Week 10 Main Post: Transit Crisis in Toronto

The more time I spend on the subway and bus, the more I realize there are issues with accessibility that isn’t easy to address.

For one, the price just keeps going up. As the price of tokens and tickets increase, accessibility decreases. Not everyone can afford to compensate for the costs of their commute. Sure, some individuals will continue to use the TTC regardless, but at some point, carpooling or biking when possible could become a cheaper alternative.

Another issue is the location of bus routes, subway lines, etc. There is a heavy concentration of transit options in the downtown core of Toronto, which is understandable but still a shame nonetheless. For those living in suburban or rural areas who need to take the subway or bus, they have a long commute before they can reach the first bus route and probably an even longer commute to find a subway line. I realize it’s impossible to have the TTC cover every part of the city, but as of right now, Toronto only has 4 subway lines and 11 streetcar routes, with 4 of them running at night. This coupled with the fare can be a major turn-off for potential and even present commuters.

Access to transit is not equal. However, it should be for both the rich and poor as well as those living downtown along with people residing in suburban neighbourhoods. If something doesn’t change soon, I feel as though the rich will become richer while the poor have little to no opportunity to prosper since they cannot even leave their community. And even if they can, they will still face a difficult commute. It is hard enough to meet basic survival needs while living under the poverty line. It’ll be even harder saving enough money to take a bus or train.

I believe the TTC can help in bridging the city to make it more accessible. They need to start freezing fare prices or even consider lowering them in order to allow a greater number of individuals to take public transportation. And expanding routes or lines in the future to other busy, populated areas outside of downtown Toronto will help passengers reach the subway or streetcar.

Week 8 Main Post: A Small But Significant Publishing House

One of the sites we stopped at on our walk through downtown Toronto was the Coach House Books. It was called Coach House Press at first in 1965. Coach House is a small Candian publishing company that has printed its fair share of books spanning various genres.

I’ve never heard of the publishing house prior to the walk and I’m kind of ashamed to say that, seeing as I aspire to work in the industry.

Nevertheless, it is discouraging to hear about small publishing houses not doing well. Either they’re quickly going under, closing down completely, or barely making ends meet.

Michael Ondaatje who published with Coach House has said:

The thing about small presses is they always die young – that’s the tradition.”

Aside from the Canadian government cutting budget on all things arts, other big business moguls make it tough for smaller companies to stay afloat.

Even John Lorinc, an editor for an anthology published by the imprint had this to say:

There really are not a lot of houses like that around any more – they either got run over or sort of soaked up by the American houses.

One might assume that because Coach House is based in downtown Toronto that they are doing fairly well. After all, there are parts in Toronto where individuals and businesses are wealthy or well off. But Coach House Press has had a history of hardships.

For one, they don’t have the best location despite being downtown. The building doesn’t tower over others. In fact, Coach House seems to be flanked by larger, more prominent structures. It’s not very easy to spot either. Although the Coach House is near the University of Toronto Campus, it’s literally in an alleyway.

Unsurprisingly, they’ve had their ups and downs financially with budget cuts and debt, which would hurt any company, much less a small printing press.

And now with the electronic, digital age revolutionizing the way readers read, the publishing imprint will face a whole new set of challenges.

(Source: The Globe and Mail)

Week 7 Main Post: Vital Signs

After reading the Toronto Vital Signs report for 2015, I’m struck by some of the statistics.

For example, the safety section in the Toronto Star overview made me reconsider just how safe the city is.

While overall violent crime is declining, reported sexual assaults and stabbings are going up.

It pleases me to hear there weren’t as many violent crimes the previous year. However, I’m troubled there are more reported cases of sexual assaults and stabbings. On one hand, I respect the men and women who have had the courage to come forward either as a bystander or victim. On the other hand, more reports probably means more incidents of assault, sexual or otherwise.

Reported sexual assaults increased in Toronto in 2014, to 66.8 per 100,000 persons, up 12.5% over 2013, and higher than the provincial (55.7) and national (58.5) averages.

I hope to see these numbers decline in the following years. I believe everyone, boy or girl, young or old, should feel safe walking down the streets of their home town.

Incidents of stabbings in Toronto jumped dramatically in 2014. There were 815 stabbings, a 36% increase from the 599 the previous year.

Although youth violence is decreasing, more needs to be done to prevent crime from transpiring in the first place. It’s especially important to address violence to stop young offenders from reoffending later as an adult.

The youth crime rate decreased 44.9% between 2004 and 2013.

In terms of work, I personally think Toronto has room to grow, especially as more people enter the city, looking for opportunities.

Toronto’s job numbers are increasing, but almost 1 in 4 is part-time: The city’s overall employment grew 1.5% in 2014 with 20,850 jobs added.

I can only hope jobs are added in the coming years for graduating students and new immigrants. The statistics reveal that these two groups, in particular, seem to face a harder time securing jobs.

