Dear CityPlace Residents,
Happy Holidays’ wishes from myself and all the members of our Board: Shwan Dizai, Keith Graham, Gus Kastanis, Darren Pereira, Hazel Rivera, and Nicole Sparks-Barnes. We sincerely hope that you and yours are safe, healthy and happy this holiday season—such as it is—in spite of COVID restrictions.
The City Place Residents’ Association, as you may already know, was incorporated in June 2013, as a volunteer, non-profit corporation. Whose aim is to create and maintain a stronger voice for our community in relevant city affairs. Our Board of Directors was elected and inaugurated on November 24th 2019, and our first meeting was held on January 8th 2020. It is in keeping with this aim that I’d like to report on our activities currently, this past year, as well as our plans moving forward.
Before getting in to our review of the past, I feel proud and compelled to tell you this important news right up front: After some discussion, we as a board of directors, resolved to pursue an active role in shaping local debates and follow-through actions that, we hope, may help to influence socially constructive policy decisions. Specifically, we have been granted leave to intervene in the Supreme Court of Canada (Case File No: 38921) City of Toronto — v. — Attorney General.
Our intervention supports the City’s position in challenging Bill 5 as unconstitutional, on grounds that it violates our “Charter right to freedom of expression,” as well as the constitutional principle of democracy. Our purpose for intervening in the Supreme Court case is to give residents of the CPRA and—by extension—the people of the City of Toronto more broadly, a stronger voice in this litigation against the Attorney General of Ontario. FOR FURTHER DETAILS AND UPDATES PLEASE READ BELOW.
Here’s what we’ve been up-to since we started…
The day after our first Board of Directors Meeting on January 8th 2020, CPRA Director Darren Pereira and I met with the City’s StreetARToronto Project Managers, Carolyn Taylor and Catherine Campbell (and several StreetART artists), to discuss the grant application process for 2021. The StART Partnership Program’s objectives are to enhance Toronto’s streets and public places, showcase local artists, engage and vitalize local communities through physical enhancements, and mentor youth and emerging talent.
During subsequent weeks we met with Bushra Mir, Councillor Cressy’s Advisor; and with The Bentway’s Co-executive Director David Carey; as well as MPP Legislative Assistant to Chris Glover, Pranav Bakaraju, and others.
On February 11th , CPRA Board Member Darren Pereira and I were invited to attend Professor Rafael Gomez’s senior class on “Working as an Internal Consultant” in the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources at the University of Toronto. Based on more than a month’s worth of research on distinct challenges we presented them with in January, two teams of urban planning consultants advised us on ways to approach fire safety and overall “harm reduction” in CityPlace, which we published.
Within the first weeks following the tragic, fatal January 31st shootings at 85 Queens Wharf in CityPlace, some of the residents we spoke with were still reeling with shock. Darren Pereira and I met with residents who live on the same floor as where the violence occurred. We published an account of these events, and the repercussions for safety and social healing on our CPRA website.
On Monday evening February 24th, I was invited to take part as a Guest Lecturer in the Rotman School of Management’s CityLab Guest Lecture Series, alongside then-Cardus Thinktank’s Social Cities’ Senior Fellow, Dr. Milton Friesen. Also present for the Q & A segment afterwards were Varun Chandak, President, Access to Success Organization, and Neel Joshi, Director of Student Life and International Experience with the Rotman CityLab Fellowship.
The Rotman CityLab Fellowship is made up of elite University of Toronto graduate students from three distinct—yet interlocking— programs: Urban Development specialists, Rotman MBAs, and students from the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources. The program matches talented teams of young, professional consultants with local Toronto Business Improvement Associations, and non-profit groups that organize property owners by neighbourhood.
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic threw a spanner into our plans as a new CPRA Board of Directors. In early March 2020, I made a written announcement to our residents and CityPlace condominium corporations—expressing the CPRA’s commitment to abide by Toronto Public Health guidelines regarding the novel coronavirus. I further relayed the Government of Ontario’s announcement that all publicly funded schools in the province were to be closed following the March break.
