Year in review 2019: The best and worst in news in the year that was

A Toronto timeline on the major events and moments that touched and transformed the city

January jumps in

Reconciliation rewind 

While 2018 was all about reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples, that road got rockier right off the top in 2019 after the RCMP raided Unist’ot’en camps that have been blocking construction of several pipelines for years in northern BC. In Toronto, hundreds of supporters took to the streets to protest the RCMP’s actions.

Trumpian politics comes to Toronto

As the only Asian and openly gay politician on city council, Kristyn Wong-Tam has experienced her share of discrimination. She’s remained mostly silent about it. But she took to the pages of NOW in January to write about how she became the target of an online alt-right smear campaign during the municipal election. 

Carding flashback

An Ontario Human Rights Commission inquiry into anti-Black racism in the Toronto Police Services is met with denials by the TPS Board. After the tumult that followed carding, it’s a disappointing response.

Doug Ford declares war

Still glowing from an improbable majority election win, Doug Ford unleashes a slew of social service cuts, plans to remake Ontario Place and a plot to take over subway construction. It’s shaping up to be a long year.

#MeToo moves up

Thousands of young people brave freezing temps to take part in the third annual Women’s March On: Toronto. But in Ford’s Ontario the agenda has now broadened.

Hate goes on trial

A judge finally orders the halt in distribution of Beaches tabloid Your Ward News after its publisher and editor are found guilty of promoting hatred. It’s the first such conviction of its kind in Canada. But why it took three years – and why the paper continues to be allowed to publish online – remains a mystery. 

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Prince of Pot goes poof

Marc Emery goes from self-described Prince of Pot to frog prince after a string of sexual misconduct allegations made by former female employees goes public. A champion of the movement is no more.

A February to forget

Toronto abandons its homeless

A tent city of homeless people pops up under the Gardiner as a cold snap deepens Toronto’s shelter crisis. Mayor John Tory threatens to evict the squatters. 

Shock to the rental market

Toronto’s affordable housing trap gets worse with the average market rent for a one-bedroom apartment hitting $2,260 a month.

Crystal meth explodes onto the queer scene

The growing number of queer people experimenting with crystal meth during sex prompts questions in the community about the need for a public health response. But not everyone agrees

Democracy disrupted

Maria Ressa, one of four journalists named TIME Magazine’s 2018 Person of the Year, warns at the Democracy XChange conference in Toronto that Canada’s upcoming federal election will not be immune from right-wing propaganda attacks on social media. The prediction proves prescient.

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Adam Scotti (PMO)

March sadness

L’affaire SNC-Lavalin goes from scandal to spectacle 

The political drama surrounding Jody-Wilson Raybould’s allegations of political interference on the part of the Prime Minister’s office in a corruption case involving Montreal-based engineering giant SNC-Lavalin twists into conspiracy theories as questions abound about the mainstream media’s one-sided coverage of the controversy. 

Animal jam

A discussion paper on proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act warns that rolling back protections will wreak havoc on Ontario’s wildlife. 

Pot pardons go bust

The Liberals introduce Bill C-93 to rectify the injustices of pot prohibition, but critics say the legislation doesn’t do enough to implement full pardons for pot offences. They’re right.



Playing politics with terror

Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer’s shameful Twitter response to the Christchurch massacre lays bare the depths of Canada’s Islamophobia. 

Jagmeet Singh marks a first

The weight of great expectations falls heavily on NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s shoulders as he’s officially sworn in as the MP for Burnaby South to become the first racialized leader of a federal party elected to parliament. 

McArthur murders stir police mayhem

Amid growing political pressure, the Toronto Police Services Board announces a probe into the police department’s mishandling of the investigation into the Bruce McArthur murders. But critics say the mandate given to Justice Gloria Epstein doesn’t go far enough.

Erie, CO protesters

Ted Wood

Frack this

The Canada Pension Plan Investment Board adds to its list of questionable investments on behalf of Canadian taxpayers with the purchase of a company with a major stake in Colorado’s fracking operations.  

A rare feminist find

The University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library adds to its collection of unusual finds after it acquires a rare book by medieval writer Christine de Pizan, who is considered to be the first feminist of her time.

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Paul Salvatori

April anger

Poverty pushes back against privilege

Anger, contempt and middle fingers from protestors greet diners at the Dinner With A View pop-up under the Gardiner. In what’s possibly the worst marketing idea in recent memory, the event takes place a stone’s throw from where homeless people – pushed out of the city’s crowded shelter system – were forced to put up camp just weeks earlier.

Ford channels Mike Harris

Thousands cover the south lawn at Queen’s Park to protest the Ford government’s sweeping cuts to education, including thousands of teaching positions over the next decade. Move over, Mike Harris. 

