Category Archives: Toronto

Ontario Living Pink Balloon Event is Slated for September 5

On September 5 The Living Pink Balloon Event will take place at Alderville First Nation Ball Diamond. The goal is 500 people wearing pink t-shirts forming a giant pink balloon in order to give Sick Kid’s Foundation $10,000 for brain research.
The Living Pink Balloon comes from two families dealing with the effects of brain disorders and their want to give back to Sick Children’s Hospital. Last September Hollie Gray, 10, was found unresponsive at her home. Her parents called for help and paramedics quickly took the little girl to the hospital. On route to Northumberland Hills Hospital Hollie’s heart stopped. Hollie was revived. At the hospital a mass was found on her brain. That discovery lead to a quick transfer to Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto where her parents were told that their little girl was brain dead. The parents were approached by Trillium Gift of Life to discuss organ donation. Hollie’s parents decided that her spirit had to live on in others. Tanya Gray told Digital Journal that the day before her daughter Hollie died from a brain aneurysm she was joking and laughing while watching television with her family. “She had a mild headache the day before. I thought maybe she had the flu. Hollie was such a go-getter kid. She went to bed and just never woke up.” Brenna was diagnosed with craniopharyngioma or pituitary tumor in 2008. She had early symptoms that were unexplained until she had a CT scan after a third seizure. The little girl was taken to Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto. There she received treatment and is living a near normal life today. The families are asking people to purchase a pink t-shirt by August 20 from The Scissors Edge (1-905-352-2211) and Our House Snack ‘n’ Go in Alderville and at Herbal Magic in Cobourg, Ontario that will be on hand at Sick Kids on September 5 at the hospital. The goal is that 500 people in the t-shirts will help to form a human pink balloon to show recognition for the staff at the hospital. All proceeds will go to brain and behaviour research. Daryl Crowe says, “We understand that there are many causes and people are stretched thin but Sick Kids has touched everyone in some way. So please come out and help us give back.” On September 5 The Living Pink Balloon is hoping to gather 500 people in one place as a symbol of solidarity of support for Sick Kids Foundation wearing pink t-shirts. One giant pink balloon. The September 5 event will feature prizes, BBQ and Pony Rides. The cost is $25.00 a person which includes a Living Pink Balloon T-shirt. The shirts will be available for pick-up at the event. Please reserve your spot by August 20. Tanya Gray is encouraging companies to have teams register along with individuals. All proceeds from the event will go to Sick Kids Foundation.
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Collision of two streetcars in Toronto backs up traffic

The streetcar was on its last stop at Spadina and Queen’s Quay in Toronto when it was in an accident with another TTC streetcar. The oncoming train appears to have not been switched properly resulting in a head-on collision.
The two streetcars collided at approximately 2:15 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The area of the accident is a popular tourist destination. The Spadina car connects to a streetcar at the location to carry passengers to the Exhibition. The Harbourfront is also one of the stops on the route.

Jeannie Kazen was on the streetcar when it collided. She and her husband said that there were only about seven others on the TTC vehicle at the time of the collision.

“This is unofficial of course but it appears that the switch was not on right and the cars just hit,” Kazen told Digital Journal.

The TTC employees at the scene refused to comment on the accident. They were busy sweeping up sand along the tracks and readying the street for service to continue.

There were no injuries in the accident.


Search continues for Ontario teen Shane Fair

Shane Fair, 19, is missing. On May 16, 2009, the York University student attended a dinner and dance at Ontario Place in Toronto. He was last seen at 12:30 a.m. in the Lakeshore Boulevard West and British Columbia Road area.
Shane was supposed to leave the Calumet Formal at the Atlantis Pavilion on a bus returning to York University. He never made it. The police have interviewed Shane’s roommates.

On Friday a search party was unsuccessful at Ontario Place.

On Sunday his friends and family will search again starting at 1 p.m. at Parliament and Front Street.

The search tomorrow will focus on parks, homeless shelters, construction sites and areas common for “nightly activity” east of Yonge since there is a higher concentration of them and would be in line with the direction might have been heading in should he have been trying to walk home.

Shane is a reserve of the Canadian Armed Forces. He is white, about 5’11”, 170 lbs., with brown hair and a short Mohawk. When he went missing he was wearing a blue suit, blue shirt and blue tie.


