Tuesday, 6 February 2018

#Mentoo - York Region's Forgotten Homeless

Sam Orrico has struggled for years now with housing
Christmas came and went, then New Year's and for most of Canada life carried on as it had previously, with most of us convinced we'd done our part during the festive season giving to our loved ones and to the "poor".

But for some, there is no back to normal. For some a life of misery, at least for the foreseeable future, remains. Like the now senior farmer who tires from fighting just to have land to "farm" and now lives alone in a trailer with off the grid heat.

But so too do some youth struggle to survive in this often unforgiving society that seems to more easily accept a sentence of homelessness to males.

In a sort of reverse way our system often seems to, unwittingly perhaps through past patriarchal thinking, give less treatment and attention to men's and boys issues. One needs look only at the programs and services available. For example, there is no "men's centre" - yet a long established women's centre - and shelter beds available to women outnumber the men over 3 to 1 yet men and males make up the bulk of the actual street homeless.There are also 0 transitional houses for men yet we have units for women.

In fact, a 2017 Toronto / York Region United Way survey found a full 100% of York Region's street homeless without any supports whatsoever were male. Compile that with studies showing males commit  suicide in 80% of all cases and one wonders why a crisis has not been declared and political champions not speaking out outraged? #Mentoo ?

Our outdated social safety net system seems to regard these men as expendable? Indeed they are from my experience often simply given bus tickets to take them somewhere else, like Toronto, where last year over 70 men - over 90% - were found to have died (decades) early as a result of having lived on the streets, as of only November. No inquiry? And we cannot be so naive as to think York Region men aren't part of those death statistics when our lone full time York Region's men's shelter of 26 beds is full 100% of the time. Ditto its 12 bed youth shelter in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.

So, as we all continue on and pat each other on the back about what a great job we're doing, maybe just stop a minute and take a good look, and if in conscience you can say we are, then so be it. More men will simply die. Are these men deserving of programs and homes? You decide.

Pictured is a sample of "thank-yous" sent out after a donation for presents to a York Region male youth shelter over Christmas of 2017 and donated by a local business, Stellar Car Wash.

Editors note: One person had never had an Xmas present before. 

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

A Plea To Churches From An Aging Farmer

Sun Set 14th Avenue on Sam's last night before removal
Every year around Xmas time there is a flurry of activity in communities across York Region to help out the disadvantaged. These types of thoughtful acts are typical it seems from my experience during the season when overwhelmingly people seem to want to help others, and it's encouraging in this day and age of social media mayhem, when hate seems to be freely tossed around like a dinner salad.

Iconic Newmarket farm next up?
For the past several years though, I've received a call around or after Xmas from a gentleman, now a senior who lives "off the grid" in a rough camping trailer and who heats himself in the winters for many years now by way of a kerosene heater. A farmer, this proud man has been the victim of  house fire some years ago , two over the years, and has never fully recovered financially. And after living in a trailer on a that property on 14th avenue where the house once stood, and where Sam Orrico had once called home, he was forced to  move in 2016 due, he says, to a new bylaw called, "Keep Markham Beautiful" which Sam says was used as an excuse to have the land owners remove him. Funny enough, the original incomplete bylaw subsection point that specifically affected him, now seems removed and the property still sits undeveloped and un-rezoned, but that for another day.

Sam has just called me again, this time he's desperately in need of kerosene heating fuel as his income presently does not make him enough to cover it, particularly since he recently became a senior, but exasperated by the fact that his Scotia Bank bank branch of 35 years located at Markville Mall in Markham has decided, without any explanation, that they are closing his bank account.

While at first they explained it was because they were getting his returned mail he says, when he pointed out that they did not have his address on it and he'd never changed it, they'd then decided thereafter to close it without explanation, citing their right to.

