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Hello Neighbours,
 
I know COVID-19 is top of everyone's minds, and I understand that people are concerned for their health and unsure of what the next few weeks will hold.

I want to start by thanking all Ontario’s public health and front-line health care workers who are doing an incredible job keeping people safe and informed, and are working hard to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario. 

Currently, the risk of contracting COVID-19 in Toronto is low. However, given the global situation, things could change quickly. We should recognize the potential transmission risk and continue to monitor closely the advice given by our public health officials, like the most recent statement from Toronto's Medical Officer of Health. 

While the virus can make anyone sick, it is important to remember that some people are at greater risk of developing more serious symptoms — especially older people and people with compromised immune systems or underlying health issues. We should all be taking steps to support vulnerable populations and to check on family, friends, and neighbours. Please also refer to this Vulnerable populations and COVID-19 guide, put out by the Public Health Agency of Canada. 

This virus has certainly highlighted why universal health systems and social safety nets are crucially important. Paid sick days and emergency leave are essential to ensuring people stay home when they are sick, in order to prevent transmission, even if symptoms are mild. It is important to self-isolate and follow other advice given by health professionals but unfortunately, without paid sick days, many of us have to choose between staying home without pay, potentially losing our jobs, and being able to pay the rent and put food on the table. This is not a choice anyone should be forced to make, especially during a pandemic. 

The NDP has called for emergency legislation to give workers paid sick and isolation days if they need them, and to forbid employers from requiring a doctor's note. We are also urging the government to create solid contingency plans for hospitals, shelters, public services, workers, and businesses. We would like to see these contingency plans widely and effectively communicated.

As you are likely aware, the government has closed schools for an additional two weeks after March break. Schools resumes on April 6, 2020.

As of now, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is recommending that you avoid pubic gatherings of over 250 people and practice “social distancing” — which means keeping whatever distance is possible under the circumstances, in addition to following the personal safety strategies below.

Our community office is open. We would ask that if you are feeling unwell, please call our office for help, rather than coming in person.

We are, however, rescheduling our upcoming Community Conversation on homelessness (March 26), out of an abundance of caution. We are keeping a close eye on updates from public health officials and will reschedule our public events when we can all feel safe.

We will do our best to keep you updated via the MPP website and public Facebook pages — and to continue to provide whatever help our office can. In the coming days, a COVID-19 self-assessment tool will be available at Ontario.ca/coronavirus.

Please reach out if you have questions or concerns. 

Finally, I am very aware that many of us are worried about how we are going to get through the tough time ahead of us. It will be a test of all of us in Beaches-East York as a community, but I am certain that we will rise to the challenge. Please do remember that we are all in this together. Let’s all try to support each other and our local businesses, and above all, let us all please be kind.

Warmest wishes and be well,

Rima 


Rima Berns-McGown

As always, Email  or call my office (416-690-1032), I want to hear what issues matter most to you. I look forward to continued work with each and everyone of you to build our community over the next few years.
 
On March 12th I asked the Ford government to develop a Covid_19 contingency plan for homeless shelters across Ontario. I asked them to pay attention to the advice of healthcare advocates like Cathy Crowe. It is compassionate but it is also good public health.

How to protect yourself: Information from Toronto Public Health 


There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. Prevention measures include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 15 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill
  • Stay home when you are ill
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands
  • If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

Travellers who have returned from anywhere else outside Canada should:

  • Monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days after returning to Canada.
  • Self-isolate and contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 if they experience symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Call ahead prior to visiting any healthcare provider and let them know about travel history and symptoms (e.g. fever, cough, difficulty breathing) so that they can make special arrangements to see you quickly, provide testing, and ensure that they use proper infection control measures
  • Canadians are advised to avoid all cruise ship travel.
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March is for Women!
I hope you were able to celebrate the women in your life (especially you if you identify as a woman) this past Sunday, on International Women's Day. 

I was lucky enough to attend several events, including the Women's March, and spent a wonderful day celebrating women from all walks of life. Our achievements are incredible, but the work is not over. 
 
In Canada, women earn 87 cents for every dollar earned by men —a gap that is bigger for racialized women and those living with disabilities. For example, midwives in Ontario are calling on the government to close the gender pay gap, after the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled that their profession has been subject to gender discrimination. Shamefully, the government has instead chosen to review the court decision. 

First Nations women face barriers in accessing health care, including abortion. Women’s pain and health issues, especially for women of colour, continue to be overlooked and underfunded. Trans women face disproportionate levels of violence and barriers to health services, including access to gender-affirming care and procedures. And the government has slashed funding for sexual assault centres despite an increase in demand for their services with the #MeToo movement.
 
So, we keep on fighting: to see all government policy viewed through a gender lens and to see more women run for election. We fight for investments in women’s health care throughout the province, including for trans women’s health care. We fight for pay equity, and for affordable, public, and not-for-profit child-care. And we fight for more funding to support victims of sexual assault and services for women and their children fleeing violence.

