Today, I had a chance to chat with artists, cultural workers and people in the service industry who identify as creatives at St. Michael and All Angels Church. We spoke about the value of the arts to our community, to our community's mental health and well-being, and to our economy. Oftentimes, artists are asked to produce for free, and this is exploitative. We wouldn't ask doctors or lawyers to produce for free and when they do, they are often at a certain point in their careers where they can 'give back' without economic consequences.
In our conversation today, we talked about the role of social media, word of mouth and other methods of spreading the message. We also talked about the politics around artistry and who is considered an 'artist' and who isn't. Education can happen in many spaces, and they aren't always traditional post-secondary institutions. Decolonizing education implies recognizing, acknowledging, and celebrating the spaces and places of lived experience and how crucial and credible those are to the journey of knowing, knowledge exchange and art-making.
I felt incredibly privileged to be surrounded by creators from mechanics, knitters and crochet artists, community organizers, hairstylists, makeup artists (shout out to Kathy-Ann Walker of WalkersDesignInc), filmmakers and editors, musicians (shout out to the Wychwood Clarinet Choir!), international students in global health care who recognize the role of arts in healing and public health, a playwright, singers, the Invisible Advocate, and well, me.... a youth singer, theatre student and pianist.
I love our St. Paul's community! And thank you to Pat for the beautiful Prayer Shawl you created. I receive it with nothing but love and gratitude! Artists, cultural workers, those who participate in our gig economy – they are resilient, but as we discussed today, neoliberalism gets us nowhere. It erases systemic barriers and places all the responsibility of not 'making it' on individuals and all the 'blame and shame' of stumbling along one’s path on individuals. Sure, we've got to work hard, but we've got to have systems that are not broken...that work for us too. Together we can fix them.
Please visit the St. Michael and All Angels' website to keep up to date with all the happenings they've got planned for our community, including movie nights and arts bazaars. I'll be visiting again for a part two because we had so much left to discuss.
And if you'd like to help me fight for resources and supports for artists please sign my PETITIONS (here, here, and here) so I can fight for artists and creatives at Queen's Park.
I also wanted to remind everyone that on Monday I am hosting the Toronto–St. Paul’s Community Hero Awards. At this event, I will be recognizing those who have been helping our community thrive. And you are also invited! Come celebrate with us remotely (over Zoom) by RSVPing here.
Ramadan Mubarak to all my Muslim constituents observing this month of fasting and reflection. I remain committed to passing the Our London Families Act and building a safer and truly just province for us all. May this month bring you all great blessings and peace.
Yesterday, I spoke in the Legislature about the need to better support Ontarians who struggle with an eating disorder. In Ontario, it is estimated that about 500,000 people have an eating disorder. Still, there are only 20 publicly funded beds to support them. We desperately need more. We also need more staff to attend to those patients and more mental health supports, such as psychotherapy, to allow for recovery.
Also yesterday, the Ford government announced its decision to collapse the Ontario Science Table into Public Health Ontario. This news is extremely troublesome considering the Science Advisory Table has played a key role in giving Ontarians a clear picture of the pandemic without political rhetoric or bias.
The decision affects the Science Table’s independence and has the potential to undermine transparency. All of this at a time when we already do not have comprehensive information on case numbers due to this government’s move to curb access to PCR COVID testing and diminish contact tracing.
On another note, I wanted to share my endorsement of MPP Marit Styles’ motion calling the Ontario government to establish a provincial endometriosis action plan.
Despite the health challenges caused by endometriosis, there are substantial diagnostic delays and barriers to clinical and surgical care. According to the Endometriosis Network of Canada, it takes approximately five to 11 years to be diagnosed due to a lack of public awareness. Once diagnosed, individuals in Canada can wait nine months to two years for specialized surgical and chronic pain care. Because there is no cure for endometriosis, those who suffer may also require lifelong follow up. An action plan would promote:
- Comprehensive and earlier education about menstruation and ‘what is a normal period’ in our schools.
- Specific research on the causes and impacts of endometriosis, uterine fibroids and chronic pelvic pain on BIPOC communities.
- Equitable access to endometriosis diagnosis, management and care.
- Improved access to treatment and health care capacity building through a Centre for Excellence model.
Finally, I want to recognize that this week has been incredibly difficult for our Jewish communities and neighbours here in St. Paul's in light of the terror attacks in Israel. I echo the voices that have been condemning these horrifying acts of violence. My heart goes out to all who lost loved ones in these attacks and to everyone who has been feeling the weight of these events here in our community.
As we head into the holiday season, where Passover, Ramadan and Easter coincide, I extend my prayers for peace and rest.