Allow backyard chickens in Toronto

 

By PAT WATSON

My grandmother in Jamaica had a chicken coop in the backyard. Decades on, I still remember the rich taste of the eggs that came from those chickens. In fact, my grandmother’s place in Kingston had a rich, growing food supply. Food bearing trees included breadfruit, avocado, grapefruit, limes, ackee, and mangoes. Space will not permit the whole range. There were all kinds of beans and edible plants and roots as well.

Immigrants to Toronto brought with them some of the same edible gardening culture as practiced in the old country. Summer into fall is the best time for sharing, neighbour-to-neighbour, the abundance that grows quickly. There is just such pleasure in the rich flavour and higher nutritional value of homegrown cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes and potatoes for instance.

I mention this because there is a debate going on in Toronto about allowing raising of chickens in backyards.

Many activities that would be healthy and community building are forbidden in this city where hyper-caution is a reflexive response to so much that is just commonsense. Therefore, in typical Toronto Council fashion, a pilot project will be launched. How much do you suppose the environmental assessment study will cost?

There is hardly the need to run a pilot project for a home-based activity that is millennia old. But, if councillors want to create a few positions for backyard health inspectors, then okay.

But, recall the pilot project that was run a few years ago on ‘ethnic’ food carts, which was micro-managed into failure. If City Council starts insisting that coops and other related equipment be bought only from council mandated suppliers, then flags should start going up.

If this goes forward though, anticipate that the city will likely require permits that will cost a fee.

Aside from political meddling, one concern about raising chickens in backyards in Toronto has to do with land ownership. The scramble to purchase residential real estate and the forbidding price tags attached to houses with land space would mean the possibility for eating fresh, free-range eggs then becomes a class issue.

Imagine that a longtime cultural practice among peasant people could move up the social status ladder and sit next to other markers like owning a Labrador retriever or being able to afford a third or fourth child.

Already, the talk on Council regarding the pilot project is selection of wards where homes have enough backyard space. Ward 5 Etobicoke-Lakeshore would be included since Justin Di Ciano, councilor for that ward, brought forward the motion for the pilot project.

The vote on this pilot project would have taken place by now, but was delayed when the last council meeting before the summer break ended early upon news of the death of Councillor Pam McConnell. Now, the vote won’t take place until this fall, with the pilot project not coming until next spring.

In the meantime, backyard chicken lawbreakers would be well to organize to ensure they have strong advocacy to support backyard freedom.

Let City Hall know all about the benefits of raising chickens and how much they fit into the home gardening ecology. They control bugs in the garden and chicken waste is very good fertilizer enriching the soil for food plants in the home garden. Furthermore, hens are not noisy. And, the closer we are to nature the more respectful we are of it.

With the growing threat of global warming, which is a consequence of human disconnection from our natural environment, that respect is urgently needed.

@DesmondCole ’s activism and a double standard

Desmond Cole’s activism and a double standard

 

By PAT WATSON

The dynamic individual actions of activist and freelance journalist Desmond Cole in standing up as a voice for equity for Black people and his decision to stop writing a bi-monthly column in the Toronto Star are part of the same struggle. In keeping with his activism, it was very much about anti-Black racism. Cole made a principled decision.

He had been advised by the Star that his activism and his journalism were clashing. To reference a written response by feminist activist Michelle Landsberg that appeared in Now Weekly, the Star “blundered”.

It really comes down to this: At a time when privileged White males in the Canadian writers milieu were having fun being glib on Twitter about funding an award for one of their own – ‘the appropriation prize’ – there is stubborn blindness to the equal value of the existence of others. And, whenever a member of one of those otherized (yes it’s a word) groups claims his equal place in the world, there is push back.

We are in the process of waking up somnambulant White-identified masses – and in particular the male power elite – to the fact that they are only human and so is everyone else. They are being challenged to come to the reality that it is not their place to tell any other racially or culturally identified segment of the population how to be. It must feel very peculiar to them.

The prospect of losing the status they have sustained over centuries must be unsettling. Otherwise, why would Star higher-ups want to try to get Cole to white-wash his columns, which by the way had been cut from weekly to twice a month?

With printed news struggling for market share, Cole’s columns were bringing readers to the Star. Clicks online to link to his column meant money to the Star’s bottom line. Yet, even that couldn’t make them see beyond the platform of race hierarchy.

The Star’s explanation, that the journalist should not become the story, has been shown to be empty. Much could be said about the double standard that was in effect in this matter. Landsberg and others writing in support of Cole’s decision have laid out the evidence of vocal activists who were also columnists writing for the Star and heavily supported in their activism. Landsberg goes so far as to note that her editors “in fact, encouraged my activism.”

It’s clear then what it means that Cole was essentially told he could not do what others before him had done while continuing to have their bylines in the Star.

Cole was quickly invited by other media houses including the CBC to have his byline appear there.

If nothing else, this episode with The Star serves to show how even those that consider themselves as champions for equality and fairness across racial lines still feel they own the prerogative to decide how much equality and fairness other identified groups can or should have. After all, this same legacy newspaper did the extensive investigative report on police carding of Black men that helped raise the flag in the mainstream.

Of course, every newspaper editor reserves the decision whether to print a column, but when the Star brought Cole on board, he was already a high-energy activist on behalf of Black people. Therefore, to then imply he should have to make a choice in the matter is foolishness.

Cole’s readers will follow him wherever his goes, so when he left The Star, his readership left with him. Will this then be a learning experience for the Star?

Anyway, their move, their loss.

A note on ransomware…

The cyber attack, WannaCry ransomeware that locked users out of the files on their computer and created chaos in the healthcare system in the United Kingdom is a reminder to regularly save files in a backup offline. Most of us have no clue how to pay a ransom with bitcoins, the common form of ransom payment. Better safe than sorry.

