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Toronto mayor moves to create 400 new shelter spaces

Toronto Mayor John Tory announced over the weekend his desire to create 400 new spaces within existing shelters for the city’s homeless “as soon as possible.” This statement was made at the tip of Toronto’s homelessness crisis, in which one of four children live in poverty.

As of October 30, 2017, 70 homeless people have died on the streets. Over 5,400 people on average used a shelter night in the month of November.

“We’re already underway, talking to each of the shelters that exists in the city of Toronto, asking them to add capacity wherever they possibly can,” he said. These new spaces would include motels, shelters and drop-in centres.

It was previously suggested that Toronto open up armouries at Fort York and Moss Park to use as shelters, but that idea has been dismissed as they are under federal jurisdiction. The mayor also said he would not be declaring an official emergency. The plan would cost about $10 million from the city’s reserves.

Housing advocates have said this plan will put a strain on facilities already suffering from overcrowding. Most shelters are 96 to 100 per cent at capacity, especially during the winter months. Statistics also show that 95 per cent of motel beds in Toronto are used to house homeless people. Advocates say it would be easier and cheaper to open up the armouries.

This response caused a little bit of a stir at city council on Tuesday, with the mayor coming forward with facts from staff that say opening the armouries would be expensive and problematic.

“I will be bringing together private and non-profit housing providers to work with staff and the Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness to rapidly house as many people as possible,” he said in a statement. “Homelessness is a complex issue that we cannot ignore. While I know for some, our concrete solutions will never be enough – I know we can’t simply do nothing, we must take decisive action and I’m confident Council will join me in taking decisive action.”

Under the mayor’s plan, the city hopes to find space for 200 people by January.

This announcement is the first of a number of steps the City of Toronto is going to take to combat poverty. City council has also pledged to create more low-income and social housing, and hopes to get funding and support from the federal government under the new National Housing Strategy.

Australian MP proposes to partner on House floor

Be prepared to tear up!

As Australia’s Parliament debated a bill that would legalize same sex marriage, conservative MP Tim Wilson proposed to his partner on the House floor.

“”In my first speech I defined our bond by the ring that sits on both of our left hands, and they are the answer to a question we cannot ask. There’s only one thing left to do: Ryan Patrick Bolger, will you marry me?”

His partner, a primary school teacher, sat in the public gallery and mouthed the word “yes” to the applause of other members of the House. He was grinning from ear to ear while Wilson, still trying to remain professional on the floor, tried to keep it together, albeit unsuccessfully. The proposal was recorded in the official parliamentary record.

“I should let Hansard note to record that that was a ‘yes’ — a resounding yes,” said the deputy speaker. “Congratulations.”

Wilson and Bolger have been partners for a long time, but did not want to get officially engaged until it was legal for them to get married. Wilson was one of the first lawmakers to support the bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

The bill is expected to pass based on a non-binary referendum took place in which 61.6 per cent of respondents voted to approve the legislation by Christmas. However, the Senate is fighting to include amendments to the bill that would allow those affiliated with the church, including wedding celebrants, to refuse to officiate same-sex marriages.

Surprisingly, the Australian Prime Minister is supporting these amendments under the coin of religious freedom If the amendments aren’t approved, the bill could be delayed further.

Same-sex marriage was banned in Australia in 2004 when the Marriage Act was amended to define the union as being between a man and a woman. The government has received a lot of pressure to change the Act, especially after Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage in 2015.

While couples throughout Australia wait to find out of they can finally marry the people they love, lets take the time to congratulate Wilson and Bolger on their engagement! And for making history as the first person ever to propose on Australia’s Parliament floor!

Would you donate to support Toronto’s roads?

Toronto’s roads needs your support!

Every day, these roads suffer. After decades of neglect and abuse, they deserve to be nurtured. There are too many car accidents and too many road deaths. But does anyone think of the roads themselves — they have gone through hell each time. They need your help! Without your support, they will continue to live in these terrible conditions.

Donate now!

Imagine you read this on a pamphlet or saw an advertisement on television asking you to donate funds to the city to help develop safety infrastructure for your neighbourhood. It sounds ridiculous right? And yet, not ridiculous enough to avoid becoming a recommendation to city council.

