Happy New Year to everyone in Ward 13!
The New Year is a time when many of us make a resolution for the next twelve months, and I am no exception. I reflected upon the urgent needs of our communities, and this is why I don't have just one resolution for 2019 – I have four:
First is poverty reduction. The new Ward 13 has one of the highest child poverty rates in Toronto, and recent violence has underlined the need for real, sustained investment in our most marginalized communities. The best example of the gap in services for me is the inability of residents in St. Jamestown and Regent Park to get their children into City recreation programs at facilities purpose-built to give them more opportunities. By pushing for the full, sustained funding of the Youth Equity Strategy and other policy tools, I will be working to bring the community into City Hall and to get City staff into the community to make 2019 a year of change and progress on this front.
Second is advancing intersectional gender equity. Toronto is ready for gender-responsive and participatory budgeting, and our community comes out in huge numbers every year to have conversations about whether the City Budget is solving the problems facing women and girls. How can transit better serve new moms? How does program design incorporate the needs of women who do not have access to City Hall? These are the questions Toronto needs to get better at answering as we decide on where we spend the public's money and set budget priorities.
Third is the Yonge Street Environmental Assessment. This year, the Yonge Street EA will go from a comprehensive technical study to a public-facing and inspiring conversation about the future of Canada's main street. This Toronto project is one of the most exciting opportunities to re-vision and revitalize a massive piece of public infrastructure and to build-in 'smart' systems in a way that sets a new high water mark for privacy and integrity. It is time to dream big, and I cannot wait to involve everyone in this work directly.
Finally, but not least of all, is housing. While we have been building new housing on a community-by-community basis, this is the year we must make it a Toronto priority and map out a serious path to bring thousands of new deeply affordable housing units online. This means leveraging City-owned lands, executing TOCore policies, and properly funding the TCHC repair backlog. Residents came out in a big way during the 2018 election to tell City Hall this was a priority and I am glad to say the message appears to have been received by some of my colleagues.
I look forward to being in the community and meeting with you over the months ahead as we get Ward 13 on a new footing and make this a year of concrete action and progress.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: It's another frigid day in the city. During cold weather conditions, please call or visit vulnerable family, friends and neighbours, especially isolated seniors. If you see someone on the street in distress, please call street outreach services at 311 or 911 if it's an emergency. More information here.
Yours in community service,
Table of Contents
- Toronto Council's New Committee Structure
- Call to Declare Housing Crisis a State of Emergency
- King-Parliament Secondary Plan Review Public Consultation
- City of Toronto Noise Bylaw Review Public Consultations
- Regent Park Community Leaders Unite –A Push for Equitable Access to Recreation Services
- Nominate a Young Woman for the Pam McConnell Award for Young Women in Leadership
- 60 Howard Street Public Parkette Consultation
- Moss Park Update
- (Mount) Pleasant Victory
- Seaton House Update
- Kristyn In the Community
- Community Spotlight: Children's Book Bank
- Free Adult ESL classes at Lord Dufferin JSPS
1. Toronto Council's New Committee Structure
With the Province's decision to reduce the size of City Council from 44 to 24 Councillors, Toronto is now undergoing a review of how to best structure its decision-making bodies and ensure that residents have access to their government. Council has adopted an interim arrangement that folds many existing committees together. The new standing committees are General Government and Licensing, Economic and Community Development, Infrastructure and Environment, as well as Planning and Housing.
This term, I will be serving on the Board of Health, Planning and Housing, and Toronto and East York Community Council. I am thrilled to be on these committees, which are responsible for tackling many of the most urgent issues in Ward 13 and across Toronto. I will be working with all of our Ward 13 neighbourhoods to keep affordable housing, access to services and programs, mental health and addictions supports, and inclusive planning at the top of our collective priority list.
2. Call to Declare Toronto's Homelessness and Housing Crisis a 'State of Emergency'
We are just a few weeks into 2019 and already four Toronto residents, who experienced homelessness, have lost their lives on our streets. Today, Councillor Gord Perks and I stood with housing advocates, including Victor Willis from the Parkdale Activity-Recreation Centre, Cathy Crowe from the Shelter and Housing Justice Network and Rafi Aaron from the Interfaith Coalition to Fight Homelessness to demand City Council declare Toronto's homelessness and housing crisis a state of emergency.
