Friday, July 31, 2020

The City’s Forced Removal of Homeless Encampments

As of Monday July 28th, 2020, the city of Toronto has entered stage 2 of phase 3 of the Covid-19 pandemic recovery. Despite the ease of restrictions, encampments continue to be a concern. 

Encampments are outdoor tent dwellings and makeshift shelters that are present in various parks and green spaces across the city, including in and around the Regent Park and Moss Park area. Many of the inhabitants are homeless. 

Acknowledging the lack of shelters to safely house the homeless during the Covid-19 pandemic, in an effort to prevent and deter encampments, the City of Toronto has acquired hotels and buildings, in order to provide temporal housing to encamping individuals.

As claimed on the city of Toronto’s website (Toronto, July 14th, 2020):

“Clearing encampments is a multidisciplinary effort with staff from Parks, Forestry & Recreation, Transportation Services, Solid Waste Management Services, and Shelter, Support & Housing Administration, and where appropriate, there is support from the Toronto Police Service to ensure the safety of all.”

Furthermore, the city claims that:

“As of today [July 14th, 2020] over 300 individuals have been moved from encampments to appropriate indoor spaces, including shelter, respite, hotels and interim housing.  Subsequent to the individuals being moved, the encampments are cleared of waste and debris. Our priority is getting people safely inside.”

Many argue however, that the reality on the streets is quite different and the City, with enforcement by police services, has been clearing encampments prior to individual(s) being moved to safe housing.

Sanctuary Toronto is a church that serves marginalized people in Toronto’s downtown core. Sanctuary operates out of 25 Charles Street (in the Bloor and Church area). Greg Cook, a staff member of Sanctuary expressed his concerns with removal of the encampments and challenged the City’s motivations behind removing them. 

According to Greg, people live in encampments because they feel safer then living in the City’s crowded shelter system. Furthermore, the inhabitants of encampments far exceed the City’s capacity to provide safe homeless shelters or temporary hotels. If this is the case, why are they removing the encampments?

According to Greg, the clearing of these encampments has less to do with the safety of the inhabitants and more to do with the implementation of the Broken Window Theory. 
“The broken windows theory,” says Greg, “is a criminological theory that states that visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes. The theory suggests that policing methods that target minor crimes such as vandalism, loitering, public drinking, jaywalking and fare evasion help to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes”.

The theory was introduced in a 1982 article by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. It was further popularized in the 1990s by New York City police commissioner William Bratton and Mayor Rudy Giuliani, whose policing policies were influenced by the theory.” (Wikipedia, July 14th, 2020)

Cook argues that the Broken Windows theory is really what is behind the removal of the encampments.

Backing up his claim, Greg states that, “Within the homeless shelter system, over 600 people have tested positive for Covid- 19.” Greg compares this with testing of encampments where there has been almost no outbreak of Covid that he has been aware of. Although the city does not do widespread testing among encampments, covid-19 testing of encampments at Moss Park and at the Sanctuary are evidence that encampments are far safer to live in then City is willing to admit. 

Sanctuary, Greg informs us, is one of many advocate groups that are currently pursuing ligation against the City over safety in the homeless shelter system.

To hear more about the removal of Encampments from Greg Cook please see this video.


By Ruichen Geng

(Ruichen Geng is a volunteer journalist with the FOCUS Media Arts Centre)

The impact of Covid-19 on Supreme Cut Barbershop

Supreme cut is a barbershop located in the Regent Park area on 432 Dundas Street east, near parliament and Dundas. Their area of focus is hair cutting, lineups, shape ups & men’s care. The shop is owned by black business owner Flory Wembolwa.

Flory Wembolwa was forced to close his shop after Premiere Doug Ford announcement on Tuesday March 23, 2020, that all non-essential store and services would be ordered to close as of Tuesday March 24th, to slow down the spread of Covid-19. 

Flory took the time off that he had to plan ahead until the shop opened up again. He learned at an incredibly young age to always prepare and save for “rainy days.” Flory tell us that it is part of the Congolese culture to always have something aside like an emergency insurance. As a result of this attitude, Flory has no sympathy for businesses that had to close down due to the COVID 19 closure.  In Flory’ words, “if you don’t have enough money to pay three months rent, you shouldn’t be in business.”
When Flory received the news that non-essential businesses including barbershops were finally able to reopen, Flory was ready to get back to work. He took all the safety precautions he needed to take to ensure that his shop was clean and safe. Not only for clients but also for employees. He made sure to enforce social distancing between barbers. Supreme is already an appointment-based shop. 

He also questioned why his business was not considered a non-essential business because people need these services. Maintaining a decent hair cut is important in your work and how you present yourself. “Would you leave your house to go to work without clean and decent clothes?  Why would you do so without a well maintain hair cut?” argues Flory.  He also added, “we do more than what you think,” and argues there should be a union for barbers. When a pandemic like this happens there is no one to advocate for our needs and there is nothing for us.”

Flory has also reduced his own hours to take care of himself and works by appointment so as not to stay in the shop for too many hours at a time.

To watch the interview with Supreme Cuts barber shop, click here.

By Gaelle Kosi
(Gaelle Kosi is a summer journalist with the Focus Media Arts Centre).

Thursday, July 30, 2020

To Work or Not to Work? The Question of Youth Summer Employment in a Pandemic

Regent Park is home to approximately 12,000 people. According to Statistic Canada’s 2016 Census of Population, youth between the ages of 15 to 24 years account for 17% of Regent Park’s population (compared to a Toronto-wide average of 12%). Unfortunately, many of these youth will not have a job this summer due to Covid-19 pandemic. Furthermore, those that do need to ask themselves whether they are putting themselves at risk for Covid-19.

The summer job is considered a rite of passage for youth. It is a symbol of independence, and marks the transition from childhood to adulthood. As the province slowly reopens, and businesses start to accommodate requests for social spaces, more and more employment opportunities reappear within our communities. However, those burdened with health are hesitant to take on this responsibility. Even with the warm weather and larger gatherings being permitted, COVID-19 remains a threat. However, in a time where costs for education and housing remain at an all time high, students are becoming forced to choose between financial stability and their wellbeing. Still, why should they have to sacrifice one in order to obtain the other?

Even with the constant demand for summer employment, many businesses still remain “understaffed”. As it limits traffic within stores, it is deemed responsible. However, this approach forces individual employees to bear the workload meant for a whole team. Many employees are always on their feet, routinely cleaning surfaces and common touch points. This creates constant stress, which is only worsened when customers are introduced. Youth employees report retail customers acting callous when it comes to safety protocols. An example of this is disregarding the request to have a mask on at all times, and arguing when the request is enforced. Though this may just be an additional frustration, when anxieties are heightened, customer confrontations can escalate into violence. Physical altercations are not uncommon. Essential Worker Brianne Harvie recounts the time that two customers started a fistfight due to one not following traffic lines as marked on the floor. In times like these, youth workers are left wondering if they had been tasked with more than what they had bargained for, with Harvie stating “I don’t get paid enough to babysit you”.

