I hope you are getting the chance to spend time with friends and family this summer. This newsletter will cover recent political developments that I think will interest you, and highlight free local events where you can join your neighbours across Toronto Centre.
I recently visited 129 Peter St. to hear from refugees and asylum seekers suffering from the City’s lack of support from higher levels of government. All governments have a responsibility here — especially the Federal government who owes Toronto $157 million. The situation on Peter St. explodes the myth that Canada treats refugees well. Community members on the ground are updating this Google Doc of what people need outside 129 Peter St.
This week Marit Stiles wrote a letter calling on Ford to act. The Province can — and must — step up by:
Doug Ford criticized the Auditor General for summoning Silvio De Gasperis to provide testimony under oath as part of her investigations into the Greenbelt recently. To be clear, the Auditor’s General scope is ensuring financial responsibility, well-managed programs and transparency in public reporting from the government. Ensuring Ontario’s conservation programs like the Greenbelt are well-managed falls within her job description. De Gasperis’ attempt to escape submitting testimony under oath is concerning because his family is known for their many connections to the Premier — including their long record of being maximum donors to Doug Ford and the PC Party.
Doug Ford might say he has nothing to hide, but you and I know better. The meaner Ford gets under the public spotlight, the more obvious it becomes that there is something else afoot. That’s why it’s so important that the Auditor-General be empowered to do her job without political interference.
Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) are contracts signed when new developments in a neighbourhood commit to include local jobs and training. They’re not just a big deal, for many people locked out of the trades — they are the deal. The Ontario Line’s construction is going to be extremely disruptive to so many of us in Toronto Centre. But Community Benefits Agreements could be a silver lining if Infrastructure Ontario ensures that a fair share of the billions being poured into this project go into empowering marginalized community members in the Downtown East.
I advocated for CBAs as a Councillor and am continuing to fight for them at Queen’s Park. But Ford is trying to weasel Infrastructure Ontario out of specific commitments and enforceable targets as part of the Ontario Line. This is simply unacceptable. You can follow the Toronto Community Benefits Network to stay in the loop about local advocacy for real CBAs in the Ontario Line.
The Ontario Superior Court recently dismissed a closely watched class action. The case revolved around whether the government can choose to reappoint adjudicators to Ontario Tribunals solely based on political motives. To the dismay of many observers, including myself, the Court dismissed the case — effectively finding that the government can use re-appointments to settle political scores. Worse, the dismissal implies that acting based on political motives will not impact adjudicator independence or impartiality of our Tribunal — which is absurd.
I want to thank Tribunal Watch Ontario for providing this excellent analysis, and echo their calls for an Adjudicative Tribunal Justice Council to help restore faith in Ontario’s Tribunals.
Source: Toronto Star
Property taxes are determined by a provincial corporation known as the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation. A recent report by the Toronto Star found that MPAC has been systemically undervaluing the worth of mansions in their property tax assessments, while over-valuing the worth of small homes that are likely to be owned by working or middle class families.
Ontario’s Finance Minister is responsible for ensuring that MPAC is working in a way that is fair and meets everyone’s needs. Taxing modest homes to give tax breaks to the rich fails to clear that bar.
Last week was the hottest week in over 100,000 years. But Ford wants to double down on new natural gas plants. Climate change is not a future problem — our dense urban communities are uniquely vulnerable to record breaking heatwaves, abysmal air quality from climate change-induced forest fires, and we have all seen firsthand that tempers rise with the mercury making random acts of street violence more likely. I strongly urge everyone to continue monitoring local air quality, and using respirators (high-quality masks) when the air becomes unsafe. I also must admit, that I did not foresee how timely my private member’s bill to make indoor air quality safer would be when I tabled the Protecting Ontario’s People and Economy from Airborne Pandemics Act in March.
Source: YSW Tenant Union
This Saturday tenants in York South – Weston rallied for fair rents. You can learn more about what tenants at 33 King St are fighting for here from their landlord Dream Unlmited (who, I would point out, former Mayoral candidate Ana Bailao worked for before running). As always, a tenants’ best defense is a strong tenant association — and I encourage every tenant to reach out to my office for support organizing your neighbours.
