This week I was honoured to be included in the installation of Mary Simon, as our 30th Governor General. The Prime Minister stated that “We need people like Ms. Simon, because we need people who build bridges and bring us together” - Her Excellency, an Inuk and the first Indigenous Governor General of Canada is what this country needs. Mary Simon was clear in her remarks that she is committed to helping Canada navigate the “tension of the past” and the “promise of the future.” She negotiated the first land claims for her people and has fought for gender equality, Indigenous rights, destigmatization of mental health and, in 2017 as Ministerial Special Representative to my Department, authored the truly important A New Shared Arctic Leadership Model report that has guided our policies and provided the foundation for Canada's Arctic and Northern Policy. Her Excellency has served as President of the highly successful Makivik Corporation in Nunavik in Northern Quebec, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Ambassador to Circumpolar Affairs and Denmark.
I remember fondly the summer of 2016 at the ITK meeting in Kuujjuaq, Mary invited the Inuit Youth Council out to her cabin to pick berries – her favourite thing! It was so clear that those young Inuit leaders saw Mary as their icon of Inuit leadership and humility. I thought about that on Monday as we listened to her remarks, especially:
"What I valued most about my upbringing was my parents teaching my siblings and I how to live in two worlds—the Inuit world and the non-Inuit, southern world.
This foundation of core values has both served and shaped me throughout my life, and I believe helped me get to an important turning point as a young girl when I stopped being afraid.
It took time before I gained the self-confidence to assert myself and my beliefs in the non-Indigenous world. But when I came to understand that my voice had power and that others were looking to me to be their voice, I was able to let go of my fear."
Building community is always about leaders who listen. Leaders who are prepared to be the voice for those who have not been heard. Leaders like Mary are prepared to take risks. Leaders like Mary have the vision and the values truly to make a difference.
This weekend, we celebrate the first National Emancipation Day in Canada, and those leaders who took risks and fought for the abolition of slavery. On March 24, 2021, the House of Commons voted unanimously to officially designate August 1 as Emancipation Day. It marks the actual day in 1834 that the Slavery Abolition Act came into effect across the British Empire. In Canada, we have celebrated the importance of the Underground Railway and our country as its terminus, but we have to acknowledge we did have slavery here. Those who fought enslavement were pivotal in shaping our society to be as diverse as it is today. Emancipation Day celebrates the strength and perseverance of Black communities in Canada - a time to reflect, educate and engage in the ongoing fight against anti-Black racism and discrimination.
This Sunday we will be celebrating the first official Emancipation Day at the Afro-Caribbean Farmers’ Market starting at 11 am. Then we will be celebrating the evening virtually at 6 pm with Rosemary Sadlier, Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard, Member of Parliament Greg Fergus and other exciting and inspiring speakers and performers. To join us online, visit here for more details.
During this summer of reflection, we have all pledged to learn as much as we can about our country’s true history, as we move to the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation on September 30.
The harmful effects of slavery and the colonizing laws and policies with respect to Indigenous peoples continue to cause pain and suffering for so many. Mary Simon was clear that true reconciliation is something we all have to work at every day. Every day we have to work at understanding and learning from one another: First Nations, Inuit and Métis, those fleeing violence from around the world, those struggling with the stigma of mental illness, those who have lost hope. I look forward to Mary Simon being the beacon of hope, towards the ‘promise of the future'.
In 2014, at the Charlottetown ‘Bold Vision’ Conference, I boldly stated that I thought as settlers the transformation should ‘start at the top’ and that the Governor General should be an Indigenous person. I asked who better to lead our country in ceremony. Monday, I witnessed that happen. I thank the Prime Minister for this historic moment in Canada’s journey as Mary Simon and Whit Fraser take up residence at Rideau Hall – the peoples’ place.
Her Excellency the Right Honourable Ms. Mary Simon
On July 26th, 2021 Her Excellency the Right Honourable Ms. Mary Simon was installed as Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General at a ceremony held at the Senate of Canada. As Governor General, Her Excellency will be the representative of Her Majesty the Queen in Canada.
I believe no one is better placed to lead our country in ceremony as Governor General than Mary Simon, a peacemaker, a knowledge keeper, a pioneer and a role model for all of us. She embodies all the strengths and values of Inuit. For more on Her Excellency and her installation, click here.
Louise Bernice Halfe – Sky Dancer, Parliamentary Poet Laureate, composed the poem “Mary Simon / Ningiukudluk” in honour of Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General.