Just a few of the belongings lost in the forced move
For an ordinary person facing ordinary circumstances this would perhaps be just a major inconvenience but for someone like Sam it is much different. For one, his bank location is convenient with no vehicle currently, and heating fuel no longer available at his usual local source. To Sam its almost an affront to one's freedom that a bank can just close your (business) account for no reason after 35 years with them, and to an aging man with health issues at that, who's an immigrant and whose citizenship papers have been hard to fully replace since the house fire, it's huge. You need all your I.D. to get a new account, house fire or not. His subsequent forced move from 14th avenue and Markham Rd., after being kept from his trailer and the property hosting his belongings for a time during his removal process while things grew legs or disappeared or were thrown out without his approval, has compounded his current problems.

Plea to Churches

Sam now worries about having to start all over again at a new bank, not knowing anyone. He keeps asking why? Is it because I'm a senior now and it's fees related? Is it developers who keep trying to remove him telling the bank to? Is it government related? Is it my appearance or accent? For a man removed many years ago from his farm in Pickering to make way for an airport that never came and who seems to settle on managing farm properties that get targeted for development in time, it seems the Canadian dream has been a nightmare and his suspicious seeds thus perhaps rightly sown in his mind. Even his latest stop, living in his decrepit camping trailer on another property that agreed to allow him so he can watch for illegal dumpers of poisoned soil has no guarantee he can stay long.

" I had an agreement on 14th Avenue too but look what they did" See video coverage.

Even his pitchforks were missing after the forced move
He's about out of energy now, desperate for heat and has asked if I could perhaps contact churches  to help him out as he long since given up on expecting government assistance to help him even though he qualified to receive O..D.S.P. and did suffered burns for which he got little compensation or compassion. Try as he might, Sam never fully was able to get a farm fully operational again nor his life really and as he continues to try and survive, he feels abandoned by pretty much everyone.

" They don't want you to get better. It's a business to some". 

Sam on government and poverty / aid / shelter workers.

Sam has been an active community member for years, having made depositions to city council in the past regarding community, farming, and zoning issues and he has attended every relevant zoning or rezoning or planning related meeting in the area since the 1980's and so is well versed in the way things work planning wise - and that is why he also fears he's perhaps being targeted.

I'd say it was the stuff of fantasy if they hadn't already jailed him once for supposed 'threats" made to one person about then candidate Scarpitti when Sam was himself also running for Markham council a few elections back - and then had a rare publication ban imposed on him for a full year afterwards so it's certainly no wonder. Publication bans are supposed to be extremely rare.

Sam adamantly insists he made no threats on then candidate Scarpitti to this day, despite being convicted in court based on one person's say so, and having had limited council for a defense. They even held him in custody over the duration of the election on top of the publication ban on him.  You can't make this stuff up!

Why guys like Sam live like they do!
What he may have threatened actually was to spill some beans about the proposed Arena deal but of course he was silenced by his subsequent jailing and publication ban, with Scarpitti going on to win as mayor. So you see Sam has little faith in the authorities for help.

Some try to cloud suspicion upon Sam at times regarding the past fires he's escaped or just missed being in, including at least one Markham council member who helped persuade him to leave 14th Avenue and who at that time relayed to me personally that much of council shared her belief. And so Sam has real concerns and seriously fears being set up and made the scapegoat for them or future events like dumped contaminated soil or another historical home fire.  All I do know is every time Sam's been burned out of a century home, there was no benefit to him, but every benefit to potential developers. His knowledge of developing laws exceed council and most people and Sam believes that is why they fear him.

Churches Please Call to help Sam Directly at this phone donated to him to help him acquire kerosene heat - 647-573-4868

Sam's  farm view
I just read that there are currently an estimated 200,000 homeless in the U.S. and 350,000 churches. I don't know what the ratio is for Canada, but we are an unforgiving climate, and our priorities should be to our residents to live in dignity, and in health, and where able to, live independently and not forced into a dangerous shelter or unsafe / healthy living conditions....and a man should be entitled to heat.

As of November 2017 there had been 80 street related homeless deaths in Toronto for the year - meaning deaths attributed to those living on the streets, dying young of illnesses related to living as such - 73 of which were men -  and with only 26 beds for single men in a population of over 1,000,000 in York Region, you can bet some of those are men from York Region with no where to go.

