WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, September 11

 A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

Ask Your Candidate: Youth

By: Lauren Simmons, with files from Ali Chatur

Electoral candidates often talk about making Toronto better for the “citizens of tomorrow”, but concrete action from City Council on issues that impact youth in Toronto can be hard to come by. While youth under 18 aren’t able to vote, those who we elect on their behalf will make many decisions that affect them. Here are few ways you can glean just how supportive of youth your potential City Councillors are. One on One 1. What do your candidates plan to do about youth homelessness? Recent evidence suggests that more and more young people in Toronto are using the city’s homeless shelters. This trend, coupled with the increase in need for youth-oriented mental health services and more support for LGBTQ youth in shelters in Toronto, presents a problem on which City Council can no longer remain inactive. Ask your candidates what they plan to do increase affordable housing and transition support for youth in Toronto, especially those with mental health concerns and those who are members of the LGBTQ community.

2. What are your candidates’ strategies for supporting youth who are immigrants or who belong to racialized groups? Data from the Ontario Trillium Foundation suggests that more than one-third of youth in Toronto are immigrants and more than half of youth are members of a racialized group. These young people are often underserved by the current settlement supports for newcomers, which are themselves underfunded and difficult to navigate. While we regularly see media coverage about youth violence (sometimes with racist undertones), we hear less about the degree of support City Council offers for youth activities and programs in racialized communities. Do your candidates have any specific ideas for supporting newcomer and/or racialized youth in your Ward? If so, how do they plan to fund and implement them?

3. What are your candidates’ views of lowering transit fares? Many young people travel on public transit to school and work. The young people we spoke to clearly emphasized the need for Council to work to keep fares low so that youth, many of whom are only able to find precarious or part-time employment, can afford to travel in Toronto. What do you the potential candidates in your ward think about the idea of low transit fares? Are they interested in lowering fares, keeping the status quo, or raising them to pay for improvements? If they propose to keep fares as they are or lower them, how do they intend to pay for services in the future?

4. What are your candidates’ views on the Youth Equity Strategy? Earlier this year, as a result of a motion from Councillor Josh Matlow, Council received the Youth Equity Strategy, which included 28 concrete suggestions to improve life for youth and to reduce violence amongst young people in Toronto. Among the suggestions are the creation of a “youth equity champion” position, to be appointed from within Council, and the creation of a city-wide committee to combat the problem, which would include members from all the other committees of council. The initiatives proposed by the Youth Equity Strategy do amount to additional budget expenditures, but they’re ones that youth in Toronto are clamouring for. Do your council candidates support the Youth Equity Strategy? Are the dedicated to working at Council to advocate on behalf of youth to see it through?

Council candidates should be voices for all Toronto’s marginalized citizens, but arguably no one needs to have Council on their side more than our youth. Ask the right questions to find out if your prospective Councillors are indeed onside.

Ask Your Candidate: LGBTQ Community

By: Lauryn Kronick

It’s hard to miss the rainbows that have recently taken over many parts of Toronto. With World Pride coming to Toronto at the end of June, this is a good time to engage your candidates in conversation about what they think the issues facing the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, transgender and queer) communities are and how they can keep supporting them once Pride is over. Pride is a time of year when more attention is paid to human rights issues that affect the queer and trans communities, often at a national and global level. But these diverse communities face ongoing pressing issues that demand more support from city councillors who can be the ones to help drive change.

Jarek Piórkowski, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en

How does your ward candidate support and participate in Pride?

Over the past few years, Pride Toronto has made headlines on a number of occasions: when Rob Ford ditched the festivities and headed to his cottage, when the participation of Queers Against Israeli Apartheid was up for debate and when TDSB Trustee Sam Sotiropoulos announced that he wanted nude people at Pride arrested. But, for an incumbent city councillor or a municipal candidate, Pride is an important time to get out and meet members of the city’s diverse LGBTQ community and show their support in many ways, one of them by participating in the Trans* March, the Dyke March and/or the Pride Parade. Support from the City is essential for Pride Toronto to offer its full ranges of programmes. (Pride Toronto currently receives city funding as a Major Cultural Organization). Ask your ward candidate if they have ever marched in one of the Pride marches or in the Pride Parade. If not, would they consider doing so? You can gauge support by suggesting your ward candidate hold a Pride celebration in their ward and seeing if this is something of interest to them.

LGBTQ homeless youth and seniors are two communities who remain under-serviced in the city. What are your plans to further advance work being done with these communities?

When LGBTQ youth who access shelters in Toronto continue to experience discrimination because of their sexual and/or gender expression, identity and orientation, it is evident that there is need for a safe(r) space. Last December, Ward 27 Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam brought forward a motion to develop a working group to discuss the opportunity for a queer and trans youth shelter, which was adopted by City Council’s Community Development and Recreation Committee. The goal for this shelter is to be created and operating within a 12-month time period. When this working group moves forward with its plans and recommendations, the more support from City Council, the better chance this shelter has in its development.

Toronto’s aging LGBTQ population does have care and housing resources available to them, but there have been reports of trans* seniors experiencing abuse in their residences. This absolutely needs to be addressed; if queer and trans seniors are facing abusive situations in their homes, ask your ward candidate how they plan on addressing this and if they would allocate resources to train senior centre workers on how to better educate their residents on building a more inclusive environment.

Toronto is a self-declared “sanctuary city” for undocumented migrants, whose numbers include LGBTQ members who have arrived in Canada to seek asylum or fled dangerous situations in their home countries. How will your ward candidate ensure that LGBTQ newcomers are included in the process of gaining access to city resources and obtaining documentation?

The city has recently made headway in moving forward with its “sanctuary city” status, which gives basic rights to people without full immigration status. Toronto is a major hub for new immigrants with approximately 78,000 settling in the GTA each year, many of whom identify as queer and trans individuals. These individuals may have left their homes because of homophobic and transphobic laws that endanger their lives. While there are programs for LGBTQ newcomers offered through the city, dealing with the trauma of having left everything behind due to discrimination based on one’s gender and sexuality, coupled with the newness of a city, makes a challenge all the more overwhelming. There may be fear of continued discrimination within a new community and unfamiliarity to access resources and programs on top of the other challenges and struggles that new immigrants face, especially those without documents and status. With the sanctuary city motion moving forward, it’s important to remember that LGBTQ newcomers are a vulnerable population within an already vulnerable community.