Toronto Now a Star in Film, TV Productions

Toronto has long been a spot for film, turning the shots into whatever city is needed. New York, Chicago, Berlin – Toronto has been crafted into them. The tide is changing and now dramas are not only being shot in Toronto but the city is starring as well.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is being filmed in Toronto at the moment. Stars Michael Cera, Chris Evans and Brandon Routh can be spotted around town. A Starbucks on Spadina has served the young Cera a few times. One server who wishes not to be named told Digital Journal that the young star is friendly. While the spotting of the stars is nice for the city what’s more impressive is that Toronto is becoming the focus of many films.

Pizza Pizza can be seen as it really is. Casa Loma is featured as a real place in a battle scene. The spots that mean something to Torontonians are getting filmed as they are really known. Scott Pilgrim is a graphic novel set in Toronto.

Toronto can thank Hollywood writers for the nod to the city. Had it not been for the writer’s strike in 2007 Toronto may not be getting the recognition that it is now. When the writers in the States were striking Canadian shows started filtering onto US screens.

The Globe and Mail reports:

“Bathurst Street is practically the cerebral cortex of Scott Pilgrim,” said Miles Dale, one of the film’s producers, who stood at the back of the set wearing the de rigueur producer’s uniform of jeans, baseball cap and chin stubble. He also produced, among others, Hollywoodland (shot in Toronto but set in Los Angeles) and Talk to Me (shot in Toronto but set in Washington, D.C.). Mr. Dale calls Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – based on a series of graphic novels by Toronto writer Bryan Lee O’Malley – “the biggest movie ever identifiably set in Toronto. The books are super-specific in their local details, and Edgar Wright, from the beginning, was set on using images from the books. Universal never suggested setting it anywhere else.”

Atom Egoyan’s next film, Chloe, was meant to take place in San Francisco while being filmed in Toronto. The director convinced his French backers to switch the setting to Toronto. Because of that switch stars Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson and Amanda Seyfried are being filmed on McCaul Street, College Street, at the University of Toronto and other places around the city.

Flashpoint is a new hit TV show and also being filmed with Toronto as its backdrop. The Eaton Centre has been featured as well as other downtown spots.

Toronto has arrived. Being one of the Queen Bee’s for setting gives the city Hollywood clout.


Art Gallery of Ontario Announces Opening of Two New Exhibitions

This weekend the AGO in Toronto will open the Angelika Hoerle: The Comet of Cologne Dada and Painting as a Weapon: Progressive Cologne 1920–33.
These exhibits are to complement the current Surreal Things exhibition that explores art as a catalyst of social and political change.

The Angelika Hoerie exhibit is being presented by guest curator Angie Littlefield, grandniece of the artist. The exhibit shows the personal side of Hoerle.

Hoerle’s work from 1919 until her death in 1923 shows her political conscience. Even though her family, social conventions, personal tragedies and tuberculosis could not stop the passionate artist from her work of World War I Germany.

Most of Hoerle’s known works are on display on loan from the Yale University Art Gallery and Museum Ludwig Cologne. Following the showing at AGO the collection will travel to Museum Ludwig.

“Angelika Hoerle had a desire to change the world through political engagement,” says Michael Parke-Taylor, the AGO’s acting curator of European art. “She was deeply committed to left-wing politics and, in fact, her first prints were of Socialist political martyrs. She also explored the place of female artists in the male-dominated art scene in Cologne.”

The exhibit will be shown from May 23 until August 30.

Also opening on May 23 is Painting as a Weapon:Progressive Cologne 1920–33 / Seiwert – Hoerle – Arntz. The collection organized by Museum Ludwig examines the works of Franz W. Seiwert, Heinrich Hoerle and Gerd Arntz. Curator Lynette Roth will document the artists activities until their work was condemned as ‘degenerate’ in 1933 by the Nazi regime.

The exhibition shows how the Progressives used painting as a weapon during the hard years in Germany prior to the rise of Hitler.

“The rallying cry for Surrealism was ‘we must change life,’” says Parke-Taylor. “A desire to change themselves and the world drove the Surrealists to explore mysteries of the self and to value the irrational over the orderly. Angelika Hoerle’s works are harbingers of surrealism, while the Cologne Progressives seized painting as a tool for change in the midst of post-war economic and social crisis.”

