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CHATTER: Access to winterized washrooms set to improve (Fall 2021)

November 11th, 2021 · No Comments

In 2021, the City of Toronto opened up 79 new public washrooms for use throughout the winter, nearly doubling the previous number. This project was a direct response to pandemic restrictions which made access to public washrooms extra challenging, making life especially hard for vulnerable segments of the population.

Bickford Park and Dufferin Grove are among the 148 City of Toronto parks that now have accessible public washrooms all year long.

To build and improve upon this project, the city’s parks department wants to make five more washrooms operational and increase the number of park pathways and trails that get ploughed following a snowfall. High traffic areas and pathways that link parks and community centres to major roadways and TTC stations will be prioritized by this plan.

Councillor Mike Layton (Ward 11) supports this plan. His own experience of having to carry a stroller with a child inside through three feet of snow along the sidewalk beside Christie Pits Park demonstrates its necessity, he said.

However, Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong questions the larger plan of expanding access to park washrooms through the winter months, suggesting that providing this service may “have the unintended consequence of encouraging encampments.”

Edith Wilson, who runs a website called torontotoilets.org says the deputy mayor’s resistance to the expansion of public washrooms is “classic City of Toronto.”

In 2018, Wilson completed a Master’s Thesis in Sociology from the University of Guelph titled Washrooms for Customer’s Only: Space, Dignity and Sh*tting in the City.

“My archival research showed that not having public washrooms in the city was politically deliberate, and the strategy dates back to the 1950s,” says Wilson. “Any time there is an expansion of public washrooms I consider that a good thing, however, the expansion of their maintenance needs to happen as well. There’s no low-cost solution to this.”

Councillor Layton moved to adopt the motion at the city’s October 26 Infrastructure and Environment Committee Meeting.

—Meribeth Deen/Gleaner News

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