February 22, 2023
Jennifer McKelvie, Deputy Mayor
Infrastructure and Environment Committee, Chair
Janie Romoff, General Manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation
Email: [email protected]
Lori Ellis, Project Officer Strategic Projects
Email: [email protected]
RE: Hanlan’s Point and the Cultural Protection of 2SLGBTQIA+ Public Space
Dear Deputy Mayor McKelvie, General Manager Romoff and Strategic Projects Officer Lori Ellis,
We are writing with regards to the Toronto Island Park Master Plan and the future of Hanlan’s Point.
As you know, the City of Toronto has begun an ongoing plan to consult residents about how to invest in and maintain public space on Toronto Island called the Toronto Island Master Plan. This process has generated substantial community engagement over concerns that Hanlan’s Point could be changed in ways that interfere with what has been a private and undeveloped safer space for 2SLGBTQIA+ Torontonians. We understand that the City intends to incorporate community feedback and ensure that Hanlan’s Point is protected in the Master Plan.
We are grateful for the work of Councillors Chris Moise and Ausma Malik for their advocacy to share community concerns with City staff and work to clarify uncertainty about the Toronto Island Master Plan. They are promoting public meetings that we are sure will generate vital public feedback to the City’s planning process.
Moving forward, we would like to request that this process move forward in a way that is sensitive to the challenges Torontonians are facing. Torontonians are struggling to survive an affordability crisis. Toronto’s 2SLGBTQIA+ community members have lost treasured local businesses and safe spaces to a provincial development framework that prices them out of existence. Torontonians are watching as the province that has not done nearly enough to support small businesses and community spaces from the economic shockwaves of COVID-19. And most importantly, it is taking place during a time where the mainstream narrative purports 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion while actual Ontario community members are painfully aware of how much work there is left for our society to do.
Public common spaces are pivotal to 2SLGBTQIA+ history — and Hanlan’s Point is no exception. It hosted the ‘Gay Day Picnic’ in 1971, launching the Pride movement and subsequent protests, community organising and events that strive to make life better for 2SLGBTQIA+ Ontarians. It was a safer gathering space before that point and to this day. Any signals by the city that threaten 2SLGBTQIA+ commons are rightly understood and felt as an attack on Toronto’s 2SLGBTIA+ communities themselves. Protecting and prioritizing community access to Hanlan’s Point not only celebrates our heritage, but signals that our City wants to weave the lives and culture of 2SLGBTQIA+ Torontonians into our common future.
2SLGBTQIA+ Ontarians are rightfully worried about violent trends against them. From bigoted protests of drag brunches in Ontario, to shrinking access to gender-affirming health care, 2SLGBTQIA+ Ontarians know that many key indicators have begun pointing in the wrong direction. We will do our utmost to advocate for real government action at the provincial level. We will work with you to ensure 2SLGBTQIA+ spaces are protected so communities can gather and heal as we work together.
We personally know that Toronto’s public civil service has long championed 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion. We also know that community engagement is often vital to ensuring that city and park planners can work successfully in a media and political landscape where they can move forward plans that protect common spaces.
For these reasons, we ask that Toronto planners prioritize focused outreach initiatives and work with Councillors Malik and Moise to centre 2SLGBTQIA+ Ontarians’ histories and futures into the Toronto Island Park Master Plan. If you have additional questions, you can liaise with our offices at [email protected] and [email protected].
Member of Provincial Parliament for Toronto Centre
Member of Provincial Parliament for Spadina - Fort York