The exhibit will continue until August 30.


Toronto Program Helps Poor Students With Educational Obstacles

The Models Schools for Inner Cities program has helped bridge community and several elementary schools in Toronto. The program is a grassroots effort to even the playing field in some of the city’s poorer areas.
The grassroots program, Inner City Advisory Committee (ICAC), has helped children with not only educational goals but by providing some basic health needs. Children in the schools that are in the program last year had vision and hearing tests for their students. The results were profound. Some of the children could not see the blackboard, some could not hear their teachers. The program not only tested but then helped parents obtain corrective surgeries, glasses and hearing aids for their children. The program is funded through The Sprott Asset Management Gift of Sight and Sound program in partnership with the Toronto Foundation for Student Success, Wal-Mart Canada and The Canadian Hearing Society. this program will carry over to 50 inner city schools again in September.

The program has shown that it works but it also faces an uphill battle as funding can be hard to obtain. It is asking for $8.5 million to be dedicated in the TDSB budget to maintain the Model Schools for Inner Cities program, $1.0 million be added to the MSIC budget to allow the support of up to 24 model middle schools and $2.5 million be added to expand the program to serve up to 30 secondary schools.

Seven schools in Toronto’s inner city are model schools, Firgrove, Nelson Mandela Park PS, Willow Park, Forest Manor, George Webster, Kingsview Village Jr. and Bala Avenue Community School. These schools all have one common thread, students who live in poverty attend.

As the Toronto School Board site states:

“This is our collective effort as communities, as a Board and as individuals to level the playing field for all our children,” said Sheila Cary-Meagher, TDSB Trustee for Ward 16 and Chair of the Model Schools for Inner Cities Task Force. “By working together with students, families, schools and the community, we can make a real difference in the lives of our children in poverty.”

The program started in November 2006 providing stability and a safe haven for the students. By developing partnerships with higher education institutions the education of the students have been able to provide support for the students. Every teacher has a teacher candidate from York University at one of the schools. One of the programs is a Saturday arts program with art and music.

Children are given snacks and lunches helping families even more.

Parent Michael Corniffe whose daughter attends Forest Manor feels his involvement is important. “Getting involved in this type of program is fantastic. It’s really beneficial to the kids in the school and in the community. The school is very dedicated to its parents.”

The program is not just for the students but their parents as well. There are monthly parent workshops. This month the program explores School Profiles and Principal/VP role in parent engagement at the school level.

One school in the program is George Webster ES. Principle Nancy Steinhauer discussed the benefits of being a model school: “The program has definitely helped my school. We have parental involvement and more community agencies now as a result of the program. Today some of the student are in fact out with community support workers getting glasses as part of the vision testing.”

The funding that the program provides really does level the playing field for Steinhauer’s students. The classes have all had opportunities to go on three field trips this year that are relevant to their curriculum. In a school that has a high poverty population getting funding for these types of events is rare. Fund raisers can only bring in what the community can afford, without the funding from the school board for Model Schools the children would not be getting as many of these precious memories.

The children are feeling safer in their school in just two years. 71 per cent of the students have said that they like going to school compared to 61% before the program. School spirit is at 80% now.

Parents have the resource of after school programs for their children at George Webster. 51% of the children no longer go straight home from school now, instead they are involved in safe and educational after school programing that doesn’t end until 6:15 p.m. each evening. In an area where there isn’t a close community center that’s a godsend.

This summer the children of the school will have a preschool program. By teaching skills earlier the kids will be able to thrive when they enter school. That fits in with the school’s goals of being a heart of the community. Steinhauer wants her parents to feel safe and welcome at her school.

Academically it’s early in the stages as to how much of an improvement there has been. The testing though is showing some very positive results. Before the program reading tests showed students below grade level. That has changed — this year the kids were on grade level or above at the start of the year.

Perhaps the most positive sign though is the lack of school suspensions this year. Not one children has had to be disciplined in that way.

Parents also are more involved with their children’s education at George Webster. Whether it is reading to their children from books in their first language or attending parent meetings the involvement has increased.

Last week Digital Journal talked with Cassie Bell, Inner City Project Coordinator. At that time she stressed how important the funding is for this program. Each year ICAC has to fight hard for the next year’s funding budget. The program has to as Ms. Bell says “rob Peter to pay Paul.”