Toronto’s youth face troubling trends: The youth unemployment rate reached a high of 21.65% in 2014. The rate has hovered near 20% for more than a decade.

Unfortunately, immigrants also face a greater risk of unemployment. It’s likely because English is their second or even third language. In some instances, employers may be discriminating, perhaps without realizing it, against people of colour or individuals belonging to minorities.

Unemployment is more likely among Toronto’s recent immigrants than Canadian-born workers: In Toronto, the unemployment rate for those aged 15 and over born in Canada was 9.0% in 2014 (up from 7.9% in 2013).

For the city’s recent immigrants (entered Canada within the last 5 years) unemployment stood at 16.2%. For Toronto immigrants in Canada 5-10 years, unemployment was 12.9% (up from 9.7% in 2012). For recent immigrant youth in the city (15-24 yrs. old), the unemployment rate was 24.1% vs. 21.65% for all youth.

(Information taken from the Toronto Foundation: Toronto’s Vital Signs Report 2015.)

Week 2 Main Post: Homelessness Myths and Misconceptions

Despite homelessness being on the rise, education and awareness about the issue isn’t.

Since we cannot solve a problem we don’t understand, it’s a good idea to define what being homeless actually means.

Having no home…shelter, or place of refuge owing to poverty or destitution; living on the streets.

Oxford English Dictionary

Unfortunately, there are more than just two reasons for an individual to find themselves without a home.

It’s hard to implement solutions when there’s so much stigma surrounding homeless people. Therefore, busting myths and misconceptions surrounding the issue is the first step in reducing and hopefully, ending it for good.

People choose to be homeless.

Most of the men, women, and children on the streets do not choose to be homeless. Many don’t have a choice. Reasons such as unemployment, domestic violence, along with (mental, emotional, and physical) health problems are some prevalent causes. Nobody wants to lose their job unexpectedly. No one decides they want to suffer from depression. Similarly, many individuals do not choose to be without shelter every day.

Other people will help the homeless so I don’t have to.

That’s exactly what Jack Layton, former city councillor of Toronto, thought while walking home one day with his wife. He “assumed, somehow, that others would step in” while writing on the death of a homeless man. In his book Homelessness: The Making and Unmaking of a Crisis, Layton describes the issue in more depth. The Globe and Mail also provided a book excerpt on their website, in which he tells his story of one particular January night in Toronto. During the walk home, Jack Layton doesn’t call for help or directly assist a homeless person who’s in need. He thinks someone else will do something for the people on the streets in the dead of winter. To be fair, he expresses earlier that he had no idea who to contact and how to reach legitimate help. If everyone thought someone else will lend a hand, no one ends up offering any assistance.

All homeless people are criminals.

Interestingly enough, some homeless people are victims of crimes. Since they live on the streets rather than in a shelter, they are at a greater risk.

In “Death on the streets of Canada“, the writer argues that:

…shelter is also a human right.

Cathy Crowe, Rabble

Week 2 Link: Toronto Community Housing

The article sheds light on the current issues Toronto Community Housing residents face while outlining the city’s plans for the future. It’s evident that there has been improvement over the years, but there is still room for more to be done.

Week 1 Main Post: Divided

Pride and optimism can overcome, to a major extent, a sense of division…

Anne Golden, The Star

Growing up I never would have described Toronto as “The Divided City“. It took years before I noticed the invisible cracks.

For eighteen years, I’ve lived in the same city, in the same house. I spent most of my childhood reading stories to escape reality. Dividing my time between fictional worlds and the real one made me appreciate every minute I spent in each one. However, I still want to explore the city and all it has to offer.

I started taking writing more seriously in my first year of high school. Perhaps this stemmed from my passion for reading. I felt empowered to tell my own stories after spending so much time following other characters around. Creating characters and building the worlds they inhabit forced me to become more observant of the world around me. It allowed me to immerse myself into the place where I live to a greater extent.

In grade ten I started a blog. Knowing my attention span, I never expected to stick with it. But I did and I’m learning something new every day. So far blogging taught me to filter the information coming in from my Reader and going out to the world via my posts. I’m excited to see where blogging will take me.

One of my most memorable classes in high school is an introductory to law course. I attribute my teacher and my peers for sparking my interest in social justice.

When I applied for university in my last year of high school, interestingly enough, I stuck with universities in the Toronto and Ottawa area. I felt torn about where to go. In the end I was more attracted to Toronto despite having lived in the GTA all my life. It’s probably an indication that I adore the city and its people.

When I came across Blogging the Just City during course selection, I thought it’d be an opportunity for me to learn a lot about blogging and the city in general.

I now realize Toronto isn’t as perfect as I once thought. Despite its imperfections, I still love the city. I hope it’ll become less divided so I can come to love it even more.