(sent today to Councillor Doug Holyday)
Dear Councilor Holyday,
Last week my husband, 16-month-old and I were walking along the lake shore for a post-dinner ice cream run when my husband mentioned that a city councilor had made a very uninformed comment on children living in the city of Toronto. I was shocked and disappointed to find out that this spew of ignorance was in fact truly stated.
Our little family of three lives on King Street West, between Liberty Village and Trinity Bellwoods. We are looking to move out of our two-bedroom loft and into a larger home, and struggling with a decision of moving out to Etobicoke or staying downtown.
I, unlike you, love downtown for raising a family. Having grown up in a city core in Europe, moved to Canada to a GTA suburb, and now raising a family downtown I can’t quite imagine raising my son (and future children) anywhere else. We spend more time outside enjoying the city life than I ever did as a child growing up in the suburbs. You are very misinformed about the Toronto you mention, and I would encourage you to rent a bike and explore before opening your mouth again.
By living here we ride the city on our bikes, stop to play the piano in the park, take the wagon to one of a multitude of amazing splash pads, buy fresh fruit and veggies in the farmer’s market and jog on the waterfront. We often walk to local stores, to get fresh made ice-cream and enjoy delicious healthy food options of lovely little patios. My husband whose work schedule isn’t as flexible as mine is able to spend time with his son just minutes after he finishes work, or we ride the bike down to meet him in the financial district. Our life is pretty amazing, I think.
There are dangers in the city, just the same way there are dangers in the suburbs. Shootings, robberies, drugs, traffic, pedophiles. They are just as real in Etobicoke as they are in downtown areas. My son is growing up to be a considerate, aware, enlightened, intelligent and considerate little person. He is evolving his tastes and respect for others.
I want to thank you for your ignorant comments, you have shown me exactly why we should remain a downtown family. Small-mindedness is not an option for my family. So we will continue to live where we do, to keep our experiences open when interacting with others.
The photos I’ve attached are of my young son playing the piano on the waterfront, splashing at the splash pad, riding the bike with me at Bay and King (oh my!), climbing the jungle gym with his dad, eating ice cream by the park. Gosh it looks like a pretty horrible life doesn’t it?! I am surprised I’ve managed to keep him alive this long. You should be ashamed of yourself, Councillor Holyday. I am embarrassed for you.
I find it very disturbing that the Deputy Mayor of Toronto could be not only so out of touch with the realities of the city he supposedly serves, but have a stubborn ignorance of the communities in Toronto that make this city so unique and liveable.
I was born in the mid 1980s to a middle class family and raised near Dufferin subway station, a block away from Bloor, and right across the street from Dufferin Grove Park. Family ties brought my parents to this neighbourhood; it had been where my great grandmother and grandmother had been raised. My parents, conversely, were brought up in Scarborough, and from their own experiences were eager to have my sister and I raised in an urban environment.
My parents, little sister and I were located minutes away from Gladstone Public Library, seven or eight different elementary and high schools (including Catholic options), corner stores, fruit stands, coffee shops, restaurants, the West End YMCA and the Dufferin Mall. This is without even beginning to count the number of services and programs that were made available to us through Dufferin Grove Park, including an ice rink in the winter, playground with wading pool in the summer, monthly, weekly or nightly free professional shows put on by Paperclay Theater and Dusk Dances (to mention a few), weekly farmers markets, community potlucks, the pizza oven which we were able to make our own pizzas with the help of Toronto Parks and Rec staff, public gardens, street fairs…
I could literally go on for hours about the happy memories I made in that park as a child with all of my friends. My street and the surrounding streets were a community, and as a child I never felt threatened within it. As an adult returning to my parents house, I notice that there are not fewer but more children then ever, who always seem to be running and playing down the sidewalks and in the park. Not much has changed.
My whole young adult life was spent in inner city schools with other children born and raised in the inner city, even on the dreaded Yonge street. We were all normal kids, living in quiet downtown neighbourhoods.