Sam looks after properties / maintenance for owners under contract for years in the area
In fact York Region does not compile such stats but a 2017 survey study by United Way Toronto / York Region found a full 100% of the homeless without supports of any kind were men. That would be guys like Sam.  They have all died 20 - 30 years earlier than they should. Let's not let Sam become one of those. Sam needs kerosene right now and wants to be heard at Queens Park...and should be given that right as a Canadian immigrant senior.

Tom Pearson

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Google to Open Futuristic Mini City in Toronto

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Yourk News has learned that York Region's largest neighbour just got larger - and it could mean jobs for York Regioners too with Markham being a tech hub. Google's parent Alphabet has just announced plans to build a futuristic mini city alond a 12 hectare stretch of Toronto's waterfront.

The California based giant is on a quest to develop high tech "smart cities" across the world and to also  connect the world more, and Toronto fits well into that scenario with its multi cultural make up.

Alphabet's " Sidewalk Labs" has partnered with Waterfront Toronto to develop this new "smart community" to be called "Quayside" and will become the biggest project to date for them and will certainly catapult Toronto and Canada to a certain desired visit status that could become a boon for the local economy through the creation of high paying jobs for Toronto's thriving tech industry and through increased tourism.

But still, this is a working laboratory, so one has to also be realistic as to when anything tangible will be ready. But a billion dollar investment goes along way towards fulfilling the goal.

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Could mean boon for hurting restaurants

Friday, 7 July 2017

Restaurants Should Allow Dogs on Patios and Some Doggy Do!

Main Street Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
Recently there was an interesting discussion on a local social media platform discussing summer restaurant patios and dogs. The poster asked why "people around here" weren't more dog friendly and allow dogs to sit on patios whilst their masters eat. It was quite a popular discussion because most in it were from Newmarket, Ontario where families and dogs are numerous and where most people actually are quite " dog friendly".

Dog friendly enough, that it was easily passed through town council to spend town money to create a leash-free dog park, despite the fact we have an unofficial one at Joker's Hill where literally miles of marked trails take you through nature and where dog walkers established a foothold years ago since the former horse farm closed down.

At any rate the idea is not so far fetched, as one contributor pointed out, (most of) the provincial regulations restricting dogs from restaurants come from this regulation description; 

Dog Restriction Regulations

59. Every operator of a food premise shall ensure that in respect of the food premise,…
(e)    every room where food is manufactured, prepared, processed, handled, served, displayed, stored, sold or offered for sale is kept free from,…
(ii) subject to section 60, live birds and animals;
60. (1)  Sub-clause 59 (e) (ii) does not apply to,
(a)    a service dog serving as a guide for a blind person or for a person with another medical disability who requires the use of a service dog, if the service dog is in an area of the food premise where food is served, sold or offered for sale;
(2)   A dog other than a guide dog for the blind is a service dog for the purposes of clause (1) (a) if,
(a)    it is readily apparent to an average person that the dog functions as a service dog for a person with a medical disability; or
(b)    the person who requires the dog can provide on request a letter from a physician or nurse confirming that the person requires a service dog. O. Reg. 74/04, s. 4 (2).
"Premises” is defined in the Health Protection and Promotion Act to include both land and structures however the regulation requires only that rooms be kept free of animals; the term “room” is not defined in the regulation.
Yonge & Dundas Sts Toronto, Ontario, Canada
So it is debatable whether a “room” would actually include a patio. For instance, the Webster dictionary defines the term “room” as “a partitioned part of the inside of a building”. It appears, however, that Public Health Inspectors are nonetheless interpreting the regulation as extending to patios.
Eagle St. Newmarket
In European countries, it is not uncommon to see pets, not just on patios, but in the restaurants themselves. So one has to wonder, is the concern really about health? Or is it instead an accommodation for a certain percentage of the population who feel that dogs just shouldn’t be there?  If this is the case, is this an issue that should be regulated or should it instead be left up to the owners of the premises to decide whether to allow dogs on their patios?
And some online Lawyers seem to already believe dogs on patios are legal.

