It’s February and it’s Black History Month! During this month of acknowledging our Black history, our present lives, and our futures, I encourage us to reflect on the people, places, systems, experiences, and objects that have left an indelible mark on who we are, how we define Black History Month, and our relationship with this important month of significance, its history, and its legacy!
This year’s theme is, “Black Excellence: A Heritage to Celebrate; a Future to Build!” We have no shortage of Black accomplishments and contributions of Black excellence in our communities. From arts and culture, education, business, law, science, health, trades, entrepreneurship, sports, and community building and design, to academia, fashion, social services, politics, and beyond we are paving the way for Black futures! Stay tuned. We can do this all year but this month I’ll especially highlight some. I invite you to join me in celebrating the countless ways that Black communities continue to contribute to the rich, social, cultural, economic, and political tapestry of this province. I also want to recognize the unanimous passing of the Emancipation Month Act in 2021, which declared August as Emancipation Month in Ontario. As we know these days and months of significance – while critically necessary and deeply symbolic—are not the end of the story. In many ways, they are a beautiful and hard fought beginning.
This year marks the end of the UN’s International Decade for People of African Descent with emphases on recognition and the right to equality and non-discrimination, justice and our fair and equitable access to it, and our right to development and measures against poverty. While we have made many strides, our work in the fight for equity, justice, and systemic change is far from done. Structural anti-Black racism continues to harm our communities. Recently we saw an OHRC report confirming—unsurprisingly—the profound systemic racism that still exists in policing in Toronto and throughout this province. There is still so much work to be done to ensure the health, wellness, and collective safety of our Black communities.
Today I reiterate my calls for the province to redress the damage done by the legacy and ongoing reality of anti-Black racism and demand proper investments and systemic changes to ensure a bright future for Black folks across the province. This work must happen year-round. We must stamp out barriers to access in health care, education, housing, finance, and the “justice” system among other sectors and institutions. We must declare anti-Black racism a public health crisis recognizing the physical, mental and environmental toll of everyday and structural racism in our communities. For example, many Black-owned businesses—like those in my Toronto—St. Paul’s community of Little Jamaica and Midtown—have been hit disproportionately hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and frankly challenges even before COVID. The same rings true for many Black women entrepreneurs, Black disabled, Afro-Indigenous, and 2SLGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs and community members at large who must bump up against intersecting ongoing violences of misogynoir, ableism, anti-Indigenous racism, homophobia, transphobia, and ageism among others.
Black History Month is one month but investing in Black communities is the responsibility of all levels of government year round. It starts with listening to Black voices – listening never tokenizing. We have perspectives and solutions! It starts with taking account of where policies fall short and actions must meet good intentioned words. As individuals, we must take up the privilege of celebrating our Black lives, uplifting and amplifying our Black joy, and tackling anti-Black racism in all its forms and intersectionalities 365 days a year. We stand on the shoulders of giants in our community - past, present, and future. We are up for the task!
It was a pleasure to kick-off this year's Black History Month celebrations last weekend at the Ontario Black History Society's 36th Annual Black History Month Black History Month Kick-Off Brunch! It's always an honour to celebrate Black Excellence among so many community leaders who have inspired me for decades.
Last night, I attended the Opening Reception of the annual KUUMBA festival at the Harbourfront Centre!
This Sunday, February 4th check out Anne-Marie Wood's performance Why Black Women Whisper at the Fleck Dance Theatre at Queen's Quay Terminal. Click here for more info!
Check out the full list of this year's programming throughout Black History Month until February 29th.
Yesterday also marked the beginning of the 4th annual Eating Disorders Awareness Week (EDAW). This week was formally recognized in Ontario thanks to my unanimously passed Bill 61. EDAW would not have been made possible without the incredible organizations, advocates, and folks with lived experience who helped me champion our bill right into the legislature. It was truly a team effort!
This year's campaign theme is Breaking Barriers, Facilitating Futures. The National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) reminds us that we must continue to pay attention to the under-recognized barriers that people face when accessing care for their eating disorders. According to reports, between 840,000 and 1,750,000 people in Canada have eating disorder symptoms. Approximately 700,000 of those people live in Ontario. We also know there are people who never get a diagnosis and can't access the support they need.