The comments you made were ignorant, and in that, either comedic or offensive. My parents, and the parents of my friends around me, ranging in employment from lawyers, to cashiers, to teacher, were not making poor decisions when they decided to raise their families downtown. If my own upbringing can be any indication, they were doing me the greatest service and I can never thank them enough.
thank you for your time,
I heard about your concern for children on the busy streets of Toronto. I too have concerns; mostly for those rowdy street hockey players who I’m deathly afraid of not seeing, as they dart out from between cars for that surprise goal they have been waiting to score.
I don’t have buses or streetcars on the street where I live. Oddly enough, 30 years ago, when looking for a house in the Bayview/Davisville area, one of our requests to the real estate agent was a quiet street and close to good schools.
I admit I wasn’t a good parent back then as I often let them run up and down the sidewalks on Bayview Avenue and oh yes, even Davisville Avenue. Things have changed in those 30 years, my street is not as quiet as it once was, but, thankfully for my grandchildren’s sake, my children made it out of the neighbourhood and have discovered other wonderful neighbourhoods in Toronto.
My grandson (poor boy) is being raised in Little Italy. Just north of Trinity-Bellwoods Park. Oh yes, it’s noisy all right: cars, streetcars, children laughing as they walk along College St. with their parents. And the noise in the parks around them, good lord, so many children playing in the splash pads, on the swing sets, running in the open green space.
Another thing, those Farmer’s Markets in the parks: I thought they were good ideas, but I don’t know having to stand in a line to get to the fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers etc., behind all those young parents and their children. Why do children have to eat all that healthy food?
Tonight I saw my grandson running on College Street, laughing (my goodness how could he? it is not safe there, you told me that the other day) stomping in puddles, with people walking along the street smiling and laughing at his laughter as the water splashed.
I really must talk to my children about raising their families in downtown Toronto. I don’t want them to have the same kind of happy life their parents had.
Karen Siddiqi – Ward 22 resident
Dear Councillor Holyday,
I grew up in the country - not the suburbs - but real, honest-to-goodness country with a farmer’s field at the back of my yard, ravines, a conservation area and the bruce trail within sight. It was an amazing place to grow up in so many ways. But my parents had to commute long distances to their work and we had to have a car (well, most of the time we had 3 - clunkers, mind you, but 3 of them - to accommodate the schedules of 3 kids and 2 adults) in order to do anything outside the house.
My husband grew up in a vastly different rural area - the Sahara desert of Morocco. His landscape was remarkably different but he also grew up with natural beauty all around him and several hours’ travel on dirt roads to the closest city.
Years later we found ourselves living in Toronto and loving it. You are certainly not the only person we’ve heard ask, “who would want to raise their kids in the city?” especially when their reference point is rural. A lot of people don’t give much conscious thought to where they live - they just end up where they end up. But me and my partner made a very conscious choice to live and work in this city, and it’s turned out to be a wonderful place to raise our family. We have one four-year-old and another on the way.
Our neighbourhood is lively and amazing. We know our neighbours, and all the kids at the parkette across the street from our house know each other and so do their parents. Our councillor, Joe Mihevc, sets up community movie nights in the summer time outside in the ward’s parks. Most of our travel involves bikes or walking. For a kid who grew up in the country this is incredibly liberating!
And for trips further afield we can take transit. We have access to amazing programs at the public libraries, swimming lessons at the community centre, and myriad parks to explore in nearby neighbourhoods. We have the amazing privilege of access to a multitude of festivals and special events that take place downtown every week of the year. We may not have a yard, but we have a small patch out front that we’ve transformed into a beautiful perennial garden, and we are part of an amazing community garden down the street where we’ve planted veggies and learn from other community members about agriculture and the natural world.
Our neighbourhood provides us with opportunities to interact with people that neither my husband nor I had growing up: we meet people from all income brackets, young and old, and from a multitude of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. It’s a really wonderful place to grow up with a family. We’re the same downtown as you are in the suburbs or the country. People downtown love their kids, look out for other people, and care about their neighbourhoods.
Just wanted you to know that. Attached are some pics of us enjoying life in the city: at the Frankel Lambert community garden, baking pizza at Dufferin Grove Park, and skating at Nathan Phillips Square.
All the best,