Thanksgiving, Winter Homelessness Plan, and COVID-19 Updates

Today, like many Torontonians, I am looking ahead towards Thanksgiving this weekend. Like other holidays and special events, for many people, Thanksgiving will look very different this year and it should. There are 797 new cases across Ontario today. This is greater than the height of the pandemic this spring. For anyone still unsure about recommended gathering sizes, Dr de Villa has been clear - only celebrate with people in your own household. This can be an opportunity to create new traditions. Maybe you can share your favourite fall traditions with your roommates. If you live alone, join a virtual celebration, or get a take-out Thanksgiving feast from a local restaurant. It also can be as simple as calling a loved one and letting them know how thankful you are for their support. I know it can be hard being away from family, friends and loved ones but I am confident we can find creative ways to share in these holidays until it is safe to gather once more. 

Image description: Toronto Public Health promotional graphic listing ways to plan a safer Thanksgiving during COVID-19. The list includes: shop for groceries and essentials early to avoid crowds; have a special meal at home with the people you live with; host a virtual gathering to connect with friends and family; deliver a meal to a vulnerable friend or family member; and call or text loved ones to share messages of gratitude. 

When we think about Thanksgiving, it’s important for us to remember that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the Williams Treaties signed with multiple Mississaugas and Chippewa bands. While we live together now, many Indigenous communities are still without clean drinking water or access to food. As we work towards reconciliation, a key component is food sovereignty, the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods. In looking at the ongoing disputes across Canada, there is still much to do as we continue to strive towards reconciliation. 

Earlier this week, we saw some alarming data about the rate of test-positivity across Toronto neighbourhoods, including our Toronto Centre North St. James Town community. The Board of Health will be working with the Medical Officer of Health to better understand the socio-demographic data in the city. This is one more tool to help address the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board of Health has asked for regular public reporting and an analysis to be presented at an upcoming Board of Health meeting. 

Ending chronic homelessness continues to be a top priority. Every year the City of Toronto releases a strategy to help support those living outdoors through the winter months, and this week the City of Toronto released their 2020-2021 Winter Plan for People Experiencing Homelessness. 

In the ward and across many other communities, we have all seen the proliferation of encampments, and residents living outside in the rough. Many experiencing homelessness did not feel safe moving indoors, and are worried that they will get sick and won’t have the same access to care. As of October 1, there are 649 cases of COVID-19 in Toronto shelters, as reported by the CBC. However, as winter approaches, creating safe, warm indoor spaces is even more critically important. 

Staff estimate that there are 6,700 people experiencing homelessness in it’s shelter system, and 500 living outdoors in encampments. This new plan will provide 560 beds on top of the City’s current operations. Since March, the City has moved more than 850 people from encampments into safe indoor spaces and cleared more than 60 encampments. There are an estimated 350 - 400 people still living outside in tents and encampments in City parks.

This plan is meant to ensure that everyone who is currently living outside has the option to move indoors. Some folks choose not to accept services, for any number of reasons including safety concerns and moving far from their community and essential services. I continue to work with City staff to foster safe and inclusive neighbourhoods. To do this work, we need to improve wrap-around services, like access to mental health and addiction recovery services for those most in need. When service providers meet people where they are, we offer them respect, dignity and a pathway to permanent housing.

This is the fifth consecutive year, without additional support from the Federal and Provincial governments, the City of Toronto has had to increase shelter capacity and 24-hour respites. This is not a badge of honour, but more an indication that we have yet to substantially address the homelessness crisis. This was true before the pandemic hit. 

Since March I have been calling for a freeze on residential evictions. Without it we will see an increased demand on our shelter systems and more people living on the streets or in encampments. Without protective legislative action from the Premier, and affordable housing waitlists being upwards of 10 years, the City of Toronto may see disastrous outcomes for its residents. 

An increase in sustained funding from our Provincial and Federal governments is desperately needed in order to support our most vulnerable residents. We need more fulsome mental health and addictions services, more supportive and transitional housing and strong legislative action and protections for those who are precariously housed. Learn more about what I have been doing and what actions you can take to advocate to support our City’s most vulnerable. 

I wish you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving, whatever that may look like this year. 

Thank you for your resilience, it is an honour to represent you.


Community Care in Ward 13

Today’s Community Care shoutout goes to a group of youth volunteers (along with their parents) in Cabbagetown. Over the weekend, the group and the Cabbagetown BIA cleaned up over a dozen spots in Cabbagetown where businesses had been tagged with graffiti. These small businesses have been hit hard during this pandemic. Graffiti tagging can be a costly cleanup and the burden is on the businesses. Knowing these small businesses have been hit particularly hard, this group of dedicated young people wanted to support their local community. You can see the amazing transformation below.  

