I hope you have been doing well as the weather gets cooler and Toronto’s municipal election day gets closer.
Who is Toronto’s new Police Chief?
A traumatic moment in Toronto’s history that many 2SLGTBQIA+ people will know as the “Pussy Palace” bathouse raids in 2000 is re-unfolding again. If you are not familiar with the bathhouse raids you can read a summary created by the Toronto Arquives here. The raids affected over 350 women who were attending an event in the gay Village. The Supreme Court likened the dehumanizing police raids as “visual rape” when male police officers unexpectedly showed up and repeatedly walked through the licensed premise while women were in various states of undress.
So I was deeply concerned when I learned that Myron Demkiw, an officer who led the women’s bathhouse raids was selected to be Toronto’s new Chief of Police.
I have always been a strong proponent for community-based neighbourhood policing where officers build trust and meaningful relationships with the people they serve. This model of community-based policing works in other diverse cities and neighbourhoods and this is why I worked hard to promote similar community-based policing programs in the Village, St James Town, St Lawrence and beyond.
Historically, the 2SLGTBQIA+ community’s relationship with the Toronto Police has unhealed wounds. Toronto has a painful history of anti-2SLGBTQIA+ violence, the over-policing of Black, Indigenous, and racialized peoples, and the mishandling of the investigation into the serial killer Bruce MacArthur. One would hope that the need to improve this relationship by building upon the good work of community neighbourhood policing programs and other equity-related initiatives would have been prioritized when the Toronto Police Service Board selected a new Chief of Police.
Mr. Demkiw’s selection has understandably unleashed a demand for answers from the Toronto Police Service Board (TPSB) and even Mayor John Tory, who has sat on the board for eight years.
Members of the Toronto Women’s Bathhouse Committee have asked Mayor Tory and TPSB Chair Jim Hart for a public meeting to discuss the hiring process leading up to Mr. Demkiw’s appointment.
While I am no longer the Ward 13 councillor, I am now the 2SLGBTQIA+ Issues Critic for the Official Opposition and the local MPP of Toronto where every bathhouse raid took place. The 2SLGBTQIA+’s community’s ability to trust the Toronto Police affects us all. Public safety concerns have grown throughout the pandemic, and our neighbourhoods have been impacted more intensely than most. Increasing public safety requires collaboration between all of our neighbours and all of our levels of government. This will be significantly negatively impacted if Toronto’s Chief of Police cannot gain our community’s trust.
You can read and sign the Women’s Bathhouse Committtee’s Open Letter to Mayor Tory here.
What I’ve been up to:
Preparing for Queen’s Park to resume next week.
MPPs will return to Queen’s Park on Tuesday, October 25, 2022, following Doug Ford’s municipal election-long hiatus. My NDP colleagues and I are fired up to keep fighting for more transparency when it comes to further surprise changes to the Planning Act, healthcare investments, emergency action to tackle the housing crisis, and increased funding for programs such as ODSP. Like many of you, I am worried that Ford could be planning to bring in illegal legislation to stop education workers from striking as his government shows open hostility towards education workers in contract negotiations.
I want to share your stories when the house resumes. You can email me your thoughts about what the government needs to do to fix healthcare, housing, education, and ODSP at [email protected].
Welcoming Rose Avenue Public School to Queen’s Park
This week, I had the honour of welcoming my first class from our riding to Queen’s Park. The joy on students’ faces as they experienced their first field trip in over two-and-a-half years was palpable. I was overjoyed when nearly every student raised their hand when I asked who wanted to take Doug Ford’s job. Queen’s Park needs more St. James Town.
Supporting Local Progressive Champions
So much is on the line for Torontonians in this municipal election. On top of our local Toronto Centre race, I’ve been busy supporting the large cohort of bold new progressive council candidates from across the city get to City Hall. If you have some spare time and can make a donation, please reach out to them as soon as possible. Election Day volunteers to help get out the vote are needed, so please sign up and I hope to see you there soon.
I’m including their websites so you can help them out on Monday. The more progressives we can elect, the better all of our lives in Toronto will be. Check out:
- Chiara Padovani in York South – Weston
- Amber Morley in Etobicoke – Lakeshore
- Norm Di Pasquale in University – Rosedale
- Ausma Malik in Spadina – Fort York
- Kevin Rupasinghe in Scarborough South West
- Alejandro Bravo in Davenport
Finally, for anyone who wants to share their experience of transphobia and queerphobia in faith settings, my good friend, Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes, the founder and executive director of Rainbow Faith and Freedom, is conducting a survey and asking for as much community feedback as possible. The deadline is today so please take a few minutes to share your experience. You can participate in his survey here.
Hoping to hear from you soon — I remain in your community service,
MPP Toronto Centre