Carolyn Bennett
Hon. Carolyn Bennett
Member of Parliament for Toronto—St. Paul's
Community Update February 4, 2022
February 4, 2022
Groundhog Day came and went and, as always, we know that winter here in Toronto will last at least another 6 weeks – shadow or no shadow! We also know that over the past 2 years we have referred to ‘Groundhog Day’ more often than ever as we describe how Covid-19 has constrained our lives, limiting us to new ways of being ‘together while apart’ for work, play, holidays, birthdays, and even funerals. Two years ago, when Covid-19 was discovered, we thought we could stop the novel virus in its tracks just by shutting down for a short period of time. We were wrong. We have now endured the ‘Groundhog Days’ of another lock-down, another postponed vacation, wedding or visit to a loved one. We have exhausted our appetite for baking and video streaming services, but then we have once again come to love just being outside in our parks and ravines and coming to know the names of all our neighbours’ pets as we explore the streets of our neighbourhoods and survey the renovations and new designs. I believe we really came through this together. We hear from the shopkeepers and restauranteurs how loyal their customers have been and how they were able to welcome so many neighbours as new customers as we were determined to #ShopLocal.

February is Black History Month. Rosemary Sadlier, president of the Ontario Black History Society, introduced the idea of having Black History Month recognized across Canada to celebrate the Honourable Jean Augustine as the first Black Canadian woman elected to Parliament. With a unanimous vote in the House of Commons in 1995, Canada recognized February as Black History Month. The theme for Black History Month 2022 is February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day.

We in Toronto St. Paul’s have so much to celebrate - today and every day - with the extraordinary Black Community that makes our country so strong. From the shops in Little Jamaica and the hugely successful Afro-Canadian Farmers’ Market last summer, to the iconic Albert Wiggan and all the fabulous tastes of the Caribbean, Africa, and the Southern States that help build pride and community. From Surranna Sandy at Skills for Change and Alica Hall at the groundbreaking (literally!) Nia Centre for the Arts, we are so grateful for the leadership that continues to strengthen our community. We were all excited to see that Rebuilding Main Streets direct $1M to the Black Canadian Business Association to invest in the businesses in Little Jamaica.

February also brings Valentine’s Day. As most of you know, I’ve never liked it. Valentines was another holiday in which I would have to show up at my parents’ flower shop after school to deal with the last minute rush of guilty and grumpy customers. As I mentioned last year, they couldn’t comprehend that the ‘supply chain’ meant that long-stemmed red roses had sold out days before. I also grew quite cynical as certain customers asked me to remove the address of the recipient on the invoice as they didn’t want it to show on the bill! Some of these guys were sending to many addresses. Oh my! I loved the transformation that happened last year as we recognized that Valentines can be a very difficult time for those who have lost a loved one or are lonely. Valentines Day has become an excellent time to show our love and appreciation to the front-line workers who have gotten us through this pandemic.


Two years into this unprecedented social disruption, we continue to see the resilience of Canadians and our institutions. That extraordinary ability to become strong, healthy, or successful after something bad happens has continued to inspire us. We began the pandemic knowing that we had to be ‘in it together’ and it still feels so important to remain committed to having one another’s backs and to reach out to those who are struggling.

As Parliament resumed this week, please stay in touch. Share your ideas for Budget 2022, suggestions to foster resilience and to ensure that, as we Build Back Better, we leave no one behind.



For more information and resources on COVID-19, visit here

Last month, Minister Tassi announced that the Government of Canada has received an initial shipment of 30,400 treatment courses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 oral antiviral treatment, PAXLOVID, with 120,000 more expected to be delivered by the end of March. For more information, please consult this statement.


Rapid Tests

The Government introduced Bill C-10 in the House of Commons, An Act respecting certain measures related to COVID-19 which will provide Health Canada with the statutory authority to purchase and distribute across the country up to $2.5 billion worth of COVID-19 rapid tests. This will help Canada to secure rapid tests in a highly competitive global market and continue to ensure that provinces and territories have everything they need to respond to COVID-19.  


BA.2 Omicron Variant  

The government is taking a multilayered approach to keep Canadians safe, working with the provinces and territories to protect our communities from outbreaks of new COVID-19 variants. As part of that work, the government announced $53 million to create a Variants of Concern Strategy, which has increased the monitoring and surveillance of new COVID-19 variants in Canada. 



· As of January 30th, 2021, 15.3M booster shots have been administered across the country. 

· As of January 30th, 88.70% of Canadians over the age of 18 are fully vaccinated 

· As of January 30th, 45.99% of Canadians over the age of 18 have received a booster dose 

· As of January 30th, 53.17% of children aged 5-11 have received their first dose of a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine. 