Besides forestalling community activities we had already begun planning, the lockdowns and other restrictions interfered with reaching out to our political representatives. For example, it was only this fall that we’ve had an opportunity to sit down with Catholic School Board Trustee Norman di Pasquale. This meeting was also only the second time in over half-a-year since we finally met with David Carey and Chasya Dove (The Bentway) again.
Milton Friesen recently joined CitiIQ, as their new General Manager. CitiIQ specializes in Big Data city measurement, analysis, and business intelligence. Employing evidence-based methodology, CitiIQ diagnostic tools inform urban planners, communities, and towns on how to reach their full potential. < http://www.citiiq.com >
I hope my ongoing conversations with Dr. Friesen might eventually lead to creating “charter city” status for Toronto. Thereby giving municipalities greater jurisdiction over their own affairs, which are now remotely controlled by the province. Such a proposal might include controlling ward boundaries, the size of city council, land use planning, housing, transit, and so forth.
In the meantime, we will maintain traditional volunteer activities, like the annual Christmas Toy Drive for Kids and Community Clean Up, of course. Unfortunately COVID-19 interfered with this year’s plans for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. Here’s last year’s memories:
Using his emergency powers, on April 2nd 2020 Toronto Mayor John Tory signed a new bylaw that required social distancing in city parks and public squares, at least into the first weeks of May. The CPRA Board publicly supported the mayor’s request that Ontario’s Chief Justice allow issuing $750 tickets on the spot, and fines up to $5,000 for those who continue to flaunt the law. Tory added that the City will focus on areas such as CityPlace—where there was evidence of “wilful and repeated disobedience.”
The pandemic hit homeless shelters especially hard.
On Tuesday, June 23rd 2020, City staff announced that their ongoing measures had, since April, successfully relocated 550 people to 43 encampments in interim housing. Mayor John Tory said he expected costs for rehousing the city’s homeless during the pandemic was expected to reach $185.2-million by year’s end.
When I recently spoke on the phone with MPP Chris Glover, he said he considered homelessness to be one of the most pressing problems in our community. As the cold throat of winter months are now falling upon us, growing numbers of poor, homeless individuals have few food and shelter options available. Either they go into a potentially unsafe shelter, camp out inside a tent in the park, or huddle up under the expressways. Ontario Premier Doug Ford has said that vulnerable people should choose the shelter, because “you just can’t camp in a [city] park.”
The pandemic had created a lot of homeless encampments all over the city, including our neighborhood here in Ward 10, Spadina-Fort York. In August, Darren Pereira and I conducted another on-camera interview—with an accompanying article—with two local “homeless residents” we got to know over a period of several weeks.
Ralph and Ken were temporarily living in a tent pitched in Canoe Landing Park. These gentlemen were going through a rough time between shelters and provided us with their rather poignant perspective of our community.
In late September, my dog Kobe and I took a growing interest in the ninety-metre-long mural—eventually titled “Visual Land Acknowledgment”—being painted on the south wall of the CityPlace Canoe Landing Campus’ South Building. Since then, Darren Pereira and I have gotten to know the artist, Anishinaabe native Que Rock, and members of his team. We have plans to continue working with Que and his crew—as well as with other affiliates of the StreetARToronto (StART) Partnership Program—on further, evoking projects of substance.
Que Rock is internationally known as a musician, but is also acknowledged for his street art painting and work in other art forms. In our interview, the painter discusses his artistic origins, Anishinaabe cultural influences, the meaning of leadership, and the meaning of his mural’s emblems. He graciously took us on a tour of the project’s landscape from one end to the other.
Here’s what we’re currently engaged with…
As mentioned in my opening on page one, the CityPlace Residents’ Association have been granted leave to intervene in the Supreme Court of Canada (Case File No: 38921) City of Toronto — v. — Attorney General. Challenging Bill 5 as unconstitutional on grounds that it violates our “Charter right to freedom of expression,” as well as the constitutional principle of democracy.