Image description: A white door with graffiti. 

Image description: the same white door as the image above, free of graffiti.

All in all, these young people were able to help a number of businesses in the Cabbagetown BIA catchment. I love seeing neighbours come together to support their community and local businesses. Thank you for your effort, and for showing your community love!

Making Cents: Talking City Budgets with Councillor Wong-Tam

Image content: promotional poster for Making Cents Budget Series panel event with Councillor Wong-Tam

Community centers and youth services are critical for building safe and healthy neighbourhoods. We know that investing in sports and arts programming prevent youth from engaging in violence, and help them prepare for a promising future with youth education and employment opportunities. With the City of Toronto facing a huge financial deficit, many youth programs, and centres designed to keep kids off the streets, and out of gangs face massive cuts to funding.  Now more than ever it is critical to ensure that the City of Toronto budget reflects the needs and values of our communities. 

On Tuesday, October 13th from 3:00pm- 4:00pm EST, I invite you to join me and a panel of experts and advocates as we discuss how investments in our municipal budget create and sustain community and youth services. Our community and youth services offer vital supports which have been proven to reduce gun violence and gangs in young people. Some of these services provide employment opportunities, recreation, peer to peer mentoring and food security in downtown neighbourhoods. These programs have historically been underfunded despite their role in crime prevention and poverty reduction. 

When: Tuesday October 13, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Registrants will receive a link to watch

Special Guests Include: 

Tiffany Ford, Former TDSB Trustee 

Dr. Wesley Chrichlow, Professor, Author and Researcher

Ismail Afrah, Community Co-Ordinator at Access for Recreation

Paul Bailey, Executive Director at Black Health Alliance

Sarah Rogers, Project Manager at SEEN Collaborative

Learn more and RSVP here. 

COVID-19: Ongoing Tips to Reduce Virus Spread

As we begin to again restrengthen our public health measures, we will all continue to live in this new normal. Wearing a mask or a face covering is mandatory in all public indoor spaces and on the TTC. Our commitment must be to continue minimizing the impact of COVID-19, especially on our most vulnerable residents, while reducing negative social, economic, and broader health impacts on our community. In the coming months what this means for our residents is:

  • Continuing to work remotely, wherever possible;
  • Maintaining physical distance from people outside our household or social circle/bubble;
  • Avoiding crowds and congregations in closed indoor settings;
  • Wearing a cloth mask or face covering in any public indoor setting, including stores, transit, offices; and where
  • physical distancing is difficult to maintain.
  • Staying home whenever we are sick for any reason.

Face Masks and Coverings Offer Best Protection

Image description: Informational graphic from Toronto Public Health titled, "Face Masks & Coverings Offer Best Protection." Through visual examples, the graphic shows recommended and not recommended ways of wearing a mask. The recommended way for wearing a mask says, "should cover your nose, mouth, and chin without gaping." The following are not recommended: face shields, masks with exhalation valves, or clear plastic masks.

How to Safely Wear a Mask

Image description: Toronto Public Health infographic about how to safely wear a mask. Information on the infographic is listed below.

  • Do wash your hands before putting it on and taking it off
  • Do make sure it fits to cover your mouth and nose
  • Do wash your cloth mask in the laundry
  • Do clean surfaces that a dirty mask touches
  • Don’t touch your face or mask while using it
  • Don’t use masks on children under 2 or those who can’t breathe with them on
  • Don’t share your mask with others
  • Don’t wear medical masks, keep them for health care workers
  • The best protection is to stay home, keep a 6-foot distance, and wash hands often.

Thank you for doing your part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and help protect our communities. For more tips on social distancing, please visit the City’s website or download this info sheet.

City of Toronto COVID-19 Updates

Economic Impact of Toronto Live Music Venues Totals $850 Million, Providing 10,500 Full-Time Jobs

Today, Mayor John Tory and the Canadian Live Music Association, in partnership with Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area and Ontario Creates, released the results of a long-awaited Toronto venues study, Re:Venues: A Case and Path Forward for Toronto’s Live Music Industry. Among other findings, the study confirms that the total economic impact of Toronto live music venues is $850 million annually, providing the equivalent of 10,500 full-time jobs.

City of Toronto Urges Residents to Celebrate Thanksgiving Only Within Their Households to Slow Second Wave of COVID-19

At today’s COVID-19 update, Mayor John Tory and Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa, again urged residents to not hold big Thanksgiving gatherings and to limit celebrations to only the people you live with, in the same household, under the same roof. For those who live alone, the safest option is to join others virtually.