Outside of work, there are still sources of stress for students. Though many have gone back to living with their parents, many are still living independently. The worry of affording rent, groceries, and transport expenses pressures students to overlook the health risks that come with employment. There have also been questions as to why the CESB provides $750 less funding than the CERB, even though many of those utilizing the service share similar expenses.

Many also anticipate the financial strain of the upcoming school year. Tuition has largely remained around the same price, with some institutions even raising tuition for local and/or international students. Additional expenses such as textbooks, as well as a tech upgrade for the virtual workload are also on the list. With the promise of further educational and financial support uncertain, many students report feeling betrayed by their post secondary institutions. However, Regent Park students from low income households are hit the hardest. Should savings run dry, they are unable to rely on family for support. In these times, more and more students consider deferring an extra year. They can avoid a year’s worth of expenses, while raising money on the side. However, should this pandemic drag on, and next fall’s expenses are still a necessity year after year, how long will students have to delay their education due to financial obstacles?

Today, students call for transparency from their post secondary institutions. Why pay the same amount of money when they are no longer receiving the same education and experiences from past years? They are also asking for additional financial support, whether that be through new bursaries and scholarships, or a means to loan equipment and textbooks at a cheaper rate. These same students also ask for patience in the workplace - whether that be from their employers or from their customers. The uncertainties they carry are already heavy. However, acts of compassion, such as simply wearing a mask, greatly alleviates many of the day to day stresses that these students face.

Visit here to see the video: Question of Youth Summer Employment in a Pandemic.

Written by
Minerva Navasca

Youth Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre

Ethno-racial Data Matters!

Over 70% of the Regent Park population are people of colour; South Asian, Black, Chinese and
South-East Asian residents make up the majority. Why is this important to point out? Well, health
experts in Toronto, especially those associated to the Community Health Centre movement, say
that race is often one of the most telling facts about a person that determines their health outcomes. These ‘facts’ that determine someone’s health are called social determinants of health.

It is no surprise then that community health centres have been collecting Ethno-racial data on clients for quite some time, and are urging the province, and even the country, to follow suit. This is because community health centres were established on the principles of the social determinants of health which includes factors like safe and secure housing, social inclusion, income and education, and increasingly race. These factors matter when assessing the health needs of their clients because they are the real drivers in determining how healthy somebody is.

Community health centres are not alone, as the movement to collect ethno-racial stats is growing. This has been, in part, due to numerous studies of data collection in the United States indicating significant disparities among different racial and ethnic groups and the kinds of barriers they encounter. These studies have also been used to show which racial and ethnic population groups are most a risk for certain diseases, the knowledge of which can lead to more effectively targeted public health efforts.  In the midst of COVID-19, indicating that racial and ethnic minority groups are being disproportionately affected and are at increased risk of getting sick and dying, ethno-racial data in United States is increasingly being linked to evidence of widespread systemic racism. 

In Canada, there is no systematic collection of ethno-racial data at the federal or provincial level but community health experts in Toronto say that this information is crucial to their work as health care providers and that they’ve been pushing for this for years.  

Experts like Paulos Gebreyesus, who is the Executive Director of the Regent Park Community Health Centre, located in Regent Park, Toronto. Paulos Gebreyesus argues, “if we did not have information that is collected on any range of health outcomes, we would not understand what it is that we should be improving, what it is we should be prioritizing or even if there's a problem. So the collection of relevant information in order to better understand the impact of the work that we do is long-standing. It’s part of the whole scientific logical sort of approach to organizing work and services. We do so very diligently with some notable exceptions. This is where it's helpful to gather that information in order to compare, and better understand, patterns that may not be as visible to an individual anecdotally. Or perhaps they are visible anecdotally but there's no proof as it were that this is a larger systemic issue. So the whole idea of collecting all of the information is to be able to actually study that information to discern those patterns.”

When anti-racist activist say that anti-black and anti-indigenous racism is a health crisis in this county, its important to show how these realities are “reflected in a statistical or in a data form [reinforcing] the narrative that communities have been asserting,” says Gebreyesus. He argues that without verifiable information, our institutions are resistant to change, often because those who operate and manage resources don’t understand what is actually happening.

Paulos Gebreyesus illustrates how ethno-racial data and looking at the social determinants of health, can tell us who is at increased risk for getting Covid-19. “If you happen to live in a dwelling where there is sufficient living space and amenities for everybody in that household to remain distant from each other, then you have a far higher likelihood of not getting Covid or surviving Covid. If you have sufficient income to where, you don't need to take public transit or, you don't need to be in your job, then again, you have these protective factors. So in the same way we have learned over generations that there are systemic patterns to how we have organized ourselves as Torontonians, as Ontarions.”  Paulos suggests that when you look at all these factors, people of colour are at far higher risk for getting Covid -19.

On the issue of incarceration, Gebreyesus states, “if we see that the rates of incarceration among indigenous peoples, or people who identify as black, or who are racialized, and compare that to the size of that subpopulation within our community, we would expect (if things were all equal) that a population that is only 3% of the general community would only have somewhere very close to 3% within the population that's currently incarcerated. So when we see that there's data that says 20% of all incarcerated people are indigenous, then we know that we have a systemic issue, and that we need to work at dismantling that, and addressing that, and responding to that. So I think the data really points us to where things are not equitable. This is the rationale to why we want to go out and collect as much information about the various facets of who we are as individuals.”, says Gebreyesus.

Considering how controversial Black Lives Matter protests are, it seems that the correlation between race and health is lost on many people. Some do not understand how anti-black and anti-indigenous racism as it is reflected in our institutions (ex. government, housing, workplaces, education,  health   care   and   policing)   is   a   health   crisis   which   threatens   the   well-being, mental/physical health, and the very lives of black and indigenous people. Ethno-racial data collection then is a way to collect   undeniable   data   and   convince   individuals,   and   more importantly institutions, to use this data to make change. Just as importantly, ethno-racial data collection is a tool for community health centres and other health data stewards to better cater their services to their particular communities.

Our conversation with Paulos Gebreyesus is the first of a three- part series on ethno-racial data collection and race as a social determinant of health.  

To watch Paulos Gebreyesus full interview on race and data collection, please visit our youtube channel @ Regent Park tv.

