The Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon announced a research program that focuses on gathering the unique information needed to support Yukon’s strategic recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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)
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.