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Pride Parade through the eyes of a five-year-old

I decided to bring my daughter to the Pride Parade last Sunday to teach her the importance of inclusivity and LGBTQ rights in Toronto. We created a rainbow flag at home prior to leaving for the event and I explained to her the meaning behind each of the colours on the flag and we talked about what those words meant to us. Red represents life, orange is for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, turquoise for magic and art, indigo for serenity, violet for spirit, and hot pink for sexuality. We also discussed the term sexuality and how it meant that you were allowed to like anyone you want, boys or girls, or anywhere in between.

My daughter took all of this in easily and was excited to celebrate people who loved rainbows as much as her. When we discussed trans-people, she told me that two kids in her class dressed as boys and everyone in the class accepted their chosen identities with ease. I was thrilled to see how accepting and open my little lady was and thanked my lucky stars that I decided to raise her in Toronto, one of the most progressive cities in the country.

We headed to the parade, rainbow flag and bubbles in tow, only to be overwhelmed by the thousands of people that crowded Yonge St. To say that the pride parade was a mildly popular affair would be an understatement. Luckily, we brought lots of water and snacks, and once we found a spot where we could see, the crowd bothered us less. I definitely recommend that parents bring hats, water guns, sunblock, and a lot of refreshing snacks. The parade is long and can be very hot due to the crowds and summer weather.

BlackLivesMatter at the Pride Parade 2016. By Kaeleigh Phillips.
BlackLivesMatter at the Pride Parade 2016. By Kaeleigh Phillips.

We were waiting for the parade to start for awhile until twitter alerted us that BlackLivesMatter was protesting and preventing the rest of the parade from continuing. They were conducting a sit-in protest and demanding the organizer of Pride, Mathieu Chantelois, sign a list of demands before they would let the parade continue. Chantelois signed the list and the parade resumed. The incident has incited a hot debate as to whether this delay caused BlackLivesMatter to alienate the LGBTQ community or incite positive activism in the parade. From my standpoint as a parent, it was difficult waiting in the extremely hot crowd with my five year old for the parade to start.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. By Kaeleigh Phillips.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. By Kaeleigh Phillips.

Once the parade started again, she was clapping and singing along with the music. She described the elaborate and beautiful outfits as “magical” and we bogeyed and cheered the day away. When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walked by, my daughter wanted to be picked up to see “the ruler of the land”, and cried when she only saw his back. The colourful signs of Pflag, an organization of parents, families, friends, and allies of Toronto’s LGBTQ community, cheered her up though. She loved the positive messages of love and family, and really took the best from the parade.

We went home exhausted, sunburnt and satisfied. My daughter will grow up being part of the LGBTQ community and seeing positive messages flow through loving events such as pride. As a young woman who grew up in a community that was often homophobic and close-minded — and was harmful to many people I loved — I am so deeply grateful to the people who fought for events that celebrate LGBTQ interests. It shows that society can progress in an inclusive manner, and it gives me hope for my daughter’s future.

The unfortunate shame of Liberty Village

The towering condos loom ominously over the brick factories, converted warehouses, and swarms of young professionals who have descended upon the area known as Liberty Village. It’s a muggy Saturday afternoon and the sidewalks are busy; 20-and 30-somethings scurry about with grocery bags in hand, coffee cups in clenched fists, and sweat dripping painfully into their eyes.

No one seems to notice how absurd the area has become.

What could have been a showcase neighbourhood for the city, a place to proudly demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, forward-thinking design, and a beautiful juxtaposition between old and new, has instead become a laughing stock, courtesy of an over-built, under-designed cash grab for developers. We are left with a wall of condos, each one more spectacular in their hideousness than the next, the lack of beauty the only real cohesion between them.

Why does this happen? Why is there no governing body to ensure neighbourhoods have at least some semblance of uniformity and complimentary appeal? Liberty Village looks like a dumping ground for the reject designs no one else wanted — like each condo was built as quickly and cheaply as possible with a malicious lack of thoughtfulness.

It really is such a shame. So, what then, would I, an unqualified citizen with a ranting opinion have done differently? What alternative, un-apocalyptic state would I have preferred for Liberty Village?

I’m glad you asked.