At this week’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, a report on the city’s Vision Zero Road Plan actually recommended accepting donations from residents for local projects. It reads: “In addition, this report considers the feasibility of accepting donations from the public to provide funding support for local projects and recommends commencing the detailed planning and implementation process for an automated speed enforcement program to operate in school zones and community safety zones.”

City staff said that an additional $6.303 million in capital funding will be needed between 2019 and 2021. These funds can help “further accelerate” the Road Safety Plan. The cost of Vision Zero is already $80.3 million.

This report will be heading to city council on Dec. 5.

Now, I know funds are tight. There are very few outside revenue sources available to city staff, so it kind of makes sense they would resort to these type of suggestions.

HOWEVER, there is a serious socio-economic problem with this recommendation.

First of all, the report indicates the funding will support “local projects”. This means that donations in Regent Park will be used in Regent Park and donations in Forest Hill will be used in Forest Hill. The wealthier neighbourhoods — whose residents may be more inclined and able to make those donations to the city — will reap the benefits. The other neighbourhoods will be left behind.

This is unacceptable.

The whole idea of Vision Zero is to reduce fatalities and injuries on roads, aiming for zero traffic-related deaths and injuries. This will never happen if some neighbourhoods are safe and others are not. Instead, it will just reinforce the economic divisions within this city.

The truly disappointing part about this recommendation is that there was no amendment proposed by any committee member that would change this section of the report. No one said – well why don’t we look at increasing taxes or looking at outside revenue sources for this $6 million instead of asking people to donate funds to a government they already pay for.

We can only hope that council sees past this and is able to have an actual conversation about what crowd-funding for road safety really means. Because at the end of the day – safety is about the people, not the roads.

The way we view powerful men is about to change

One by one, they all fall down — men of power, men of money, but clearly not men of finesse. Simply put, men that are lacking any form of respect for their female peers, co-workers, or acquaintances. The movement that started with the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, has grown into a festering and disturbing monster over the past few months, with almost daily cases of high-profile men who are now being exposed for their alleged sexual misconduct. What do these stories prove to us? How has society allowed these powerful men to dominate and get away with locker-room talk and disgusting predatory behaviour?

For me personally, it started with watching the fall of British actor Ed Westwick. I was a fan of his work and I grew up watching soapy drama’s like Gossip Girl. Sure, his character on the show lacked morals, and the way he played with women’s emotions was atrocious, and that time he attempted to ‘rape’ a fellow character on the show…that was all teenage drama. After all, he was playing a role. He was being ‘Chuck Bass’ . But, when this transferred into real life, and woman after woman described similar scenarios where he pinned them down and forced himself upon them, I knew he had no right. I feel terrible for the women in these situations. While no charges have been filed against Westwick, his reputation is certainly paying the price, as his shows have either been cancelled or halted.

Matt Lauer is a face I grew up watching. I thought of him as a respectable and well-known journalist on NBC. Waking up and watching the today show with Matt Lauer and Katie Couric was a tradition that many people can recall over the 20 years he has been working at the American network. And it was all ruined in a few minutes after hearing he was terminated for sexual misconduct. Lauer allegedly sexted interns and gave co-workers sex toys with notes about how they should use them. There is also the tape that TMZ found of Lauer telling once co-host Meredith Vieira, to ‘keep bending over like that’, when he thought the cameras were off air.  My view has certainly changed. How was this behaviour tolerated? Obviously the fact that he was the highest paid reporter and attracted over four million viewers with his charm each morning have him a lot of sway.

I’m now prepared to be disappointed by the familiar faces I see in the media and whose work I once admired as brilliant. Just this morning, entertainment mogul Russel Simmons stepped down as CEO from his string of companies after he was accused of “sexual misconduct”, where a woman alleged he forced her to have sex with him

Nothing gives these men the privilege to put women through years of mental and physical abuse? Probably just that — they are…. so-called men.

Let us continue to speak out against any form of abuse to women and may the fall from grace for these powerful men mark a turning point in history for women around the world .

