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Plus, fond memories of Whitney Block, the missing issues behind park encampment clearings and housing becomes a luxury in Toronto in reader mail this week
Re An Open Letter To Canadians On Canada’s Residential School Shame (NOW, July 1-7). “Canada Day” must be reinvented. Perhaps something that conveys inclusivity could signal a new tone.
I remember looking at my Canada Day decal in 2017 that had the number “150” on it and thinking, “What about the thousands of years of Indigenous lives that preceded confederation?” The number “150” seemed so insignificant, (even considering colonialism went back a lot further). The Toronto sign at City Hall should be an example of how we should think of Canada. The sign has the Medicine Wheel on the left (first) and the maple leaf symbol on the right (second). We can never just think of the colonial period. “Canada Day” can never be the same again.
G. Walker – From NOWTORONTO.COM
Canada’s residential schools were run not only by the Roman Catholic Church but by other churches as well and most, if not all, were authorized by the Canadian government. This was systematic genocide to keep these brutal institutions going – in some cases, for more than a century. Surely, many people working at the schools and living nearby would have known about these deaths over decades. These crimes have been covered over, literally buried, to maintain Canada’s illusions of an innocent peaceable kingdom with no history of colonialism. It’s well past time to take the rosy blinders off and look at our real history. And then do whatever we can to help set things right. The author of this open letter has given us good medicine.
Steven Bush – From NOWTORONTO.COM
Canadians have benefitted from colonization and are, de facto, on the hook. We should be calling on the government in a united voice to make reparations – where they are needed.
Gail Vanstone – From NOWTORONTO.COM
Re Hidden Toronto: The Abandoned Whitney Block Tower (NOW Online, June 20)
My dad had the best office for years in the Whitney Block. He was a cartographer, and later supervising cartographer overseeing the maps produced for Ontario. He spoke of the tower having offices left as is when it was closed. We would often have lunch in the amazing cafeteria. I used to use the tunnel that went from the subway to the building. In the ’70s, the Whitney Block still had a bellhop. I later worked there two summers in my early 20s as a media researcher, working with Lloyd Walton, the filmmaker responsible for many of nature films that would play in provincial parks on Wednesday nights.
Brigitte Rabazo – From NOWTORONTO.COM
Re Toronto Uses Doublespeak To Remove Encampment Residents From Parks (NOW Online, June 28).
The protesters/occupiers/residents of Trinity Bellwoods Park and their various spokespeople are misrepresenting the issues here. This really isn’t about “affordable housing”. That is the problem for many Torontonians with low to modest income, looking to live and work in the city. Like many, I can’t afford to live in the prime real estate of the city, so I live in the suburbs. Others live outside the city. The park occupiers prefer to live on the street rather than accept shelter housing provided by the city. Sadly, that decision is because many have addiction or related issues. Those are the real social issues of concern.
John Harvard – From NOWTORONTO.COM
I have two friends who have been living in a three-bedroom apartment in downtown Toronto for the past decade. Their apartment has been a constant for me throughout our friendship. It has been a living room to laugh in, to cry in, and a place to rest. This past year, following a breakup, I moved into their third bedroom. However, I arrived just in time to experience the apartment’s last breaths of life as my friends both found themselves ready to leave the past decade behind. This May, they decided the time had come to give up their lease.
The landlord said that I could take over the lease if I wanted to stay but he would have to raise the rent “of course.” He would get back to me in a few days and let me know his price. In the meantime I could sit, wait and think. So sit, wait and think I did, while online window shopping. I filled up a cart at a home decor store with a thousand dollars worth of lavish items. I fantasized what my life would be like if this whole apartment was mine and I could decorate it as decadently as I pleased.
On May 19, I watched as a violent clearing of a housing encampment took place at Lamport Stadium Park. For many individuals living in Canada, encampments have become the safest and often only housing option available, increasingly so, during the pandemic. The clearing was carried out by mounted police and excavators on behalf of the City of Toronto. The following day I saw an article online that stated “Toronto is now less affordable for housing than both New York and Los Angeles.” I turned down the offer to keep the apartment; resentful of the increased cost, outdated appliances and unable to take on the financial burden of a three-bedroom apartment on my own.
Some people told me I would be crazy to give the apartment up. After all, a $400 increase on 10-year-old rent in Toronto is still pretty great, right? My $500 worth of wallpaper arrived in the mail in the days following my decision and I couldn’t help but wonder, why is finding housing in Toronto a game of luck? Why is finding a place to live comparable to finding a 99.9% off coupon online? A $60 tiger bath mat or $500 worth of floral wallpaper can be a luxury, but housing should not be.
Teagan Johnston – TORONTO