Open letter to government elected members

Saturday February 03, 2024
Shahrema Persian Weekly Magazine
Medi Shams - Willowdale Resident





Wo I am









Rights & Priviledges










Modular Housing



Stan Cho MPP


Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs









Local Residents












Mistrust politicians



Real Estate


The initiation



OLT Decision






Democracy in danger


Social injustice





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. 

Compared 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 few Willowdale residents, seven local associations, a 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 neighbours. 

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. 

A few 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 prioritizes 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 have issued 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.



Last Edited 03/02/2024 - For all comments on this site