 

Justin Trudeau issues apology to the LGBTQ community

In a bold, historic and heartwarming moment, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivered an apology to the LGBTQ community after decades of discrimination. Trudeau made the apology in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov 28.

The chambers held a lot of emotion, as even Trudeau wiped away tears at the end of his speech. Trudeau was able to express the regret, shame, and sorrow the Canadian government has taken responsibility for in the discriminatory treatment of LGBTQ Canadians. The rejection and treatment of the LGBTQ community was a state-sponsored and witch-hunting event to purposely exclude people from society based on their sexual orientation.

“You are professionals. You are patriots, and above all, you are innocent. And for all your suffering, you deserve justice and you deserve peace. He said  ” It is our collective shame that you were so mistreated. And it is our collective shame that this apology took so long— many who suffered are no longer alive to hear these words. And for that we are truly sorry.”

Many LGBTQ Canadians faced such discrimination and harsh treatment from others that were not willing to understand nor accept people with non-conforming sexual orientation and desire. Between the 1950’s to the 1990’s thousands of federal workers were fired based on their sexual orientation. This was part of  a “national security’ purge. In the 1960’s alone, there was a database collected by the RCMP of over 9000 suspected gay and lesbian federal workers and suggestions of demotion and denial of promotion.

In June of 2016, members of the advocacy group Egale Canada released a report on the systematic discrimination members of the LGBT community has faced over the years. This prompted them to issue ways in which the treatment and viewpoint of the LGBTQ community can be changed in Canada. One of the recommendations was a formal apology issued by Ottawa. In May of 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that he will issue a formal apology on Nov 28, and as he promised this was delivered to a packed house.

However, there are still some people who thought the apology was not enough to make up for years of hurt and damage caused in many communities. The fact is, this ‘purge’ was a systematic event that lasted longer than necessary and changed many lives.

In 1969 the House of Commons voted to pass a bill that decriminalized homosexuality and in 1967 the bill was first introduced by the acting Justice Minister at that time, and future Prime Minister, the late Pierre Trudeau, who said, “The view we take here is that there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

Now 50 years later, his son has taken the opportunity to offer an apology for government actions that were truly vile, invasive, discriminatory and un-Canadian.

This is yet another historic moment in the LGBTQ community in Canada. Comment below.

Toronto Transit Commission approves time-based transfer

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has approved a two-hour time-based transfer for PRESTO card users, to start August 2018.

As the system is now, TTC riders have to pay a second fare when they get back on a bus, streetcar, or subway, regardless of how long they have been off the network. This new system will allow riders to run short errands such as drop kids off at school or go grocery shopping without being penalized for a second fare, as long as the errand fits within a two-hour window.

The idea has been floating around since 2005, but on Nov. 28th the board finally voted to approve city staff recommendations.

The net cost of this change will be $11.1 million, which will increase to $20.9 million after full implementation in 2020. The cost would have been higher if it wasn’t for the projected five million riders that will now be able to ride the TTC thanks to the time-based transfer.

“The greatest benefit from this policy change stems from reducing the cost of transit, making it more affordable for multiple short distance trips, thereby giving TTC customers the flexibility they require to carry out everyday activities,” the report reads. “Allowing a two-hour re-entry may benefit customers who need to exit the system to use restroom or restaurant facilities, including seniors and customers with disabilities or health needs requiring more flexibility in travel.”

Time-based transfers were publicly supported by Toronto Mayor John Tory and TTC Chair Josh Colle a few weeks ago.

“Time-based transfers would allow people on transit the flexibility to hop on and off to run errands or make stops along their way to work, school, or home.” said Colle in a statement. “This would continue the modernization of our services, and further demonstrate the TTC’s ongoing commitment to improving the customer experience.”

The request is part of both the modernization and fare integration process between the TTC and Metrolinx.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle set to marry next May

As news broke early yesterday morning of Prince Harry’s royal engagement to American actress, Meghan Markle, hearts of girls around the world broke as they realized they had minuscule hope of becoming the next princess. Personally, I was rooting for Prince Harry and Meghan since the media started speculating about their relationship in 2015.

