News

February 2018 Council Round Up

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It's been a big week at City Hall! Here's your January 2018 City Council round up.

Toronto Poverty Reduction Strategy 2017 Report and 2018 Work Plan
City Council adopted the TO Prosperity 2018 Work Plan, which includes measures such as implementing the Open Door Affordable Housing Program to create new affordable rental and ownership homes across the City by expediting planning processes, creating 1000 new affordable rental units, and renovations to create 119 new affordable homes with supports at 389 Church Street.

Improving Data Collection Management of Toronto's Homeless Population
City Council has directed the Shelter, Support and Housing Administration to work with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto and other interested stakeholders to report back in 2018 on measures to improve tracking information on admission and discharges of homeless individuals between shelter, respites, and hospitals. Direction was also given to increase transparency in occupancy statistics for the City's shelters.

Ensuring a Robust Hotel Supply to Strengthen Tourism
City Council directed staff to review the potential for the implementation of a hotel accommodation replacement policy and or strategy to protect the existing amount of hotel space in mixed use and regeneration areas in Toronto's Official Plan. As staff conveyed to Council, Toronto is increasingly unable to support large-scale international events with the decline in hotel stock, impacting the city's ability to receive tourists and host important industry shows. This is a challenge for hotels that, while profitable, are often located on sites being re-zoned to condominium use.

Yellow Creek and Vale of Avoca Update
City Council supported recommendations from Councillors Wong-Tam and Matlow to have staff engage local community organizations on planning for long-term improvements to Yellow Creek and the Vale of Avoca. This will help to identify funding gaps, infrastructure needs, and a timeline to restore the ravine, in conjunction with the current hydrogeological study and forthcoming Ravine Strategy.

Municipal Accommodation Tax
City Council approved the implementation of a 4 percent tax on the sale of transient accommodations in short-term rentals. This policy is expected to bring in a net revenue of $16,100,000.00 in 2018.

Old City Hall – Future Uses and Tenant Options
City Council directed staff to develop a design and plans for Old City Hall that include a Museum of Toronto, a public library branch, wedding chamber, café, public event space, and institutional uses.

Modernization of 389 Church Street
City Council authorized the release of $14.738 million in funds to construct 120 new self-contained one and two-bedroom affordable housing units at 389 Church Street, as well as significant upgrades to the building to facilitate accessibility and modernize its health and safety systems.

Review of Current Winter Respite and Shelter Services During the Recent Cold Weather
City Council reaffirmed its commitment to a 90% shelter occupancy cap across all sectors, develop options for real-time space availability reporting, and explore opportunities for more spaces to be made available through partnerships with faith-based and other community organizations. An amendment by Councillor Wong-Tam was adopted to have staff review the recent report "An Evaluation of Toronto's Warming Centre and Winter Response to Homelessness", which indicated many Toronto shelters were failing both local and UN standards for facilities and service delivery.

Parks Ambassador Service Level
City Council directed the General Manager of Parks, Forestry and Recreation to establish adequate service levels for the Parks Ambassador Program to meet City-wide demands and report back in the first quarter of 2019. The Ambassador program represents front-line staff who work with shelters, housing, medical, and police teams to ensure that parks are safe, clean, and that those in need are connected with appropriate resources.

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What We Heard At My Town Hall On Gender Responsive Budgeting

Thank you to all who came out on January 18 for my 2018 Town Hall on Gender-Responsive Budgeting. For the second year in a row, residents from Ward 27 and across the Toronto gathered at the 519 Community Centre to discuss and workshop gender equity in the Toronto city budget. My team and I were blown away by the level of participation and excitement for gender-equity budgeting as a catalyst for long-term, sustainable equitable service delivery in Toronto.

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THE BURDEN OF POVERTY IS CARRIED BY WOMEN
We heard from residents about the urgent need for a gender-based analysis in the budget. The burden of ongoing budget cuts and the lack of investment in social services fall largely on the shoulders of women and girls, especially those who are racialized and low-income. 

These systemic failures are shocking. In Toronto, 37% of single mother-led families in live in poverty. 59% of minimum wage workers are women and over 25% are precariously employed. According to YWCA Toronto, Toronto's largest women's organization, the annual child care fees are $19,200 a year while the average annual salary for women is $32,000. 70% of part-time workers are women, who are not eligible for subsided childcare.