By Fabio Herediac
(Fabio Heredia is a media journalist with Radio Regent and the Focus Media Arts Centre)

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Debunking Islamophobia

Regent Park is home to approximately 12,000 people. Many of the residents are of the Islamic faith and have reported encountering Islamophophia in Toronto and even in their home community of Regent Park.

As of 2020, Islam has 1.9 billion followers making up about 24% of the world population. There are almost as many Muslims as there are Christians in the world who make up about 29% of the world population. With such a large following, you would expect there would be little to no misconceptions among the Western public about the Islamic community. Unfortunately, this is not the case and Islamophobia in North America is widespread. I invited Imam Said Rageah of the Sakinah Community Center to have a conversation about the public misconceptions of Islam and how we can better educate the people about Islam.

Islamophobia is described as the illogical fear, hatred, and prejudice towards Islam and its followers (Muslims). These prejudice and fears are often caused by misconceptions about the Islamic community. According to Iman Said Rageah, there are three common misconceptions of Islam.

The first misconception that Imam Said Rageah helps us break down is the belief that all Muslims are the same. Iman Said explains that this is completely false because Muslims come from all over the world and their cultures and customs vary from region to region. Similar to Christianity where there is differences between the different denominations (Catholic, Protestants, Baptists, etc), there will be differences between how Islam is practiced not only in different countries but also among different sects or branches.

The second misconception, often promoted by the Western media, is that Muslims are terrorists. This is completely false. Iman Said points out that there are 1.9 billion Muslims in the world and if they were all terrorists, we would not have this Earth to call our home. Also, whenever people talk about Muslims they often mix them up with extremists. Iman Said explains that extremists are present in small parts of the middle east and Africa, and they terrorize everyone’s lives including Muslims! Unfortunately, according to Said, this perception has led to racial profiling, discrimination and even terrorism against Muslims here in North America. He points to the banning of the US travel ban on Muslims entering United States, the Quebec City mosque shooting and the recent Quebec law banning religious symbols which was really targeted at Muslims.

The third misconception about the Islamic community is that Muslims are intolerant towards women and that women are forced to wear Hijabs. Iman Said explains that this is a common misconception about the Islamic community which is completely false, and informs us that there is a significant population of Muslim women who do not wear a Hijab (headscarf). Said argues that for a great majority of women, wearing a Hijab is a choice and it is a way of expressing their faith. For those that argue that Islam is a religious that oppresses women, Said points to whole chapters in the Quran that are expressively dedicated to women and how they are to be treated – which is with respect, equal rights and equal access to education. Said argues, “If Islam was such an oppressive religion, why would so many women remain followers? Would you stay in a religion that oppressive you?”.

After we debunked these misconceptions, we talked about how people can be better informed about Islam. Imam Said agreed with me that more efforts are needed to create places where people of different faiths could come together. This is important because meeting different people breaks down stereotypes and fosters discussions. He also advocated for the need to teach Islam in public schools as part of religious or social studies. We also need to continue debunking and clarifying things that we hear from the media and others around us that are not true. One way that media can combat misinformation is by hiring journalists who are Muslims.

In conclusion, this talk was very informative and insightful. If you are interested in learning more about these issues watch the video interview with Imam Said Rageah, I highly recommend it. You could also share it with a friend or family member who might need some debunking of their own misconceptions. Remember misconceptions form the basis of Islamophobia, and it hurts people on the receiving end.

By Jameila Parnell with contributions from Adonis Huggins

(Jameila is a student journalist with the FOCUS Media Arts Centre).

Monday, July 20, 2020

June 2, 2020, Meeting of the Regent Park Social Development Stakeholders Table

Regent Park TV reports on the June 2, 2020 meeting of the Regent Park Social Development Stakeholders Table.

Currently Regent Park is undergoing a massive redevelopment from a social housing neighbourhood to a mixed-income and mixed-use community.

One of the two plans governing the Regent Park redevelopment is the Regent Park Social Development Plan. The group charged with working with the City of Toronto to implement the plan is the Regent Park Social Development Stakeholder’s Table (also known as the SDP Stakeholder’s Table). The Stakeholder’s Table comprises of residents, agencies and grassroots groups in the Regent Park area and their mandate is to make decisions related to the development of social infrastructure that the community deems necessary to ensure that Regent Park is a cohesive and socially well functioning neighbourhood.

The following is RPTV’s report of the June 2, 2020, meeting of the Social Development Stakeholder’s Table held through the on-line application of Zoom. Approximately 25 people were in attendance.

After ensuring that quorum was met, resident Ismail Afrah, presented a review of the SDP planning group’s activities. Among the activities mentioned was discussions with the City on the release of SDP fund, and the Safety Committee’s Virtual Town Hall’s meeting held on May 28, 2020, aimed at supporting residents through this Covid -19 period. For those who had missed it, the town hall is available for viewing on Regent Park TV.

Community committee reps Joel Klassen and Murshiba followed up on this presentation by reported on the work of connecting residents through the building of neighbourhood pods and upcoming community games been organized on-line by Regent Park Social, a website about Regent Park.

Following this report, the table once again heard from Ismail Afrah, about a proposal to have the RPNA Regent Park Community Benefits Coalition restructured as a new committee of the SDP Stakeholder’s Table. The Community Benefits Coalition is comprised of residents who are dedicated to ensuring that the selected developer for the final phrases of Regent Park will contribute long lasting benefits to the community in return for been granted the contract for developing Regent Park. As part of the proposal to restructure the coalition under the SDP table, Ismail recommended that terms of reference for this new committee be drafted by a sub-committee of residents from the coalition in partnership with TCHC, and be presented to the SDP table for approval. The terms of reference would also include a new name for the committee.

The proposal was unanimously adopted.

The next issue that was discussed was a proposal made by Abrahim Afrah to have the community adopt a song by Taylor Swift as the official song for Regent Park. The song in question was made with the involvement of local youth from the Regent Park School of Music. Abrahim showed media clips and lyrics of the song and explained that Taylor Swift donated the proceeds of royalties of the song to the Regent Park School of Music. Abrahim felt that the song emphasized the friendship and spirit of a community helping each other and indicated that there would be no cost associated with adopting the song.

In support of the proposal, a resident at the meeting, had her daughter explain their involvement in making the song.

An opposing view was put forth by another long standing resident, who argued that although he has great respect for the Regent Park School of Music and for the youth contribution, he did not feel that the song was inclusive enough to be the song of Regent Park. This resident felt that the lyrics of song could also be misinterpreted. Due to lack of time, no more discussion was held and the chair facilitated a vote on the issue.

Although the proposal to have the song be adopted by Regent Park, marginally had more votes then those opposing, it failed to gain enough votes to have it passed. The chair recommended that a future vote could be held on the issue when more time was available for discussion and debate.

