Recent missing persons cases and the deaths of Tess Richey and Alloura Wells have hit our community hard. The Church-Wellesley Village, a neighbourhood that has been a symbol of inclusion, safety, and compassion, is looking for answers and a way forward. Planning is already underway in my office to bring the community together with Toronto's Community Crisis Response team and we know there are major service gaps that must be closed. The Community Crisis Response Program works across Toronto to provide support and resources to communities impacted by violent and traumatic incidents.
Earlier today I was informed that the trans memorial in Barbara Hall Park had been painted over. In meeting with senior Parks staff this late afternoon, it was determined that a crew from outside the neighbourhood had come into the park to remove graffiti and made the error of painting over the trans memorial. This never should have happened, as we have worked with our local Parks maintenance staff to respect and preserve this space for the community. It is my hope that the City's new LGBTQ2S Advisory Committee will prioritize the consultation and creation of a new and permanent memorial in their initial work.
It comes as welcome news that charges have been dropped against the men targeted in the Marie Curtis Park undercover operation. It is clear that more should have been done to work with the LGBTQ2S community, including understanding the vulnerability of closeted men, in resolving issues in the park. I believe that a new level of awareness has been achieved within the Toronto Police Service and that more care will be taken in the future. In a time of constrained budgets and limited court and policing resources, it is critical that our officers are deployed to make the best use of their time in serving all communities.
Speeding on Glen Road has been a problem for decades. Traffic studies done by the City of Toronto and the North Rosedale Residents Association (NRRA) show that of the 4,000 to 4,500 daily drivers on Glen Road, more than half travel above the 40 km/h speed limit, with approximately 15% travelling at or above 50 km/h. Residents rightly view speeding on Glen Road as a safety issue. Unfortunately, there has not been broad community agreement on how to address this problem.
MPAC’s willingness to reassess the properties on Yonge Street is a welcome, but short-term solution. While MPAC states they did not consider re-development potential directly, their property valuation approach contradicts their statement. This is demonstrated by their omission of the area's full planning context in their original assessments and their insistence of starting every valuation with a highest and best use application which promotes unchecked development. Otherwise, how could they have missed the four critical planning documents that govern this portion of Yonge Street, namely, the Yonge Street Heritage Conservation District Plan, Area Specific Policy 174 and 382 and Official Plan Amendment 352 and Implementing Zoning By-laws?
Yesterday, concerned harm reduction workers and activists opened an overdose prevention tent in Moss Park. I cannot blame them. Toronto has been facing an increasingly deadly opioid crisis and they are seeing their friends, colleagues and clients overdose on a daily basis. Communities are suffering. The response from governments has not been fast enough or sufficient to address this public health crisis. My colleague, Councillor Joe Cressy, recently wrote in the Toronto Star about the need for an emergency response, and I completely agree.
Yonge Street's small businesses are a vital part of Toronto's commercial mix. These shops and services are often run by locals, many of whom have owned their properties for generations. With a massive tax assessment increase this year, many of the businesses and owners are worried that they will have to close up shop or sell their properties to the highest bidder.
The neighbourhoods surrounding Ramsden Park are densifying at a rapid pace. This has introduced many new users to the park, making the current revitalization both necessary and timely.
During the consultation process that lead up to the new park design, I spoke with many of you, who identified that the current access from Hillsboro Avenue is unsafe. You also let me know that, as this park entrance is very well-used, upgrades addressing safety are vitally important. The existing ramp does not meet current accessibility standards, as the slope is too steep; the existing staircase is also in poor condition and unsafe. It is vitally important that residents, of all levels of ability, are able to enter and use the park safely. This neighbourhood is home to a growing number of seniors and families. As such, the new Hillsboro entrance will feature a ramp that will allow easier access for residents with walkers, strollers, and mobility devices.
The disappearance of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen is worrying and I share in the community's ongoing concern for their wellbeing. Each of these men are friends and family to many and we are all praying for their safe return.
I was pleased to hear from Toronto Police on Friday that there are dedicated officers working to solve the cases of Andrew Kinsman and Selim Esen. While no evidence has yet been found to connect any missing persons cases from the Village over the last seven years, members of the community are concerned and are looking for answers. These dedicated resources provide some assurance that the necessary work is being done. Along with the encouraging news that several missing persons cases have been solved, we are seeing better communication from the Police and hope that this carries forward.
In recent years, Torontonians have shifted to a more nuanced conversation about social justice that moves beyond multiculturalism and accounts for multiple forms of structural oppression including colonialism, racism, anti-Black racism, sexism and misogyny.
In the context of this shift, City Staff have tabled reports containing concrete recommendations, such as The Interim Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism and Towards an Action Plan for Transgender Youth.