“At what part do we stop yakking and get to work.”

It’s a positive program that is working for the schools involved. Hopefully funding will continue and the program will grow. Each school in Toronto deserves to be a model school, each student deserves the very best education that the community can provide.

A video of the program is located here.


Opinion: Inside Toronto’s Gun Violence, No Excuse When Kids Are Dying

hen I moved to Toronto it was during the summer of gun violence. To someone from the States it really didn’t seem so bad, after all it was handguns. It’s amazing how much an attitude can change in just a few years. Today violence shocks me, as it should.

Toronto is now dealing with a spat of gun deaths in the West Side. Senseless murders, young lives lost. When 14-year-olds are gunned down in a field and left to die something is indeed wrong.

These gun wars have nothing to do with the recession. They are a sign of the times though, desperate acts from desperate people. There is no justification. Drugs could be the motive but that can’t be the entire answer. What has happened to our youth that makes pulling the trigger even be in their thought process?

When Basil Bryan, 23, was shot in the chest, laying on the sidewalk there is footage of someone just walking on by. Has the city become that callous?

How many times will words of shock and grief be printed in newspapers like City News after Daniel Da Silva died.

“I’ve known him since he was a little kid,” said Will Roque. “What are you going to say? (His mother) is hysterical, crying, I don’t even think she’s going to the coroner’s office.”

“That’s one of the best kids in the world,” adds family friend Vitalina Rolo. “I can’t say anything bad about him, nothing.”

Kids standing at bus stops aren’t even safe.Jarvis St. Remy, 18, was gunned down in the street waiting for a bus.

City News quotes Mayor David Miller:

“Imagine being a mom, your son being gunned down like this, it’s just heartbreaking for everybody,” he said. “We just simply have to get at the guns and get them off the street.”

So what can be done to stop this violence? One answer is education. In Toronto there is one program that started in 2004 called Inner City Advisory Committee (ICCA).

Digital Journal spoke to Cassie Bell, Inner City Project Coordinator about what her program does for the youth in at-risk areas. The group works with 7 elementary schools with a total of 50 schools being touched by the program to bring a more level playing field to the early educational game. With hard fought for grant money the program last year was able to have hearing and vision tests given to students at the model schools. What they found was confounding. There were children who were in need of vision surgery, children who were deaf. Working with partnerships those children were able to be treated. Once treated, kids who had been behaviour problems in school started to be star students according to Ms. Bell.

“At what point do we stop yakking and get to work. We have to deal with the problems now.”

The program is showing results. It also like many programs that work has to fight each year for the funding to continue.

MP Mario Silva sent Digital Journal the following statement:

Of course I am concerned about gun crime in my city. Our police service works very hard to keep the streets safe and I have always been fully committed to giving them the tools they need to do their jobs properly.

More than that, along with my colleagues in the Liberal Party, I have stood up against any attempts to weaken our current gun legislation.”/quote]
In September it was announced that Toronto was taking action to prevent crime in Toronto to the tune of more than $4.9 million in funding for a project that is aimed at preventing and reducing street gang activity.

Public Safety quotes Toronto Police Chief William Blair:

“A meaningful approach to prevent and reduce crime must start with an intelligence-based, targeted enforcement approach, along with a strong community mobilization component, such as our effective Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy, but it must build on TAVIS, to encompass government and community initiatives and involvement to be truly effective,” said Toronto Police Chief William Blair. “Today’s announcement furthers the process of keeping Toronto a safe, vibrant, and diverse city.”

The money will to go to:

* addressing early risk factors among vulnerable children and youth;
* preventing youth gang and drug-related crime;
* preventing recidivism among high-risk groups; and
* fostering crime prevention in Aboriginal communities.

Yet the crimes are getting worse, the deaths more frequent. With the millions being tossed around what is being done at the street level? One program that has gotten funding is the TAVIS program. The program partners the communities at risk with Toronto police officers. The Toronto Police web site states the goal of the program:

We expect that TAVIS will reduce crime, particularly violent crime, in neighbourhoods across Toronto. It will also help the community to take charge of their own neighbourhoods; you and your neighbours will have the primary role in solving problems and preventing crime.

In the next few weeks look for more in-depth articles about school programs that work in Toronto and the TAVIS program in Toronto.