The final agenda item that was discussed was presented by a community member related to a process for identifying priorities for the SDP funds. Known as a “deep dive” session, each committee would select representatives to attend a special session to present their committee’s priorities for funding and discuss all the proposals. The aim of the special session is to pared down the 1.5 million dollars of SDP requests into $500,000 budget. It was announced that this session would be held on June 11, 2020, but it has since moved to a different date.

With that issue settled the meeting ended.

To see the RPTV report of the June 2, 2020, Regent Park Social Development Stakeholders Table meeting please visit

Written by
Adonis Huggins

FOCUS Media Arts Centre

The Connection between Section 37 & Regent Park’s New Amenities

The Regent Park neighbourhood is undergoing a massive transformation from social housing community to a mixed-income and mixed-use community. As a result of this revitalization, the Regent Park community is the beneficiary of a beautiful new park, a gloriously designed aquatic centre, a new community centre, a new track and soccer field, a new arts centre (Daniels Spectrum), two new child care facilities and a newly built youth centre (Dixon Hall).  What many people don’t realize, is that the building of these new amenities had a lot to do with a little known and understood City policy, called Section 37.

Section 37 is a part of the Ontario Planning Act that deals with zoning issues and community benefits. This complex but crucial legislature is applied when developers exceed limits on building height or density. In return, they must provide benefits for the community. This may include: recreation centres and child care, public art, heritage sites, access to greenspace like parks and ravines, or creating public community spaces in private buildings. If the developers aren’t directly involved in the construction or development of community spaces, they can contribute by “cash-in-lieu”--giving money to the city that can be used for development.Since city budgets are insufficient and unable to support key neighbourhood resources, councillors use Section 37 as a way to fundraise for their wards. Instead of raising taxes on their citizens, developers pay towards improving their communities. To ensure Section 37 rules apply, councillors often set building height and density limits “artificially low”, much lower than what would realistically be built on that land. By encouraging new developments to break by-laws

Section 37 brings in an almost-guaranteed community resource budget for the city. Unfortunately, this motivates councillors to approve buildings they may not want to, as they’re desperate to improve community resources at whatever cost.

One of the most contentious issues around Section 37 is that there’s no set calculation to determine how much developers should pay. It’s up to councillors to request whatever amount they think is fair. Some municipalities have a similar mandate known as impact fees that apply when developers exceed by-law limits. Impact fees, however, are pre-determined and not left up to judgement in individual cases. Bill 108 would calculate payments based on a fixed percentage of the property’s market value as opposed to height or density. Proponents of the bill say it will regulate Section 37 fees from ward to ward and not motivate developers to break by-law limits.
But the bill was heavily influenced by the Ontario Home Builders Association, and critics think that will actually harm the community. Basing fees on market value will encourage councillors to approve high-value developments like condos over low-value hubs like libraries, community centres, and schools.

Another problem is the lack of transparency around how the funds are being used. Funds from Section 37 are redirected to a central budget in Parks and Recreation, making it difficult to discern how the money is actually being put to use. Centralising money brings up an important issue about which neighbourhoods are benefitting from Section 37 and which ones are suffering. In-demand areas like Yorkdale and the Beaches, as well as rapidly-gentrifying areas, are hot spots for construction, meaning increased community benefits. But lower-income, less-popular boroughs who desperately need more community spaces don’t have the same level of interest from developers. Central budgets benefit neighbourhoods who don’t have prospects for new ​developments, though popular areas argue that since the construction is in their ward, the money should stay within their community.

Section 37 is a controversial piece of legislature, pitting neighbourhoods against each other to fight for already-limited resources. It was introduced as a way to increase funding for communities, but it’s often viewed as a loophole for developers to exceed by-law limits. Section 37 forces councillors to choose between sacrificing land to high-value projects or giving up community benefits for their citizens.

However problematic Section 37 has been and continues to be, it has served the Regent Park community well.    

To see an interview with Urban Planner, Ken Greenberg about Section 37 click here.

By Chloe    
Chloe is a summer journalist with the FOCUS Media Arts Centre

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Impact of Coronavirus on Small Business – Parliament Optical

There used to be a time when small business owner’s principal worries were about securing investments, attracting customers, advertising, and most importantly the survival of their business. According to a report titled Canadian New Firms: Birth and Survival Rates over the Period 2002-2014, May 2018 by the Canadian Government, the survival rate for small businesses within the first five years is 63% and after ten years that number drops down to 43% so it is no wonder that creating and operating a small business is a risky venture. However, when a small business does manage to be successful it can be a great accomplishment.

Sadly, the emergence of Covid-19 in 2020 has created a new and even bigger challenge for small business owners. Take for instance the Parliament Street Optical.  The Parliament Street Optical is located on the east side of Parliament Street, between Carlton and Gerrard Street. The business is owned by Munaverali Gulamhusein.

Unlike big businesses who regularly generate high profit margins, for small businesses like the Parliament Street Optical, it can be a struggle to stay afloat even in the best of times. Still the small businesses that were enjoying steady profits before Covid-19 are now seeing a steady decline in customers, and in some cases have even had to shut down under government public safety orders. On March 17th the Ontario Government announced a state of emergency and later required non-essential businesses such as, clothing stores, bars, and restaurants to shut down. This has led to much uncertainty for business owners who are left wondering when they will be able to open again, and when they do if they be able to expect the same profit they were generating pre-Covid-19. 

As Canada enters its fourth month of dealing with the pandemic, we are slowly able to see the effect closures have had on, not just small businesses, but big ones as well. According to Statistics Canada 32% big businesses, with 500 or more employees, have reported a decline in profits of around 20% when comparing the same 2019 and 2020 business quarter. Comparatively 60% of small businesses with 1-4 employees and 56% of small business with 5-19 employees report a similar 20% drop in revenue.

So why is it that a higher rate of small businesses are being impacted by the pandemic then their bigger business counterparts? Well for one thing the majority of small businesses, 79% according to a report titled Key Small Business Statistics by the Canadian Government, are in the service industry. Unfortunately, this industry has been particularly hard hit as many of these businesses have been categorized as non-essential by the Ontario Provincial Government and have thus been required to shut their doors during phase 1 of the lockdown measures. Another reason many point to is the ability of businesses to conduct business online so they could keep customers during the lockdown. For many small business owners, like the Parliament Optical, whether because of the type of industry they are in or because of a lack of financial and human resources, they are unable to transfer their operations online through delivery or even curb side pick-up, both of which have become new methods of service during the pandemic. In contrast most big businesses are normally run both online and in person, making it easy for them to carry on business as usual.