Housing is a human right. Toronto’s lack of deeply affordable housing, supportive and transitional housing and mental health services are having deadly consequences. We are facing a homelessness crisis that requires a co-ordinated emergency intergovernmental human rights based response. As part of this declaration, we are asking City Council to direct Toronto’s Office of Emergency Management to take immediate steps to augment services for homeless individuals and to seek the support of the Red Cross in managing the harm inflicted by the housing and homelessness crisis.
We cannot do it alone. Read our letter presented to the Planning and Development Committee and sign the petition which outlines our five key recommendations. In the coming days and weeks, we will provide updates and more information on how you can take action.
3. King-Parliament Secondary Plan Review Public Consultation
The City of Toronto is holding an open house to kick off the King-Parliament Secondary Plan Review. Please drop by, take in a presentation, and join a discussion with your neighbours and City staff about the future of your community.
When: Jan 31, 2019 at 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Where: St. Lawrence Hall, 3rd Floor, 157 King St E., Toronto, ON
The King-Parliament Secondary Plan Review will build on the Downtown Plan, and provide specific direction on built form, the public realm and heritage. The Review will also consider the north side of Queen Street East, in the area generally between Sherbourne and River Streets.
Our public meeting locations are wheelchair/mobility device accessible. Other reasonable accommodation or assistive services for persons with disabilities may be provided with adequate notice. Please contact Lillian D’Souza, at 416-392-9435 or [email protected] with your request. The City of Toronto is committed to taking the necessary steps to ensure compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005.
4. City of Toronto Noise Bylaw Review Public Consultations
In 2013, I initiated the City of Toronto Noise Bylaw (Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 591) review, and City staff want to hear from you again. The current bylaw provides standards for noise and applies to all properties in Toronto.
The review aims to introduce updates that reflect our growing and vibrant city while enhancing the noise standards that protect the residents of Toronto. Public consultations in January – February 2019 aim to present and seek feedback on developing Noise Bylaw updates.
Your feedback will be used to recommend updates to the Noise Bylaw in a report going to Council in spring 2019. There are a number of ways you can be involved and help shape policy.
Attend public consultations: There will be five public consultations, including one in Regent Park, each focused on a particular area of the Noise Bylaw, from January 28 – February 06, 2019. View the Public Consultation Schedule.
Submit feedback for the Noise Bylaw Review: contact [email protected] by February 28, 2019.
Subscribe to email updates: visit E-updates to sign up. Click open the Get Involved in Your Community section, type in your email address and scroll down to select Noise Bylaw Review. You will receive an email with instructions to confirm your request to subscribe.
5. Regent Park Community Leaders Unite –A Push for Equitable Access to Recreation Services
On January 16, 2019, Councillor Matlow and I joined a number of Regent Park community leaders and community activists to shed light and call for the need to ensure there is full funding for the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy in the 2019 budget. Key issues identified under the strategy goes hand-in-hand with calls from the community for equitable access to recreation.
Through community meetings and conversations, families expressed their frustration during the registration process, experiencing a number of obstacles to accessing programming in the local new facilities such as the Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre and the Regent Park Community Centre.
During the press conference, Ismail Afrah, community leader and member of the Regent Park Residents Association pointed to the growing concerns among the neighbourhood that equity-seeking families are struggling to enroll their children in recreation programs. "We have state of the art facilities, but we aren't able to get our kids into swimming classes," said Mary Ann Scott, community organizer and member of Access to Recreation, "Our young people don't have the opportunity to participate in vital community programming because we aren't able to access it because the spaces don't exist."
I was proud to ask the City's Economic and Development Committee to direct Parks, Forestry, and Recreation to consult with local community groups, such as the Zero Gun Violence Movement, Youth Gravity, Access to Recreation, and the Regent Neighbourhood Association, to determine tangible ways forward to increase equitable access and participation in the local community facilities.
My office and I look forward to continuing this work with community groups and City staff. Read the CBC News article here.
6. Nominate a Young Woman for the Pam McConnell Award for Young Women in Leadership
Nominations are open, and Toronto residents are encouraged to submit nominations for the City of Toronto’s Pam McConnell Award for Young Women in Leadership, which recognizes the exceptional leadership of young women in Toronto.
The Pam McConnell Young Women in Leadership Award is open to young women residing in Toronto, between the ages of 19 and 26, who have demonstrated exceptional leadership skills through a proven track record of volunteer and/or paid work in the community-based sector, shown a commitment to social justice work by creating or leading community-based programs or services for vulnerable youth or residents in Toronto, and inspired other young women through formal or informal mentorship.
