Forget Toronto the Good. This was Toronto the horrible!
Moms and dads standing in a long line in blazing heat to get something to eat for their young kids is Toronto’s dirty little secret on full display in broad daylight. It’s unacceptable and we are not going to hide it no matter how much it politically damages Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Mayor Olivia Chow or Premier Doug Ford. Facts are the facts.
When you see one, look nearby and you will find a shanty town and drug injection and ingestion sites, too. Toronto now has neighbourhoods like Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and there is no one who can deny it. This lineup for food in Toronto had people crammed in all the way down the block. Not for Taylor Swift tickets, but for something to fill their bellies.
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Hundreds of people every day line up for as much as two hours along the sidewalk for two bags of sustenance. It has been like this for the last year, but as tens of thousands of refugees and immigrants have flooded into Canada and settled in Toronto this year, those lines seem to be getting even longer.
This is not the only clue around town of the crisis. Across College St., just east of Bathurst St., is a 1930s-style shanty town, which in 2023 we call a tent city. But if we are honest, these are now fortified and furnished street abodes built for the elements and constructed to last. Nobody is paying $3,000 a month to live there, but judging from the tempers that flared Thursday, it is not a place where many would want to live.
With the shelters full, some have no choice. These hunger games are no game.
Stand there on the sidewalk for five minutes and hear the babies crying and the children screaming and you can’t help but ask why city parking officers are handing out infractions instead of water, umbrellas or even tents to keep people out of the sun? Why not have ice cream for the children like the City of Toronto did for vaccination lines?
A woman named Shahnaz said she’s living in a temporary shelter and while she has a small area to cook the basics, she is having a difficult time buying groceries with a small amount of monthly income. The mother of two arrived in Canada five months ago from Iraq and was looking forward to the Canadian dream.
She has not found it. But does not complain.
“The food is good,” she said of the ration handed to her by the Fort York Food Bank. “Milk, bread and eggs.”
It’s enough to keep a family from starving. But just enough.
Meanwhile, Trudeau flew on a government jet to the Far East on a so-called a trade mission where he has already earmarked more than $123 million already in grants and loans to a foreign country — none of which will help Shahnaz, her family and thousands of others like them in Canada who are desperate for food or are living outside.
No Toronto sales tax is going to fix this. Carbon taxes introduced by a jet-setting prime minister are part of the reason why the cost of groceries and living expenses are spiralling out of control. This not Chow or Ford’s fault. They are being handed the humanitarian crisis, while Trudeau goes on what seems like a five-star, red-carpet, wine-and-dine working vacation after an entire summer of vacations.
This is no holiday for Shahnaz.
Trudeau should skip the Team Canada basketball game in Manila and get back here to deal with this since his Liberal government helped cause this mess and is responsible for fixing it. On the federal government website, it says that up to 505,000 new residents are coming from around the world in 2023, up to 542,000 in 2024 and 550,000 in 2025. With many of these immigrants and refugees coming to the GTA, one has to ask: How bad are these food bank lines going to get?
If Trudeau is serious about this in a country where the average person is struggling to pay bills, he needs to open all federal buildings in Toronto to service this influx and earmark any money the government has not for other countries, but for Canada. If Canada needs to sell the bad-for-climate-change jet he uses for his junkets, so be it. Same goes with the Harrington Lake cottage. Put it on the market or at least use it to house some of the 1.5 million newcomers arriving in Canada between now and 2025.
Pierre Poilievre and the federal Conservatives need to be asked what is their plan as well. Are they going to introduce policies that will get people out of food bank lines?
Somebody better because it is intolerable to watch suffering mothers and babies stand on a sidewalk while waiting for food.