Community News Update - September 1, 2023

Dear community,

Tomorrow is our School Supply Drive! Please join us from 10AM - 1PM in Cy Townsend Park to leave what you can or take what you need! Fun for the whole family with an ice cream truck on site to ensure everyone stays cool :)

Let's ensure all St. Paul's learners are set up for success for the school year ahead and help shoulder some of the burden for hardworking parents.

Speaking of school, this week we saw the Conservative government muse about changes to education policies that would put 2SLGBTQIA+ students and staff at risk.

While Minister Lecce spoke under the guise of parental involvement, his statements undermine the TDSB's policy that protects the privacy of trans* and gender non-conforming students, which rightly recognizes that some children may not have a home environment that is welcoming of their identity. Young people have a right to dignity, to a reasonable expectation of privacy, and, above all else, safety. Disclosing a young person's gender identity to a caretaker without their explicit consent undermines these rights and puts them at risk of violence in the home.

In Toronto, 26% of unhoused youth identify as 2SLGBTQIA+, and the most frequently cited reason for homelessness is family conflict. The Minister's statement only adds fuel to these numbers.

Let me be very clear: all students are deserving of a school environment that is safe and supportive, and this government should focus their attentions on the deeply disturbing rise in anti-2SLBGTQIA+ hate rather than outing kids without their consent. Shame on Minister Lecce.

We may not be able to promise every home is a safe one, but we can damn well ensure every school is.

As Ford's Greenbelt Scandal saga continues, yesterday served Ontario up what we in the world of politics know as...a doozy. A real one. 

Starting bright and early, Ford addressed the media for the first time since the Integrity Commissioner found that his Housing Minister had breached the Integrity Act. Looking to answer the question at the top of Ontarians' minds, journalists were quick to ask the Premier how he'll be holding the Minister, himself, and his government accountable, to which he replied "the buck stops with me". Yet, the Minister has yet to resign from his post as Ford himself will not demand it.

The whole day, from start to finish, was quite the show of just how out of touch this government is with Ontarians; those who deserve a government they can trust. Our current one has broken it. Deeply. While they promise accountability, it's a word we've heard used in the past from them. A word unmet by action.

So while I join you in hoping they deliver on it this time to put their focus into solving the very real problems affecting Ontarians with proven solutions, I stay weary. Because the best predictor of future actions are past ones.

Meanwhile, Yesterday morning also saw us close out another incredible Emancipation Month with OUR flag raised high above Queen's Park.

Thank you to the folks at Emancipation Month, including co-founder Dewitt Lee, for all their work in seeing this period of celebration and reflection observed in Ontario, as well as their ongoing commitment to Black joy, success, and freedom year round!

The fruits of that work and commitment were felt deeply yesterday. As Black folks, we have so much to celebrate about the skin we're in, the bloodline we share, the present we've built, and the future we're building.

So celebrate we did!

Yesterday was International Overdose Awareness Day. I was honoured to join Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (Black CAP) at City Hall to raise a flag in memory of the thousands lost to overdose this year in Ontario.

Those who are more than a number in a headline - those who were a friend, a parent, a colleague, a loved one: a person whose life mattered and should still be here today.

We remember you, and honour you by committing to what works. Harm reduction, safe supply, education over criminalization, and person-centred, self-determined access to care. 

Monday, September 4th belongs to the workers! Join me at Queen & University at 9:30AM to celebrate the many gains unions have won throughout hot union summer & across the years!

Make sure you pack water, apply SPF, and dress appropriately for the weather - it's gonna be a scorcher made hotter with worker solidarity!This morning I wrote a letter to Premier Ford and Associate Minister Williams advocating for funding for Homeward Bound, a program operated by Woodgreen Community Services. You can read my letter below and learn more about the program HERE.

Women in Film and Television (WIFT) has launched their Indigenous Writing program. Tailored to Indigenous content creators, the opportunity looks to amplify Indigenous stories and voices in supporting them to strengthen their craft, connect with peers, and receive guidance from experienced mentors.

Indigenous art, storytelling, and culture is a vital part to Ontario's heritage, present, and future; a part that goes untold all too often. Thank you, WIFT for seeing this gap and working to fill it through this program. 

Applications are open now until September 6th. For more information or to apply, click here.

On top of this weekend's school supply drive, the community food table at Marian Engel Park (on Lambertlodge Avenue) is happening this Saturday.

Whether you've got donations to spare or need some extra groceries to get you through the week, come on down between 11AM to 1PM to take what you need and leave what you don't. No questions asked!

Mark your calendars! Bloom Bar Studio is hosting a COMEDY CABARET on Thursday, September 28. Tickets are $20 and include a welcome drink!

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.

In Solidarity, 

Jill Andrew
Toronto-St. Paul's

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