Toronto Fire Services Thanks First Alert Canada for Donation of 300 Smoke Alarms During Fire Prevention Week

Toronto Fire Services today joined First Alert Canada to donate 300 smoke alarms to organizations that help support Toronto communities. First Alert Canada is an important partner whose ongoing commitment and effort helps to ensure that all residents of Toronto have the required smoke alarms needed to stay safe.

More information on affected City services & facilities.

More updates from the City of Toronto.

Province of Ontario Updates

Ontario Recognizes Indigenous Marriage Ceremonies

The government of Ontario has amended the Marriage Act to enable Indigenous officiants to perform marriage ceremonies according to their customs and traditions, and to submit a marriage for registration with the Ontario Registrar General. These changes, which come into force today, recognize the role of Indigenous communities and organizations in designating marriage officiants.

Historic Ford Canada Investment Transforming Ontario into Global Electric Vehicle Manufacturing Hub

The Ontario government is matching a $295 million investment with the federal government to retool Ford of Canada's Oakville Assembly Complex into a global hub for battery electric vehicle production. This $1.8 billion investment represents one of the most significant investments in the province's auto sector in a generation.

Ontario Supporting Local Festivals and Events

Ontario is investing $9 million through the new Reconnect Festival and Event Program to support municipalities and event organizers during COVID-19. This funding will be used to maintain public safety requirements and allow people to reconnect with their communities through online, drive-through and other innovative experiences. Organizers will be developing creative programs such as virtual Remembrance Day events, reverse holiday parades with drive-by static floats, drive-in music concerts and movies, holiday tree lightings and New Year's Eve displays that light-up iconic buildings.

Ontario Supporting Scientists Develop the Next Generation of Antibiotics

The Ontario government is investing $1 million to support the creation of a Canadian Compound Library for Antibiotic Discovery at McMaster University. This investment will help researchers discover and develop the next generation of antibiotics to help combat antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance means that a growing number of infections, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and food-borne illnesses, are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective.

More updates from the Province of Ontario.

Government of Canada Updates

Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on October 8, 2020

In lieu of an in-person update to the media, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, issued the following statement today.

Transport Canada Announces New Safety Measures Following Fatal 2017 Accident at CN’s Melville Yard in Saskatchewan

Today, the Minister of Transport, the Honourable Marc Garneau, announced new measures to improve rail safety in Canada following the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s (TSB) investigation into a 2017 fatal accident at Canadian National Railways’ (CN) Melville Yard in Saskatchewan.

Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence Issue Statement in Response to Statistics Canada’s Report on Canadian Military College Ctudents’ Experiences of Unwanted Sexualized and Discriminatory Behaviours and Sexual Assault 2019

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the Department of National Defence would like to thank Statistics Canada for releasing their report entitled Canadian military college students’ experiences of unwanted sexualized and discriminatory behaviours and sexual assault 2019.

Government of Canada Launches the Canadian Centre for Energy Information Website

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, today announced the launch by Statistics Canada of the Canadian Centre for Energy Information (CCEI)’s website, which will provide a modernized, independent, energy information system by giving Canadians access to timely data on the use of energy in order to inform our transition to a low-carbon energy future.

New Interest Relief Measure to Provide Much-Needed Help to Canada Student Loan Borrowers on Medical or Parental Leave

Supporting students and young Canadians is one of the most important investments a government can make to ensure a stronger economy and a better future. This has never been more important than now, at a time when Canada’s young people have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with summer jobs and internships cancelled or altered, and uncertainty around their studies.

More updates from the Government of Canada.

COVID-19 Information and Resources

Now is the time to stay informed through credible sources, and to follow the advice of our public health professionals. Together we can limit the spread of COVID-19.

Phone lines for telehealth, TPH and 311 continue to experience very high volumes. Please help keep the phones lines open for people who are sick by visiting the Toronto Public Health COVID-19 website for up-to-date information and resources:

Telehealth Ontario
Call if you develop symptoms!
Telephone: 1-866-797-0000

Toronto Public Health Hotline
8:30 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Call if you have questions about COVID-19.
Telephone: 416-338-7600
TTY: 416-392-0658
Email: [email protected]

311 Toronto
Outside City limits: 416-392-2489
Call if you have questions about City services, or to report people
Telephone: 311 (The City is only accepting 311 requests through phone)

Support for People Living with Homelessness

If you see someone living with homelessness and in need of support you can call Streets to Homes at 416-338-4766. For mental health support, the Gerstein Crisis Centre is a valuable 24-hours a day, seven days a week service in our community and they have crisis workers on standby at 416-929-5200. More resources, including additional how to report information, are available on my website at

Toronto Police

If you or someone else is confronted with life-threatening danger, please call 911 immediately. Alternatively, the Toronto Police request that online reports be submitted at or to You can also call their non-emergency line at 416-808-2222. 

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