Parliament Optical is an owner run business that provides walk-in services to customers looking to conduct eye examinations and purchase prescription optical glasses and frames. Since closing its doors on March 22 due to the Covid pandemic, owner Munaverali Gulamhusein has had no revenues to support his business. Gulamhusein did receive a $40,000 interest free business loan from the Canadian government - $10,000 of which he is not required to pay back, and which he is thank for. However, he is reluctant to use the bulk of loan due to the hardship and uncertainty of his ability to pay it back. For Gulamhusein, he is taking it one day at a time and operating as if it was 2018 and he was just starting the business.  This was a time when he had no funds and taken a line of credit. Instead of paying himself from his business he is living on the support provided by CERB (Canadian Emergency Response Benefit) which most out-of-work individuals get. Gulamhusein has been able to obtain 3 months of rebates on his phone and internet which has helped keep expenses down but was unable to obtain rebates from his business insurance or alarm company.  Finally, Gulamhusein is relying on his landlord’s acceptance of the government’s upcoming emergency rent subsidies to sustain his business through the closure. He is also counting on the loyalty and trust of his customers when he re-opens.

The negative impact of Covid-19 on small businesses can be seen in and around Toronto, including on local businesses in the Regent Park community. However, as Toronto enters stage 2 of the recovery effort\ts small business can begin to slowly open. Hopefully they will find their loyal customers ready to greet them albeit from a two meter distance and wearing a mask. Nevertheless, any optimism must be tempered with caution as Toronto and the rest of Canada is not out of the wood works of this ghastly pandemic yet.

To see the interview with Munaverali Gulamhusein of Parliament Optical click here.

Written by

Volunteer Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre


The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked unprecedented upheaval across the globe. Millions have tested positive, and hundreds of thousands have died. In more than the 200 countries in the world that coronavirus has taken hold, health systems have been devastated, unemployment is rampant, and populations have been in self-isolating lockdowns for months on end. And while our scientists desperately search for vaccines and improvements to testing, there is another dimension to the pandemic that is emerging; it is the staggering realization that disproportionately the most vulnerable are the hardest hit – the poor, the elderly, the marginalised, and those in low income but vital jobs.

In Downtown Toronto East including the areas of Regent Park, Sherbourne-Dundas, Moss Park, Cabbagetown, St. Jamestown and the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood where many of the most vulnerable members of our society live, there is a crisis brewing. Homeless encampments are springing up everywhere leading to conflicts between residents and property owners on one side and homeless people on the other.

In this conflict poverty advocates believe that homeless people are once more being victimized for being poor. Supported by academic literature, poverty advocates believe this is structural –it stems from a fundamental belief in society that the state of poverty is caused by the poor themselves through their laziness and lack of willpower. Subsequently, the rest of society is absolved of any further responsibilities - the poor get what they deserve.

As a result of lack of action to significantly reduce poverty, the homeless who are literally without a means to shelter, are being forced to seek out their own solutions.  These solutions often put them at odds with mainstream society. In the midst of Covid-19, their solution to safe shelters is “encampments”. In vacant lots, under bridges and expressways, in ravines, and sometimes in the doorways of stores, homeless people are setting tents and makeshift shelters.

Encampments brings into question of whether or not homeless people have a right to resolve their state of homelessness on their own, without the intervention of governments and their agents? The answer is nestled in society’s relationship to property, its monetary value, and the privileges that come with ownership, and in Toronto that answer is NO!

Toronto area resident groups and home owners who argue against the presence of homeless encampments point to: the lack of proper hygiene and sanitation that can result in the spreading of infectious diseases; the risk of park fires due to illegal outdoor cooking; trash including mattresses, tarps, blankets, beer cans and bottles; increased drug use; intimidation; and property damage.

In Toronto, “anti-camping” laws exist that effectively target and criminalize the homeless for what is an act of basic survival. Police regularly dismantle homeless encampments and fines can be imposed on those caught sheltering in public spaces, leading to further involvement in the criminal justice system when, for instance, a person is unable to pay that fine.

In her submission to the United Nation’s COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS (CESCR), DJ Larkin, a Canadian housing justice lawyer, requested that: “Canada honour these commitments: recognize a justiciable right to housing, recognize social condition, including homelessness, as a protected ground against discrimination, recognize the right of homeless people to an adequate standard of living and health, revoke anti-camping laws that criminalize and discriminate against homeless people for engaging in behaviour necessary for survival, and ensure that subnational governments are aware of their obligations under the Covenant and have the knowledge and resources required to respond to the needs of homeless people in their communities.”

Considering crowding at Toronto homeless shelters and lack of affordable housing, many homeless advocates feel that outdoor encampments can temporarily serve to keep homeless people safe during the Coronavirus Pandemic. They argue for the City provision of public health staff, garbage services, regular food and water supplies and nearby access to washrooms and showers.

In an effort to find a middle ground between homeowners and the homeless, the City of Toronto through its City’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration (SSHA), has taken another approach: “we paused encampment clearings, and shifted focus to the safety of those in encampments and living outdoors the City will increase outreach programs, provide access to safe indoor space, shelter and housing, increase education and infection programs, and expand harm reduction and encampment health and safety. Along with these supportive measures the City has not given up on dismantling the encampments, and in that regard the City has deployed multiple enforcement team to clean and clear encampments, as of May 25, 2020, 169 individuals have been moved from encampments to safer spaces inside (153 into interim housing, 10 into hotel rooms, 6 into shelter spaces).  As a result 15 encampments have been cleared.”

Homeless advocates and residents of the encampments however think this two-pronged approach is disingenuous. On one hand the City says they are supporting the homeless, while on the other hand the City continues to dismantle the encampments.  The City for their part feels that this balanced approach is the best way to support the needs of the homeless.

For more issues about the Encampment issues view this interview with Kathleen Smith from Sanctuary Toronto, a drop-in centre for street and homeless people.

Written by
Dimitrije Martinovic

FOCUS Media Arts Centre

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

FINDING A JOB During the Coronavirus Pandemic

In the wake of the pandemic, employment consultant Wayne Greenway, offers some helpful tips on finding a new job in the current environment.

As anyone who has ever been unemployed and looking for a job will agree, the task of finding that job is gut wrenchingly difficult. Writing cover letters, tailoring resumes, and attending interviews (if you can get them), is like have a full-time job all on its own – in fact some people can be unable to find work for months if not years. Add to this mix of uncertainty and anxiety the coronavirus pandemic, and you have uncertainty and anxiety amplified by factors that are simply unquantifiable.

With more than two million Canadians out of work, finding a new job may not be that easy. Perhaps because of the nature of the pandemic, a total societal disruption, the Government of Canada has not come forward with any new employment programs, instead the Government has focused its efforts at helping people through the crisis with relief programs such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Like any other program large or small, the CERB with an extremely wide criteria for qualifications, has left some people unable to access its benefits.

