When our world changes this drastically, this fast, the toll on our mental health can be huge. I want you to know that it is okay if you are feeling sad, scared or lonely right now. It is stressful when we are bombarded by news, when our income and livelihood are threatened, and when we don’t know when this will end. So much has changed in the last several weeks, and know that you are not alone during this challenging time.
Loneliness in a major city like Toronto, on the best of days, is considered a public health concern. And that’s when we aren’t isolated in our homes, away from people we love and struggling to readjust. Please remember to practice good self care. There are resources available to you online or phone-based counselling and support groups. Call a friend. Turn off the news. Stretch and drink a glass of water. These little actions can go a long way in supporting your mental health during this time.
I have added a new resource page to our website to compile available services to help support your mental health including:
211: Residents who need to access, or are seeking information on social and community services, should call 211 for non-emergency requests and information.
Distress Centres of Greater Toronto: Provides 24-hour support, 7 days a week to individuals at risk. They provide emotional support and suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention. By Phone: 416-408-HELP(4357). Visit torontodistresscentre.com for more information.
Kids Help Phone: They are a Canadian charitable organization that provides 24/7 free confidential professional online and telephone counseling and volunteer-led, text-based support in English and French to youth across Canada. Kids Help Phone also provides information on how to access community support services for youth. Text CONNECT to 686868 to reach a trained volunteer Crisis Responder 24/7. Call 1-800-668-6868 to speak with one of our professional counselors 24/7. Visit kidshelpphone.ca for more information.
- 519 Friendly Check-in by phone or email: The 519 is committed to the health, happiness and full participation of the LGBTQ2S+ communities. As access to community spaces is limited right now, they are offering our communities a friendly phone or email check-in by The 519 staff once a week during Monday to Friday. This service is to check-in on how you are doing, and offer information and updates. Please note that this is not a counseling session. You can register for the Friendly Check-In program via this online form.
If you find these resources helpful, please share them with your network. Also, if you or your organization provide a resource and would like it listed, please email me at [email protected].
We know that going outside and getting exercise is critical for mental health. Despite the city announcing the closure of City-owned playgrounds, sports fields, basketball and tennis courts, off-leash dog parks and other park amenities, green spaces are still available for people to use. Avoid any area that has been locked or tapped off, but otherwise you are free to use open green spaces that allow for adequate physical distancing. You can try some of these examples of in-home activities from the World Health Organization!
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Keep Practicing Social Distancing!
I know it has been challenging, but the single best way for Torontonians to support each other right now is to stay home and practise physical distancing to prevent COVID-19 spread. I recognize that physical distancing and self-isolation measures can take a toll but they are critically important right now.
- If you have symptoms of illness, do not leave your home under any circumstance until you have spoken with a medical professional and been given the all clear.
- If you have just returned from international travel, you are subject to a mandatory 14-day isolation under the Quarantine Act. Do not leave your home under any circumstance for 14 days.
- And even if you are not sick and have not traveled, unless you work in an essential industry, stay at home.
Thank you for doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help protect our communities. For more tips on social distancing, please visit toronto.ca/covid19.
I want to thank each and every one of you for taking these measures seriously to ensure that you do not put your family, friends and others at risk. I ask you to also please urge others to do the same. Together, we can fight COVID-19, flatten the curve and save lives.
Please be aware that the Federal Government’s mandatory post-travel quarantine is also now in effect. Those returning from international travel must now self-isolate for a period of 14-days, or risk fines and/or prison time.
OP-ED: Coronavirus: The case for a Universal Basic Income becomes clearer
In an economy already built up largely by consumer debt, asking struggling Canadians to take on even more debt to survive this pandemic is unconscionable. Canada is facing an unemployment crisis unlike any we’ve seen before. Residents across the country are wondering how they are going to pay their rent and keep their businesses open.
Yesterday the federal government without bitter debate or partisanship adopted a social policy that dates back to the 16th-century – a basic income guaranteed by the right of citizenship. The federal government did this to keep social order and protect the most vulnerable among us. They heard feedback that their initial programs weren’t going to cut it and that people are still falling through the cracks. They smartly pivoted to fix the problem.
The real test will be when COVID-19 is behind us. Will our governments continue to do the right thing and make permanent the social programs that were introduced during this time of crisis? The economy we rebuild can be stronger and more just than the one we started with. Let’s hope governments continue to act when the emergency is over. It’s always been about political choices.
Community Care in Ward 13
As we are all staying home, and avoiding unnecessary trips, I know many of us are turning to our artists for comfort, escape and catharsis. They are our actors, editors, directors, musicians, authors and entertainers and cultural producers. The median artist income in Toronto is $30,000, which is far below Toronto’s cost of living and most cannot rely on prior savings. These artists who bring so much vibrancy and wealth to our city in good times are now facing an economic crisis. A minimum of ten thousand artists have lost contracts as thousands of Toronto arts performances and events have been cancelled for March and April alone.
Today’s community care shout-out goes to the compassionate leadership at the Toronto Arts Council. They have announced a TO Artist Covid Emergency Response Fund offering a grant of up to $1,000 to help Toronto artists during this time. Toronto Arts Council has also compiled a list of resources and financial supports for artists in need.
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!
City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates
Starting today, signage was placed in more than 1,500 parks to announce the official closing of City park amenities. Where fencing or gates exist, they will be locked. Unfenced playground structures will be signed and taped off. Please respect these closures, but you can continue to walk, run and use green spaces, such as the open grassy areas.
Work continues to establish an online system to assess childcare needs of essential and critical workers. We are working hard to assure that you can do your job. An online application system is coming soon. The centres will then open as quickly as possible, following registration.
Regular updates are being made to the COVID-19 Affected City Services & Facilities website, please continue to check here with questions.
Province of Ontario Updates
Yesterday evening, the province announced a $17-billion support package, Ontario’s Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19. It seeks to address rapidly emerging needs within the health sector, individuals and families, businesses, etc.
The spending boost includes:
$3 billion in funding directed towards the healthcare sector, includes: 1,000 acute care, 500 critical care beds, etc.
Increased for the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payment for low-income seniors for six months
$200 payments to help offset costs of school and daycare closures, $250 for children with special needs
Suspension of OSAP payments until September
50,000 free childcare spaces for front-line and essential workers
Changes to alcohol sales by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO)
The AGCO is temporarily allowing licensed restaurants and bars across the province to temporarily sell alcohol with their delivery and takeout orders between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. These changes are effective immediately.
There are a number of requirements that accompany these changes.
Government of Canada Updates
The Federal Government passed an aid package in the House of Commons yesterday, including the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) that will provide $2,000 a month to Canadians who are facing unemployment because of COVID-19. This is not the final aid package, and more is expected in the near future.
This announcement has also caused scammers to begin sending text messages, such as announcing that you have received a “deposit” about the new CERB and trying to get you to click a malicious web link.
Please be mindful if you receive any unsolicited communications mentioning the CERB or emergency financial aid.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will be accessible through a secure web portal starting in early April. Applicants will also be able to apply via an automated telephone line or via a toll-free number. Please visit the Government of Canada’s website for accurate information.
The Federal Government’s mandatory post-travel quarantine is also now in effect. Those returning from international travel must now self-isolate for a period of 14-days, or risk fines and/or prison time.
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.
Email: [email protected]