Mary Simon / Ningiukudluk
When she arrived from the womb
her father wrapped a seal-skin bracelet
on her small wrist. Her mother
sang softly into her ear her unfolding story
how she would walk through the storms
to bring life to her people.
Yester-year and today Mary Simon
has never forgotten the Artic terrain
where she stumbled over boulders but
never fell. The inuksuks constant companions.
Her umiak rolled with the waves
while she paddled with a steady stroke.
She covered many territories
navigating with the stars
her ancestors beside her.
They have taught her reconciliation,
reciprocity, revitalization, restoration,
resurgence, resolution, resilience
The Governor General
has never forgotten.
In Cree, we say: ki ma mi hcih in an
You have made us so very proud.
We stand with you.
© Louise B. Halfe – Sky Dancer
For this poem in Cree, please click here.
Upcoming Events - Virtual & In-Person
Sunday August 1st, 2021
Afro-Caribbean Farmers' Market
Join us in person as we celebrate Emancipation Day 2021 at the Afro-Caribbean Farmers' Market from 11 am to 3 pm. For more information on the Market, visit here.
Emancipation Day Virtual Celebration via YouTube @EmancipationDayCanada
Virtually at 5 pm we will be joining an exciting lineup of speakers and performers to celebrate the first Emancipation Day in Canada. This event is hosted by Patricia Mawa, the Executive VP of Silvertrust Media and Afroglobal Television and features Rosemary Sadlier, Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard, MP Greg Fergus and more! For more information this virtual event, visit here.
Peaceful Solidarity Walk: In Honour of the 215+ Children
This Indigenous-led event will be in the Toronto St. Clair West community and will begin at 10:30am at Santa Chiara Parkette. This is a peaceful walk on to honour the 215+ children who never returned home and whose remains were found at the site of former residential schools. For more, please visit the Facebook event.
Canada Child Benefit (CCB)
Helping families with the costs associated with raising children has been a priority for Canada over the past 5 years. Many Canadian families are still struggling to make ends meet as they balance work, everyday responsibilities, and extra expenses. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all Canadians and especially young families. Young families are experiencing growing expenses such as additional costs for childcare, home learning tools and more.
The Child Care Benefit (CCB) has supported families with additional financial compensation that has given them the opportunity to have more money to pay for necessities – whether that is new books, nutritious meals or extracurricular activities. Specifically, in Toronto-St. Paul’s the CCB has supported over 7,400 families (that is about 11,400 children).
The CCB was introduced over 5 years ago by our government and has been indexed again to support families. The new maximum benefit will give families $350 more per child than when the CCB was first introduced. And to help children adjust to a new normal after the COVID-19 pandemic, families already receiving the CCB will receive an additional $1,200 per child under 6 this year with the young child supplement. This first instalment of the CCBYCS was delivered on May 28th, and the next one has been issued today on Friday, July 30th.
Affordable Early Learning and Childcare for Canadian Families
The Government of Canada is committed to creating an affordable, high-quality, flexible, and fully inclusive childcare system for all Canadians. This plan set out in Budget 2021 will help parents – and especially women – get back to work, boost our economy, and allow us to grow the middle class.
Over the past month, the government has announced agreements across the country that will give families better access to $10/day child care. These agreements also focus on regulated early learning child care spaces that will provide all children with a secure environment to learn, succeed and grow!
As we finalize these monumental agreements with provinces and territories, it is concrete evidence that together we are continuing to Build Back Better.
For more information, click here.
Old Age Security
Seniors built the Canada we know and love. As seniors age, health and home care costs rise, seniors face higher living costs all while being more likely to have disabilities, be widowed or be unable to work. At the beginning of this month, Canada’s Minister of Seniors, Deb Schulte, announced the highest quarterly adjustment to existing OAS payments since 2014. Through this announcement, she also confirmed that older seniors will receive the one-time payment, announced in Budget 2021, during the week of August 16th, 2021. For more information on the one-time payment for older seniors, click here.
The OAS program, for those 65 and older focuses on ensuring a minimum income for seniors to help reduce the burden of increased costs. As of July 2022, seniors over the age of 75 will see an automatic increase of 10% to their OAS pension. For more information on Old Age Security, click here.
Canada’s tourism sector has been among the hardest hit through the COVID-19 pandemic and faces the longest path of recovery due to ongoing public health and travel restrictions. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Government of Canada has provided over $15.4 billion in direct supports to the tourism sector. Budget 2021 committed an additional $1 billion to help the tourism sector prepare to welcome domestic travelers and reposition Canada as a world-class destination.