Toronto Centre has a dynamic and active Filipino community. I was honoured to join Filipinos in Regent Park Community Group Saturday for their celebration of the many contributions Filipino-Canadians have made to the success of Ontario and Canada. This fun annual gathering is one to look out for every Summer!
You can visit the Moss Park photo story exhibit on the second floor of the Parliament St. Library for the next month. I was thrilled to join community members — especially the young burgeoning photographers from Moss Park who got the chance to see their work professionally printed thanks to an Ontario Trillium Grant and Neighbourhood Information Post. Speaking of which, have you saved the date for the Moss Park Festival from 1 – 4 PM on July 29?
The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto is celebrating their 50th Birthday this year! They have been a leader in Toronto faith communities for equity and 2SLGBTQI+ inclusion for decades before laws and many elected leaders caught up. Their work building an affirming Christian home for those cast out by their family and community is so important to many of our neighbours. I joined their 50th anniversary service to congratulate MCC and their many engaged Toronto Centre community members who helped them get to this milestone. Bless you MCC Toronto!
From Wednesday until Friday, voters living in Scarborough – Guildwood can cast their ballot in the advance polls! You can sign up and help elect Thadsha here.
This Thursday at Sunday, you can join the Toronto Outdoor Picture Show for a free screening of the Matrix at the Corktown Common. Eats and treats will be available at 7:00 PM, and the movie will start at sundown.
I hope your week goes well and thank you for all that you do.
Yours in community service,
MPP, Toronto Centre
The legislature resumed this week, and your Ontario NDP team hit the ground running, holding Doug Ford’s PCs to account and presenting solutions to make life better. My colleagues and I are focusing on offering solutions around housing, healthcare, and cost of living. I spent two days this week in Justice Policy Committee hearings, listening to stakeholders present tangible solutions that would improve access to justice and efficiencies in our courts.
I look forward to putting forward amendments to the government’s Bill 157 next week that would put many of these ideas into action, including increasing funding to legal aid clinics and victim compensation.
I am already looking forward to next week, when I will present my Bill, The Gender Affirming Healthcare Act, for second reading on Thursday, February 29, 2024. If you would like to attend the debate in person, you can RSVP here. It will also be streamed live on my Facebook page.
The day before, on Wednesday 28, 2024, I will be hosting a Community Assembly on Gender Affirming Care alongside some very special guests!
The Gender Affirming Healthcare Act is being brought forward at a time when social conservatives are using the rights and care of Trans people to start a culture war. Danielle Smith, Pierre Poilievre, and countless US lawmakers are announcing policies that take away the rights of Trans youth to be their authentic selves. These policies are founded on transphobia, hatred, and a fundamental disregard for science. Study after study concludes the same thing: trans folks' mental health improves when healthcare and social support honours their gender — the regret rates for gender-affirming surgeries are about 1%, dramatically lower than those for common surgeries like knee replacements.
Tragically, this anti-Trans rhetoric has serious consequences. CSIS just published a warning that the 'anti-gender movement' poses a threat of 'extreme violence.’ And we are already seeing that violence – many of you have probably heard about the heartbreaking death of Nex Benedict, an Indigenous, nonbinary teenager in Oklahoma who was beaten by peers in a school bathroom after the state passed a law saying that students must use the bathroom that aligns with the gender assigned to them at birth. Throughout next week, I will keep Nex’s memory in my heart as a reminder of what we are fighting for.
Yours in community service,
MPP, Toronto Centre
In this newsletter
- Killer of London Family Sentenced
- Petition - Restore funding to UNWRA
- Addictions Crisis Grows in Ontario
- Local Community News
Killer of London Family Sentenced
This week, my heart has been with the extended Afzaal family, their loved ones, and the wider Muslim community of London and beyond. Yesterday, the sentencing for Nathaniel Veltman was held — which found that his actions constituted “terrorist activity.” Veltman was earlier found guilty of the horrific murder of the Afzaal family in 2021.
Naming Veltman’s actions as terrorist activity is not only clearly true, but a landmark decision. This is the first time in Canada that an action motivated by white nationalism and white supremacy has been declared to be terrorism by a judge.