Firstly, I would want a municipal committee in place to oversee special projects. These projects would include new neighbourhoods that are being built where a rich selection of heritage buildings exist. The mix of new and old can be a beautiful thing – if approached with patience, empathy, and vision.

Secondly, each project within the neighbourhood should not be viewed in a silo, at least from a design and function perspective. Part of the committee’s duty would be to develop an overall vision for the area to guide all new developments, land plots, and the type of mix required between retail, residential, and commercial. Forward-thinking designers, city planners, and architects would be amongst those involved to ensure that a beautiful vision is also a realistic one. Look to other cities who take a more advanced process towards urban design (Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tokyo, to name a few).

Lastly, with guidelines in place, the process for developer selection would be a scrutinized approach to ensure they fit – both from a functional and a cultural perspective.

Of course there are other factors that come into play – the economics of it, the push back from private landowners and developers who feel their liberties were being trampled on, my lawyer friends who’d tell me I’m crazy, etc. But you know what? If it’s crazy to prefer a city that values good design, understands the benefits of thoughtful neighbourhoods, and would rather be proud than ashamed of new areas, then so be it.

The value of a home

My husband and I bought a monster house 12 years ago. It was an old Victorian style, double brick with good bones, but in need of repair. In the 60s it was divided into four apartments and no one had renovated it since. The yellowed shag carpeting had seen better days, and the white stucco walls and arched doorways had gone grey over time. It still had all the old plumbing and knob and tube wiring so needed desperately to be gutted and restored.

A house has a personality, and ours seemed to be like an old oak tree that had been made to look like a Christmas pine. It had a solid soul, but the renovations were horrendous. Our goal was to restore it to the solid home it once was. It was the perfect project for a newly married couple!

We decided to live in it and tackle one floor at a time. Both of us were working full time, so it meant spending our evenings and weekends toiling away on the house.  After gutting out all the apartments, we found signs of the original stairs that were located right where we planned to put in the main stairwell. We repaired all the old fireplaces, putting new liners in all and using old bricks from the original construction that we found hidden away to repair the chimneys. We managed to save all the original leaded glass windows, and searched salvage yards for old six panel solid wood interior doors to match the original doors in the house.

Between electrical, plumbing, tiling and carpentry, we found that only a few of the trades people we hired could deliver the quality that we wanted and so did much of the work ourselves. There were months when we were too busy with our jobs to do anything on the house, and with the demands of toddlers, there was a year or two when very little was done. Our 10-month renovation project took us 12 years! And now that it is finally done, it feels like we’ve reached the top of the mountain. We’re looking around and enjoying the view, thinking cool we did it… but now what?

I don’t think I can sit quietly in a huge house, sipping tea and eating bon-bons, or give up the confidence I get from building with my own hands. What many think of as menial work —painting, sanding, tiling — is my way of keeping grounded and in shape! Being able to see the work that you have done take shape doesn’t happen often in politics, and there is nothing like taking down a wall to let out a little frustration!

Although we have built many terrific memories in our house, it was the journey, not the asset, that created them. And so we decided to put our house up for sale and continue our journey.

I feel that we have lucked out when it comes to our real estate agent. We have listed with Cheenee Foster. She is with Slavens and Associates and is one of the hardest working agents I have ever met. Cheenee spent years staging houses and has an eye for design. But what I admire most about her is her drive. She isn’t afraid to roll up her sleeves and help, although she is always dressed to perfection. Watching her in an elegant summer dress and high heels as she set up my living room furniture, moving couches and chairs without hesitation, reminded me that women can do anything men can do — and we can do it in heels!

Cheenee spent a week helping me stage the house. From moving furniture to picking paint colour, she walked me through the process of preparing our house to sell. Few agents would invest the time that Cheenee gave to making sure our house looked terrific.  But, what truly makes her a top agent is her integrity. She knows that we aren’t in any rush to sell and has suggested that if we don’t get what we want, she’d recommend taking it off the market and trying again in the fall. I’ve bought and sold a lot of homes, and where most agents would try to coerce us down in price to make a quick commission, Cheenee sees the value in our property and in holding on for a better market if need be. What makes Cheenee Foster one of Toronto’s best real estate agents is that she puts her customers before her commission. So, if you are looking for a good agent to help you through the stressful process of selling your home, I highly recommend Cheenee Foster.