Applications for the award are due by 11:45 p.m. on Friday, February 8, 2018, and can be submitted online: ow.ly/5WPe30nkbNf.
7. 60 Howard Street Public Parkette Consultation – February 5, 2019
As part of an approved development application by Tridel at 575-585 Bloor Street East, the City will have the opportunity to create a new 1,305 m2 public parkette at the corner of Edgedale Road and Howard Street.
This is the second community meeting to discuss the parkette, following a meeting on September 25, 2018. A refined design based off of public feedback is expected to be presented.
Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff are hosting a public information meeting to:
- Summarize public survey results
- Review the final park concept
- Receive comment/input from the public
- Provide input on a park name
- Discuss next steps.
City staff and the project landscape architect will be in attendance to answer questions.
Everyone is welcome to attend. Please join us to discuss this exciting new addition to the St. Jamestown neighbourhood!
What: 575-585 Bloor Street East Public Parkette Consultation #2
When: February 5, 2019, 7:00pm-8:30pm
Where: Wellesley Community Centre (495 Sherbourne Street), Room A
ASL interpreters may be provided if available. Please contact 311 in advance of this meeting if an interpreter is needed.
If you cannot attend the event, meeting materials will be available beginning February 5th on the website: https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/get-involved/public-consultations/#item/538
8. Moss Park Update
The More Moss Park Project is currently moving forward, with a focussed vision and a refreshed City team!
Many residents have reached out to inquire about the status of this project - a partnership between the City of Toronto, the 519 Community Centre, and a philanthropic partner, to bring improvements to the John Innes Community Centre, Moss Park Arena, and the surrounding parkland.
After concluding consultations in 2016, staff have been busy revising their original proposal to ensure that new recreational and public space will meet the needs of the local community, particularly those who are currently underserved. The project team is working towards an environmentally and financially sustainable facility that is safe, inclusive, and accessible.
In early 2019 there will be a consultation for the public to provide feedback on a revised design proposal. Please watch this space for updates.
You can also keep up to date with the project by visiting the project website at www.moremosspark.ca, or by signing up for update emails at http://www.moremosspark.ca/email-updates. Questions about the project may be sent to [email protected] or by phoning 416-355-6777
9. (Mount) Pleasant Victory
A recent court decision has put over 1200 acres of green space back into the hands of public ownership. This is a massive victory for residents, and if upheld on appeal, will help ensure these lands are properly managed and remain publically accessible.
On January 3, Justice Sean Dunphy of Ontario's Superior Court handed an immense victory for residents in the Greater Toronto Area when he announced that the Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries (MPGC) was a charitable trust and not a private corporation. Justice Dunphy also ruled that MPGC had taken actions that overstepped trust rules by opening visitation centres and funeral homes.
MPGC runs several cemeteries in Toronto, including the 205 acre Mount Pleasant Cemetery and the 18 acres of Toronto Necropolis. In total, it has ten cemeteries that comprise approximately 1200 acres of green space, or about $2 billion in land and assets. Following a number of controversial moves MPGC took at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, I joined a lawsuit launched by the Friends of Toronto Public Cemeteries as a private citizen.
The origin of MPGC is the former City of York's first non-denominational burial ground called Potters Field, in what is now Yorkville, purchased residents for $300 and established in 1826. Potters Field would later be moved to what is now the Toronto Necropolis. Rules for the appointment of trustees to the then Toronto General Burial Ground was created through a special provincial 1849 Act, which included a provision allowing citizens to elect trustees. This act has never been changed or repealed.
Since the 1980s, the trustees—changing the corporation name to MPGC and now calling themselves directors—stopped publically advertising the appointment of new trustees as required by the 1849 Act. In addition, the MPGC board had argued that they were not a charity, limiting potential oversight and scrutiny. The MPGC also advertised itself as a private entity and began changing historical landscapes, demolishing historic vaults, covering green space for funeral homes, cutting trees and using pesticides that were not permitted by our by-laws.
The impact of this ruling means that not only will there be more oversight into the operations of MPGC, but that approximately 640 acres of green space in the City of Toronto and 580 acres in the GTA are now owned by the public.
MPGC has appealed this ruling; they will not give up $2 billion worth of land and assets without a fight. But for now, take a pleasant stroll through Mount Pleasant Cemetery or the Toronto Necropolis; you own it after all.
10. Seaton House Update
Seaton House, one of the largest and oldest shelter facilities in Toronto will soon take on new life as a world-class combined care facility, providing specialized care for vulnerable populations, including long-term care, transitional living, emergency shelter, affordable housing, and a neighbourhood hub. Work on this project has been progressing steadily over the past four years.