In Regent Park, an area just east of Toronto's downtown core which is undergoing a major revitalization - transitioning from being Canada’s largest solely social housing community to being a mixed-income and mixed-use community - the demographics still indicate a high proportion of low income and immigrant families,receiving social assitance, and a higher than average unemployment rate. With everything in lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the challenges for this community are compounded not only by their socio-economic background, but also by the shift to a virtual environment (interviews now occur via apps like Zoom, Google Meet, and by phone) with a larger than ever emphasis on digital literacy.

As Wayne Greenway (RPTVs guest speaker)  a career consultant and the CEO of Career Aviators, puts it, there are over 180,000 jobs ready to be filled by people who are digitally literate. For those who may be unemployed and in need of upgrading their skills, the Internet is once again proving its dominance, for example; Google has a program called Grow with Google OnAir which offers free virtual workshops, and one-on-one coaching session to teach you those much in-demand digital skills to help you succeed.

The shift to the digital realm in the face of the pandemic has been one of the most significant changes in every phase of life, and the service sector has seen an equally rapid adaptation and response to provide support and information to people who must now access that information remotely. Additionally, the pandemic has seen the rise of community-focused initiatives and Internet-based solutions. For example, in Regent Park where Wayne Greenway  is  now  located,  and  where  the  effects  of  the   pandemic  on  vulnerable  communities  is  most pronounced, Wayne and a number of his colleagues have created a Career Zoom-In, where participants (for free) join in and view presentations by career professionals on interviewing, resume writing, or next step career paths, followed by a Q&A. The aim is to offer immediate help for people who want to work but can’t afford to pay for costly career management consultants.

The job search process even at the best of times can be truly daunting, but Wayne Greenway advices the following method to making that process more directed;    

1) do not try to fit yourself into the add categories commonly found on sites like Indeed, instead determine what are your strengths, values, what do you stand for,
what you do you want in a company, and decide what you are most curious about;    

2) decide on the job titles you are going to go after;    

3) get your resume customised for that job; 4) network like crazy with people who are working in the field;    

5) find jobs before they’re posted by talking to hiring managers and pitch them on why you would be perfect fit for that job; and finally    

6) practice for the interview by learning all that you can about the company and the job.

Written by
Dimitrije Martinovic

FOCUS Media Arts Centre

Staying Healthy in the face of COVID-19 and other Personal Challenges

Louisa Jewell offers her opinion on how people can better cope with the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

If there is anything that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us is that disproportionately the virus has affected the most vulnerable. This may be because of age and the compromised heath issues that come with age, or it may be because of socio- economic factors (low income, inadequate access to health care, racialized, marginalized, precariously housed).  Additionally, there is the issue of one’s mental health. Sadly, the most vulnerable in our societies straddle some or all of the above factors, however it maybe that mental health is the least well understood.

Mental health can be understood to relate to the emotional wellbeing of a person.  To have what is considered a mentally healthy full life, one is able to functionally cope while experiencing a range of emotions including pleasure and pain.

Mental illness on the other hand is considered to be a psychiatric disorder, impairment of personal functioning related to brain functions in certain social contexts. Quarantine and isolation, whether
imposed or self-instituted, are essentially unfamiliar states for most people. Deprived of contact with family and friends, the suppression of daily routines, even the healthiest person would begin to succumb to stress, anxiety, and depression.

Traditional psychology has been focused on mental illness as “what is wrong,” and how to figure out how to help people with a mental illness? Louisa Jewell (our guest in this episode of RPTV), who is the founder of The Canadian Positive Psychology Association, offers her opinion on how people can better cope with the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. Utilizing a four-step method that seeks to boost one’s psychological well being, Louisa presents a range of simple strategies especially well suited to combating the side effects of prolonged social-isolation and staying happy through the Coronavirus Crisis.

Four tools for resilience and wellbeing building to help you get through this crisis.

1. Start your day with an energizing morning ritual, make your bed, practice some mindfulness by meditating for 10 to 15 minutes, find exercise routine that works for you.

2. Acceptance, is developing a non-judgemental attitude towards your every-day life, this means not getting angry about being shut-in, and allowing for the appreciation of what you do have.

3. Don’t watch the news, that is be more selective about what you take-in, for example, avoid reporting that deliberately sensationalises the pandemic in favour of more reasoned sources such as reports
from Municipal, Provincial, and Federal governments.

4. Reach out to friends and family on video, by looking people in the eye, our physiology actually changes. The intensity of our emotions is increased when we are interacting positively with someone and looking them in the eye.

Regent Park an area of Toronto just east of the downtown core is going through a massive transformation from Canada oldest and largest public housing community, to a mixed use and mixed income neighbourhood. 

None-the-less, Regent Park remains an area whose demographics still indicates a high proportion of low income and immigrant families,  receiving social assitance, and a higher than average unemployment rate – all factors that place that population in the category of people who are at a higer risk for severe illness, and the complications that come with COVID-19 infection.

At RPTV News, providing critical information to the Regent Community is in essence what community media is all about? As COVID-19’s disruptions continue, the need for accurate and up-to-date information is essential to the well being and safety of everyone.

by Dimitrije Martinovic
Dimitrije is a staff member at FOUCS MEDIA ARTS CENTRE.

Monday, July 13, 2020

TCHC Announces the shortlisted developers for the final stages of the Regent Park redevelopment

Regent Park is currently going through a major revitalization, transitioning from being Canada’s largest solely social housing community to being a mixed-income and mixed-use community. The development is managed by the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC). The Regent Park TCHC Community Up-Date Meeting, held on Feb 18, 2020 at the Regent Park Community Centre, brought together representatives from Toronto Community Housing (TCH), residents, and other community members to learn what is the status of the newest buildings, discuss the community benefits plan and hear who TCHC short-listed for the final stages of the Regent Park development.

As the final phases of the Regent Park redevelopment are set to unfold, the residents of Regent Park are struggling with the revelation by the TCHC back in 2018 that the Daniels Corporation (the sole builder since 2009) is not slated to complete that last stages. Apparently, the TCHC has known since 2014 that they do not have a contract with Daniels to complete phases 4 and 5, and has neglected to inform community members. At issue is the perception from the residents that the TCHC has been less than transparent, and that the process of procuring a new builder, to fit the redevelopment timelines, will be rushed through.  Additionally, the Daniels Corporation over the years has gained the trust of residents, abandoning this much-valued relationship and having to re-establish a new relationship with potentially a new builder, seems to residents counter productive. The TCHC, argues that they are simply following the rules set out by the City of Toronto’s Shelter, Support and Housing Administration Division, under the Housing Services Act, 2011. To appease resident anger and surprise at the news, TCHC agreed to invite residents to hear developer presentations and to have limited involvement in scoring the developers. This presentation was held in the spring of 2019.