She’ll be hosting an open house at our home this weekend. Come out and meet her!

Grab your helmet! It’s bike month in the GTHA!

Happy Bike Month!!

While city council argues the validity of bike lanes on Bloor, Toronto residents will be taking part in bike month, a celebration of all things two-wheeled.

The idea is to encourage more people to use their bikes to get around the city. Throughout the month various cities across the GTHA will be hosting guided bike tours, festivals, art shows, film screenings, and more.

Cycling advocates point out that by trading in a car for a bike you don’t only save money —you don’t have to purchase gas or a bus token — but you are also helping relieve congestion.

Monday marked the beginning of this celebration with Bike To Work Day, where hundreds of people hoped on their bikes and took over downtown Toronto. Sadly, I could not join the movement (it would have taken my three hours to bike to work this morning), but I’m there in mind and spirit!

A number of city officials showed their cycling pride this morning, posting pictures to social media as proof of their physical prowess.

 

During the first week of bike month city officials will be taking part in an enforcement blitz to stop drivers from parking and stopping in cycling lanes. This type of activity is incredibly dangerous for cyclists, as it forces them into the thick of traffic. The fine for simply stopping in a bike lane is $150.

To see more events, take a look at the Bike Month calendar.

The world of tomorrow, today

A former professional life brought me to New York City every couple of weeks. Routinely flying into LaGaurdia Airport in Queens, (no, this article is not about the horrendous state of the terminal Air Canada is located in) I was afforded a wonderful view of the New York World’s Fair location as we approached the runway. The skeleton globe, the monolithic structures, and the tree-lined paths remain an iconic reminder of a time when the world would gather with pilgrimage fashion to be awe-struck by the grand possibilities of the future.

During its heyday, the fair held a sense of wonder and aspiration for its visitors. In 1889, the Eiffel Tower was built in Paris, in 1893 the world was introduced to the Ferris Wheel in Chicago, and in 1939, broadcast television was inaugurated in New York. Expo ’67 held in Montreal left the city with iconic architecture and, for a time, a Major League Baseball team named after it. Themes such as “The World of Tomorrow”, “Dawn of a New Day”, and “Peace Through Understanding” captivated the world with the promise of unimaginable spectacle. But today, with the proliferation of the Internet, there is less need for the Expo. Our present inundation of information about new technologies, new designs, theories, advances, and plans for the future are readily available in an endless stream of images, articles, tweets, websites, and data.

Today our pilgrimage has been reduced to a drooling stare into an LCD screen. And so, I wonder whether there is still value for cities to host the World’s Fair?

Held every five years, the World’s Fair (or World’s Expo as it’s also known) is a six-month long showcase of trade, innovation, and products from around the world. The Expo was held in Milan last year and the next one will be hosted by Dubai in 2020. Lately, and most likely in part because of the success of the Pan-Am Games, there have been rumblings about Toronto bidding on the 2025 World Expo. It is a chance to once again showcase our city on the world stage while continuing to push our mandate as a place rich in innovation, financial stability, and livability.

But still, is it worth the cost? Toronto Mayor John Tory, while not opposed to the idea, has intelligently taken a cautious approach; there are many unanswered questions related to cost and effort – questions that must be ironed out before any sort of decision is made.

Now, cost and effort aside, the other question that must considered revolves around theme. What grand proposition will be used to inspire the world to once again care about the World’s Fair? How are we going to put our stamp on an event that’s become largely irrelevant? How can we harken back to a time when the world of tomorrow was not so easily available through a few clicks? And most importantly, how do we balance the need for commercial capital without an overly branded marketing experience for the companies that foot the bill?

Here are a few areas of inspiration that may help:

  • Apple and Tesla Product Launch Format: the ability to keep new product designs and details under wraps from the media, while driving excitement and anticipation, is the fuel that powers both company’s marketing-driven sales. If the Expo could showcase things that were truly ground-breaking with a hotly-anticipated reveal, it would certainly help drive buzz.
  • Influencer Participation: gathering the best of the best in all fields to not just showcase their ideas, products, and plans, but to buy-in to the World’s Fair concept will help spread the word by association. If the most influential people in their fields participate, the rest will follow.
  • Integrated Projects: gather experts and leaders from a variety of industries to create conceptual works that fit into their unique visions of the future. Don’t worry about feasibility, worry only about inspiring people’s imaginations.
  • What Happens After: when the Expo is complete, what will be left? What types of architecture will remain permanently that future generations will look at with awe and wonder. Let’s build something that lasts.

