Politics has endangered our democracy
Dear elected member,
I am sad but not angry.
I will start with a brief introduction of myself.
I moved to Canada when I was forty. In the absence of
security, social justice, freedom, and democracy, I left the
land where I had opened my eyes to life. I came to a country
with high respect for such values. Without them no life with
integrity and dignity is possible.
to those born here, it is natural that people like me look
at freedom and democracy differently, be more sensitive
towards these values, consider them sacred, and be more
ready to protect them and sound the alarm bells. For me,
freedom of speech, assembly, and participation in elections
are privileges, not rights. Privileges for those who adhere
to their civic duty, which means active participation in the
community's public life
I have been living and working in Willowdale for about
27 years. Due to the massive development of real estate
in this neighbourhood, I also have to find new places for
both work and living. The purpose of this letter is not to
delve into my issues. Instead, I aim to advocate for those
without a voice to scream their suffering, or a vote to grab
the attention of politicians.
My heart goes out to the hundreds of homeless people who
wake up every morning worrying about mental and emotional
problems and go to sleep every night worrying about another
cold night on the streets.
I've been writing every week for ten years in one of the
Iranian community magazines
(Shahrema) to inform, encourage participation, and raise
societal issues. With the end of the first chapter of three
years of neighbourhood opposition to the construction of 59
modular supportive housing units for the homeless in
Willowdale through the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT)
decision, I devoted my last
three articles to the description and analysis of this
sad social story.
If Willowdale Conservative MPP Stan Cho, like the four other
MPPs, had not
opposed the Minister's Zoning Order (MZO), these units
also would have been finished and used like
four other projects in other neighbourhoods in Toronto.
Also, the opposition of a
residents, seven local
developer, and election
candidates wouldn't have taken shape.
Failure to issue the MZO by Steve Clark, Minister of
Municipal Affairs and Housing, left 59 individuals without
housing for three years. This decision not only squandered
taxpayers' money on rent and transportation of the
prefabricated units but also led to conflicts among
The serious risk was and continues to be the possibility of
opponents succeeding in preventing the implementation of
this project, which could become a precedent for opposition
to such projects in the future all around the country.
It is not surprising that the
developer who is engaged in a multi-million dollar
project just across the street opposes the modular units for
the homeless, donates and joins other applicants in court.
The discrimination of local
associations in supporting the seniors living nearby and
ignoring the suffering of the homeless people living in
their neighbourhood, raises doubts about their motivation.
The possibility that unknowingly their intention may have
been manipulated by those who clearly take any opportunity
to accumulate more wealth and power.
dozen well-organized and supported local residents were
enough to raise their voices in a way that they appeared
larger than they really were.
The involvement of
politics and the way politicians made the fight over
housing homeless people an issue in the last municipal,
provincial and mayoral election is alarming. The court
decision didn't end the battle. Already, a
candidate, who is affiliated with two local
associations, has announced her intention to keep this issue
alive in the next election.
Stan Cho's contacting the Minister regarding the MZO on
the same day (March 10, 2021) that the project was
unanimously approved by City Council, and simultaneously
informing seven neighbourhood associations, should raise
questions. He is the only provincial representative who
opposed the MZO, despite being a member of a government that
housing as part of its primary agenda.
Considering that Conservatives have issued 72 MZO to
accelerate emergency programs in their first four years in
office, the obstruction of this specific case should also
give us some hints about how they look at homelessness. It
goes without saying that the Conservatives in four years
MZO four times as much as the Liberals in 15 years.
Whether accurate or not, being frequently mentioned in the
media, including controversies around the
Bradford bypass route change to protect Stan Cho
father's golf course, owning four investment
properties, especially during a housing crisis that has
burdened tenants tremendously, and
breaching parliamentary convention by using government
resources in partisan activities, does not increase people's
trust in politicians.
This is especially true if a politician in the position of
the ministry, with a long-term family background in real
estate, opposes a project that might worry property owners,
investors, or builders.
The opposition to this project appears to have been sparked
by Stan Cho writing a letter urging against a ministerial
zoning order. Subsequently, seven local associations joined
forces, some residents held demonstrations, engaged on
social media platforms, and a builder affiliated themselves
with the movement. Ultimately, funds were raised and a case
was filed with the Ontario Land Tribunal.
While their objection has been
dismissed by the Ontario Land Tribunal, and the
opponents may not achieve their desired outcome, it is
evident that those who succeeded in the elections by
aligning themselves with this particular issue have likely
gained significant political leverage.
I sincerely hope my skepticism is unfounded; however, if it
proves accurate, utilizing voters and manipulating their
sentiments for personal aspirations rather than genuine
public service, constitutes wrongdoing that all citizens may
ultimately bear the consequences.
If I have addressed you, the elected representatives of the
three levels of government, it is not only because of the
housing crisis, it is not because more and more the spirit
of NIMBY (not in my backyard) is dominating our way of
thinking, talking, and acting, but I have addressed you
because our democracy is in danger.
Indifference, decline of empathy, decrease in participation
in elections, and mistrust in government and politicians,
should have set off alarm bells by now. Insecurity,
violence, mental illnesses, and poverty are signs of social
injustices, which unfortunately are increasing, reaching a
level no one can deny or avoid anymore.
As long as politics weighs on our thoughts, words and
actions, justice is nothing more than an illusion. Dealing
with this particular issue requires the cooperation of
everyone, especially you as politicians.
I look forward to you elected representatives of the people.
If you are unable to change today's sad and unfortunate
situation, at least don't make it worse.
Medi Shams, and advocate for social justice.