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The exorbitant cost of housing further marginalize women and worsen the detrimental cycle of poverty and violence. According to Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses (OAITH), the number one reason why women are unable to leave violent relationships is the lack of safe, affordable housing. And while the world wakes up to the realities and prevalence of intimate-partner violence, the City of Toronto has not acted on a gender-based violence strategy.  And still, women earn 75.3% of what men earn for the same job. Racialized and trans women experience an even larger pay gap.

These are not merely statistics. They are human realities and lived experiences of women in our city – women that carry the burden of poverty. Over 170 engaged participants at my second Town Hall on Gender-Responsive Budgeting confirmed what I always knew: the residents of Toronto care deeply about equity and social justice. We care about building a fair and inclusive city that meets the needs of all residents. We are witnessing first-hand how massive service gaps are further exacerbating gender inequity.

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Upcoming Community Vigils

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It is a tragic time for the LGBTQ community, our neighbourhood, and the city. We are all grieving the lives lost as the recent tragedy impacting our community unfolds.

We all remember the ones still missing. The issues we face today are unfortunately not new and touch many marginalized and vulnerable communities. We welcome everyone to join us to grieve together, heal together, and rise together. 

Multifaith Vigil For The Five Murdered Men

When: Monday, February 12, 2017, 6:00pm 
Where:
Metunited Sanctuary, 56 Queen Street East

Join the Metropolitan United Church for the Community Laments, A Multifaith Vigil for the Five Murdered Men, the Fallen in our Midst. More information: https://www.metunited.org/jmv4/index.php/events/eventdetail/6015/multifaith-vigil-for-the-five-murdered-men

 

Community Vigil at Barbara Hall Park and The 519

When: Tuesday, February 13, 2017, 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Where: 
Barbara Hall Park, 519 Church Street

LGBTQ community organizations have come together to organize a community vigil to offer a safe space for our communities to grieve and express their feelings. Organizing partners include The 519ASAAPLGBT Youth LinePride TorontoSherbourne Health CentreToronto People With AIDS Foundation, Toronto HIV/AIDS Network, The Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies.

Food will be served at the event. Counselling support and child minding will be available on site. Facilities are accessible and ASL interpretation will be provided. RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/2080699252214280/ 

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My Statement on Additional Charges Against Bruce McArthur

January 29, 2018

Today's news and the additional three murder charges against Bruce McArthur are shocking and disturbing. The connection of Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi and Dean Lisowick to this case will come as painful news to the friends and family of the missing who have been in the dark for some time. Even for the brief and limited occasions I had to meet a number of the missing, I have found recent revelations to be very difficult to process. Simply put, these situations have left me heartbroken.

The community deserves thanks for their time and effort. The information passed on to authorities and the time search parties and volunteers have spent looking for leads was significant. I am confident that this was of great value in advancing the investigation this far.

The police investigators and officers who have put in intensive effort to get us this far deserve our thanks, as well. Based on what has been shared with the public, to date, we are still grappling with the scale of what has happened.

For those who are worried about the time it has taken to solve a number of these missing persons cases, I share your concerns and am confident that there will be an opportunity to better understand the inner workings of this complex case in the near future. For those who are looking for a way to mourn and come together, I can tell you that I am working with community and faith leaders to make an opportunity for us to unite in the spirit of healing.

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Anyone with information regarding this case or disappearances, even if it seems insignificant, should call project Prism at 416-808-2021.

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Statement from Kristyn Wong-Tam on Bill S-238, Ban on Shark Fin Importation Act

Senator Fabian Manning, Chair
Senator Mark Gold, Deputy Chair
Senator Jim Munson, 3rd Member
Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans

Good day Senators and thank you for the opportunity to appear before the Committee on this important matter. My name is Kristyn Wong-Tam. I am a Toronto City Councillor and the Chair of the Toronto East York Community Council.

Prior to my election to Toronto City Council, I served six years as the past-President of the Toronto Chapter of the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC). The CCNC is a national non-profit organization with 27 chapters across Canada and a community leader for Chinese Canadians in promoting a more just, respectful and inclusive society.

Today, I have travelled from Toronto to extend my personal support for Bill S-238, short titled, the Ban on Shark Fin Importation Act.

As you likely know, shark “finning” is the cruel act of capturing an entire shark to remove only the fins by cutting them off with a blade and tossing the shark body generally while still alive back into the water. The finless shark unable to swim, falls to the bottom of the ocean while in agonizing pain and where it will die in a matter of days by suffocation, drowning or killed by other ocean life.

