COVID-19 has impacted our lives in many ways, some very obvious, and some in less obvious but equally important ways. Some of us have seen huge changes in our day-to-day lives, whether that is working from home while trying to care for children, radically altered shopping habits or discovering new ways to socialize with families and friends. For others, COVID-19 has just made existing inequalities more pronounced and visible.
For those already living below the poverty line, without housing or without adequate mental health and addiction recovery supports, COVID-19 has made their lives much more difficult. We are seeing that evidence in the proliferation of encampments in our parks and on our streets. We are also witnessing an unacceptable increase in incidents of vandalism and violence in some neighbourhoods.
I am very distressed by this increase in violent incidents. My number one priority during this pandemic is to keep people safe and healthy. I am in regular contact with the Toronto Police Service and in particular our local officers from 51 Division. I have been assured that Toronto Police are doing everything in their power to keep our communities safe.
I am also working closely with service providers and the Toronto Police to ensure that people exhibiting at-risk behaviour are referred to necessary services, and that others engaged in criminal activity are dealt with appropriately.
What has become clear is that people living in the Downtown were at a much higher risk from COVID-19, and the complexities it creates, than other parts of the City. Toronto Centre, and the Downtown East more specifically, is home to three of the ten poorest census tracts in the city. The low-income prevalence rate for adults (15-64 years of age) in the area is 32%, whereas the overall average for the city is 20%. The estimated homeless population in Toronto increased by 60% between 2013 and 2018. The complexity of issues among the homeless population is also high, with 57% of people responding to the 2018 Street Needs Assessment reporting more than one kind of health issue (chronic/acute medical conditions, physical disability, mental health issue or addiction).
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our ability to offer and deliver the kinds of life-saving supports that are so critical to improving the safety and health of our downtown communities. Many of the community-based organizations that provide these services had to shut down, or significantly reduce their hours of operations. This includes access to safe housing, to food, to supervised consumption sites, addiction recovery beds and other services that we know help mitigate anti-social or violent behaviour.
In November 2017, recognizing the unique challenges and needs of the Downtown East, I held the first Healthy Neighbourhoods Summit to work with residents, business owners and City staff from across the downtown to discuss pressing matters of health, safety and community vibrancy. This work formed the basis of what has become the Downtown East Action Plan. On December 5, 2017, City Council endorsed my motion to develop a fully-funded 12-month and five-year action plan to address these major public health and service gaps. After tireless advocacy, working with residents and service providers across the Downtown East, the landmark five-year action plan (2018-2023) is now fully funded and underway.
The work we did together on the Downtown East Action Plan has meant that City staff were able to move more quickly to begin coordinating with service providers to understand what supports were still open and try to identify and diffuse areas of concern faster. This plan gives the Downtown East additional service levels from park cleaning to outreach workers and expanded community policing not seen elsewhere in Toronto. Even with this plan funded and in place however, in the COVID-19 environment we now need even more support than we did eight weeks ago when the State of Emergency was first declared. All the inequalities that existed before are magnified and the disruptions they cause to life as we know it must be dealt with head-on.
I continue to raise the issues of safety in the Downtown East with Mayor Tory and City staff, and will continue to work with the Toronto Police to keep our communities safe. Each day my staff and I review community correspondence and speak with many residents and business owners to understand that more is expected from the Toronto Police, the City and all orders of government.
Our Toronto Police Neighbourhood Officers are still patrolling but they can not do their job without our help. They are being redeployed to community crisis calls which are noted priorities because they are often life threatening incidents that need an urgent police response. Therefore, the Toronto Police are asking residents to report incidents of concern which is critical to data collection and providing enhanced service allocations. 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 and 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.
If you see someone homeless and in need of support you can call Streets to Homes at (416) 338-4766. 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.
Call for a Provincial Moratorium on Commercial Evictions
Today, I was honoured to join Councillor Paula Fletcher, Ward 14, Toronto-Danforth; Member of Provincial Parliament Suze Morrison, Toronto Centre; Member of Provincial Parliament Peter Tabuns, Toronto-Danforth; Jennif
er Lau, Co-Owner of Fit Squad, Founder of Health and Wellness Relief; and, Christopher Hudsepth, Chair of the Church Wellesley Business Improvement Area (CWVBIA), Owner of Pegasus to call upon Premier Doug Ford and the Provincial Government to immediately #StopCommericalEvictions.
It’s not too late to add your support to save small businesses. Please add your voice to the hundreds of people who have contacted Premier Doug Ford to demand he #StopCommercialEvicions. A phone script, an email template and a contact list are available for you here.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Care in Ward 13
Today’s Community Care shoutout is to the team at Dot Dot Dash for producing this amazing video about how Toronto is waiting for us. Some of the footage was shot prior to the pandemic, and they came together to put out a positive message for Torontonians. It features some iconic locations, including our own Allan Gardens. Thank you for using your creativity and heart for this positive message and showcasing our beautiful City of Toronto. Watch Toronto Awaits ‘Anthem’ 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!