Earlier this month, Minister Joly announced that one of the key measures of this support package, the Tourism Relief Fund, is now open for applications. The Tourism Relief Fund is a $500 million investment to support tourism-related businesses and organizations severely impacted by the pandemic. The Tourism Relief Fund will support businesses and organizations as they adapt their operations to public health measures while investing in products and services to facilitate future growth.
Indigenous communities that rely heavily on tourism have been disproportionally affected by COVID-19. The government is committed to investing a minimum of $50 million ─ or 10 percent of the total Fund ─ towards Indigenous tourism projects. For more information click here.
Natural Infrastructure Fund – Ravine Strategy
In Budget 2021, the City of Toronto was acknowledged as a leader in natural infrastructure solutions through its innovative and community-driven Ravine Strategy. This strategy aims to protect, manage, and enhance the ecological services and recreational opportunities provided by an urban ravine network that spans more than 300 kilometres. In Toronto-St. Paul’s we are familiar with the importance of having green spaces surrounding our community for our children, families and overall wellness. We are so happy to see that the Ravine Strategy will receive up to $20 million through the National Infrastructure Fund.
Stay tuned for further details on the Natural Infrastructure Fund program – the first of its kind at the federal level. This new program will support projects that use natural and hybrid approaches to protect the natural environment, support resilient communities, create jobs and tackle climate change. We will continue to share information on this initiative as it becomes available.
Shop Local Initiative
Our local shops and restaurants are at the heart and soul of Toronto-St. Paul’s. As we all continue to do our part to support our local businesses, the government is supplementing the ongoing and comprehensive support for small and local businesses that we’ve provided since the start of the pandemic with the launch of Shop Local. The Shop Local Program encourages Canadians to shop locally by supporting businesses in reopening and staying open so they can thrive as the economy recovers.
We want and need our local businesses to get through this pandemic. This investment will be flexible to respond to unique circumstances in regions across the country – ensuring that businesses can get the support they need to recover and grow as we continue to Build Back Better. Some examples of how the funding may be used include but are not limited to shop-local branding and digital content, seasonal campaigns directed at local small merchants, and marketing materials like videos. For more information click here.
Our patios are open and our local businesses are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I was excited to be on Eglinton West with Mayor John Tory and Minister Mélanie Joly in July to celebrate the $18 million dollar investment into our Main Streets in Toronto. Our beloved Little Jamaica suffered from COVID-19 and the ongoing subway construction, but it is now bustling!
Carolyn Bennett in Little Jamaica with Mayor John Tory and Minister Mélanie Joly to celebrate the Toronto Main Street investment.
This week, the government announced over $32-million to install 853 electric (EV) chargers across the country. From BC to NL you can drive across Canada in an electric vehicle! Since 2015 we've made historic investments in EV chargers. MPs from across Canada are here to show how easy it is to do a cross country road trip that's good for the planet! Enjoy this fun video that was put together in celebration of the investment and #EVWeekinCanada!
COVID-19 Related News
Canada leads the G7 and G20 in COVID-19 vaccinations
The government has worked diligently to put Canada at the front of the line since the beginning of this pandemic, and now, we’re the most vaccinated country per capita in the G7 and G20.
Over 63% of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated and over 80% have 1 dose. We have enough vaccines to vaccinate everyone, two months ahead of schedule!
While we’ve made enormous progress in the fight against COVID-19, the spread of the delta variant in unvaccinated Canadians could spark another wave in Canada – and so it is recommended that you get fully vaccinated as soon as you can. For more information, click here
The government is prioritizing the health and safety of everyone in Canada by taking a risk-based and measured approach to re-opening the borders. Thanks to the hard work of Canadians, rising vaccination rates and declining COVID-19 cases, the Government of Canada is able to move forward with adjusted border measures.
The easing of border measures for incoming travellers will begin on August 9th, 2021, which will allow entry to American citizens and permanent residents who have been fully vaccinated with a Health Canada-approved vaccine at least 14 days prior to entering Canada for non-essential travel. Provided the situation with COVID-19 remains promising, on September 7th 2021, Canada’s borders will open to any fully vaccinated travellers who received a Health Canada-approved vaccine at least 14 days prior to entering Canada and who meet all entry requirements.
For further details on the requirements associated with these easing border measures, click here.
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
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 kidshelpphone.ca.