While it's true that women and girls are disproportionately impacted, eating disorders don't discriminate. People across genders, racial backgrounds, abilities, socioeconomic realities, size and weight, and sexual orientation get eating disorders. BIPOC and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities often face additional barriers when accessing care. Conversations and systemic actions to address social determinants of health are critical now especially for Black, Indigenous, people with disabilities, trans and non-binary communities with historical experiences of discrimination in health care and for whom community access to help for eating disorders is often under-resourced.
Anyone in Ontario affected by eating disorders or related mental health challenges deserves equitable access to timely, publicly funded care in their communities. I will continue to call on the government to invest in community-based early intervention programs, online resources, and culturally relevant support for community members with eating disorders. The province urgently needs to invest in publicly funded hospital beds and health care providers with specialization in eating disorders, especially in rural and northern communities. Currently, there are 20 dedicated beds across the province and the choice for many is to wait or pay thousands out of pocket for private treatment. Folks in northern and rural "fly-in" communities are especially at a disadvantage with far travel times and limited access to local specialists.
Organizations like NEDIC, Sheena's Place, and National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED) among others provide crucial support to eating disorder community members and their families here in our community and across the province, but they need more help. We need urgent investment from the government to help Ontarians get the help they need before it's too late.
Click here to read more about this year's campaign!
"Lecce has said menstrual products are a necessity, not a 'luxury' but it's unclear if funding will continue"
What a concept. Actually helping students who menstruate during an affordability crisis! The province must continue providing FREE menstrual products for all students in Ontario. Students, trustees and activists have been very clear about the importance of maintaining free and accessible menstrual hygiene products, such as pads and tampons, for students in Ontario. When students don't have access to these essential products, it can lead to feelings of embarrassment, shame and isolation and an overall negative experience in the school system. Research from before the pandemic, showed that one in three people who menstruate were having difficulty affording menstrual products. Since then, we know the affordability crisis has worsened putting additional pressure on personal and family budgets.
This is an equity issue. By continuing to provide free menstrual products in schools, we are addressing a fundamental need and helping create a safe, inclusive, and supportive environment for students. In fact, we shouldn't stop at schools. What about free menstrual products for ALL provincially regulated workplaces? The government must take swift action to put an END to period poverty.
Last weekend, I joined organizers from Save Ontario's Science Centre, community members and activists to send a clear message to the Premier and his government: The Ontario Science Centre belongs where it is.
Ford wants to demolish the science centre and take it from its Don Valley East neighbourhood and relocate it on top of his publicly funded, privately-owned 650 million dollar luxury spa and parking lot. Talk about priorities during an affordability crisis!
Late last year, Ford's own "business case" revealed that the one time move will cost the province TWICE the amount of simply keeping the science centre where it is and completing the necessary renovations. Furthermore, the new proposed science centre will be HALF its current size!? The math doesn't add up. He made the decision in 2021 WITHOUT a business case and then scrambled to make one in 2023 to justify it after the fact.
Demolishing the current Ontario Science Centre is of environmental concern, a slap in the fact to the heritage significance of the beloved building, risking the loss of hundreds of union jobs and the STEM programming we so desperately need, especially with our starved public education system. Not to mention, transporting school groups to the new location would be a nightmare! Imaging buses on the Gardiner and on the Waterfront in the already bumper to bumper traffic there!?
Ford didn't tell the public. He made the decision behind closed doors in 2021 but only came clean to the public last year. The Auditor General's report last year confirmed that community and key stakeholders were NOT consulted. Sound familiar?
Working together, we won the Greenbelt. Now, let's keep the pressure on.
SIGN THE LETTER to Ford and let him know we don't need a 650 million dollar privately owned, publicly funded mega-spa, and we surely don't need a demolished science centre either.
