Today I want to acknowledge the continued sacrifice we are each making. Yesterday, there were 296 reported new cases of COVID-19 in Toronto, and an average of 209 per day over a seven day period. This is more than a 200% increase since the beginning of September. We cannot deny that urgent action was needed to interrupt the chain of transmission. I know it’s frustrating to see these civic restrictions once more.
I have heard from many that there needs to be a much more nuanced approach to closures. It is no longer the early stages of the pandemic. I agree that we are now more informed, and we can make targeted efforts in reducing community transmission. Dr. de Villa had called for this action and continues to warn of the rising case numbers. Unfortunately, Premier Ford chose not to act swiftly, denying medical evidence and data. He could have taken a more nuanced approach by carefully using a scalpel to reduce transmission when he had the chance. Now due to this delay, a blunt instrument is necessary to stop the alarming rise of new positive COVID tests.
In Dr. de Villa’s statement, she reminded us that the winter months (and flu season) are approaching. I would recommend that for everyone who can, please plan ahead to get your flu shot. With this coronavirus, there is an opportunity for common flu symptoms and COVID-19 symptoms to get confused. Flu vaccination shots are available at many pharmacies around the city. Please note that due to COVID-19, these pharmacies are requiring appointments for the flu shot. This is another step we can take to protect ourselves and our communities.
As we see the closure of public space and more people are staying indoors, I am concerned for those who might not feel safe at home. In the spring, advocates of survivors of domestic violence warned that we would see an increase in domestic violence and physical assaults perpetrated by men. According to data released by Statistics Canada, there was an increase in domestic disturbance calls by 12% to Toronto Police Services during the first four months of the pandemic. As a result of the pandemic, women, non-binary and trans individuals are more likely to be confined in a space with their abuser and have no safe place to go. With fewer women in the workforce, they remain reliant on their partners for financial support and are tasked with increased domestic labour responsibility. This financial reliability and social isolation allow abusers to be in constant close proximity and exercise control.
Ending Violence Association of Canada conducted the first national survey on domestic violence, surveying staff and volunteers working at transition houses, shelters, immigration centres, and other social agencies coast-to-coast. As reported by the CBC, the survey found that 82% of those surveyed determined that violence increased and became more frequent, with a fifth saying abusers' violent tactics changed, and control over their victims increased. There is even concern that a ‘return to normal’ is impossible due to the harm caused. In order to help families recover, there will be an increased need for services that support women, children, non-binary, and trans individuals.
Last week, the Hon. Minister Maryam Monsef and the Federal government announced an additional $50 million to support survivors of gender-based violence. This funding includes:
- Up to $10 million for women’s shelters and sexual assault centres to help them continue to provide their critical services safely;
- Up to $10 million to support organizations providing services related to gender-based violence to Indigenous people off-reserve; and
- Up to $30 million for other women’s organizations to support the delivery of GBV supports, to help combat the spread of COVID, and to address the increased demand for services.
While this funding will certainly help address the ongoing issue of gender-based violence, this issue requires intergovernmental support to sustainably prevent and end gender-based violence. Four days ahead of International Women’s Day 2020, the Ford government released its decision to not renew $1 million in funding which would cut waitlists at rape crisis centres. This was done despite the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres warning the rollback will mean fewer services and longer waitlists in the face of increased demand as a result of the pandemic. Only amid intense public backlash did the Ford government backtrack on the funding cancellation, and commit an additional $2 million in annual funding but from a different ministry, Community and Social Services, and with significant spending restrictions. This short-sighted and mean-spirited move from the Ford Government at the beginning of 2020 would have made violent domestic situations for women that much worse during the last pandemic months. Thank you to all those who resisted some poor public policy - you made a difference.
We cannot ignore the disproportionate gendered impact of this pandemic. We must continue to demand that gender-based violence be a funding priority, especially given the increased violence taking place as a result of the pandemic.
With the Toronto Office of Rebuild and Recovery report released yesterday, it is critical that as we move towards recovery, we ensure that no one is left behind. How can we reflect and build an equitable city? I will be examining this report with an intersectional equity lens and advocating for a just recovery for all. I will keep you updated as this work continues.