Regardless of whether or not we bid on the Expo, the process of discussion should provide a valuable template for how we aim to push Toronto into the future as it relates to innovation. The notion of the world of tomorrow is still very much alive today.

Top exhibitions to check out at CONTACT photography festival

Do you love photography? Look no further! Women’s Post has found the best venues in the city for the annual CONTACT Photography festival.

CONTACT Photography Festival runs from May 1 to 31 and is the largest photography festival in the world. CONTACT is celebrating its 20th year with 20 primary exhibitions and 20 public installations. Most of the primary exhibitions are free except for the one at the Art Gallery of Ontario and the McMichael Museum, which are providing discounted tickets to exhibitions on certain days. Public installations feature photographic images on walls, billboards and subway platforms for the people of Toronto to enjoy. The festival explores a variety of topics through the lens of photography and is well worth checking out.

Here are some of the best spots for the festival, enjoy yourself and let us know what you think!

Write your councillor! Non-profits may have to register as lobbyists

Non-profits and small community groups in Toronto are growing angrier as City Council continues to discuss the possibility of requiring them to register as lobbyists in order to speak with their local councillor.

A request for a report on whether non-profits should register as lobbyists was approved in City Council last week. When a business representative wants to lobby, they must sign up in the Lobbyist registry and adhere to a set of strict requirements to be applicable. Within three days of meeting an official, it is necessary to update the registry to keep lobbyist meetings transparent or a $100,000 fine will ensue. Registration and complying with the set of standards requires extra resources and manpower, and many non-profits have a limited set of means for additional costs.

The Lobbying bylaw motion states, “City Council request the City Manager, in consultation with the Lobbyist Registrar and the City Solicitor, to review the requirements for not-for-profits organizations and labour unions…. and their associations to register, and report to Executive Committee with amendments to Toronto Municipal Code Chapter 140, Lobbying as required.”

The Lobbying registry exists to track financial information of companies that are interacting with city officials and maintains transparency. Lobbying groups are financially viable and registering is possible with their deep pockets. Non-profits that are looking for research grants outside of the formal application process are also already required to register, and demanding other non-profits to take part additionally is unnecessary. Including non-profits as lobbyists increases the scope of political control over other types of advocacy groups and questions the concept of open communication between groups with no financial investment. Is this democracy?

Limiting access to local councillors and government agencies will create competition for the attention of decision-makers and prevent those people from helping the important causes of non-profits. Comparing non-profits with lobbyists and placing them under the same regulations limits the ability for important groups to effect change without a substantial financial backing.

The motion decreases the level of communication between concerned constituents and non-profits looking to make a difference, and is dangerous to the democratic system in Toronto. This is not the first time city council has discussed adding non-profits to the lobbying law, but hopefully it is the last.

Email your local councillor if you are a concerned citizen or non-profit, and help Toronto cross this motion off the list permanently.

Five affordable Mother’s Day events in Toronto

Are you wondering what to do with your mom on Mother’s Day? Want to spoil her rotten, but sadly don’t quite have the funds to do it?  Look no further! Here are some options that mom will love and won’t break the bank.

Mother’s day is coming up this weekend on May 8 and it is a great opportunity to show your mom how much you care. Sadly, many of the options available cost anywhere from $50 to $150! A $75 lunch can seem steep and a bit of a money grabber, don’t you think? I know I’d prefer attending an event with my mom that is enjoyable and reasonably priced.

A mother’s day chocolate tour is a delicious option. The event runs from 1:30 to 4 p.m and costs $40 for adults. One of the chocolate tours happening in the city is at SOMA Chocolatemaker (443 King St. W.). The tour includes treating mom to a sampling of chocolates and a guided tour on the history of chocolate making. Yum! There are also chocolate tours in Kensington Market and Trinity Bellwoods.

For more nature-loving moms, Scenic Caves Nature Adventures (260/280 Scenic Caves Rd. Blue Mountains) is offering free park admission with a paid child admission ($20.57), which includes cave exploration, the suspension bridge, and mini-golf. Moms and family members also receive $30 off the exo-adventure tour if they want to explore for the day. Having a picnic at a park or embarking on a hike is also a way to get outdoors and celebrate moms who love the outdoors.