Keep Practising Physical Distance!
As the City of Toronto evokes these new measures for public health, please remember to keep practising social distancing. I know it’s challenging, and I thank you for your continued hard work. Please remember to stay off of closed parks amenities and facilities, or you may be subjected to a fine. If you must leave your home, please stay at least 6 feet (2 metres) away from others on the streets. These measures are crucial to protect the greater public health.
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.
- 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 travel, do not leave your home under any circumstance for 14 days.
- And even if you are not sick and have not travelled, unless you work in an essential industry, stay at home except for essential trips.
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 www.toronto.ca/covid-19.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates
Adopting a Social Debenture Framework
Toronto is the first municipality in Canada to establish a Social Debenture Program, verified by Sustainalytics, allowing the City to further its leadership in sustainable finance and promote positive socioeconomic outcomes.
The Social Debenture Program demonstrates the City’s commitment to advance positive socioeconomic outcomes for all Torontonians. Eligible projects are capital projects for various social initiatives, including:
- social and affordable housing;
- affordable basic infrastructure (access to clean drinking water, sewage and sanitation systems and transit);
- access to essential services (long-term care, senior services and emergency shelters); and,
- Socioeconomic advancement and empowerment (public libraries and community hubs).
In 2018, Toronto was also one of the first municipalities in Canada to establish a Green Debenture Program with net proceeds to finance capital projects that mitigate, and adapt to, the effects of climate change. Learn more about the City’s Social Debenture Program here.
Resuming Service at Jesse Ketchum Early Learning and Child Care Centre
Child care service at Jesse Ketchum Early Learning and Child Care Centre resumed today. The centre suspended service at the end of April due to a COVID-19 outbreak amongst some staff and children.
Toronto Children’s Services is taking a phased approach to reopening the centre. Three rooms opened today, which can accommodate up to 21 children in total. In the coming weeks, an additional two rooms will be open, bringing the capacity of the centre to 30 children. Child care will only be available five days a week, from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
In addition to existing masking policies, staff will be required to wear surgical masks when a distance of two metres (six feet) cannot be maintained. Children's Services continues to work with Toronto Public Health on ongoing reviews of all emergency child centre practices. Work includes daily screening of children and staff, increased disinfection, reduced group sizes and limiting the number of people in the centre. Children’s Services has also conducted a deep clean of all rooms and entryways and performed infection control audits at the remaining six emergency child care centres.
The division worked with Toronto Public Health to ensure that all health and safety policies and procedures would be followed, including incorporating updated guidelines from the Ministry of Health. All returning staff were required to provide a clearance letter from Toronto Public Health.
Province of Ontario Updates
Today, the Provincial Government announced additional workplaces that will be permitted to open or expand their services on Tuesday, May 19, with additional businesses being able to open as early as Saturday, May 16. Despite this promising announcement, final confirmation remains dependent on health indicators continuing to improve as part of the first stage of the government’s reopening framework.
As of 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, May 16, 2020, businesses that will be able to open include:
- Golf courses, with clubhouses open only for washrooms and restaurants open only for take-out;
- Marinas, boat clubs and public boat launches may open for recreational use; and,
- Private parks and campgrounds may open to enable preparation for the season and to allow access for trailers and recreational vehicles whose owners have a full season contract.
Ontario’s first stage of reopening will begin on Tuesday, May 19,2020 and will include:
- Retail services that are not in shopping malls and have separate street-front entrances, with measures in place such as limiting the number of customers in the store at any one time and booking appointments beforehand or on the spot;
- Seasonal businesses and recreational activities for individual or single competitors, including training and sport competitions conducted by a recognized national or provincial sport organization. This includes indoor and outdoor non-team sport competitions that can be played while maintaining physical distancing and without spectators, such as tennis, track and field and horse racing;
- Animal services, specifically pet care services, such as grooming and training, and regular veterinary appointments;
- Indoor and outdoor household services that can follow public health guidelines, such as housekeepers, cooks, cleaning and maintenance;
- Lifting essential workplace limits on construction; and,
- Allowing certain health and medical services to resume, such as in-person counselling.
Government of Canada Updates
The Federal Government has announced plans to provide additional resources to Indigenous communities. There will also be targeted funding support for Inuit and Metis students and Indigenous businesses.
Support is also coming for services and shelters that support women and children fleeing domestic violence. The details of these initiatives have not been released.
Many national parks--including historic sites and waterways and national marine conservation areas--will reopen June 1 along with provincial parks. Limited washroom and comfort station facilities will be made available. Camping will not be permitted until at least June 21.
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]