If you, or someone you know, might be experiencing domestic violence, please know you can access help. There are resources available on my website under Links & Resources.
Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.
Community Corner in Ward 13
Late this Summer, Toronto City Planning began the Cabbagetown Southwest Heritage Conservation District (HCD) Plan project, which follows the study completed in 2019 which recommended the area be designated an HCD. The District’s proposed boundaries will include the residential area located from the rear of the properties on the south side of Carlton Street on the north, the east side of Sherbourne Street on the west, the north side of Shuter St. on the south, and the rear of the properties fronting on Parliament Street to the east. By designating, or listing properties as heritage, the City of Toronto can protect Toronto’s rich architectural history.
Image description: A city map of the boundaries of Cabbagetown
City Planning is currently seeking volunteers who are interested in contributing to the project and who live, or work, in the Cabbagetown South neighbourhood to participate in the project’s advisory group. If this is something you’re interested in, I would encourage you to apply.
The group will be composed of 8-12 members and will meet virtually or by phone, four to six times in one-hour meetings between November 2020 and March 2021. Applications are due by Wednesday, October 28, 2020. Learn more about the project here.
If you have any questions, you can reach out to Alex Corey, Senior Heritage Planner at Alex.Corey@toronto.ca, or by calling 416-338-1092.
Community Care in Ward 13
Image description: a promotional poster that says "all blood is equal"
For years now, Canada continues to face a critical shortage of donated blood. This blood is used in surgeries, transfusions, and other critical care measures. Donated blood helps save lives. Each year, thousands of willing blood donors are turned away because of their identity. In Canada, men who have sex with men and trans women cannot donate blood unless they have been abstinent for three months. This is a damaging prejudiced policy that targets two-spirit, gay, bisexual and queer men, trans women, and men who have sex with men (2SGBTQ+/MSM).
All Canadians deserve the opportunity to partake in the time-honoured tradition of blood donation, with screening provisions based on science rather than prejudice. It’s well past time for 2SGBTQ/MSM Canadians to be treated as equal citizens. It’s time to put an end to Canada’s discriminatory blood donation ban. Join the campaign.
Making Cents: Talking City Budgets with Councillor Wong-Tam
Image content: promotional poster for Making Cents Budget Series panel event with Councillor Wong-Tam
Before the COVID-19 global pandemic, Toronto was already facing a homelessness crisis of massive proportion. During the pandemic, the crisis has become more visible and incredibly more acute. Advocates and frontline workers supporting encampments continue to ring alarm bells about inhumane conditions. Residents who live adjacent to the encampments and shelters are demanding that the City do more to find more affordable and permanent housing solutions for people who are under-housed. Chronic underfunding and failed policies have created the housing and homelessness crisis that is before us. The homelessness emergency is a public health crisis that requires an intergovernmental funding response, and concentrated efforts to invest in permanent affordable and supportive housing.
Join us virtually on Monday, October 26th from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST to learn from panelists with a range of expertise and backgrounds about housing and homelessness. This panel will discuss how our municipal budget can be used alongside provincial and federal funding to end the homelessness crisis and increase long term investments for permanent affordable and supportive housing in the City of Toronto.
When: Monday, October 26, 2020, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST
Where: Registrants will receive a link to watch
Special Guests Include:
Dr. Trevor Morey, Palliative Care Physician, Palliative Education and Care for the Homeless
Patti Pettigrew, Founder and Executive Director, Thunder Woman Healing Lodge Society
Kira Heineck, Executive Lead, Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness
Dr. Kaitlin Schwan, Director of Research, The Shift
Mina Fayez-Bahgat, Director Program Support, City of Toronto Social Services and Housing Administration
COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread
As we begin to again restrengthen our public health measures, we will all continue to live in this new normal. Wearing a mask or a face covering is mandatory in all public indoor spaces and on the TTC. Our commitment must be to continue minimizing the impact of COVID-19, especially on our most vulnerable residents, while reducing negative social, economic, and broader health impacts on our community. In the coming months what this means for our residents is:
- Continuing to work remotely, wherever possible;
- Maintaining physical distance from people outside our household or social circle/bubble;
- Avoiding crowds and congregations in closed indoor settings;
- Wearing a cloth mask or face covering in any public indoor setting, including stores, transit, offices; and where
- physical distancing is difficult to maintain.
