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FORUM: Ford failing to address homelessness, racism, schooling (July 2020)

August 7th, 2020 · No Comments

Telling parents to prepare for every eventuality is not a plan

By Jessica Bell

As the pandemic drags on, the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable are getting worse. I want to draw attention to three communities that need our help.

Toronto’s homelessness crisis is a ticking time bomb. The city has spent nearly $200 million on housing and supporting 7,000 people in community centres, hotels, and schools. Now, these schools and community centres are reopening, and the four to six-month contracts the city has with hotels are beginning to expire. People have nowhere to go. At the same time, Doug Ford is close to approving Bill 184, which will make it easier for landlords to evict renters. More people will be living and dying on our streets if we don’t take action. 

On June 26, I joined Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam to call on the Ford Government to help the City of Toronto provide basic support to our homeless. We’re talking about food, water, medication, and portable toilets. We have a moral responsibility to help our most vulnerable.  

Since April, 9 Black, Indigenous or racialized people in Canada have died in interactions with police. They were loved and should be here today. Their names are: Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Rodney Levi, Chantel Moore, Stewart Kevin Andrews, Jason Collins, Eishia Hudson, Caleb Tubila Njoko, D’Andre Campbell and Ejaz Choudry. 

These deaths are not isolated incidents. They are due to a pattern of brutal policing and racism. On June 22, we laid out our commitments to tackling police brutality, these include overhauling police oversight so police are accountable, reinvesting funding into community programs and alternative first responders, demilitarizing the police, ending carding, and heavily investing resources in racialized and poor neighbourhoods to improve quality of life. 

The Ford Government is refusing to truly address racism and police brutality. I believe public momentum is so strong that Ford will have no choice but to reverse course.

Just over a week ago, the Ontario Government announced its plan for kids returning to classrooms in September. School boards are being asked to plan three different scenarios for the classroom which will depend on public health advice and the province’s COVID-19 situation in the fall: online, in-class, and a hybrid of online and in-class. Part-time school is on the cards.

As a parent of two school-age children, I know how hard the last few months have been for families. I’m confused by the government’s, “it could be everything or nothing,” plan. I know many of you don’t know what child care plans to make if school returns only part-time, or what part-time means exactly? Many of you don’t want to repeat the months of emergency remote learning we just endured and many teachers are worried about what is being done to keep kids and teachers safe in the classroom, especially individuals with co-morbidities. 

On June 29, we hosted a town hall with experts to learn what school should and could look like in September. Panelist Dr. Michelle Science shared the results of her Sick Kids report on COVID-19 and children. Dr. Science’s research shows that kids are less impacted by COVID-19 and there is a real need to balance the risk of COVID-19 with the growing impacts on mental health and child development from keeping schools closed and limiting child-to-child play. TDSB teacher, Nigel Barriffe, said the Ford Government has not consulted with teachers and that teachers are asking for information on what school could look like so they can prepare, as well as what health and safety measures will be taken to keep teachers and kids safe. MPP Marit Stiles spoke to the government’s failure to provide additional funding to school boards to accommodate health and safety guidelines, including paid sick days, smaller class sizes, proper ventilation, and working sinks.  

It’s going to be a tough school year. I will be writing a letter to the minister of education summarizing some of the concerns and questions that residents have raised about school re-opening. There are no easy answers. We are in a time of flux. Public health is paramount. 

Please contact my office if you have any questions or concerns about these issues and more. 

Jessica Bell is MPP for University—Rosedale.


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