Thanks for fighting alongside me!
No Cuts to Education 
According to the Government's education consultations, 70% of parents felt increasing classes sizes would negatively impact students' learning. It could not be any clearer for the education minister. 

Ford’s cuts to children’s education should never have happened in the first place. Children have been used as pawns, and students’ educations have been put into jeopardy. 

We’ve seen the tremendous damage caused by increasing class sizes even by half a percent – layoffs of teachers and education workers, courses cancelled, and students’ lives thrown into turmoil, in some cases even forcing teens to take night school to graduate.

This government continues to drag education in the wrong direction, making cuts on the backs of students instead of investing in them and their future.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) has reached a tentative deal with the province. 

School Boards without a deal, my colleagues and I are asking the Government to reverse ALL the cuts, and bargain a deal to get kids in class. 
We can #EndHomelessness
Poverty is expensive: it costs the province between $28 and $32 billion annually. That’s why, in my capacity as critic for poverty and homelessness, I’ve demanded that the Ford government declare homelessness an emergency. We’re in a crisis that is both expensive for us as a society but also completely unnecessary: we have the knowledge and the ability to fix it. It’s both more compassionate and smarter economics to fix these problems at the front end than to pay for overcrowded hospitals and the mental health and addictions issues that result from a lack of affordable housing and the policies that are pushing entire families onto the street.

The government has been silent on this crisis, while continuing to make life worst for some of the most vulnerable. Bill 57, which I voted against, axed rent control on new units and builds, which will only exacerbate the existing housing affordability crunch. The government has cut the desperately needed ODSP and OW planned increases for 2019 in half. They also eliminated the Basic Income pilot, which was showing promise when it came to helping people build stability. 

I believe housing is a human right and I will keep pushing for provincial funding in affordable housing and for a share of social housing repairs. 

As always, please contact my office if you need help with any housing or tenant issues. 
Mark your calender
Upcoming Community Conversations 

Community Conversations are dialogue-focused opportunities for the community to better understand and engage with policy and legislation. They feature an expert or two who will guide the conversation, answer questions, and invite community participation. I will always be there to moderate the conversation.

These events are free and open to the public. Light snacks & hot beverages will be provided. Please bring your own travel mug and container in consideration of the environment.

Details TBA, but mark your calendars for the following Conversations:

March 26 – Re-framing Indigenous Homelessness (Cancelled, will be rescheduled)
*All other conversations are on hold until further notice. 
April 23 – How to Start a Climate Hub
May: Movie Screening and panel discussion on the financialization and commodification of housing: How do we make a shift to ensure that housing really is a human right?
June- Saving Public Education
July – Community Building
September- Indigenous Rights – movie screening and panel
 
Looking forward to seeing you there!
Recap: Community Conversation on Racism
On Thursday February 27 I was privileged to moderate a community conversation on institutional anti-Black racism that I had long been wanting to organize. I am profoundly grateful to Zahra and Mariko for creating the warm, food-filled, and inviting space at Olds Cool, and to Caldwell Williams, Rajean Hoilett, and Warren Abbey for the gift of their wisdom, their beautiful hearts, and their stories.

I am also grateful to each and every one of the folks who attended — with open hearts and open minds. I think everyone walked away with a sense of responsibility to do what they can — from each of their own positions and in whatever ways are available to them (in the words of my dear brother Michael Champagne, each according to their own superpower) to make real change.

Thank you everyone 🙏🏽
Just In - Kitchen Table Talks with MPP Rima
I want to hear what matters most to you, your family, and your neighbours. I want to know what your concerns are and how we can help. I’d love to answer your questions about government policy and to hear your ideas on what you think it needs to be doing better. I want to understand how you would like to get more involved and how I can help you amplify your voice.

I often knock on doors to say hello but sometimes folks are in the middle of work or trying to get the kids fed or off to soccer practice. This is why I am launching Kitchen Table Conversations…

If you are interested in having an in-depth conversation with me, I would be delighted to come to you. Invite a few of your neighbours, work with my office to find a time that works for everyone, and I will come by for an hour or so — bearing cookies — to answer questions, provide updates, and cover the topics that you care about.

Looking forward to sitting down with you!
Rima in the Community
1. Rima at the Equal voice legacy event 2. Rima with residents at Community Office Open House. 
Get Involved!
Many of you have called, emailed and stopped by the office to ask "how can I help? I'm glad you asked, because there are a number of ways to help and have your voice heard. I'm excited to work with you. 

Volunteer: Join me and other volunteers who have dedicated some time to go door-to-door, talking to neighbors about the issues that matter. Help out at events, enter data, make calls from the office and much more. Every bit of time helps. Sign up to volunteer here

Sign a petition: Add your name to voice support or to make a stand against an issue, it's a simple and effective way to take action. You can sign a petition in person at my office, and or pick up a few petitions and collect signatures in your community. If you are unable to come in, here is a way to do so online
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We are here to help!
Our mailing address is:
MPP Rima Berns-McGown
1821 Danforth Ave
MPP Rima Berns-McGown's Constituency Office
Toronto, ON M4C 1J2
Canada

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