I believe strongly in the right to protest, and I’ve taken part in quite a few protests myself over the years – but what we’ve witnessed in Ottawa in recent days has crossed the line.
From the brandishing of Nazi flags to reports of racist attacks and the desecration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier the actions of the protestors in Ottawa have been revolting. Earlier this week, I called on the Premier to take action to help end the siege on Ottawa – and to date, he’s still failed to take meaningful action.
Now, as you likely know there are reports that there are protests being planned for our city this weekend, and justifiably many members of our community are concerned. Already, Women’s College Hospital in our city is cancelling health care services as they prepare for a convoy to arrive, shutting down their urgent care clinic this Saturday.
On top of that, we’ve heard reports that the Toronto Police Service has encouraged staff in hospitals to wear street clothes, rather than their hospital uniforms in order to avoid being identified by the expected convoy.
So, what will the response look like this weekend? Well, here’s what we know so far.
There will be an increased police presence in the area around Queen’s Park and down through hospital row, as well University Avenue between College and Dundas will be closed from 11:30AM today to all vehicles except emergency vehicles. Further updates will be made available on the Toronto Police social media accounts.
Frustratingly, my Ontario NDP colleague and I have been pushing for Doug Ford to take action to protect spaces from disruptive anti-public health protests with designated safety zones around hospitals, schools, vaccine clinics, and other health facilities – and the Ford government has refused to act for months.
Just today, all Toronto NDP MPPs released a joint statement urging the Ford government to create safety zones and protect access to hospitals, and in that statement, we shared the story of one of our neighbours, Lisa Bonney from our community of Toronto-St. Paul’s. Lisa reached out to me this week because of her concern for her 14-year-old daughter, who has multiple health and developmental challenges and is on the waitlist for two surgeries.
Because of her condition, she could require urgent care at Sick Kids, but with the protests coming this weekend, she could be unable to access the hospital quickly. Lisa is just one of many residents in Toronto who have very legitimate concerns about access to health care this weekend.
While the protestors against vaccine mandates make their way to our city, Ontario added another 60 COVID-19 related deaths, and over 500 people remain in intensive care. While we are seeing COVID-19 numbers improving, there are still 2634 people in hospitals in Ontario with COVID-19.
While there are those who are seeking to disrupt important public health initiatives, thankfully there are many more who are committed to bringing them to life. Today, I want to highlight a great program from UrbanArts Toronto, which is offering a free expressive approach for participants to understand and share their thoughts/feelings about the pandemic – with a visual arts style.
In their own words:
UrbanArts is offering this free expressive approach for participants to understand and share their thoughts/feelings towards the latest coronavirus-related events through the learning of different visual arts styles. Each week a new artist’s style will be featured to help participants create original artwork (which may also be used for promotional materials).
There will be a Vaccination Ambassador present who will also be able to discuss general information about COVID-19 vaccinations, and where to get your 1st, 2nd, and/or 3rd dose. This is a family-friendly program with a focus on children 8 and older. Participants can also access COVID-19 and vaccination resources offered by the City of Toronto through a Vaccine Awareness Ambassador who will be present during the sessions.
Starts Friday February 11th runs every Monday and Friday, 4 - 5PM via Zoom until March 14th. Click the registration link to join this fun free art program and a zoom link will be sent to you.
Finally today, I want to share a note of thanks from the organizers of the Humewood Community Scholarship Fund.
“We are sending a big heart-felt thank you to Jill Andrew’s constituent for generously supporting and sharing information about the 2021 Humewood Community Scholarship Fund.
The fund helps young mothers pursue an education. As a community, we exceeded our wildest expectations and raised $8,200 for the fund! 100% of the funds will be distributed to eligible applicants, clients of the Humewood Campus of the Massey Centre (Humewood House at 40 Humewood Drive), who will be selected in spring 2022 for the next academic year.
Of special note, this year we broadened our fundraising efforts, reaching the communities served by MPP Jill Andrew, City Councillor Josh Matlow’s and St. Matthew’s United Church, through their newsletters. We would also like to thank Ashley Carambalas, Resource Development Coordinator from Massey House, who supported us in developing the fundraising website for this year’s campaign.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all the members of the community who helped to make the Scholarship Fund such a massive success because now, more than ever, we know it takes a village!"
- Cathy, Shelagh, and Caroline
I’d like to personally thank Cathy, Shelagh, and Caroline for their incredible work on this important scholarship fund, and everyone in our community who’s chipped in. Humewood House is an incredible part of our community and I know that this money is going to be put to good use.