Community News Update - July 16, 2021

Dear Community,

Today, Ontario has moved into Step 3 of the Reopening Ontario framework, and here’s what that means.

Starting today, more businesses and services will be able to return across Ontario, including here in our community. Right now, outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people are allowed, as well as indoor gatherings of up to 25 people. Indoor dining has also returned with no table limits, and gyms can operate at 50% capacity, after many months of being closed.

On top of these headline items, here are some more reopened facilities and services:

  • Retail with capacity limited to ensure physical distancing
  • Indoor religious services, rites or ceremony gatherings with physical distancing
  • Indoor sports and recreational fitness facilities with capacity limits
  • Personal care services with capacity limited to ensure physical distancing
  • Museums, casinos and bingo halls with capacity limits
  • Cinemas, concert, theatres, and other performing arts venues with capacity limits

You can see the full details by clicking here.

Now, while we are making progress, there is growing concern about the vaccination rate in Ontario. While we have the vaccine supply that we need, we’ve seen a sharp drop off in the numbers of folks getting their first vaccine. As of this morning, 79.1% of eligible Ontarians have received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, that number is now increasing at less than one percent a week.

That’s simply not good enough, and we’re likely to see the rate of those new vaccinations declining even more in the coming weeks.

In response to this, the Ontario NDP is proposing a last-mile strategy to get vaccines into the arms of folks who still need them, in communities where there might be increased hesitancy. We need to ensure that we have culturally appropriate outreach that connects with communities respectfully, and with compassion, to address the concerns that they might have about the vaccine.

We also need to acknowledge and address the underlying challenges that are stopping folks from getting vaccinated. We need to be able to reach people who are not vaccine-hesitant but simply still haven’t been able to get access to the shots. Whether that means ensuring that there is paid time off to get vaccinated or reaching out directly to seniors who might not be online, we need a diverse array of approaches to get to the folks we’ve missed so far.  

This morning, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath published a fantastic Op-Ed about this in The Star, and you can read the full piece here.

This morning, Ontario reported another 159 cases of COVID-19, and 10 more deaths of people with COVID-19. The seven-day case average now sits at 151 cases per day, and we’re in Step 3 of the reopening plan. One question that I’ve received from the community is when we’ll be able to move past Step 3, and what that will look like when we get there.

The information that we have currently is that after Step 3, the majority of remaining restrictions will be lifted. However, that will not happen until at least 21 days from today, and not until 75% of eligible Ontarians are fully vaccinated and every public health unit has vaccinated at least 70% of their eligible residents.

I will certainly be keeping an eye on those statistics moving forward, and will update in the coming weeks!

If you need to book a vaccine, you can do so by clicking here.

Throughout COVID-19, arts and culture have been so crucial for so many of us. Whether that be listening to music, or watching online events, we leaned on the arts. But the sector has been struggling mightily, as one thing we haven’t been able to do is gather to enjoy art together like we normally would.

That’s beginning to change as we’re now allowed to gather to some extent once again. Unfortunately,  many organizations are still stuck without promised funding from the Ontario government to help them get back on their feet.

Funding promised through the Reconnect Program has, in many cases, still not rolled out to the organizations who need it. This week, I called on Minister Lisa MacLeod to address this urgent issue and get those dollars rolling so that our arts and culture sector can come back stronger than ever.

This week the Ford government took it upon themselves to remove a portion of the new Grade 9 math curriculum that spoke about systemic racism and long-standing barriers to learning. This wording was added to address institutional racism that’s been observed in our education system for many years, and was a key addition to the curriculum.

But under pressure from far-right activists and politicians like Maxime Bernier, the Ford government removed the language. This is an absolutely disgusting move from the Conservatives, and reverses a change that was made to recognized the systemic barriers that have faced Black, Indigenous, and racialized students in our education system for years.

I want you to know that an NDP government in Ontario would be looking to bring more equity to our schools – not less.

The Toronto Star published a series of reports this week under the title “Hidden Influence”, documenting how well-connected Conservative lobbyists were able to push the government away from prioritizing the health and safety of Ontarians during the pandemic. It’s a remarkable piece of journalism, and I would encourage everyone to read it.

You can read the full report here.

Looking forward to the weekend, we’ll have three Farmers’ Markets operating:

  • The Afro-Caribbean Farmers’ Market
    • Sunday from 11AM to 3PM at 1531 Eglinton Ave West
  • The Eglinton Way Farmers’ Market: 
    • Sunday from 8AM to 1PM at 125 Burnaby Blvd.
  • The Stop’s Farmers’ Market at Wychwood Barns
    • Saturday from 8AM to 12:30PM at the Wychwood Barns

As noted above, tomorrow's Community Food Tables have been cancelled as a result of the forecast for rain. However, we will be back up and running next week, and if you've like to sign up to volunteer at your local table, click here.

Finally, it was great to join the St. Matthew's Healing Garden Community this evening, to recognize the incredible work of Olivia Dziwak and Bert Whitecrow. For the last 8 weeks, they have dedicated their time to rejuvenating the incredible Noojimo'iwewin Gitigaan garden at St. Matthew's United Church. If you haven't seen their work, I'd encourage you to walk by the west side of St. Matthew's (Rushton and St. Clair), and check it out!

It was my honour to present them both with scrolls of recognition for their contributions to our community!

Have a great weekend!

In Solidarity,
Jill Andrew
Toronto—St. Paul's

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