Today, Ontario has reported another 600 new cases of COVID-19, and six more deaths.
Along with the new case numbers, as of this morning, it has now been reported that three east end Toronto schools have found cases of COVID-19 already in this new school year.
Beyond the schools that have reported cases, we’re also hearing from teachers and students across Ontario about large class sizes, with some reports of classes with over 30 students in them. Classes of this size render any meaningful physical distancing impossible. While we need our schools to be open, we also need the government to invest the funds now that are needed to start shrinking these class sizes and ensuring our schools can operate safely.
As always, I would like to remind everyone that they can help in the fight against COVID-19, by first and foremost ensuring that you are vaccinated and that you continue to follow the best advice of our public health experts.
Find a vaccine here.
Speaking of vaccinations, in recent months we have seen increased misinformation being spread regarding the COVID-19 vaccines. This misinformation has, in turn, led to protests and intense vitriol directed at our healthcare system, and today led protestors to stage protests at hospitals around the country, including here in Ontario.
Let me say this clearly – while I wholeheartedly support the freedom to protest – we must protect those seeking health care from harassment and intimidation. No one should be forced to walk through anti-public health harassment while they are on their way to seek medical assistance. Earlier this week, a woman with cancer was verbally attacked in front of Kingston General Hospital, and there have been other reports of violence and threats to impede hospital operations.
We have also seen issues arising with some businesses being targeted by anti-vax protests, where they have been targeted specifically for their efforts to operate safely. In the cases of the small businesses being targeted, we have had at least two reports of people with COVID-19 in attendance.
In response, today Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has proposed legislation that would make targeted harassment of people and businesses for upholding public health rules in established Safety Zones a provincial offence, punishable with a fine of up to $25,000.
If you support this proposed legislation, you can add your name here.
Something worth noting here, is that the lack of a provincewide vaccine certificate program has exacerbated this situation for small businesses, who have been largely left on their own to determine their own vaccination policies.
You can watch Andrea Horwath’s press conference where she made this announcement here.
In the last few days, we have heard several disturbing reports from the University of Western Ontario, of multiple instances of sexual violence in the student residences. Today, as the Women’s Issues Critic, I issued a statement with my colleague Colleges and Universities Critic, MPP Laura Mae Lindo, regarding these reports.
The statement is as follows:
"We stand in solidarity with the students at Western University speaking out against sexual violence on campus, and our hearts are with the survivors of these alleged heinous crimes.
Women and girls have a right to be and to feel safe on campus — everywhere on campus. Our universities must have absolute zero tolerance for sexual and gender-based violence, and in every single case, the perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence must be held to account.
Our universities and colleges continue to be hurt by successive governments' underfunding of campus and community services that support survivors of sexual violence, meaning survivors often face long wait lists. The Ford government's cuts to rape crisis centres, and to programs that support student safety, including Women's Centres and resources to support mental health and well-being, as well his attack on student unions, have made things worse.
We will continue to fight for full justice and accountability for perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence on Ontario campuses, including anyone involved with this weekend’s alleged actions at Western University, as well as greater supports for survivors."
Finally, I want to end today with two big shout-outs. First, to everyone who has been helping out with our Community Food Tables this year. This past weekend was a great success, and we’ve been able to distribute so much food, to so many folks in our community in need – and it’s all because of our incredible volunteers.
If you’re interested in helping out at your nearest table, click here.
Second, I'd like to send my best wishes to the outgoing coordinator for the Oakwood Village BIA Aadila Valiallah as she moves on from her role at the OVBIA. She's done some incredible work in the past few years, and I'm excited to see what's next for her. It was my honour to present her with a Community Hero certificate over the weekend in recognition of that work.