The two have been dating for a year and a half and it was announced Tuesday morning they are set to marry next May at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The two are reportedly planning the ceremony themselves. Prince Harry has always been the more ‘bad-boy royal’ so to say, especially compared to his older brother, Prince William. Harry was known for his bachelor’s lifestyle, dating a string of beautiful women when he was younger and often getting in trouble with the press.

Eventually, Prince Harry matured and paid keen attention to his charitable work, including the support of 22 different charities and over 25 different causes worldwide. Before settling down with Meghan Markle, the prince’s long time on and off girlfriend of seven years was Chelsy Davy. Davy reportedly ended their relationship after she allegedly struggled with the pressure of dating a royal. Davy was last seen publically with Harry as she attended Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton back in 2011.

It has been reported by Harry and Meghan that the pair met through a female friend that set them up on a blind date. In fact, Harry claims to have never seen Markle on her most known television role in the show, Suits, before meeting. The two sat down for an intimate interview with a BBC reporter shortly after announcing to the public their official engagement. They giggled behind the scenes and acted very much like a couple that’s down to earth and in love. As Prince Harry remarked in the interview, Meghan Markle was ‘the one” from the very first time they met.

It sounds like the story of fairy-tales. Markle remarked that she excitedly replied yes to Harry’s proposal before he could even put the ring on her finger, as they spent a cozy evening at home roasting chicken. I am beyond thrilled for this next royal couple and considering these two have a lot in common, including their love for charity, it is hopeful they can live a relatively normal life, at least as normal as it can get for for such a well-known member of the Royal Family.

The British family has changed quite a lot over the years, but Prince Harry and Meghan Markle ignored any negative feedback from the public. As Harry is fifth in line to the crown, it doesn’t seem there is any rush for him to conform to the pressure of being a ‘King’, while living in such a modern society. Markle, who is a divorced, American actress, will now allegedly become HRH Duchess of Sussex, or as she will be in our hearts: Princess Meghan, the one that stole Harry’s heart.

Congratulations to this happy and beautiful couple.

Ontario PCs wants to take over TTC – but only part of it

This past weekend has seen two group of people argue for provincial ownership of aspects of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives released their election platform on Saturday called “The People’s Guarantee.” In this document, the PCs say they will assume responsibility for maintenance and investments in Toronto’s subway system. Toronto would still retain control of the streetcars and busses.

“In partnership with the Mayor of Toronto, Patrick Brown and the Ontario PCs will assume responsibility for the physical subway infrastructure – tunnels, tracks, and stations. This will allow the province to amortize subway investments and costs on the province’s books over the life of the asset. The city would maintain complete control of day to-day maintenance and operations,” the document says.

The PCs will invest $5 billion in projects throughout Ontario, including the Relief Line and extension to Richmond. It also pledged to pay the city’s share of funding for the Scarborough Subway Extension, but only if Toronto makes a “significant financial contribution” to the Eglinton Crosstown West.

The PCs will not support the tolling of the Don Valley Parkway or the Gardiner Expressway to fund transit and infrastructure projects.

The political party is not the only one who thinks the province should take control of Toronto’s transit network. The Toronto Region Board of Trade released a report that calls for the consolidation of planning, construction, and operation of transit into one provincial transit agency. The idea is that politics would no longer interfere with the delivery of projects and provide extra revenue for other city issues.

This agency, dubbed “Superlinx”, would merge GO Transit and 12 different transit operators together to “provide the vision, scale and resources to finally provide the world-class transit system that the corridor needs.” Superlinx would be responsible for paying for the region’s transit operations.

As the provincial election gets closer in June, more and more of these proposals will pop up. Transit is the priority item, with almost every municipality in the province looking to expand and grow their networks. Is a provincially-run agency the best way to go about building transit? Will this reduce the bureaucracy preventing shovels from getting in the ground or will it create a whole new set of problems?

What do you think?

Why is no one #PrayingForEgypt?

Over 300 people were killed Friday during a militant attack on a mosque in northern Sinai. At least 27 were children. The last number of wounded was recorded at 128.

During the imam’s sermon, the attackers opened fire. They were positioned at the doors and windows, which meant no one could escape. Explosions erupted. Officials say at least two dozen people carrying a black Daesh banner were shooting into the crowd of innocent worshippers.