Border Measures

The government’s testing regime is working. We are finding COVID-19 cases caused by variants because of our comprehensive testing, screening, and sequencing regime. There are exemptions that have recently ended for travelers. Effective January 15th some foreign national travelers who were previously allowed to enter Canada without being fully vaccinated will now be required to be fully vaccinated in order to enter Canada. There will also be changes to testing and quarantine exemptions for certain travelers, regardless of citizenship, entering Canada. For full details please visit here.


Federal Updates

LGBTQ2 Community Capacity Fund

This month, Minister Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, announced an extension of up to $7.5 million for community capacity funding. Minister Ien also announced up to $800,000 in funding for two LGBTQ2 projects. The funding will enable LGBTQ2 organizations to build stronger infrastructure and networks of community organizations to advance LGBTQ2 equality across Canada. For more on this announcement and the LGBTQ2 Action Plan, click here.  


Community Sport for All Initiative

This week, Minister St-Onge launched the Community Sport for All Initiative, a component of the Sport Support Program. The initiative seeks to remove barriers and increase sport participation rates, particularly among Black, Indigenous, racialized, 2SLGBTQQIA+, low-income and newcomer communities. National-level organizations or those able to implement projects in more than one province or territory are invited to submit their proposals by April 4, 2022. Proposals selected for funding should work with community-based groups to undertake activities aimed at addressing barriers to participation in sport, particularly among Black, Indigenous, racialized, 2SLGBTQQIA+, low-income and newcomer communities. For more information on this, click here. press release.


Canada Performing Arts Workers Resilience Fund

Canada is committed to supporting the recovery of the arts and culture sector, which has been among the hardest-hit sectors throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, Minister Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage, announced the launch of the Canada Performing Arts Workers Resilience Fund. This new temporary funding program will provide $60 million to help workers in the live performance sector. It will finance initiatives led and delivered by organizations in the sector to directly support independent and self-employed workers (gig workers) in the live performance sector. For more information, click here.


National Housing Co-Investment Fund (NHCF) Supporting Black Canadians

This week, Minister Hussen also announced up to $50 million dedicated to building affordable housing units for Black Canadians. This funding through the National Housing Co-Investment Fund (NHCF) will support Black-led organizations to build housing, as well as more affordable housing for Black renter households in Canada. As we kick off Black History Month, we recognize and acknowledge the unique realities Black Canadians face, including in the housing sector. Funding will be available starting this year until 2028 through the National Housing Co-Investment Fund. For more information, please see the press release.


Active Transportation Fund, Zero Emissions Transit Fund, and Rural Transit Solutions Fund

This week, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities, launched a call for applications for new projects that will support public transit systems across Canada. As of this week, applications to the Zero Emission Transit Fund, the Active Transportation Fund and the Rural Transit Solutions Fund will be accepted. These funds will help shorten people’s commutes, grow a strong, healthy economy, and fight climate change. For more information on these funds and this announcement, click here. 


Skills For Success Program 

This week, Minister Qualtrough launched a call for proposals for projects that will increase training opportunities for Canadians now and in the future. Organizations have until March 9 to apply for funding under the Skills for Success program. The projects funded through Skills for Success will also build the capacity of organizations and employers, and support the work of provinces and territories as the economy recovers. For more information please see the press release.



The Canada Revenue Agency will begin sending CERB verification letters to some individuals. These letters only ask for documentation to determine eligibility during their claim periods – they are not denial letters, nor do they ask for repayment at this time. The Agency will proceed with empathy and flexibility when working with those who have to provide documentation to confirm their eligibility.

Black History Month

February marks Black History Month. In December 1995, the House of Commons officially recognized February as Black History Month in Canada, following a historic motion introduced by the Hon. Jean Augustine. Black History Month is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of Black Canadians, while also listening to their lived realities and ongoing struggles. 

This year’s theme is February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day. The theme reflects the contributions Black Canadians have made, and continue to make, to this country. As we begin Black History Month, Canadians are invited to learn more about the diversity and resilience of Black Canadians in this country, and to recognize that we all have a responsibility to fight anti-Black racism. Happy Black History Month! Click below for a message from me. 



As the situation is changing daily, please check the following websites for daily updates in Toronto and across Canada:

In Our Community

Local businesses continue to need our support! Find out what stores are open, or what restaurants are offering takeout and delivery. The following BIAs have put together lists of businesses that are still open, albeit doing things a bit differently. Let's do what we can to support our local businesses:

Mental Health Support

Wellness Together Canada

COVID-19 has changed the daily lives of people around the world. During these difficult times, it is critical that Canadians be able to obtain credible information and access services to support their mental health and wellbeing. That's why the government launched a portal dedicated to mental wellness: Wellness Together Canada.


This portal will connect Canadians to peer support workers, social workers, psychologists and other professionals for confidential chat sessions or phone calls, and will make it easier to find credible information and help address mental health and substance use issues.


Kids Help Phone

Although we’re far apart physically, our young people must feel help is close.  Kids Help Phone is a remote mental health service that connects youth with professional counselling, information and referrals across Canada without any face-to-face contact. Contact Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, by texting 686868, or by going online to

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