The Mother’s Day Brunch Cruise is a fancier option for mothers and kids, but it is reasonably priced. It is $48.95 for adults and $24.95 for kids. Included is a boat cruise on Lake Ontario beginning at Queen’s Quay Terminal (207 Queen’s Quay W.) The cruise also offers a buffet brunch and cocktails for two hours along the harbourfront beginning at 11:30 a.m.

If you are looking for something a little more risqué to do with mom (assuming you are of legal age), try a burlesque show featuring the Glam Gals of GCB at The Libertine (1307 Dundas St. W.) with Chai French toast, scones, and cocktails. The cost of the event is $15, not including food or drinks, and begins at 12:30 p.m on Mother’s Day. Mothers will also receive a rose upon entry, which is an elegant touch to a bold and sexy Mother’s Day event.

If you are looking for a more traditional activity, there are several brunches in Toronto for mother’s day and many of them are over-priced. I found a few reasonably priced brunches that look appealing, including the Bluegrass brunch at The Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington Ave.) for $18 per adult and $7 per child, which begins at 10 a.m. Mildred’s Temple Kitchen (85 Hanna Ave.) provides a classic brunch on a prix-fixe menu, including pancakes, poached eggs, mimosas and Caesars for $27.50, beginning at 11a.m. The Drake Hotel (1150 Queen St. W.) also has a great mother’s day brunch starting at 9 a.m for $36 for adults and includes their famous blueberry scones, and banana pancakes at a prix-fixe.

Whether you are looking for a tasty tour, an outdoor adventure, a day on the lake, a burlesque show or a traditional brunch, Toronto has everything to offer for a great Mother’s Day. So get out there and celebrate your mom and enjoy yourself this coming weekend.

Where are you taking your mom on Sunday? Let us know in the comments below.

800 ladies drink beer at first festival of its kind

The bus to Evergreen Brickworks was packed Friday night. Hundreds of women were pilling in, dressed in layers to keep themselves warm on this strangely frigid April evening. There were lots of conversations going on, but most of the commuters were wondering what the event they were heading to was going to be like.

Women’s Post attended the first Ladies Craft Beer Festival in Canada on April 1 and can attest that it was absolutely not an April Fool’s joke. The outdoor venue was completely decked out in twinkle lights, with bonfires set up to thaw participants when they got a bit chilly. Vendors lined the perimeter, each one offering two to four choices of frothy beverages. There was something for everyone — sweet ciders, IPAs, and dark stouts. My personal favourite was the Growler of Fire, a stout with hints of chocolate and chilli, from Great Lakes Brewery.

20160401_200031_HDRParticipants were given four free drink tickets upon entering the venue, but it wasn’t that expensive to get more. The drink tickets were relatively cheap, each costing about $1.50, or $10 for seven. There were 16 brewers handing out various samples and each one was incredibly happy to be there. I tried beers from about seven of them before I succumbed to the cold myself. Some of the top contenders were Love Fuzz, a red pale ale from Black Oak Brewing, Sweetgrass Brewing’s Shagbark Export Stout, and the Extra Special IPA from High Park Brewery. I did try the cranberry cider from KW Craft Cider, but found it incredibly sweet. My colleagues attending with me, however, raved about it’s intriguing tartness.
The atmosphere at the festival was comfortable, relaxing, and fun. It wasn’t hectic — a claim many beer festivals can’t make—and I think a lot of the attendees (myself included) really enjoyed being able to go to an event where you didn’t have to stand in line for hours for a sample.

“I was talking to some of the guys working and they couldn’t believe it. They were saying they’ve never experienced such a calm and friendly vibe at a festival,” said Jennifer Reinhardt, Muskoka Brewery Sales Rep-GTA West andCo-Founder of the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies. “Usually with beer festivals it starts calm and it gets chaotic at the end. Ours didn’t.”