- Staying home whenever we are sick for any reason.
Face Masks and Coverings Offer Best Protection
Image description: Informational graphic from Toronto Public Health titled, "Face Masks & Coverings Offer Best Protection." Through visual examples, the graphic shows recommended and not recommended ways of wearing a mask. The recommended way for wearing a mask says, "should cover your nose, mouth, and chin without gaping." The following are not recommended: face shields, masks with exhalation valves, or clear plastic masks.
How to Safely Wear a Mask
Image description: Toronto Public Health infographic about how to safely wear a mask. Information on the infographic is listed below.
- Do wash your hands before putting it on and taking it off
- Do make sure it fits to cover your mouth and nose
- Do wash your cloth mask in the laundry
- Do clean surfaces that a dirty mask touches
- Don’t touch your face or mask while using it
- Don’t use masks on children under 2 or those who can’t breathe with them on
- Don’t share your mask with others
- Don’t wear medical masks, keep them for health care workers
- The best protection is to stay home, keep a 6-foot distance, and wash hands often.
City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates
The City of Toronto has signed an agreement with Local Motors by LM Industries to deliver the City’s planned Automated Shuttle Trial, set to begin operating next Spring.
On October 14th, the City of Toronto released its response for people experiencing homelessness.
City Manager’s Report, Towards Recovery and Building a Renewed Toronto, to go to Executive Committee October 21
On October 21, a report from Toronto City Manager Chris Murray will go before the City’s Executive Committee. The report outlines the City Manager’s recommendations to best position Toronto for recovery from COVID-19 and its profound health, economic, equity, social and financial impacts on the city.
City of Toronto Extends Partnership with Ritual to Launch Open For Business to Support Local Businesses
Yesterday, Mayor John Tory announced the City of Toronto is extending its partnership with Ritual to launch Open For Business – a collaboration with Ritual and DoorDash to help local businesses across Toronto increase their commission-free online sales.
Province of Ontario Updates
The Ontario government is expanding innovative and proven reactivation care models across the province by adding over 200 more transitional care beds. These new beds will help ease pressures on hospitals, reduce wait times for patients by getting those who no longer need to be in a hospital, but are waiting to transition to home, community or long-term care, the right level of care in the right setting, and help end hallway health care.
The Ontario government is adding to the precautions taken last week to protect residents and staff in the province's long-term care homes.
The Ontario government is encouraging everyone to support local restaurants and the food services industry during COVID-19. Last week, the province introduced additional targeted public health measures in Toronto, Ottawa and Peel Region in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts to help slow the spread of the virus. Over the next 28 days, indoor food and drink service at restaurants, bars, and other food and drink establishments in these regions will be prohibited, but they may continue to offer takeout, delivery, and outdoor dining.
Government of Canada Updates
Building a More Inclusive Canada: Government of Canada Announces Funding for Anti-Racism Projects Across the Country
Today, the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, announced the Government of Canada is providing $15 million for 85 anti-racism projects across the country, which will address barriers to employment, justice, and social participation among Indigenous Peoples, racialized communities, and religious minorities.
Government of Canada Increases Support in Ontario for Child and Youth Victims of Abuse and Violence in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, announced $363,936 in financial support for fiscal year 2020-2021, to 5 Child Advocacy Centres (CAC) and Child and Youth Advocacy Centres in Ontario. This support will allow these centres to better respond to the needs of children, youth and their families resulting from the impacts of COVID-19.
Effective immediately, Canada is imposing sanctions against Belarusian officials in response to gross and systematic human rights violations that have been committed in Belarus.
Library and Archives Canada Offers Financial Assistance to Preserve and Share Canada’s Local Histories
Library and Archives Canada announced today the launch of the 2021–2022 funding cycle for its Documentary Heritage Communities Program (DHCP).
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.
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services, or to report people
Telephone: 311 (The City is only accepting 311 requests through phone)
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.