Since 2021, London’s Muslim community, friends and family of the Afzaal family, and our broader community have been mourning the senseless loss of life of Our London Family. This hateful act has sent shockwaves across our province.
Over the past few months, we heard heart-wrenching testimonies from family members, friends, and the young, sole survivor of the attack — who lost his entire family in the blink of an eye.
Yesterday’s sentencing verdict is a step towards justice for our communities, the Afzaal family, and their loved ones. Nothing will ever make up for this immense loss and the irreparable hurt to our community. But accountability is vital for a future in Ontario where vicious hate like this has no place.
Petition — Restore funding to UNWRA
The humanitarian situation in Gaza continues to be horrific, as even the most basic aid is restricted from entering Rafah. This is unacceptable.
I am continuing to echo the words of my Federal colleague NDP MP Heather McPherson as she calls the Canadian government to restore funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) and answer calls for an arms embargo on Israel. UNWRA is the leading provider of essential supplies to keep Palestinians alive in the Gaza Strip. Cuts to their funding are a death sentence to millions of displaced Palestinians. The NDP supports an investigation into the 12 UNWRA staff accused of involvement in the horrific violence of October 7, 2023. However, UNWRA is a massive agency employing over 30,000 people — defunding UNWRA constitutes collective punishment. You can sign NDP MP McPherson’s petition to restore Canada’s funding to UNWRA here.
I am horrified and enraged by the news that the Netanyahu war cabinet has set a hostage release deadline coinciding with the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. If the deadline passes, the Netanyahu war cabinet says that they will begin a ground offensive on Rafah. Every ground offensive thus far has disproportionately affected innocent civilians, especially children. Given how densely Rafah is populated with Palestinians fleeing violence, I can’t imagine that this time could be any different. The hostages held by Hamas must be released. Punishing and killing innocent civilians will put the hostages in harm's way.
A ground offensive on Rafah would be unacceptable at any time. Still, the timing of this with a month of prayer and reflection seems uniquely designed to further break the spirits of Palestinians and take place when Muslims around the world are busy with family obligations, faith practices, and community events.
Public pressure on our government is working. Canada finally signed on to international statements supporting a ceasefire because of the public pressure Trudeau Liberals are facing. I encourage you to continue signing petitions and reaching out to your federal representatives to enact an arms embargo, restore funding for UNWRA, and press all elected officials to let Gaza live.
Addictions Crisis Grows in Ontario
In Toronto Centre, we are no strangers to the consequences of the opioid epidemic and the poisoned drug supply crisis. Many of us feel the strain of these crises in our communities, our hospitals, and our own families.
The crisis is worsening across Ontario and I am so proud of my fellow NDP MPPs for speaking up for their communities and beyond who are crying out for help to save lives. On February 8, the Mayor of Belleville declared a local state of emergency after EMS responded to 17 drug overdoses in just over 24 hours.
This past Wednesday, MPP Lisa Gretzky, our critic for Mental Health and Addictions, called for urgent support in Belleville after the province ignored the mayor’s request for addictions support in the wake of a local emergency.
“In the wake of a devastating series of overdoses, the Mayor of Belleville reached out to this government for urgent support to help prevent any further tragedies,” said Gretzky. “He asked for simple, meaningful solutions to ensure this never happens again. Incredibly, his calls were ignored by this government.”
On Tuesday, the Mayor of Belleville said that if the Province won’t help, they’ll have to find another way to open a community hub to help people. Why is the Premier leaving the people of Belleville to deal with this crisis themselves, when solutions have been presented clearly to his government?
I am joining my colleagues in calling on the Conservatives to immediately provide funding for this desperately needed service hub and detox centre and commit to reliable, ongoing support to address the addictions and mental health crisis. There’s no time to waste. We owe it to the people of Belleville and every municipality in Ontario to have their backs. Lives depend on it.
Dental Care Day of Action
Join the Toronto Centre NDP for a Day of Action to talk to neighbours about how Jagmeet Singh and our NDP team in Ottawa is delivering dental care for Canadians.
When: Sunday, March 3, 2-5 PM
Where: David Crombie Park (Sherborne & the Esplanade, Southwest Corner)
No prior canvassing experience is required, and training will be provided for first-time canvassers.