At the Feb 18, 2020, meeting, TCHC announced that the shortlisted developers were Daniels Corporation, Tridel Builders Inc., and Capital Developments, and the final selection process was continuing.  At the meeting residents raised the issue of community benefits.

For community members the revitalization process offers opportunities to secure what are called ‘community benefits’ in the form of equitable local economic development for Regent Park residents. The Regent Park Neighbourhood Association (RPNA) along with the Regent Park Coalition and the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN) are seeking a more active role in Request for Proposal (RFP) to ensure that the TCHC and the selected developer partner, meet resident identified needs and can be held accountable through a legally binding Community Benefits Agreement.

In responding to requests around resident participation in negotiating a community benefits agreement, TCHC seemed evasive and unwilling to commit to a process for resident engagement.  In the end there is little doubt that community members and the TCHC are still quite far apart on how the expectations and goals one group can fit those of the other. The TCHC seems intractably mired in its role of project manager, beset with myriad polices and rigid structural demands. While the residents, for their part struggle to comprehend why a system of housing that was intended to provide support for low-income people is at its core so repressive.  Click here to see the TCHC Community Up-Date Meeting, held on Feb 18, 2020.

Written by
Dimitrije Martinovic

FOCUS Media Arts Centre

Housing is a Human Right

Regent Park, built in the 1940 to provide affordable housing, is undergoing a massive revitalization and will be transformed into a mixed income community. Despite the doubling of the resident population, no additional public housing units will be built. Yet there are over 100,000 on the waiting list for affordable housing in Toronto.

According to Homelessness Hub, approximately 35,000 Canadians experience homelessness nightly. Additionally, a significant number of Canadians, especially Indigenous people, live in substandard homes that are overcrowded and/or dilapidated. Even Canadians that are lucky enough to have housing struggle to afford their homes and are at risk of becoming homeless if they lose their jobs. This situation is exacerbated by an expensive housing and rental market and insufficient access to affordable housing.

Although Canada has signed on to many international treaties that signify access to adequate housing as a human right, this is still a major issue in our country. This is perhaps not surprising when you consider that Canada has no federal, provincial or local laws to ensure everyone has access to adequate housing.

But what is the standard for adequate housing? Emily Paradis, an educator, researcher, and housing and homelessness advocate interviewed by Regent Park TV, believes that we as Canadians should look to our universal healthcare standards where the level of treatment provided is to be the same decent standard no matter your financial situation.

So what is being done about this issue and what can we as Canadians do to ensure everyone as adequate housing?

Paradis believes that in order to change the current access issues in this area we need to rework the way we think about housing. As Paradis highlights, we tend to think of housing as a “private commodity rather than as a social good or collective good, something that everyone should be entitled too.” Much of this thinking is a result of the housing market in Canada that remains largely private. The focus of private developers is on building equity and profit for themselves. It’s no surprise then that for them housing is viewed as an investment and issues of affordability and accessibility are not on their radar.

Another way we need to reframe our thinking is in the types of human rights that we protect. Currently the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom recognizes our civil and political rights but, as Paradis points out, these protections are not typically extended to our social and economic rights. This is a problem because, Paradis, and many other human rights advocates note, access to adequate housing is imperative for Canadians to realize their Charter rights to life, liberty and security of person. However so far courts in Canada have been resistant to reading social/economic rights into the Charter and tend to refer these types of issues back to the legislature to deal with. Ironically Canada has already shown that it is possible to protect social and economic rights through programs such as universal health care, and universal education. Paradis believes “if we begin to think of housing in the same way that we think about education or about health, we can quickly recognize how things could be different”.  

While much work needs to be done towards protecting access to housing, Canada has recently passed a law called the National Housing Strategy Act, which for the first time legally recognizes adequate housing as a fundamental human right. What this means in practice is that when policies affecting housing are made they must be looked at through the framework of ensuring human rights are protected. Nevertheless Canada still has a long way to go before access to adequate housing is protected on the same level as universal health care. Hopefully with this new law, together with reframed ideas about housing and legal recognition of housing as a human right, Canada can be on its way to addressing homelessness and housing affordability.

Written by

Volunteer Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre

COVID-19 and the Toronto to Homeless Population

With everyone forced to stay inside, what is the fate of the homeless, and those living in shelters or on the street?

Regent Park located just east of Toronto's downtown core is undergoing a major revitalization, it is being transformed from a neighbourhood made up solely of public housing, most of which were buildings over 50 years old, to a multi-use, mixed income community. Despite these changes, the areas surrounding Regent Park, which included Moss Park, Cabbage Town, St Jamestown, and the Church and Wellesley neighbourhood, have had large populations of low income, homeless and street people. To meet the needs of these populations, the area also has the highest concentration of social service agencies, shelters and drop-ins.

It is estimated that there are over 9,200 people in Toronto who maybe homeless at any one time. Shelters and drop-ins provide essential services to these populations, food, clothing, medical and mental health supports, and places where people can socialize. However, over-crowding in shelters has been a consistent and long-time worry for many street and homeless people. In some cases certain people would prefer to sleep outside rather than face the uncertainties posed by having to spend the night in a shelter.

COVID-19 has most certainly disrupted every facet of our lives, but what has emerged from a closer scrutiny of the pandemic is that disproportionately people with fewer resources and the ability access government assistance have been hit the hardest. If circumstance were tuff before COVID-19, then the situation now is much, much worse. As David Raycraft, Director, Housing Services at Dixon Hall (a Toronto multi-service agency) put it; “right now we are faced with a situation where people are cheek to jowl in respite services and emergency shelter programs.” 

Maintaining the safety of both clients and staff has meant a complete overhaul of how an agency like Dixon Hall (Dixon Hall has a number of locations in and around the Regent Park area) must do its business. One thing is almost certain, that the present circumstances with regards to housing and the homeless population, is that the agencies tasked with providing support to this sector are not prepared to deal with a pandemic. In fact, the whole spectrum of emergency shelters, respite services, and drops-ins operates as a stopgap measure; attending to “immediate needs” while lacking the resources to implement the deeper and more long-term solutions, such as providing housing. As David once more articulates; “life would be much different if people were housed in supportive housing units, where medical support could be provided, and people could self-isolate more easily.”

And in the end, if there is to be a take-away from the present moment, it is that we need to be thinking about moving away from emergency shelters, respite services, and drops-ins, and think about transitional housing, supportive housing and equally affordable housing as a way of providing support to the most vulnerable members of society.

To hear the conversation with David Raycraft click here

by Dimitrije Martinovic
Dimitrije is a staff member of FOCUS MEDIA ARTS CENTRE.