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Faith no more

Facebook fesses up to online hate (sort of) and bans a handful of well-known far-right groups and figures from its platform – among them, Faith Goldy, the Canadian Nationalist Front, Aryan Strikeforce, Wolves of Odin and Soldiers of Odin. But there’s still a long way to go.

Jason Kenney’s election win ignites Western separatists

Former Stephen Harper acolyte Jason Kenney takes over as premier of Alberta in an election marred by accusations of racism and homophobia among several United Conservative Party candidates. But somehow Kenney manages to convince Albertans that the province’s economic troubles are somebody else’s fault. We’re seeing the results of that with growing talk of Western separation.

Musician’s death shines a light on mental health

Toronto musician Justin Haynes’s account in NOW of his time at Seaton House – and his unexpected death a few weeks later – shines a light on homelessness and mental health issues affecting the working poor in the city.

May day

Portlands power play 

Sidewalk Labs’ “smart city” proposal in the Port Lands all of a sudden gets bigger and so do privacy and health fears over the use of G5 technology – not to mention the threat posed to public transit by the plan’s proposal for autonomous vehicles. 

Changing the  narrative

The first mosque for women in Canada opens in Toronto.

Danforth shooting victims call for a handgun ban 

While other countries have tightened access to high-powered assault weapons, policy markers in Canada have been slower on the trigger. 

Toronto suffers another cut from gentrification 

Jim Addison’s temple of antique treasures on Wabash in Roncesvalles closes for good.

Ford cuts unleash chaos

Doug Ford’s plan to dismantle the social welfare state in Ontario hits a speed bump as key staffers – including Ford’s director of policy Mitchell Davidson, and director of strategic communications David Tarrant – begin to jump ship amid the public backlash over cuts.

Climate crisis – again

The UN warns of a biodiversity calamity, the scale of which threatens the food we eat, the water we drink and medicines we rely on.

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Tracy Curley.

June swoon 

Tracy Curley, 1973-2019

The death of badass activist Tracy Curley leaves a gaping hole in the medical marijuana movement.

Scary precarity

The burgeoning app-based food delivery service industry creates a whole new underclass of precarious workers in Toronto. And for Big Labour, the stakes are high.

Raptors rapture

The Toronto Raptors shock the world by winning their first NBA championship. We the North!

Climate change’s new normal

A freakishly wet spring pushes Lake Ontario water levels above those that closed the Toronto Islands in 2017. Welcome to the new normal in climate change.

Hate goes on trial, part 2

A landmark $2.5-million libel judgment against anti-Muslim agitator Kevin Johnson marks another victory for anti-racism forces and puts the focus on social media platforms that continue to allow online hate.

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Samuel Engelking

Genocide admission

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls releases its long-awaited findings and concludes what most Canadians already knew – that Canada continues to engage in “race-based genocide” against the country’s original inhabitants. The only question left is: what’s Canada going to do about it?

July flies by

Andrew Scheer’s bad signal

Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer’s views on same-sex marriage come under scrutiny (again) after he declines to attend Pride celebrations for the third year in a row. With a federal election around the corner, it’s a bad sign for Scheer of things to come.

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Another deadly year for cyclists and pedestrians 

The carnage in Toronto’s streets prompts public outrage, but the city’s administration seems oblivious. It turns out police can’t be bothered to enforce the rules. 

Doug Ford high tails it out of town

Amid a patronage scandal involving his chief of staff, Dean French, Ford shuts down the legislature for five months and heads out west to start his summer getaway at the Calgary Stampede. For the people?

NDP uproar

Charges of discrimination mar the Parkdale-High Park NDP nomination battle when former mayoral candidate Saron Gebresellassi loses to Paul Taylor after Gebressellassi supporters are excluded from the vote. 


Samuel Engelking

CAFE’s Bloor location was one of four in the illegal pot shop chain barricaded by concrete barriers last week.

Legalization of the absurd

Canada’s first summer of legalization becomes a comedy of errors as the city attempts to shut down grey-market dispensaries by placing concrete barricades in front of stores. It doesn’t work.

August in like a lion

A question of conflict

The hiring of Mayor John Tory’s former principal secretary, Vic Gupta, to CreateTO (the city’s development arm) focuses attention on the agency’s deep development ties. Can you say conflict of interest?

Emancipation desecration

In the face of ongoing anti-Black racism, the city’s Emancipation Month celebrations divides Toronto’s Black communities. 

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Low-waste movement rises

Toronto’s plastics addiction dominates headlines after the PM announces plans to ban single-use plastics nationwide. But it’s a complicated political jumble underneath the mountains of trash that will take consumer action to stem the tide.