City Staff are currently working to relocate current Seaton House residents, and are on track to achieve placements for each person by the end of 2019. Following this, the building will remain available for winter respite through the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons. Seaton House will be fully decommissioned in May 2020, with the new facility expected to be operational in 2024. https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/accountability-operations-customer-service/long-term-vision-plans-and-strategies/george-street-revitalization/
In order to ensure that improvements at Seaton House are extended to George Street as a whole, I allocated Section 37 funds, in June 2018, towards the revitalization of George Street, between Gerrard and Shuter. This revitalization will include a new, pedestrian-friendly streetscaping plan, an indigenous placemaking initiative, and heritage commemoration of George Street's unique historic significance.
To keep up to date with this project, please visit the project page on the City's website here: https://www.toronto.ca/city-government/accountability-operations-customer-service/long-term-vision-plans-and-strategies/george-street-revitalization/
Questions about the project may be sent to City staff at [email protected]
11. Kristyn In the Community
In January, we launched the Shelter and Housing Justice Network, a new coalition to combat the growing homelessness disaster. We need all governments to step up and accelerate the construction of shelters and affordable housing. Winter is here, the shelters once again are full and Toronto is facing a shelter and housing crisis.
On Thursday, January 17 we braved the cold for our safety walk with the Cabbagetown South Residents' Association. We also had representation from Transportation Services, Toronto Hydro, Toronto Public Health, Toronto Police, Toronto Community Housing, Margaret's, and Street Health. We listened, took photos, and an action plan will be created to address local concerns.
I was honoured to be speaking at Victoria College's Keith Davey Forum at the University of Toronto on the topic of Liberal Democracy in the Digital Age with a remarkable lineup of speakers. We must remain vigilant and defend our democratic institutions, no matter what.
It was a wonderfully informative meeting with the St James Town Service Providers Network. I look forward to working with this dynamic group in the upcoming year on many important community priorities including food security, affordable housing, and anti-poverty programs.
Equity, inclusion and human rights are important issues for the City of Toronto. It affects the quality of life for communities systemically and structurally disadvantaged. I'm proud to be working with committed city staff who are working hard and with heart to make a difference!
I am pleased to be working with the Mayor, Toronto Public Health, Waste Management and other divisions along with stakeholders such as Ryerson University and Downtown Yonge BIA to address the social and civic challenges in the area. Next action meeting will be in two weeks.
The Toronto Tamil Seniors Association is one of my favourite groups. They meet weekly in a TCH building in St James Town and are always a fun and joyful bunch. Today we discussed food banks, WheelTrans and family.
After playing Secret Santa with the team, we donated the unwrapped gifts to the Toy Drive at City Hall. Thank you Toronto Fire for organizing the drive, and we hope the toys are enjoyed by happy kids this Christmas!
Nothing including a freezing snowstorm could hold back the power of women and allies today. Proud to stand with Women March On TO in the fight against patriarchy, violence against women and government austerity.
12. Community Spotlight: Children's Book Bank
The Children’s Book Bank provides free books and literacy support to children living in low-income neighbourhoods across Toronto. Since 2008, the Book Bank has operated a beautiful storefront space located in the Regent Park/St. James Town neighbourhood which welcomes school and camp groups as well as families and their children to listen to stories, browse our collection, and choose a favourite book to take home to keep.
The Book Bank has expanded its reach and now provides additional books and literacy materials through community centres, schools, and health clinics in low-income neighbourhoods throughout the city. In 2017, The Children’s Book Bank gave away 127,000 donated books. Thank you for the incredible work you do in the neighbourhood. Learn more about the Children's Book Bank here.
13. Free Adult ESL classes at Lord Dufferin JSPS (350 Parliament Street)
The TDSB is pleased to announce the opening of a second Adult English as a Second Language class at Lord Dufferin JSPS! Lord Dufferin now has two full-time Adult ESL classes, Monday-Friday, 9am-2:30pm, Low Beginner (Literacy-CLB2) and High Beginner (CLB 3-4). Classes are free for Toronto residents (but, sorry, childcare is not available). Visitors to Canada may join the class for a fee.
To register, please contact the YMCA Assessment and Referral Centre at 416-925-5462. Adult ESL students who have been assessed at the YMCA, or attended classes, within the past 12 months may come directly to Lord Dufferin and speak to the ESL teachers about registration.
Yours in community service,