What to do?
Judging by the response online I'd say people are overwhelmingly in favour of dogs on patios, and to that end, were I a restaurant patio owner, I'd begin to advertise that my patio was dog friendly, complete with a small sign overlooking the patio, and let the chips fall where they may.
A Newmarket Main St Restaurateur should take a stand or band together and all allow it.
No leash moment @ Jokers Hill, York Region
Even if the "dog police" decided to charge them, I believe the ensuing media attention it would garner, along with the support of people to allowing dogs on restaurant patios would result in support for the regulation to be changed - or a judgement could rule the definition of room does not extend to patios. 
Main St Newmarket's Poodle Corner offers grooming and dog walking
And if it's not a health hazard, which it appears it is not, then law should dictate that it be left up to the restaurateurs to decide if they will or will not allow patio dogs. Those uncomfortable with dogs could hit another patio or dine inside. Meantime the restaurant making the move would enjoy great publicity and reap in the benefits of business to help pay any possible fines. I've certainly never heard of any fines for off leash dogging at Jokers Hill despite signs posted everywhere and rampant ignorance of them. I even video spoofed it once.
Doggy patio dilemma's are not restricted to small or suburban towns either, as the city of Toronto residents too have an increasing dog population and too would like outing options. In fact Urban Dog Toronto is sponsoring a petition to change the current law (or at least its current interpretation) while a number of Toronto establishments already have dog-friendly options including a brewery, Left Field Brewery, and a slew that allow dogs on their patios.
City Dogs?
My TO trip also reaped one more interesting find at Yonge & St Clair, a doggy daycare that took care of people's dogs while they worked and which had a number of options and activities and services connected to them. I observed as people showed up with dog in tow to drop off just like kiddies and then as they checked into open areas seen by all until 'play times" etc. Bye mommy! Newmarket also has at least one doggy daycare at Wag Awhile.
Jokers Hill, Newmarket
Ha. Great idea, and one I feel would work very well on Newmarket's Beautiful Main St. where patios and restaurants are the engine. Offer hourly dog drop-off and walking services, along with daycare during the week, and I believe you'd be booming. For gravy, throw in obedience classes for dogs and connect with a groomer for a finders fee arrangement, and you're off to the races! Well Greyhound races anyway! Woof, woof!
Chihuahuas or chimichungas on the patio?

TPE's Main St Business Find of the day

Red Scarf Equestrian

Thursday, 29 June 2017

York, GTA Festival's take a Car Wash

Area Car Shows may be affected
With summer in full swing the only thing holding everyone back from planning anything substantial outdoors is the crazy weather we've had, particularly in a "double El Nino year" whatever that means.
The amount of precipitation thus far since spring really has been astronomical in relative terms with no end in sight at least through Canada Day which this year is celebrating 150 years. Traditionally and statistically we actually get hit with rain quite frequently on this day but we have to hope crazy wind flare ups don't hinder things either.

                                                       Car wash anyone?

It's already affected the town of Newmarket's celebration early as flooded parkland and trail ways have rendered the usual location unsafe forcing the town to announce a new location this year at nearby Riverwalk Commons with events getting underway with the Lions Hall pancake breakfast still on schedule for a 7a.m. indoor start.

I recall a few years earlier when a sudden storm caused tables and chairs to overturn there while Jazz + music festival attendees scurried indoors as best they could to escape the torrential onslaught. Already this year it rained or threatened to throughout the town of Aurora's annual street festival likely affecting sales and attendance. Car show's too have had to cancel some major events already.

Recent in-Doors cover band 
Now if you're an event organizer, vendor, promoter or band / crew member that relies on outdoor gigs to survive, it can wreak havoc on you as well, as witnessed by a recent washed out weekend long slated music festival that cancelled the rest of the show on the Saturday afternoon stiffing all the bands while doing so as well.
Not The Who I want to see. Nice though. Who, who, who who.

That event was doubly marred by the fact that it was charging a cover for the first time, combined with the torrential stormy weather, that sunk their ship and by the sounds of it the promoters were very much relying on that revenue to pay anyone. Wouldn't have been so bad if they'd explained it to the bands, like Elton Ron, that they had no $ but instead slunk away out of sight leaving a fuming wake in their / his dust and not returning calls or texts.

