Came across this blog post on Toronto FC that gives an interesting take of the city and its decline and rise. It’s too bad that Toronto FC’s onfield “achievements” have been in complete contrast to its rabid fan support, one of the league’s best. It’s kind of like the Maple Leafs, the NHL’s most famous franchise but which has endured 5 or 6 straight non-playoff seasons, which is sad. I’m hoping next MLS season, Toronto FC will get better.
When I studied in Toronto, I volunteered with a homeless youth outreach team for a couple of years and several summers. What Light Patrol does is go out onto the streets and expressways of the city weekday nights in a giant red mobile home (they also have a small camper van) and visit homeless and poor people, letting them come onboard and serving them food, hot drinks as well as clothes and minor medical and cosmetic supplies. It was a really eye-opening and humbling experience, seeing the destitution and bleakness involving young people in one of Canada’s and the world’s most prosperous cities. It was also a rewarding experience, not trying to be vain or anything, in serving with the staff and other volunteers to interact with those people and help them in various ways. This is a fine piece about Light Patrol, showing how it came about and describing what it does.
I know I said young people above, but our street friends as we referred to them, were actually a mix of ages, backgrounds and circumstances, though the majority were usually less than 25. There were teenagers, 20 and 30-somethings, seniors and people aged in between. You had youngsters who had run away from home or had been on the streets for less than a year, the odd number of older teens or 20-somethings who were just drifting around the country for the summer playing at being homeless, the street vets, from 20-something to 50-something, some of whom had spent decades homeless or living in shelters, and then there were those who lived in cheap subsidised housing and were jobless and struggling to pay for food and other necessities (needless to say many of them had addictions to alcohol or drugs or the like). The thing about Light Patrol is that in “prowling” the streets and expressways and parks at night, the type of people they helped weren’t mostly the kinds of people who lived in shelters. Whether young or middle-aged or even old (living on the streets really ages you so people look and have health similar to those much older than they really are), many folks simply hated being confined inside a building, not to mention harboring a strong dislike and suspicion towards authority and rules and regulations. Not exactly a practical attitude to life, I know, but it’s a little more understandable if you knew the circumstances and experiences of some of these guys.
The reasons for these people being on the streets aren’t really surprising. There was a small minority of people who were on the streets due to a kind of recklessness and daredevil attitude, but for the vast majority, there was a lot of horror stories and tragedies involved. Whether it was being abused or neglected by alcoholic step-parents or growing up bouncing around from foster home to foster home or being sexually harassed by a parent or growing up on reservations surrounded by alcoholism, suicides and physical abuse, our street friends certainly had some terrible circumstances that they wanted to escape from.
During my time in Toronto, one of the most infuriating things to deal with was the TTC, the city’s public transit service. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s quite inefficient, antiquated and miles behind Taipei’s or Hong Kong’s public transit services. But what was really bad was the attitude of quite a number of drivers, who thought it was cool to squeeze passengers into already-full buses, drive off quickly from stops while ignoring onrushing passengers and behave surly. Apparently even this pales in comparison to what many TTC passengers have faced, as this Star article reports. Granted, the majority of TTC staff and drivers probably do a good job and are decent employees, but the number of ignorant and callous employees is not insignificant.
What a shocker in Toronto. I went onto the Toronto Star’s site and instantly saw the top story was that a top mayoral candidate was ending his campaign due to a sex scandal. Following in the wake of high-profile politicians like John Edwards, Elliot Spitzer, and Mark Sanford being felled by controversies involving mistresses and hookers, Adam Giambrone, a Toronto city councillor and the head of the city’s public transit, the TTC, admitted to having sexual relations with several women “throughout most of last year” on Tuesday, including a university student. Giambrone, 32, is the youngest city councilor and has already served for over 6 years. He has been the head of the city transit body since Dec. 2006. Whilst he has faced criticism over the TTC, he has an impressive political record and can be considered a rising star. This scandal will obviously have a big effect on this.
I had the privilege of conducting a brief interview with him for a transit story for Excal, York’s campus paper, a few years back and I came away with the impression that he was a really decent and intelligent guy. One of my colleagues was even ready to swoon over him knowing that I was set to interview to him over the phone.
The Toronto Star is a great newspaper and up until recently its website was also just as great. With its new revamp, not anymore. Apparently in an attempt to modernize the site, they’ve added some new features and changed up the design significantly. Maybe some people like it a lot but the page looks so boring, complicated and the great length of the page, from top to bottom, really makes it inconvenient to go to much of the content. It’s still in the beta stage so hopefully the final version will be much better.
Here’s an article that raises compelling issues and facts on Toronto. It was obvious over the years that there were some things that could be improved – youth crime, the TTC- but I didn’t know things were really so dire that only 29 percent of neighborhoods were considered middle-income.
Tamil protesters in Toronto recently converged onto the Gardiner Expressway, an elevated highway along the Toronto shore, closing it down for several hours and engaging in a standoff with police. They did this in a desperate way to bring attention to the war in Sri Lanka, and hopefully though not promisingly, cause the Canadian government to intervene in some way to end it. As most know, the Sri Lankan government military has been steadily advancing and defeating the Tamil Tigers, eroding their territory to the point where they now hold a tiny piece of land near the coast. Heavy civilian casualties have been allegedly caused by government army bombardment and this is what is driving many Tamils to despair. Not only in Toronto, but also in London and other cities worldwide, the Tamil diaspora has marched and held rallies in public places. In Toronto, the Tamils have been causing a lot of aggravation and anger among many other Torontonians for their public shows of protests and the Gardiner highway protest, which is a crazy act that I’ve never seen before done by any other group in any country, may have been over the line for many Toronto natives. A few columnists have been sympathetic including the Toronto Star’s Joe Fiorito and Royson James, but the bulk of the comments left on these articles show that sentiments felt by many are the opposite.
Whether one believes in the Tamil’s right to protest or the righteousness of their cause, OR the feeling held by many Torontonians that the Toronto Tamils should not overstep the boundaries and laws of their new home, this is a striking example of the clash between mindsets and perspectives of the developing world and the developed world. The latter one is a prosperous, safe, stable and attractive world, for the most part, such as Canada, Australia, Western Europe etc. The other is one that while in some parts rising, and rising fast I should say, a good part of it is driven by desperation, conflict, chaos and dare I say it, poverty. The Tamil protesters in Toronto, while they have embraced the laws and customs of their new home society, have not forgotten their original homeland which has been undergoing a civil war for almost two decades, and the suffering and deaths of their families, relatives and friends in this past year has driven them to basically stretch the limits of Toronto’s laws in their desperation to get something done.
While I’m not too supportive at the extent of their protests nor their struggle, I do feel for many of them who’ve lost relatives, friends, and more, especially the idea of an actual homeland. The audacity and desperation of their Toronto protests may not have been conventional or considerate to others, but the situation of their people was not conventional at all compared to mostof their fellow Torontonians.