Communities have asked for big changes in policing and its runaway budgets. Today I released a motion with Councillor Josh Matlow to wrest control of the Toronto Police budget, defund it by 10%, and re-balance our public funds towards investing in much-needed community supports. Our motion will set up the necessary steps to achieve greater accountability and transparency. This is how we will start reallocating limited tax dollars to better support neighbourhoods and people.
A Toronto Police budget reduction of 10% represents a $122 million cut in the upcoming 2021 budget. We are proposing to re-invest those funds into community-led alternatives to policing and the criminal justice system, anti-racism education, the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy, affordable housing, Tenant Defend Funds, skills training and employment counselling, childcare, food security and more in consultation with the Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit Partnership and Accountability Circle and Social Development Finance Administration staff.
If you want even more systemic changes, then please organize, call your neighbour, tell your friends to contact the Premier, MPPs, Mayor and Councillors. Let them know that you want them to support this motion and act on it immediately. A member motion can only be debated at City Council if it receives a two-thirds of Councillor's vote. Otherwise, it is referred to the relevant committee for review.
Front-line and neighbourhood officers are being asked to respond to mental health crisis calls when families can not gain access to appropriate medical supports for their loved ones. We have for far too long asked police to do social work, which has proven to be exorbitantly expensive plus unsustainable and deadly, especially for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour.
Defunding the police is a request to address the imbalances in our City’s Operating Budget. Defunding does not mean a lack of support for the police services we rely on – it’s about a necessary rebalancing to ensure that we fund alternatives to policing.
Police reform and budget cuts have always been met with aggressive resistance. When Mayor Tory talks about service cuts to the TTC and childcare resulting from the decline in revenues because COVID-19, he does not mention the police budget. It’s time to rethink that position.
This time things are different. Thousands have emailed, marched and if this is to happen - please don’t stop. Activism can not be restricted only to social media posts. To achieve the real change that communities are asking for, we have to reform not only the Toronto Police but the entire criminal, legal and judicial systems. This is not within the purview of any one local government. We will need the Provincial and Federal governments to lean in and do their part. If we are to build safer communities, then the Prime Minister and Premier must invest in mental health and addiction services. They can’t continue to shrink from their responsibilities in properly funding affordable and supportive housing. They must do everything in their powers to eliminate poverty and racial injustice. They have to understand that the social determinants of health are identical to the social determinants of safety.
We must also recognize that the problems that plague our policing system are systemic to all our institutions. The intersection of race, gender, income, housing, and other social determinants of health have placed Black Torontonians at great risk as we are seeing through the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities with higher percentages of visible minorities.
Today the Board of Health voted unanimously to recognize anti-Black racism as a public health crisis. We must collectively affirm our commitment to continuing to address the social determinants of health by supporting policies and programs that address the inequities that marginalized groups continue to face, with a focus on Black communities and residents, including in the following areas: employment, education, housing, child care, the criminal justice system, and access to health and mental health services.
Our motion is just a one step to get the kinds of equitable funding we need to adequately address safety in our neighbourhoods, and address the systemic racism of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour in our communities.
In case you were skeptical that your calls and emails can make positive change, today we finally get some relief for small businesses in Ontario.
Today, Premier Ford finally announced a ban on commercial evictions for some businesses from June through August after months of pressure from people like you and businesses who’ve been unable to pay rent because of pandemic shutdowns. The ban will apply to small businesses who are eligible for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program who have experienced at least a 70% decline in revenue because of the pandemic.
There’s still more needed. We still need Premier Doug Ford and MPPs to enact rent subsidies for business owners, and extend the protection to businesses who were evicted before June 3. But this is a victory, and I am grateful for all your support.
This comes as the Ford Government announced that some regions within Ontario will be progressing to Stage 2 of the re-opening phase. For now, this is a regional approach and does not include the Greater Toronto Area. As we continue to get our daily case numbers down, the City of Toronto will be able to take more careful steps at reopening. And the outlook is good. Today, Ontario is reporting the lowest absolute count today (243) and lowest % increase (0.79) since the pandemic started receding. Hospitalizations are also falling again substantially, down 25% since June 1 alone.
