The provincial government has tabled a bill that will reform the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), with the stated goal of empowering municipalities. As a long-time critic of the OMB, the proposed reforms fail to give Toronto the deference and responsibility it deserves.
In 2012, I helped lead a push to remove Toronto from the purview of the OMB. My goal has not changed. The OMB frustrates residents, planning staff, and local councillors. It issues unaccountable decisions, sets undesirable precedents and drives land speculation and applications for inappropriate development onto unsuitable sites.
I emphatically stand against hatred of any kind in our city. The targeting of any race or religion for persecution is not acceptable in Canada.
Recent events in Toronto, from rallies calling for the banning of Islam to bomb threats against the Jewish community underline an emboldened movement by extremists to revoke and erode Canadian values, rights, and freedoms. Just as Toronto is strengthened by the shared principles of a diverse population, Council too stands for unity against hate.
Night clubs and residential neighbourhoods do not often make for fast friends. Councillor Karygiannis is absolutely right in his concern for the safety and wellbeing of club-goers and the safe operation of businesses. However, the City must go beyond cracking down on restaurants operating dance floors and create a way forward for businesses outside of the Entertainment District to address safety, while operating as they have for years or, in some cases, decades.
Councillor Wong-Tam stands against hatred of any kind in our city. The targeting of any race or religion for persecution is not acceptable in Canada.
Last week, Councillor Wong-Tam became aware of a protest a short block from her office where protesters were calling for the banning of a religion. As an unequivocal supporter of the Canadian values of pluralism and inclusivity, she took issue with those calling for this kind of oppression and creating a hostile environment for those exercising their religious traditions. Subsequently, she was also informed of videos online showing hateful, anti-Semitic speeches.
Pride Toronto recently made the decision to remove Toronto Police floats and booths from Pride Month in 2017. The decision was taken at the Pride Toronto Annual General Meeting, along with the election of several new board members. The decision does not come without concerns and in the near future we most likely will be faced with a recurring challenge – a threat to revoke the City of Toronto's funding for the festival.
Improving Toronto’s cycling infrastructure has been one of my top priorities as a City Councillor and has been an ongoing focus of mine since 2010. In 2011, I fought against the removal of the Jarvis bike lanes and I challenged the Ford administration to do a better job as new infrastructure was planned for Ward 27. Today, I am glad to be working with a mayor who values a collaborative approach, but there are still issues that arise as staff and City Council do their best to serve all Toronto residents.
Last week, undercover officers laid 89 charges against 72 people, mostly men, at Marie Curtis Park. Dressed to be unrecognized as police, they attended the park and engaged with the men there. In a city coping with increased opiate drug trafficking, a rise in shootings, and a spate of deadly pedestrian collisions, what crime was so significant as to get this level of attention? The answer is largely men having consensual sex with men.
I believe it is important not to detract from the concerns west end residents have about this park. Parks should be for everyone and there is understandable frustration around parents keeping their children from encountering sex in a public space. However, there is a long memory in the LGBTQ2S community regarding inappropriate entrapment and disproportionate use of force by police against it.
Over the past few weeks, important questions have been raised regarding the role of protest in the Toronto Pride parade, the relationship of police to the full spectrum of the LGBTQ2S community and, particularly, the needs of Queer and Trans persons of colour. I have been encouraged by the many nuanced and challenging conversations that this has inspired in the broader community. However, I have also been disappointed to see several City Councillors enter this debate from an uninformed perspective, and make political hay from a painful and necessary community conversation.
The statement of regret by Chief Mark Saunders on the 1981 gay bathhouse raids this week was an important step towards mending a historic wrong that was done in our City. While many are pleased to see the Toronto Police expressing regret, we still have some ways to go in addressing the lives that were ruined. I believe we still need to see a more meaningful apology with proper restitution.
Today in one of the most followed cases of the year, Mr. Ghomeshi was found not guilty on all charges related to sexual violence. Before anything, I would like to speak to the survivors of this case and all women who have been subject to sexual violence. While I respect the rule of law and the legitimacy of our criminal justice system, I recognize that sometimes the difference between the legal guilt and factual guilt is pronounced. Therefore, I am of the firm belief that today’s result shall not in any way undermine or repudiate the reality of what has happened to you. We believe you - and we thank you for inspiring us with your courage by coming forward to tell your story and to fight for the belief that no matter how many years have passed, or how wealthy or well-respected the abuser is, sexual violence will not be tolerated in Canada. Thank you for leading the way.