Parliament Hill’s buried secret unearthed

A major renovation of the Parliament Hill buildings unearths new archaeological questions about Indigenous remains on the site after a 2015 study uncovered “a few pieces of pre-contact Aboriginal pottery” on the grounds.


Peter Biesterfeld

Foodora workers fight back

A months-long battle to unionize Foodora workers comes to a head. The results are still under seal as Foodsters United and the company thrash out other complaints at the Ontario Labour Relations Board.

Cyclists pay the price

The sad state of Toronto’s bike network comes into full view as developers mess with bike lanes during a busy construction season – and cyclists bear the brunt with an increase in scrapes with cars.

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Adam Scotti (PMO)

Remember September

Racism wake-up call

The most consequential federal election since the last one becomes embroiled in Brownface/Blackface controversy – a wake-up call for Canada that puts anti-Black racism at the top of the election agenda. But why it took an American news outlet to break the story remains an enduring question. 

More signs of a climate crisis

Thousands of young people take part in the Global Climate Strike in Toronto carrying deadly serious signs about the need for action on global warming. While previous generations had nuclear war to fear, today’s youth suffer anxiety about whether there’s even going to be a planet left when they grow older.

Mining for trouble

Canadian mining’s bad reputation abroad takes another hit after the Federal Court of Canada decides not to order the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner to investigate the Canadian Embassy over its handling of local opposition to a barite mine in Mexico. Operation of the mine owned by Calgary-based Blackfire Exploration was linked to the murder of Mariano Abarca in 2009. 

Trash talking mental health

Mental health issues come to the fore when Doug Ford goes on another tirade – this time describing mental health patients as “nutcases” and “animals” after a CAMH patient went out on a day pass and failed to return. The premier’s trash talk amounts to hate talk. But there’s barely a peep from mental health experts. 

October surprise

Liberals propose a handgun ban

A rash of shootings thrusts the issue of gun violence into the federal election spotlight and leads to growing calls for a handgun ban in Toronto. The Liberals propose a ban. But it’s the same old story without the funds to support the neighbourhoods where gun violence takes place. 

Election 2019 goes down to the wire

Canada’s unforgettable election ends with another twist and the Liberals returning a sizable minority government, despite the weight of l’affaire SNC-Lavalin and the Brownface/Blackface controversy. Some pundits call the result lucky. Some call it a rejection of American-style populism. It remains to be seen. 

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Gelek Badheytsang

Trans activists take on Meghan Murphy

Hundreds of protestors gather at the Toronto Public Library’s Palmerston branch after TPL’s decision to give a platform to the transphobic views of Vancouver-based blogger Meghan Murphy. 

November rain

The case of Jeffrey Epstein lands in Toronto

TD Bank has never had the best rep when it comes to its financial dealing. Its investment in the Dakota pipeline springs to mind. Then there’s Jeffrey Epstein. The case of the convicted sex offender lands in Toronto when it’s revealed that TD Bank had taken over the American financier’s accounts after he was dumped by Deutsche Bank.

Nuclear future in the west end

Community attempts to shut down BWXT’s uranium processing plant at the centre of air-quality concerns in the city’s west end takes a hit when the company applies for a 10-year licence renewal. The plant’s days, however, may still be numbered. There are rumblings that the firm may sell the property to developers and shift production to Peterborough. 

Broadview Hotel workers vote to unionize 

It’s another sign of change in the gentrifying Riverside neighbourhood. 

A win for Toronto renters

A provincial tribunal finally approves regulations on short-term Airbnb rentals passed by city council two years ago. But it’s unclear when the new rules will come into effect. 

Google disses Scarborough

City council demands an apology from Google after the search engine uses a shot of a house felled in a construction accident on its Scarborough information page. The controversy challenges our own biases toward the oft-maligned suburb.

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Done like December

Andrew Scheer exits stage right

After weeks of questions about his leadership, Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer calls it quits. He has no one to blame but himself. It’s a deeply divided party he leaves, fractured along regional lines with its base in the west and not much anywhere else. A number of pundits have offered that Scheer’s resignation, after barely two years at the helm, will change the course of the party, which has tacked decidedly right over the last decade. That may be wishful thinking. 

The changing shape of water 

The Ford government extends a moratorium passed by the Liberals on water-bottling operations in the province. But it looks like a stall tactic as the Ford government also moves to weaken environmental protections for water in Bill 32. Either way the issue is shaping up to be a silent killer for the PCs in climate-conscious Ontario.

Housing emergency

The death of a homeless man known only as Richard – the eighth in a few short weeks – renews calls for the city to declare an emergency on homelessness. We’re still waiting. 


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