I’m not a political blogger so I didn’t expect to be writing about the Fords again. In fact my previous post regarding Doug Ford’s egregious comments about, and treatment of, autistic residents at The Griffin Centre was one more than I ever expected or even wanted to write. Yet here we are and I’m feeling the need for more catharsis.
June was a banner month for me for a few reasons – the boys started swimming lessons and are loving them, Owen’s communication progress continues and both boys amaze and delight me daily. There were also some things that made me proud to be a Torontonian.
When I first came to Toronto in February 1992 for three months, I pretty much hated it. During my second, 9 month-long visit in 1994/95, I started to fall in love with the place and then I moved here permanently in 1996. Since then I’ve got a Master’s degree from the University of Toronto, worked for two different employers and am now self-employed. I’ve owned two homes here and rented many more; I’ve been both a renter and a landlord. My children were born in Mt. Sinai and stayed in the NICU there for 9 weeks before I was able to bring them home. Since obtaining my Canadian citizenship I have voted in every election – Federal, Provincial and Municipal. So even though I wasn’t born here, I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else and established strong roots here.
We have a municipal election coming up in October and five of the candidates for Mayor have been engaged in debates. On June 18th, the Mayoral candidates’ debate on disability issues was held. Mayor Rob Ford didn’t participate as he was on a leave of absence at the time but it still seemed to garner a decent amount of attention. At one point the hashtag being used to live tweet the debate, #disabilitydebate, was trending on twitter. There were some great questions raised regarding the issues of accessibility, inclusion and employment. Many of the candidates statements sounded like bromides to me, especially Karen Stintz, whose response to every question seemed to relate to transit, but it was refreshing to see the debate take place and for the candidates to hear about the issues that matter to Toronto’s disabled citizens.
I was born the same day the Stonewall Riots took place so having World Pride take place in my city felt especially awesome, although we didn’t get to the parade because Gingerheaddad bought Blue Jays tickets for my birthday. The Jays lost but it was a good game, the weather was glorious and the seats were terrific.
During Pride’s closing ceremonies an enormous rainbow filled the sky and looking through all the pictures I couldn’t help but feel all rainbow-y and proud inside.
The week after the boys finished school I had arranged for them to attend a city-run Activity camp. This would be a first for them as previously they have always attended camps and respite activities at The Geneva Centre. They will still be attending the Bridges Summer Camp at the Geneva Centre in July for two weeks but I wanted to see how they would cope in a different environment. The fact I could even consider doing this is because of Toronto’s Adapted and Integrated programming.
The City agreed to provide both boys with a support worker (for two weeks in the summer, at no additional cost to me) to enable them to attend a local camp where they would be able to spend time with their typically developing peers. In addition to collating lots of information from me, representatives from the program visited the boys at school to get input from staff there. The boys’ support workers also called me prior to camp to discuss some questions they had. The week was a huge success and I’ve been really impressed. The boys have another week at a different city run camp in August which I hope works out just as well.
In yesterday’s Star, Carol Goar wrote about Toronto’s need to move from diversity towards inclusion. In June these three experiences provided me with three brilliant, real-life examples of inclusion at work. With the debate, World Pride and helping my kids succeed at camp the city showed in big and small ways that they are prepared to embrace, celebrate and support Toronto’s disabled and LGBTQ communities. All three instances made me feel proud of my city and grateful that I live here.
However, Canada Day unfortunately meant the return of Rob Ford from leave which in turn meant, as Ivor Tossell described it, that our Ford-free time, when “it felt like living in a city for a change, instead of being trapped inside an existential knot.” was at an end. Since then, two things have illustrated perfectly for me why Rob and his brother Doug are simply not qualified for public service.
After Doug Ford’s appalling comments regarding the Griffin Centre, Tommy Lenathen, a city employee who also has an autistic son, decided to make a complaint to the City’s Integrity Commissioner about Councillor Ford’s comments. When told about Mr. Lenathen’s complaint Councillor Ford said:
“He can go to hell, I don’t even care…This is not normal in democracy. . . It is a full out jihad against us right now.”
Yes folks, Toronto parents of autistic children are in a jihad against Mr. Ford and we can all go to hell. Today, as councillors all rose for a standing ovation in recognition of the enormous success of World Pride, Mayor Rob Ford purposefully sat in his seat:
— Don Peat (@reporterdonpeat) July 9, 2014
Not only that but yesterday, Mayor Ford placed a procedural hold on a report recommending that the city explore interest in opening a shelter for LGBTQ youth. Today, Councillor Kristyn Wong Tam asked Mayor Ford to release the hold, something he refused to do.
Rob and Doug Ford, even absent any and all issues regarding substance abuse, corruption, illegal behaviours and consorting with criminals, have clearly demonstrated, in my view, that they are unfit for public office. They not only show a lack of empathy for people whose life experience and beliefs differ from their own, but a total lack of interest in understanding those people. The Fords have zero sense of self-awareness when it comes to their own privilege and bigotry. They exist in a mono-culture in which citizens don’t matter, only taxpayers. The only people who count in Ford World are people like them or those who aspire to be like them (seriously folks, aim higher. A lot higher).
Desmond Cole recently wrote a quite brilliant piece about how the bigotry of the Fords does real harm – an article I recommend everyone read. Toronto needs representatives who are committed to increasing inclusion; the Fords don’t seem to even see, care or accept how diverse we are and they certainly don’t take any responsibility for the detrimental impact of their words and actions.
If you agree and want to do something to ensure we continue to work towards increased inclusion in Canada’s largest city, here’s some ideas for you:
- Don’t vote for either Rob Ford or whoever the Ford representative ends up being in Ward 2 (Doug Ford has indicated that he would not be running for reelection). But make sure you DO vote!
- If you live in Ward 2, check out Andray Domise who is running for council there.
- Donate or volunteer to help municipal councillors or candidates you support.
- Talk to your candidates or councillors about inclusion and what the city can do to both support and increase it.
The Fords hurt my kids, my friends and our city. They undermine Toronto’s greatest strength, it’s diversity, and its potential. We need to put a stop to it in October and work to try and reverse the damage already done.
*edited to add*
This rather marvellous picture was one of a series taken by Marc Coward (YYZ Marc on twitter) at City Hall yesterday (shared here with his permission). The matryoshka is a Pride Doll – an item I must obtain as soon as funds allow – the sale proceeds from these (there are also adorable keychain versions) go to support the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association, a non-profit dedicated to the promotion of equality in sport.