It is being called one of the deadliest assault by Islamic extremists in modern history.

And yet — no one is praying for Egypt on social media.

In November 2016, 128 people died in a suicide bombing and shooting in Paris. Six worshipers were killed and 19 injured when a lone gunman fired into a Quebec mosque in January. In June, a bomb went off at an Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester. Twenty two people died. The Las Vegas shooting left 58 people dead and 546 injured.

In each of these occasions, people #prayed. They filtered their social media pictures and marked themselves “safe” on Facebook. You couldn’t open Twitter without seeing a heart emoji or a trending hashtag. Families sat in their living rooms watching CNN or CBC, glued to the television screen in horrified silence.

And yet, an attack that left over 300 people dead received little public attention. There was no Facebook check-in that I’m aware of. No image filter. There was a trending hashtag – #PrayForEgypt – but most of the people using it were from the region or had a connection to the region.

On my own social media feed, there was practically nothing. I pride myself on following a diverse set of people, but still my westernized twitter lists had very little information on the tragedy, and even less personal messages. The same people who prayed for Manchester were not praying for Egypt.

Why the discrepancy? Is it because Egypt is a predominately Muslim country or that the atrocity took place in a mosque? Is it because the country is not a typical Western ally? Is it because people just don’t care about things that don’t happen in their home or neighbouring countries?

The news has reported the incident, but it has been largely overshadowed by the political shakeup in Zimbabwe or the engagement of Prince Harry. That’s not an excuse, but a reality of the news cycle. It’s up to everyone to individually pay attention to what is happening around the world and not pass judgement on who to care about.

Three hundred people are dead. Twenty-seven children are dead. Their only sin is that they were praying in a mosque frequented by Sufis, one of the muslim sects in Egypt.

Whether it’s a shooting at a popular tourist attraction, a bombing in a war-torn country like Iraq, or a shooting in a place of worship in Egypt, a human life is a human life. If you are going to pray for one, you should pray for all.

#PrayFor Egypt.

Featured image provided by Andini Prian . 

Sorry ladies, Prince Harry is officially off the market

Late Sunday or early Monday (depending on your time zone) it was announced that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are engaged. The wedding is being planned for Spring 2018.

Rumours have been circulating the last few months over when the Prince would pop the question. The two have been dating for about a year and a half, and have stolen much of North America’s hearts in the process. Markle, an American actress known for her role in the television show Suits, met the Prince through friends in London. They dated quietly for a few months before the press caught wind of their romantic affairs.

The couple was first spotted together in London last Christmas when they were shopping for Christmas Trees. On numerous occasions, the Prince has made detours on his travels to visit Markle in Toronto, where she now lives. There relationship was officially announced on Nov. 8, 2016, when Kensington Palace made a statement pleading for the press to leave his girlfriend alone. The statement condemned a “eave of abuse and harassment” against Markle, going even further to say that ““Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle’s safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her. It is not right that a few months into a relationship with him that Ms. Markle should be subjected to such a storm.”

In September of this year, the couple was spotted holding hands at the Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded, injured, or sick armed service personnel and veterans created by the Prince. While this doesn’t seem like a big deal, usually members of the Royal Family does not engage in public acts of affection prior to their marriage.

It was the first indication this relationship was getting serious.

The couple have a lot in common, including their philanthropic ventures. Markle is a global ambassador for World Vision Canada and campaigns for gender equality as a woman advocate for the United Nations. The Prince is known for his charitable work. he has founded a number of events and charitable organizations such as the Invictus Games and Sentebale, a charity to help orphans in Lesotho, southern Africa.

The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh both said they were “delighted” for the couple, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge said they were “very excited for Harry and Meghan. It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together.” Prince Charles says he is “thrilled” and “very happy indeed”. 

While it is rare for a member of the Royal Family to marry an American and a divorcee — it is not unheard of! The last time it happened was in 1936, when Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry Wallis Simpson. As the times have changed, there is no indication Prince Harry’s marriage to Markle will influence his standing within the Royal Family. In fact, the rest of the Royals seem to have welcomed Markle into the family.

Who doesn’t love a good fairy-tale ending?