Our purpose for intervening is to give residents of the CPRA and—by extension—the people of the City of Toronto more broadly, a stronger voice in the litigation against the Attorney General of Ontario.
One reason we came to the conclusion that the Province’s Bill 5 overreaches into Municipal representation, was by reducing the number of city councillors from 47 to 25 in the middle of the 2018 election. Furthermore, the projected 2026 populations for Spadina-Fort York and Toronto Centre wards are 30 to 45 percent higher than the ward average for the city as a whole. Thus, there will also be a serious voter parity issue, disproportionately benefiting Toronto’s lower population suburban areas, vis-à-vis high growth populations areas like ours. These imbalances will only be exasperated over time.
The first hearing before the Supreme Court has been scheduled for March 16, 2021. Selwyn Pieters’ Law Office will be our council, and Marie-France Major, Supreme Advocacy LLP, will act as our agent in Ottawa. The City does not oppose “leave to intervene” being granted to the CPRA. However, they will be granted leave to serve and file a single factum in reply to all interventions, including ours.
Although the Province of Ontario opposes interventions by former Toronto mayors, the Province “takes no position” on our CityPlace Residents’ Association’s motion. Our leave to intervene was accepted alongside those motions of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Constitution Foundation, Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights, and the Canadian Federation of Municipalities.
However, none of these plans and activities are short-term projects we can reasonably expect to come to fruition over the next 12-15 months. Therefore, given the unanticipated consequences due to the pandemic, and the necessary, long-term nature of these voluntary endeavours, (CPRA Operating BY-LAWS #7 & #14), the Board has amended the term of office for Directors to be three years; also cancelling this year’s AGM on account of the current COVID-19 lockdown.
In our view, it would be irresponsible governance for us to initiate and/or support the enterprise of others, and then leave the field of battle before those campaigns are adequately launched and pursued to completion. Rome and Peraeus weren’t built in a day, and neither will CityPlace be back on course until after the pandemic has been brought under control.
Here is—so far—what we plan to do moving forward in 2021…
First of all, we want to stay in close contact with representatives like MPP Chris Glover, Councillor Joe Cressy, and MP Adam Vaughan.
MPP for Spadina-Fort York, Chris Glover was our Special Guest at the December CPRA Meeting (Dec. 10, ’20). In addition to providing provincial updates and sharing news about what he’s working on in our riding, the Honorable Member also shared his views on inner-city green space enhancements, and Public Work’s plans for public in our City.
We are also pleased to announce that the CityPlace Residents’ Association is registered with Park People. A consortium for supporting communities like ours in cities all across Canada to activate the power of parks.
We also have plans to work with the School Boards and The Bentway—who have taken offices in the west wing of the Canoe Campus Building—with a view to providing a series of free sign-up workshops for residents of all ages on a variety of interests. Including, but not limited to: Creative Writing, How Writing for College and University is Different from Writing for High School, the Art and Science of Persuasion, Employment Interviewing, and Lessons in Leadership from the Last Place on Earth.
Lastly, in order to complete our community membership profile, Park People require we tell them more about our community. For this we must solicit your help and contribution.
Please tell us about what you would like to see our board engage in this regard. For example, let us know: What parks do you play and work in? What you like, what’s missing? Please let us know your top 10 priorities. Please see lists below.
Arts & Culture
• pumpkin parades theatre
• visual arts
• crafts/folk art
• heritage conservation/education COVID
• Indigenous Culture
• Jane’s Walks
• movie nights
• mural(s) FOOD
• community garden
• community meals
• community oven
• farmer’s market
• food festivals
• food forest/orchard
• adopt-a-tree program
• citizen science project(s)
• environmental education
• environmental restoration
• invasive species removal
• native/pollinator gardens
• nature walks
• trail building/stewardship
• tree inventory
• tree planting
• waterkeepers (river/stream)
• adventure/nature playground
• community ice rink
• community skate park
• Dog activities
• mountain biking/BMX
• table tennis (ping pong)
• tai chi