Today, Ontario reported 751 patients in hospital with COVID-19, including 241 in ICUs, continuing the trend of these numbers decreasing for the last few weeks. While I’m optimistic about the continuing decline of our case counts, we should all ensure that we continue to follow the best advice of our public health experts and get vaccinated.
Looking ahead, today we learned that the Ontario government will be removing most mask mandates in public spaces – including schools – on March 21. Parents will also no longer be required to perform daily COVID screening before dropping their kids at school.
Along with the changes in schools, they will also be eliminating self-isolation for COVID-19 exposed people, and symptom screening requirements in most spaces starting on March 21 as well.
There are some exceptions to the ending of the mask mandates in certain high-risk settings where masks will still be required including:
- Public Transit
- Health care settings
- Long-term care homes
- Congregate care settings
While many of the mask mandates will be ending, it must be stressed that you are still free to wear a mask if you want to and doing so will provide an extra layer of protection against COVID-19.
I’m working from Queen’s Park right now, and it’s been a busy week – so here are some quick updates on what I’m working on.
First up, the Ontario NDP’s ‘Our London Family Act’ is a bill that we’ve put together in collaboration with the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), in response to the rise in Islamophobic incidents our province – and specifically the horrific act of terror that took the lives of four members of the Afzaal family on June 6, 2021.
The Act would have done the following (description from the NCCM – link here):
- Changes to our education system based on the calls we heard across the province to make sure young people are growing up with educational resources that help them understand Islamophobia;
- Dismantling of white supremacist groups in the province by preventing them from registering as societies, preventing acts of intimidation on provincial property, as well as prevent intimidation tactics targeting worshippers at synagogues, mosques, or gurdwaras;
- Enshrine a provincial hate crimes accountability unit that provides best practices, and investigates potential failures in combatting hate incidents;
- Bolster the scope and strategy of the Anti-Racism Directorate to include changes from conducting regular polls to understand where the pain points of Islamophobia lie to investing in public service announcements about Islamophobia;
- More minorities in the provincial public service;
- Increase the limitation period for those seeking to file human rights claims in Ontario
Sadly, in another instance of the Ford government putting politics above everything else – they have prevented this bill from being voted on prior to the election in June by shunting it to committee, and they will not allow it to come back to the floor for a vote. This morning, the Ford government doubled down on this decision by voting down an attempt from Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath to bring the bill back to the floor.
Frustratingly, this means that for it to pass, it will need to be reintroduced after the election, and go through the entire process again. I’m deeply disappointed in this decision from the Ford government – but I’m sadly not surprised. It will be a good day when we come back later in 2022 and get it passed once and for all.
Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and as the Women’s Issues Critic, I was proud to able to address the day in the Legislature and host an important roundtable discussion in the evening where we discussed the need for culturally responsive hair training in Ontario’s film, TV, and theatre sectors.
In the Legislature, I delivered a statement where I recognized a personal hero of mine – my mother. I was so proud to recognize the great impact that she’s had on my life and share just how proud I am of her. I also spoke to the importance of ensuring that every girl, every woman, every mother have access to the things that they need – housing, food, education, freedom from violence, and of course comprehensive health care.
In the evening, I was joined by an all-star panel of Alicia Payne, Alicia Richardson, Aisha Boubocar, and Dalmar Abuzeid – four people with extensive experience in the arts and culture. We had a fantastic conversation about the need to ensure that there is culturally relevant training for Black and textured hair in our arts sectors. Each of them shared important personal experiences with their own hair and were open to this vital conversation.
I want to thank our panelists for joining me for this discussion, and their willingness to be so vulnerable in our conversation. If you’d like to watch the replay of our conversation, click here.
While International Women’s Day is over, this is also Black Mental Health Week, and today in question period I asked a question to Premier about the intersection of these two days of significance. In my question, I highlighted the need for comprehensive mental health coverage in our health care system.
I also presented a petition today to make Holocaust and genocide education mandatory in Ontario’s school curriculum. This is a vital step towards stopping the rise of antisemitism in our province.
Today, I am thrilled to send a huge congratulations to Steve Teekens for the (well deserved) recognition at the 2021-22 Victim Services Awards of Distinction! Steve is the Executive Director at Na-Me-Res (Native Men's Residence) and a tireless advocate for Indigenous peoples.
Toronto-St. Paul’s wouldn’t be the same without your HEARTwork of supporting men who are experiencing homelessness and who have been victims of systemic violence.
Finally today, I would like to invite folks who are interested to join me this Saturday at 11AM for a Day of Action for International Women’s Day – where we’ll be heading out canvassing in the neighbourhood.