These are incredible challenging times, and I continue to be grateful and awed by the kindness, hopefulness and generosity I am seeing from everyone. We continue to be stronger together.
Finally, today, Police Chief Mark Saunders announced that he will be retiring effective July 31st, 2020. I want to thank Chief Saunders for his years of dedicated leadership in service. I hope he takes some very deserved rest and time with his family. I hope you will join me in wishing Chief Saunders all the best in this next chapter.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Today’s Community Care shoutout goes to our friends at Fife House Foundation who have provided secure and affordable supportive housing and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS for more than 31 years across the Greater Toronto Area. As an essential service provider, Fife House has adapted to the realities of COVID-19 by adopting enhanced infection prevention and control practices, resident wellness checks and the introduction of new and creative ways to address food insecurity including a grocery delivery service pilot project, which provides four bags of groceries to more than 60 individuals every other week. Additionally, their “Technology and Wellness” initiative includes a library of tablets and digital devices that can be borrowed by clients to provide a virtual connection to their care providers and help decrease feelings of isolation and loneliness, exacerbated by the pandemic, through social connectivity. Learn more about Fife House here.
Please continue to email my office at [email protected] to share examples of community care in your neighbourhood and ways you are supporting your community at this time. I’ll be happy to promote it, space permitting, in our communication to the residents and business owners in Ward 13. Every bit goes a long way!
COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread
The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed. If you are sick, even with mild symptoms, stay home and self-isolate.
As we slowly return to some sense of normalcy, we need to continue physical distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Everyone has a role to play. The actions you take will help protect you and everyone in our community.
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 elevators, common areas, waiting rooms or shopping;
- using transit, taxi or rideshare services; and
- sick and going for 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 mask.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates
The City of Toronto and United Way Greater Toronto are profiling the incredible work that frontline community workers are doing during the COVID-19 pandemic through a City proclamation and social media profiles spotlighting worker contributions. The week of June 8 to 12 has been proclaimed as Community Workers Week by Mayor John Tory. Community worker profiles will be posted and shared on City of Toronto and United Way Greater Toronto social media channels. Recently, the Toronto Sign has frequently been lit blue and will continue to often be blue in honour of frontline workers.
Many facilities that were part of the City’s 2019 Heat Relief Network of cool spaces across Toronto are closed due to COVID-19. For this reason, the City’s plan for heat relief this year has been modified and includes 14 Emergency Cooling Centres that will open across Toronto during Heat Warnings. During the 2020 hot weather season, the Emergency Cooling Centres will offer a publicly accessible, air-conditioned place for residents to rest indoors and receive a cool drink. Staff who are trained to assist residents affected by the extreme heat will be on hand. Strict infection prevention and control measures will be in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and local health officials, the government is easing restrictions in communities where it is safe to do so, based on trends of key public health indicators such as lower rates of transmission, increased capacity in hospitals, and progress made in testing. For questions about what is currently able to open during Stage 1, or what will be open or impacts to your business or employment when we enter Stage 2, call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659.
The Ontario government announced today that it intends to take action to protect commercial tenants from being locked out or having their assets seized by their landlords due to the negative impacts of COVID-19. The proposed changes to the Commercial Tenancies Act would, if passed, temporarily halt evictions of businesses that are eligible for federal/provincial rent assistance. If passed, the legislation would reverse evictions that occurred on or after June 3, 2020. The government intends to bring this legislation forward as soon as possible.
Government of Canada Updates
Today, we celebrate World Oceans Day under unprecedented circumstances, as the world battles the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated health and economic challenges. The members of the High Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy propose the ocean as a solution to a more resilient and prosperous world. This will be more important than ever as we embark on post-COVID-19 recovery.
Changes to Travel Restrictions for Immediate Family Members of Canadian Citizens and Permanent Residents
The Canada Border Services Agency is announcing that as of June 9, foreign nationals who are immediate family members of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and who do not have COVID-19 or exhibit any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, or who do not have reason to believe they have COVID-19, will be exempt from the prohibition on entry to Canada if entering to be with an immediate family member for a period of at least 15 days.
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.