Although shark finning in domestic waters was outlawed in Canada in 1994, this cruel, wasteful and unsustainable practice is still widespread and the importation of shark fins obtained in such a manner is surprisingly not illegal. Leaving a massive legal loophole that is eagerly exploited by those who profit immensely from the legal sale and trade of shark fins and its derivative products, often times obtained illegally through uncontrolled shark finning.

Other than shark fin being the main ingredient in shark fin soup served at upscale Chinese restaurants and formal banquet dinners to show “respect” to the guests, and to allow the hosts to demonstrate their personal wealth and affluence, there are no other legitimate uses for this product. Not medicinal, nor scientific, nor educational.

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In June 2011, I proudly introduced a member motion with my colleague Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker to ban the possession, sale and consumption of shark fin and derivative products within the city limits of Toronto. This motion was presented to Toronto City Council along with a petition signed by 10,000 residents who supported the creation of this municipal ban.

Knowing that Toronto has one of the largest Chinese Canadian populations in Canada, by eliminating the consumer demand for shark fin soup, we believed that such a ban would in effect help eliminate the inhumane and irresponsible practice of “shark finning” which results in the slaughter of an estimated 100 million sharks per year.

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Media Advisory: Report Finds Toronto’s Respite Centres for The Homeless Do Not Meet Minimum City or UN Standards

For Immediate Release

January 30th, 2018

What: Press Conference by Healthcare Providers Against Poverty to Release Report on Conditions Within Winter Respite Centres
Where: City Hall - City of Toronto, 2nd floor 
When: January 31, 2018, 12:30 - 1PM

Speakers will include:
Introduction by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam; Michaela Beder, MD, Psychiatrist, Member of HPAP; Cathy Crowe, RN; Patricia O’Connell, Executive Director, Sistering.

Toronto’s shelter system is in an undeclared state of emergency. Each night, up to 770 people are unable to obtain a bed in our overcrowded shelter system and sleep instead on mats, floors, chairs, and cots. The City’s solution to the overcrowded shelter system has been to open temporary Winter Respite Centres, also known as “warming centres.” As healthcare providers who regularly work with low-income and homeless populations, we are alarmed by the conditions of these centres, and the lack of planning and prioritization for those who are homeless from all levels of government.

From mid-December 2017 to mid-January 2018, Health Providers Against Poverty (HPAP) visited eight Winter Respite Centres, as well as the two 24-hour Drop-ins for Women and Trans People, to assess standards, and survey clients and staff. Our key findings and recommendations have been published in a report titled: "An Evaluation of Toronto's Warming Centres & Winter Response to Homelessness" available on the Health Providers Against Poverty website: healthprovidersagainstpoverty.ca 

Our investigation demonstrates that Winter Respite Centres fail to meet the most basic standards set out by the United Nations and by the City. Notes Dr. Beder: “We were shocked by our findings. Overcrowding, poor access to hygiene facilities, lack of privacy and safety, disruptive sleeping environments, inadequate sleep surfaces and violence all have significant impacts on the health and well-being of those who access the Winter Respite Centres."

While agencies hosting Winter Respite Centres are providing an essential service and doing their best, they simply do not have the facilities and resources to meet the overwhelming need. As an interim action, until enough shelter beds can be opened, the City must ensure that 1,000 beds or cots with mattresses remain open all year in respite facilities that can meet basic standards. Further, within the next year, 1,500 shelter beds are urgently needed to bring shelter occupancy below 90%.

“Our survey results reflect what service users, grassroots activists, and healthcare and social service providers have been saying for too long” notes Dr. Samantha Green. “Our most vulnerable community members deserve more. The current state of homelessness in our city has become a matter of life and death.”

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Help Make the Indigenous District Toronto's Smart Cities Challenge

Last Thursday, 100 people turned out for our presentation on the Smart Cities Challenge with a special focus on Innovation and the Indigenous District in Toronto. We were quickly overwhelmed by the response as many more people showed up then had originally RSVP’d. My sincerest apologies to those who were unable to come into the main room. Thankfully, our gracious host, MaRS Discovery District, quickly opened an overflow room and allowed people the opportunity to watch the presentation on Facebook Live.

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As the City of Toronto explores its options for submissions to the federal Smart Cities Challenge, our team was encouraged to see so many people interested in the concept of an Indigenous District. We believe this to be a real opportunity for Toronto to take an important step towards reconciliation, innovation and broad social inclusion.   

