April 3, 2018
Today’s news that the Toronto Police Service has withdrawn its application to march in Pride is a welcome development. The Police relationship with the LGBTQ2S community has been strained over the last two years – most recently around the investigation of missing and murdered men in the Village and the deaths of Alloura Wells and Tess Richey. Chief Saunders has acknowledged the need to overcome the challenges before us and the decision not to march in 2018 is the best evidence I have seen to date that the force is committed to truly prioritizing that work.
LGBTQ2S officers will always be welcome at Pride as civilian members of the community. As the Police, Pride, and larger community work through the individual and systemic challenges before us, the appropriate space will open up again for the Toronto Police to be represented, as an institution and possibly in uniform, at the parade in future years. Until then, I believe the critical work to build community relationships cannot and should not be held to the deadline of a parade. Not now, not ever.
Trenchless Structural Lining of Large Diameter Sewer Main on Wellesley Street West from Bay Street to 100m East of Bay Street
Construction Window: Apr. 9 – Aug. 24, 2018
Time on the Street: 4- 7 Days
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The City of Toronto will be structurally relining a large diameter sewer main in your area during the above noted construction window. This project is part of the Council-approved Capital Works Program to renew our aging infrastructure, reduce the risk of leaks, and ensure continued long-term reliable sewer service.
Today, the Mayor announced a new policy that will force all non-emergency utility work south of Dundas Street in the downtown to take place overnight. This decision was made without any consultation with local residents or Councillors – myself included. Our vibrant downtown neighbourhoods are home to many and we must work to make them more liveable, not less. There are over 240,000 residents who currently live in downtown Toronto and that number is expected to reach 500,000 in the next 25 years.
This policy change is insensitive to residents who live downtown. It is unacceptable to unilaterally make a decision of this nature without first consulting the community or local Councillors. Every day, we work to build a healthier, more liveable downtown – to provide the services, infrastructure and amenities that people need to call their neighbourhood home. I work with residents associations, community groups, business operators and constituents from across downtown make smart, informed decisions that will improve the lives of all inhabitants.
For years, I have heard about noise complaints from downtown residents. Noise levels have tremendous impact on quality of life. Together, we pushed for a complete review of the Noise By-Law, which is still under-way. Residents in the downtown deserve to be consulted and any policy changes that impact construction noise should be referred to the Noise By-Law review. Moving traffic should not be prioritized over the quality of life for residents living in our downtown.
Downtown Toronto is not a monolithic area that empties out after traditional work hours. Downtown Toronto is made up of dynamic, mixed-use neighbourhoods and vibrant main streets. While we support accelerating important infrastructure work, it cannot be at the expense of residents who live here. There needs to be an intelligent and strategic street-by-street approach to review where overnight work can take place, as well as meaningful consultation with community groups and residents who call downtown Toronto their home.
Letter re: Independent External Review into Systemic Concerns Related to Missing Persons Investigations
The following letter was submitted to members of the Toronto Police Services Board on March 21, 2018.
Dear Members of the Toronto Police Services Board,
Recent investigations into the alleged murder of LGBTQ2S community members, particularly those of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent, and missing persons cases have raised significant concerns. Comments that community members failed to provide police with essential information have raised tensions further. Many now believe that there are different standards of investigation for LGBTQ2S missing persons cases and this has eroded public trust in the Toronto Police Service and this is not without context.
There are longstanding and legitimate concerns from many impacted groups, including Black, Indigenous, trans, racialized, undocumented, and sex-worker communities. In 1981, 289 men were assaulted and arrested in the Toronto Police-led bathhouse raids for the "crime" of engaging in consensual sexual activity. The careers, families and lives of gay men were destroyed because of police discrimination and violence against a minority group. In 2000, the Toronto Police raided Pussy Palace, a women's bathhouse and again reminded us that this was a long-term struggle.
Police officers, many of them men, abused their authority when they barged into this women and trans women's only space where individuals were in various states of undress. The police claimed to be there to enforce and investigate a liquor license concern. In 2016, undercover officers laid 89 charges against men in a sting operation at Marie Curtis Park, even as the Toronto Police struggled to respond to the increase in opiate drug trafficking, a rise in shootings, and a spate of deadly pedestrian collisions. Again the "crime" was men having consensual sex with men.
These marks on our community and police force have not been forgotten. The Toronto Police – and not a single officer or the Police Chief of the day – has ever been held accountable for the 1981 and 2000 bathhouse raids. Even when recognizing these past harms, police leadership has never gone as far as issuing a full and explicit apology.
Having met with numerous LGBTQ2S agency leaders and residents in the Church-Wellesley Village area, I have heard clearly that accountability and transparency are needed now more than ever. I have ongoing discussions with the Mayor and LGBTQ2S community leaders, including The Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP) on how trust can be rebuilt. These discussions have been productive and I believe that there is a way forward.
Yesterday, Mayor Tory's Executive Committee discussed a report on the City's Long-Term Financial Plan. Our city has grown substantially and the needs and interests of residents and businesses have grown concurrently over the past decade. The City of Toronto has responded by developing plans and strategies to ensure Toronto remains a livable, accessible and inclusive city for everyone, but City Council has not ensured the funding to implement these necessary services. A new model for budgeting and financial planning is long overdue.
Determining the priorities of a city and the methods and means to pay for the services and programmes, is not an easy task and requires City Council to dig deep and make smart decisions. This is not something we can put off for any longer as our infrastructure crumbles and Toronto becomes increasingly unaffordable for so many.
The options put forward by the City Manager will force City Council to cut services or reduce service levels, which are already insufficient in meeting resident needs, or develop new revenues to pay for a growing city. It will not be an easy decision for City Council, but it is one that cannot be delayed.
Which is exactly what Mayor Tory and his Executive Committee have chosen to do. Instead of governing, they have deferred these important decisions until the next term of Council. Please contact Mayor Tory to encourage him to bring the report to City Council next week. Let him know you believe City Council should debate this plan immediately and not delay this decision until after October's election.