Community Benefits and the Regent Park Coalition

Over the past 15 years Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood has been going through the process of revitalization. Regent Park, once a neighbourhood made up solely of public housing, most of which were buildings over 50 years old, is being transformed into a multi-use, mixed income community. Although on the surface this is a needed change, there is much concern that the Regent Park revitalization will echo the processes of gentrification that many Toronto neighbourhoods have gone through over the last few decades.

Gentrification is the process of updating and beautifying a community which on the surface sounds positive, however it unfortunately leads to increases to the cost of living and high housing costs. This in turn leads to an influx of wealthy neighbours while many of the original residents end up being displaced because they are no longer able to afford the cost of living in their community. 

A strong argument can be made that the Regent Park revitalization has thus far avoided many of the negative impacts that other Toronto neighbourhoods have faced as a result of gentrification. Afterall the Toronto Community Housing (TCHC), who is managing the redevelopment, has guaranteed the replacement of most of the rent-geared-to-income social housing stock ensuring that low-income tenants will always have a home in the community. Furthermore, the area’s long history of tenant activism has contributed to ensuring that all of the neighbourhood institutions and supports that residents relied upon in the past, will remain, and that the new built amenities will be accessible to low income residents.

Currently however, Toronto Community Housing is in the process of selecting a new development partner for the final phrases of the revitalization of Regent Park, and there is much concern among community members that the condos, market housing and amenities that will be built, will not serve the needs of low-income residents.

To ensure that residents needs are met, a new resident group has formed calling themselves the Regent Park Coalition, and they have inserted themselves in the negotiation process between Toronto Community Housing and the potential developer, through a tool called Community Benefits Agreement.

 A Community Benefits Agreement is a tool that is used to ensure that developers meet the needs of the community by securing investments from the developer that help the area such as the creation of full-time jobs, and the building of community spaces and facilities for use by residents. Generally, in most places in Toronto, community benefit agreements are negotiated between developer and the City of Toronto as part of the granting of building permits.  In the case of Regent Park, Toronto Community Housing will act on behalf of the City of Toronto, to negotiate an agreement that will be sent to the City for endorsement.  In Regent Park past examples of the work of Community Benefits can be seen in various developments including the Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre, the Daniels Spectrum building and the various community centres in the area.

The Regent Park Coalition is hopeful that TCHC will embrace their community benefits requests for negotiation with the selected developer in the final phrases of development.

Walied Khogali, a resident of Regent Park and member of the Regent Park Coalition, summed it up best when he said “Community Benefits is a means for us to basically bring some economic justice for our community.”

The Coalition has been working with community groups, organizations, and residents to obtain input and feedback related to securing economic opportunities and benefits for the community and has developed a list of benefits that the group want to see included in the negotiations between Toronto Community Housing and the developer for a community benefits agreement.  This list includes a demand for permanent full-time jobs and financial supports to assist tenants in becoming home owners.

Khogali, states that the Coalition “has been instrumental in helping TCHC better understand the needs of our community”. 

As Regent Park begins the final stages of revitalization community activist Khogali urges the community to get involved. By getting involved residents will have the opportunity to influence how the neighbourhood is developed, help secure the benefits needed by the community, and ensure that the community’s voice is heard. As Khogali explains “it is crucial the residents of Regent Park […] play a leading role in what is developed in our community, and what type of jobs will be created in our community, and what type of facilities will be built in our community”.

In this video we interview Walied Khogali to hear more of his thoughts on the Regent Park revitalization process, and the work of the Regent Park Coalition.

Watch Video:

Written by

Volunteer Journalist
FOCUS Media Arts Centre

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Keeping Safe During the Coronavirus Pandemic

8 July 2020
Focus Media Arts Centre
Chloё Nguyen-Drury

The COVID-19 virus, also known as Coronavirus, has changed every aspect of our lives. What originated as a small cluster of cases in Wuhan, China, has quickly spread worldwide. On 11 March 2020, the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic (World Health Organization 2020). In this hyper-connected world, global travel has played a significant role in the spread of the virus. Infected persons visiting or returning to Canada have brought the disease to our backyard, leading to community spread (transmission from one community member to another). Additionally, Canadians who were travelling abroad have had difficulty returning home, as cancelled flights and travel restrictions limit residents from returning to their country.

As of 8 July 2020, Canada has reported 106,434 cases, including 70,247 recovered and 8,737 fatalities. Ontario has reported 36,178 confirmed cases of COVID, the second-highest number in the country after Québec (Public Health Ontario). Of those, 31,805 are recovered and 2,700 have resulted in deaths. This puts Ontario’s recovery rate at 88%, a far higher number than Canada’s overall recovery rate of 66% (

COVID is a respiratory disease that affects the nose, throat, and lungs. It’s spread primarily through respiratory droplets like coughing and sneezing, and through prolonged physical contact. No one is safe from COVID-19, but certain demographics may be at higher risk of contracting the disease than others. These groups include people over 65 years old, immuno-compromised people, or people with pre-existing medical conditions.

What can you do to protect yourself and others? Unless you’re an essential worker, stay home as much as possible. Exceptions include grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions and medical supplies, or attending a medical appointment. If you do need to leave your house, practice social distancing by staying at least two metres (or six feet) away from people. Avoid large gatherings and crowds, especially places where social distancing cannot be maintained.

Total isolation is near-impossible for many of us, so remember to practice proper hygiene when you do go out. Wear a mask; they prevent you from spreading droplets and provide extra protection if people sneeze or cough near you. Use CDC-approved alcohol-based hand sanitizers, preferably with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol (CDC). Wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water to kill germs. Disinfect high-touch areas, like doorknobs, handles, and your cell phone. Avoid touching your face, since your eyes, nose, and mouth are points of entry for the virus.

While we may not see the likes of conventions, festivals, or the CNE anytime soon, different sectors are rethinking how they operate in a post-COVID world. People are working from home, medical appointments are held through online video calls, and schools are planning to re-open with small class sizes. As scary as the COVID crisis seems, it’s important to remember that life will return to normal--or at least, some semblance of it.


World Health Organization. “Timeline of WHO’s response to COVID-19.” WHO, 29 June 2020, Accessed 8 July 2020. Public Health Ontario. “Ontario COVID-19 Data Tool.” Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion, 8 July 2020, -disease/covid-19-data-surveillance/covid-19-data-tool. Accessed 8 July 2020. “Template:COVID-19 pandemic data/Canada medical cases by province.” Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 8 July 2020, pandemic_data/Canada_medical_cases_by_province. Accessed 8 July 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Hand Hygiene Recommendations.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 17 May 2020, /hcp/hand-hygiene.html. Accessed 8 July 2020.