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.
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.