As we learned last week, the time to submit ideas for the Smart Cities Challenge is fast approaching and entries must be received by this Friday, February 2, 2018.  If you would like to see the City and the community work together to further explore the concept for an Indigenous District, I encourage you to complete the online survey here to indicate your support.  The more submissions received supporting this initiative, the more likely it will be chosen as Toronto’s Smart Cities Challenge proposal.

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We believe the Indigenous District is the ideal Smart Cities Challenge proposal. This initiative will accelerate the transformation of the Dundas Street corridor into a world centre for Indigenous innovation and leadership, act as a tool to engage and encourage other knowledge hubs throughout the region and country through the creation of physical and virtual corridor. The Indigenous District will enable businesses and entrepreneurs to work with the community to access Indigenous-led innovation, technology and talent through virtual and physical co-working locations. The creation of Canada’s first-ever Indigenous District serves as a scalable model for private, public, university, and civil society partnerships.

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My Statement on Additional Charges Against Bruce McArthur

January 29, 2018

Today's news and the additional three murder charges against Bruce McArthur are shocking and disturbing. The connection of Majeed Kayhan, Soroush Mahmudi and Dean Lisowick to this case will come as painful news to the friends and family of the missing who have been in the dark for some time. Even for the brief and limited occasions I had to meet a number of the missing, I have found recent revelations to be very difficult to process. Simply put, these situations have left me heartbroken.

The community deserves thanks for their time and effort. The information passed on to authorities and the time search parties and volunteers have spent looking for leads was significant. I am confident that this was of great value in advancing the investigation this far.

The police investigators and officers who have put in intensive effort to get us this far deserve our thanks, as well. Based on what has been shared with the public, to date, we are still grappling with the scale of what has happened.

For those who are worried about the time it has taken to solve a number of these missing persons cases, I share your concerns and am confident that there will be an opportunity to better understand the inner workings of this complex case in the near future. For those who are looking for a way to mourn and come together, I can tell you that I am working with community and faith leaders to make an opportunity for us to unite in the spirit of healing.

---

Anyone with information regarding this case or disappearances, even if it seems insignificant, should call project Prism at 416-808-2021.

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Prominent Toronto Residents call for 1000 shelter beds in 2018

January 23, 2018

CALL TO OPEN 1000 NEW SHELTER BEDS IN 2018

Dear Mayor Tory and Toronto City Council,

We are writing to you as a group of Torontonians who love our city and want the best for it.

To begin, we would like to thank the Mayor for opening the Moss Park Armoury this winter, and also for his personal support of the introduction of 1000 new permanent shelter beds. We recognize the belated but important actions that have been taken to deal with this crisis thus far.  We also recognize the excellent people who are working on the front lines to help people who are homeless.

However we need more proactive and permanent solutions. We are writing to ask that city council take five urgent steps:

  1. Fund and open a minimum of 1000 new shelter beds in 2018.
  2. Keep the Moss Park Armoury open until the beds can be replaced with permanent shelter beds.
  3. Honour the 90 percent occupancy cap on shelters.
  4. Make long term advancements in wrap around care such as getting more mental health, addiction and harm reduction supports to those who need it.
  5. Establish new standards and invest in improving overall drop-in and shelter conditions.
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Smart Cities Challenge: Innovation and the Indigenous District

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Infrastructure Canada has announced a $50 million prize for Smart Cities Initiatives that will improve the liveability of cities.

We think that Indigenous District is the ideal, made-in-Toronto submission for this exciting competition. With one of the largest and fastest growing Indigenous populations in Canada, right here in Toronto, we have the opportunity to dramatically shift the urban conversation as it relates to reconciliation, entrepreneurship and social inclusion. We are currently developing a 16,000 square feet Indigenous business incubator in the Downtown East. This extraordinary initiative will be the catalyst for a future Indigenous District, soon to be an international visitor destination anchored with Indigenous cultural and entrepreneurial ingenuity both traditional and contemporary‎ in its pursuits. We will leverage and utilize data, technology and community strengths to uplift and bring Toronto another step closer to being a truly inclusive Smart City.

Supported by The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, the Indigenous Placemaking Council, and the Toronto Aboriginal Social Services Council.

We want your feedback and hope you can join us for a special presentation on January 25, 2018 from 2-4pm at MaRS Discovery District, Room CR3 to learn more about the Indigenous District and #SmartCityTO.

 

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