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through A Coloured Lens. Twitter @patprose.

So… a raccoon walks into an art class…

Cultured raccoon creeps into Scarborough high school’s art class

‘He did not have time to get into the paint,’ art teacher says

toronto-raccoon-scarborough-high-school

A Toronto raccoon seemingly sought sophistication in its Wednesday morning escapade and crept into an art classroom at R.H. King Academy.

Mark Tufford, an art teacher at the Scarborough high school, arrived at work shortly after 8 a.m. to prepare for the day.

He opened the windows and left the room, only to return to the critter perched on a desk, “looking at me.”

“It was mostly disbelief,” Tufford said of the sight. “It was definitely a story to tell.”

“He was sitting on a table. I could see him clearly through the window of the door.”

Tufford locked the classroom door and informed the main office.

“The raccoon was terrified,” he said.

“King” the raccoon later sought refuge in a supplies cabinet, Tufford said.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/raccoon-scarborough-school-1.3464178?utm_content=buffer6bd73&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

Maintaining public housing status quo wrong

TCHC

By PAT WATSON

Mould, leaking ceilings, broken windows covered with cardboard, leaking rusty plumbing. Any of these could be describing housing conditions on any one of the poorly supported reserves where indigenous people live in Northern Ontario. But they also describe conditions crying out for attention within the properties managed by the City of Toronto.

The list of problems would also have to include the rate of violent crime that occurs on or in the vicinity of public housing property, which exceeds the rate in other parts of the city.

Is it too far a stretch to characterize City management as a slumlord?

Here is what the mayor’s Task Force looking into the crisis we call Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) came back with: “TCHC is an organization that, because of its history and structure, is unsustainable financially, socially and from an operating and governance perspective.”

Yet, rather than do away with this whole enterprise, the Task Force has come back with two main recommendations about the structure of the organization, both of which would mean keeping TCHC in existence in one form or another.

The Task Force has recommended changing the name of TCHC to NewHome. NewHome, old home, what’s the difference if it looks and functions no differently?

– See more at: http://sharenews.com/maintaining-public-housing-status-quo-wrong/#sthash.4b51f6RC.dpuf

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through a Coloured Lens.

The Dusty Crystal Ball does a snow job on 2016

The Dusty Crystal Ball does a snow job on 2016

michael-de-adder-bautista-bat-flip.jpg.size.xxlarge.letterbox
By PAT WATSON

The seconds are ticking into 2016. At this time and in this space, as one year hands off to the next, the Dusty Crystal Ball nudges its way to the centre to again prognosticate, with absolute improbability, expectations for the year ahead.

Here then, for your amusement, are the top 10 events to watch for in 2016 – none of which are expected to materialize. Remember, this particular crystal ball is very, very dusty, and has yet to see any of its predictions come true…except for the odd accidental piece of irony.

Prediction 1: The unusually warm Christmas 2015 season, during which time so many across Canada finally began to talk about the reality of global warming, will quickly be forgotten once meteorologists and climatologists ramp up their statements that this year’s weather anomaly is the result of yet another El Niño system. The questioning will end when a more typical winter returns by the end of January. Then, the talk among strangers at bus stops while waiting in the freezing cold for the bus or streetcar will be, “Global warming? What global warming?”

– See more at: http://sharenews.com/the-dusty-crystal-ball-does-a-snow-job-on-2016/#sthash.hTEzz2NS.dpuf

Pat Watson is the author of the e-book, In Through a Coloured Lens. Twitter@patprose.

Subsidized Housing task force response lipstick on a crumbling pig

TCHC task force response lipstick on a crumbling pig

By PAT WATSON

Have you ever sat in an exam, written what you thought was a really good response to an essay question, only to find out that you did not read the directions for the question properly? No matter how well you wrote the paper, you then get a failing grade. In some sense, that is what we could make of the recent announcement from the executive at Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) regarding how they plan to improve the portfolio.

The plan of action sounds rosy, but does it truly answer the key problem, which is the model of public housing that now burdens the city? That burden includes a growing $1.7 billion backlog of repairs on a heap of crumbling bricks and mortar that houses more than 50,000 people in 2,200 TCHC buildings.

The promises for improvement follow the interim report put out in July as part of Toronto Mayor John Tory’s Task Force on Toronto Community Housing. Tory has made some comments about what needs to be done to improve safety and security within TCHC sites, among them evicting residents involved in criminal activity. For most TCHC residents, this latter is a pointless argument, as they are being wrongly characterized in this matter. Many who use TCHC property as sites for doing illegal business are not residents.

The report coming from TCHC Chair Bud Purves and interim CEO Greg Spearn places a good deal of emphasis on increasing security as well as providing information to residents about how to anonymously report crimes. Crime, including bodily harm and murder, occur more often per capita in and near TCHC property than in other parts of the city. Safety and security will always be an important concern, but to overlook the environmental design and social components that would allow for a higher rate of occurrence is to write the wrong answer to the question.

However, to show they mean business, the city plans to re-mortgage the properties in order to finance the $400 million they plan to spend over two years, starting almost immediately, to carry out such initiatives as pest control, job creation and increased security features.

But picture TCHC workers putting security cameras on the side of a building only to have them fall off along with bricks a few days later. It could happen. An entire four floors of brick facing fell from a TCHC building in Scarborough back in April, just as the spring thaw was setting in. Imagine if it was only the cold that had been holding those bricks in place.

No. Putting lipstick on a pig is not the best answer that could have come out of this task force. How about…

– See more at: http://sharenews.com/tchc-task-force-response-lipstick-on-a-crumbling-pig/#sthash.emRPQLkX.dpuf