Yesterday I was welcomed by the residents of Christie Gardens for a discussion about the major issues facing our communities here in Ontario. We talked about the sorry state of education, the health care crisis, and the vital need to be better stewards of our environment. Our elders have a lifetime of knowledge to share and their voices our so valuable. I'd like to thank the residents from the bottom of my heart for their participation and for the lovely gift.
Yesterday I also met with Lyba and Mike from Seniors for Climate Action Now! (SCAN!) Toronto. SCAN! Toronto is a group of dedicated seniors taking action to address the climate crisis. The group mobilizes seniors to prevent further climate catastrophe and support and amplify youth who have taken the lead in the climate movement. I'd like to acknowledge the importance of building intergenerational solidarity on the climate crisis. It takes all of us. Thank you Mike, Lyba and the entire SCAN! Toronto for this work! A regular climate feature is coming very soon to a community newsletter near you. Stay tuned...
Tuesday I joined the volunteers at First Interfaith Out of the Cold at St. Matthew's United Church. I am so deeply grateful for Sharna and the team of volunteers who serve delicious meals to community members in need and provide a warm place to gather and access resources.
Let us not forget that this is work they shouldn't have to be doing. We are in an affordability crisis. 1 in 10 Torontonians now rely on Food Banks - a 50% increase since last year. Rising grocery prices, skyrocketing rent, and low social assistance rates have made it impossible to get by. Single parents, folks on ODSP/OW, and seniors who rely on fixed incomes are all disproportionately impacted by this crisis. We need an URGENT response from ALL levels of government that addresses the root cause of poverty. We need to ensure that food options remain affordable and accessible for all. A government that can spend millions on highways and luxury spas can set aside some for the rest of us too.
Programs like Out of the Cold provide crucial URGENT support to community members in need but they CANNOT be the solution. Thank you first Interfaith Out of the Cold for your HEARTwork! Their doors open at 4pm and dinner i served at 6pm. Spread the word to folks in need!
Volunteers are needed! If you're interested in volunteering or donating, please contact [email protected].
The Hillcrest Community Food Bank (2 Vaughan Road) needs URGENT help filling their shelves!
The need for food in our community is increasing and they're in urgent need of MORE food (and household items) to meet this higher demand. Please contact them via Instagram if there is anything you can do to help or if you are a local business that would be interested in becoming a community partner. Food donations in kind or monetary donations to their Canada Helps website would be greatly appreciated.
Live performance needs support! Two years after reopening from the pandemic closures, leaders in Toronto's theatre community are sounding the alarms. Unless there's a turnaround in the arts community, the live performance and arts sectors are on the brink of a crisis.
Community, we need deep, sustainable funding from the province to get through this storm. I've heard from too many arts organizations in our own community who are feeling the pressure. We've been demanding better from Ford for the arts community since the start of the pandemic and even before. Proper investment in the Ontario Arts Council is a good place to start.
Last year on World Arts Day, we took a shot at reminding Ford of the social, cultural, and economic value of the arts and the impact it has on our mental well-being. Arts have an INCREDIBLE return on investment for our communities across the province. I've risen in the House countless times during Question Period, debates, and to deliver petitions to reiterate the need for proper investment. The arts are VITAL to every aspect of our communities. They are STRUGGLING. Ford, get off your billions and help our communities!
Speaking of the value of arts, we have SO many arts organizations here in St. Paul's! I stopped by "INVENTION ILLUSION" earlier this week at James Rottman Fine Art gallery (830 St Clair Ave W). The current exhibit features the work of Graham Peacock and Gordon Rayner. This gallery is an absolute GEM in our St Clair West neighbourhood! Check them out!
The use of color in these pieces is mesmerizing, and the texture leaps out at you off the canvas! Peacock explains Illusions as a "ceturies old pictorial practice of making the subject look 'realistic' on a flat surface." He achieves this beautifully while defying the boundaries of traditional painting through the use of of illusion, colour, and non-traditional materials! True invention, I'd say! 😉
Overall, the exhibit left me feeling happy, bold, and creative! Check it out now until March 10th. The gallery is open 11 AM to 5 M Tuesday through Saturday.