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The event was organized by the Society of Beer Drinking Ladies (SOBDL), a group of five Toronto women who are passionate about
beer and want to share that passion with others. The SOBDL organizes monthly “bevys” at secret locations to try out different craft brews. Usually, their gatherings are a bit intimate (about 150 people), but this time the popularity of the event soared. Tickets for the Ladies Craft Beer Festival sold out in 36 hours, with about 800 women attending. There were a few men helping out the brewers, whose female staff may not have been able to make the event, but otherwise, the entire venue was full of women of various ages.

But, why was a ladies-only craft beer festival necessary? As Magenta Suzanne, co-organizer and member of SOBDL, said at the event, it was only 46 years ago that the last men’s-only bar closed.

“It took five minutes for Internet trolls to tell us we were sexist,” said Suzanne. “They say that there is no such thing as a man’s beer festival. I say, ‘have you been to a beer festival? There is a reason why there is no line at the women’s washroom’.”

“This doesn’t feel like activism because it tastes good, but it is.

For Reinhardt, it was all about the sense of community. “I think in this case it’s a safe space for women. A lot of women say that they could relax, the vibe was great, and they felt really comfortable.”

Interested in going to the next Ladies Craft Beer festival? Clear your calendar on June 11 and head to Yonge-Dundas Square. There will be over 100 craft beer vendors, as well as live music.

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Eulogy to Rob Ford

 

Rob_Sarah

This week, the media is filled with images of politicians and personalities lining up to pay their respects to former Mayor Rob Ford. From friends to political rivals, they line up, touch his casket, and remember him. It’s the right thing to do, to drop their political differences and pay homage to a man who stepped forward to represent people frustrated with Toronto’s leadership.

I tip my hat to Rob, to his ability to capture and vocalize the discontent that so many Toronto residents were feeling.

I grew to know and respect Rob during the 2010 election and that is how I am choosing to remember him.

The 2010 mayoral race began in January and ran for 10 long months. The number of debates that year exceeded anything Toronto had ever seen before and it meant the top five candidates saw each other almost every day, and sometimes two or three times in one day. When we arrived at each debate we’d be ushered behind stage to the waiting room where we’d wolf down lunch, or dinner, and chat for a bit before going on stage

It was before the debates, in those quiet moments waiting, that we all grew to know and respect each other. A camaraderie builds up behind the stage that supporters rarely see and it lasted long after the election because we all shared the same experiences together. Joe Pantelone was always the gentleman. He would smile and joke and was an easy man to talk to.  George Smitherman always came into the room with a thick debate binder and an aid at his side. Rocco Rossi was usually loud and boisterous, friendly and full of energy. Rob on the other hand was usually very quiet. He was shy and after saying hello he would go and sit in a corner with one of his staff, drinking his “Big Gulp,” and checking his email. It took a while to get to know Rob, but eventually, over the months, we grew to respect each other.

The first opportunity I had to truly see Rob (without his stage personality) came after a debate. Following each debate the organizers would line us up for photos. Rocco Rossi was the tallest and when pictures were taken he would try to position himself beside Joe to make Joe look shorter. It was a political tactic that didn’t sit well with me. I noticed this and, wearing heels, I would try to jump in between them as a buffer.  Rob noticed what was going on, and one day as we lined up for a group photo I realized I couldn’t get there in time. I looked at Rob and without saying a word, he stepped in between Rocco and Joe. That is the Rob I hope people will remember.  He was a man who would quietly do the right thing.

Rob was a very shy man which made his outgoing actions during the campaign a testament to his inner bravery. He overcame his shyness in order to get on the stage and speak for the people.

As the hottest days of summer gave way to fall, our debates moved from small church basements to high school auditoriums. It was at one of the high schools that I learned a little more about Rob. He was standing in a hallway drinking his Big Gulp as we waited to go on stage. I was thinking about what the questions might be from the students and asked him if he were able to go back to high school and take another career path what he might chose to do instead. His eyes lit up and he smiled thinking about it. He told me that he had always loved the theatre and performing on stage. I nearly fell over, and he laughed, explaining that in high school he had a great drama teacher and had enjoyed every moment of it. The doors opened and we headed for the stage, Rob commenting — “it’s time to perform.”

Rob, your performance ended too soon. When Toronto needed you, you stepped up to the plate to fill the position. You loved this city and I hope one day, when your children look back at who their father was, they will know both your bravery and the quiet things that you did to help those around you.  I hope you are in the arms of an angel now – rest in peace.