We'll meet at David Crombie Park (Sherborne St & the Esplanade, on the Southwest corner) and then canvass in the surrounding area.
Be sure to dress warmly and wear comfortable footwear. See you soon!
Community Events & Info
Strengthening Our Roots Youth & Community Mixer
Stop by Daniels Spectrum tomorrow at 585 Dundas St. East for a Black History Month Youth & Community Mixer! The event is open from 12 PM to 5 PM to all who want to come! There will be food, performances, and other fun activities to honour Black Canadians and their legacy.
If you would like to volunteer, please contact [email protected] for more details.
TNG Repair Café
The Neighbourhood Group and the St. James Town Community Centre are coming together for a Repair Cafe. You can learn how to fix computers, clothing, bikes, and more! Attend for free on February 24 from 12 PM to 4 PM at the Central Neighbourhood House.
They are also looking for handy volunteers with experience fixing items. Find out more here!
St. James Town Black History Month Celebration
St. James Town Black History Month Celebration is happening next week on Wednesday, February 28, at the Wellesley Community Centre on the second floor, from 4 PM to 7 PM.
There will be Raffle prizes, food prepared by a local vendor, Alex the Chef, and performances by Black Canadian artists.
International Women’s Day 2024 Rally and March
Beginning at OISE at 252 Bloor St West, the International Women’s Day Rally & March will be on Saturday, March 2 at 11 AM.
March for a gender-equal world! A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination.
Yonge Street Mission Community Impact Jam
Yonge Street Mission is hosting a Community Impact Jam for community leaders to discuss how to improve their existing tools to better serve the needs within the Regent Park community. Make a difference by helping to shape the future of YSM’s community development strategy and claim your spot by emailing [email protected].
Please RSVP as soon as you can ensure that you can attend on March 6 from 5 PM to 8 PM at YSM’s Martin Centre at 306 Gerrard St. East.
Regent Park Cafe is Officially Open!
After the Regent Park Cafe launch, they are now open and operational every Monday to Friday from 9 AM to 8 PM. If you are near Daniels Spectrum at 585 Dundas St. East, pop in for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
Change Make-Her Program
GOOD TO BE GOOD is pleased to announce a fifth cohort for the Change Make-Her program! This FREE interactive virtual program is for women and gender-diverse folks* interested in developing their entrepreneurship and leadership skills through mentorship-based training workshops, community building, peer support, resource-sharing, and other opportunities.
The program is a unique development opportunity explicitly created to extend the capacity of new and early entrepreneurs through a low-barrier, inclusive, and compassionate approach. Entrepreneurship is challenging to navigate—layering being a woman or gender-diverse with intersecting identities adds another path to navigate. We believe that entrepreneurism can be a meaningful pathway to confidence, community, and independence for women and gender-diverse people facing multiple barriers.
Each session provides participants with the fundamentals of growing a micro or small business in the mainstream economy on their terms while connecting them with other entrepreneurs and industry professionals in the community and accessible tools. We support participants by offering them several resources, wraparound supports (technology, internet, stress devices), and peer support. Successful participants will receive a micro-grant (up to $300) for their business needs. The seven-week program focuses on subjects related to entrepreneurship and leadership, such as essential business finance, business planning, community building, and marketing. All workshops are led by trained facilitators and Rochelle Ford-Wilson in a trauma-informed and anti-oppressive environment. Our guest mentors and speakers include Maggie Aurocco from bluboho, Nadege from IG Wealth Management, Chantaie from Ramsay & Co, Zehra Allibhai, and Opal Rowe from Stush Patties.
Participants must be available every Saturday morning (Eastern time) between April 6, 2024- May 25, 2024. Participants welcomed to join the cohort are asked to fill out a pre-survey before the program begins to gauge interests, needs, and goals. Participants will have the opportunity to meet for an orientation call prior to the first workshop.
Applications are now OPEN for the Change Make-Her program! The poster is attached to this email—please share and spread the word. To register, email Arezoo Najibzadeh at [email protected] or sign up by using this link: https://forms.gle/LuPLtsiWVDL5618u6. Please note that applications close Sunday, March 17.