Don't miss the world premiere Universal Child Care created by Quote Unquote Collective! The show runs Feb 13-25 at the Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley Street).
Witness the sheer power and force of the unaccompanied human voice in the newest work from Quote Unquote Collective. Part concert, part theatre play (and self-consciously neither of those things), the ensemble screams about the lack of affordable child care and growing inequalities while comparing different approaches to child care around the globe.
There will be three on-site childcare options available during the February 25th matinee. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
Attention St. Paul's, Toronto, & surrounding area!
Join Joy Bullen, Culturpreneur is bringing a concert in honour of Black History month!
Celebrations & Revelations 2024: Unyielding Roots
Second generation Canadians with roots in the Caribbean and Africa, Rashaan Rory Allwood, pianist / instrumentalist, and Kathryn Patricia Cobbler, Loop pedal violist, will premiere their original compositions, with the outstanding soprano voice of Nadine Anyan.
Rashaan and Kathryn will take you on a musical journey with pieces that reflect upon elements of the Caribbean immigrant and African diaspora experience. A program of original ambient jazz, folk, and classical compositions performed against a background film of images and events from life in the Caribbean and in Canada, exploring themes of being raised within multiple cultures and redefining beauty against a North American colonial landscape.
The performance will take place Sunday, February 11, 2024 at 3 pm at Holy Blossom Temple. Early bird tickets are $35 (until Jan 16th). Regular price: $45.
Click here to buy yours!
Toronto Community Champion Award is back! The award is a collaboration with United Way Greater Toronto and recognizes outstanding community organizations that support the health and solidarity of the residents of Toronto, particularly those from Black, Indigenous, and other equity-deserving groups. Nominations are open until February 11 at 11:55 pm.
Click here for more information and to submit a nomination.
Pride at Work is seeking nominations for its 2024 CHANGEMAKERS campaign. The campaign will recognize15 people championing 2SLGBTQIA+ inclusion in the corporate, public service and non profit sectors across Canada as a part of their 15th anniversary.
The nomination process is open from January 15th to March 17th, 2024. Click here for more information.
NEDIC is hosting Community Rooms as a part of Eating Disorders Awareness Week! The next one is February 5th at 8:30 pm. Click here to register.
This event is for folks with living and lived experience with eating disorders to connect in a safe space where they can share their journeys.
In Ontario, 1,400 people on average are waiting for a lifesaving organ transplant while thousands more are in need of a life-changing tissue donation. They are our friends, neighbours, colleagues, and, in some cases, members of our own families.
When you register as a possible organ and tissue donor, you have the potential to change the story for someone in need.
One donor can help over 80 people get back to life.
Register your consent to become an organ and tissue donor after your death and tell your family so they can help honour your wishes.
Did You Know?
- Any Ontario resident who is 16 years or older and has an Ontario health card is eligible to register as an organ and tissue donor
- Everyone has the potential to be an organ and/or tissue donor, regardless of age or health.
- People from every major religion have donated. Many religions support donation or respect and individual’s choice.
- The first and foremost concern for health care professionals is to save lives. Only when a life cannot be saved does organ and tissue donation become an option.
- It takes two minutes to register or check your status at www.beadonor.ca. You can also register in person at any ServiceOntario location.
More information about the donation process, who can register, and the importance of speaking to family can be found online at www.beadonor.ca.
This is a reminder to get up-to-date on your COVID-19 boosters. The XBB 1.5 updated boosters are NOW available. I got mine and I encourage you to join me!
Consult this page for information about where you can get vaccinated.
Each year across Ontario, thousands of lives are lost to overdoses. We need every level of government to prioritize implementing harm reduction strategies to combat these senseless deaths, and you can help.
As many of you know, Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, and these kits are FREE with training at participating pharmacies across the city. Together, we can prevent unnecessary deaths and work toward a more compassionate society that is safe safe for everyone.
Find a pharmacy with Naloxone kits near you, and make sure you can recognize the signs of an overdose.
Dr. Jill Andrew, Ph.D
MPP, Toronto-St. Paul's