Maybe take up watching horse races
In Toronto, Ontario Place's Budweiser Stage is facing unprecedented flooding cancelling the first ever shows in the newly renovated spot hosting concerts for some big name acts....One wonders if this keeps up if outdoor shows become less and less common with simply too much money potentially being lost on so many levels. Insurance companies will increasingly be on the hook and with that a rise in ticket prices as well passed down to the little guy, you.Maybe places like the long running Cadillac lounge which recently announced it would be closing should hold out for awhile to cash in on a possible indoor insurgence.

Properties face unprecedented flood water
Perhaps the new today needs to involve having a Plan B just in case the extreme weather fluctuations don't cooperate. Give us all a chance to do more home chores, after the storm nature walks, and indoor venue hopping. Let's just hope it doesn't progress to the point where Plan B becomes the new Plan A. That would blow.

We'd have more time to feed chipmunks
Meantime, should you opt for a country or city drive, here's the listing links to the all G.T.A. Canada Day events in Ontario! 


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Decoration Day Newmarket True Vet @ 69

I am a bit ashamed to say I never, before Sunday past, really understood the significance of Decoration Day nor why it was separate from the more well known Remembrance Day which I've attended and covered much of in the past, and in fact even produced a one-off old variety style radio show live to the troops one year which featured many local talents including Sean Stephens (now CEO of Tree Frog Interactive), Hurricane Mike Thompson, and as I recall an excellent capela youth group sent from the now passed Merlene Samuel - Cephas' Spotlight Theatre school grads who sang more than O Canada live to the troops via our radio show!

More recently I was involved in produce/directing a series of taped video interviews featuring prominent voices from Newmarket's history who have lived here for so many years, often with family who helped sjape the area including the daughter of the areas first police chief. But it was 93 year old Reg Harrison who stood out most to me, his face striking me as one that held so many experiences only someone going through the war from that era could know. Reg proudly came out to share with us in that interview with aid of a walker and enjoyed it too I think. So it was a great to see him once again as he took a spot to attend the 69th edition of the Newmarket's hosting of Decoration Day hosted by the Newmarket Vets Association.

I had attended Decoration Day last year but still was unclear about it's true meaning until this year when asked if I would assist in laying a wreath in recognition of fallen and homeless soldiers, in solidarity with the local Inn From The Cold Shelter. Although I have no official connection to the Inn, I appreciated the inclusion, I guess having been recognized as a person who has worked towards making changes locally in areas that afflict the homeless and was honoured regardless to be asked to be part of such a tribute day.

Ironically I have been actively working with the owner of a property just north of Green Lane in Sharon, Ontario to develop it into a unique, supportive home with built-in community and mental health supports and to that end have approached the Ontario office that assists adjusting and homeless veterans find suitable / affordable housing and supports to see if there would be a need - and indeed there is. Now using the working name of, the House of Hope, the property owner plans to be a hands-on operator and is excited at the prospect of it becoming a supportive home as its interior fixes come closer to being completed. Let's hope. Click here to follow its progress on Face Book.

Canadian Decoration Day

Originally started on June 2 1890, Decoration Day was started as sort of a protest in order to have fallen and wounded soldiers and their families recognized by the federal government of the times. In fact they were the very first Canadian led brigades to fight a foe, battling in Fort Erie repelling the Fenian raids which were made up of a mixture of anti-British Irish and American soldiers which included the Battle of Ridgeway in 1866.

The hardships endured by those maimed and killed and then their families suddenly devoid of the breadwinner as well can only be imagined and was started by other soldiers themselves, dropping flowers at the Canadian Volunteers Monument at Queens Park, and has been kept up in recognition since - for the past 69 in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada where in 2017 the special guest speaker was the Ontario Housing Minister as well as homelessness fixer designate no less, Chris Ballard, who spoke in reminder of its meaning and asked us to imagine being their families. It was suitable an Ontario representative spoke as Ontario did give some recognition / support to those soldiers whereas the feds did not.

MPP Chris Ballard
Interesting to see the young up and comers taking part but there's a world of difference today and one can only imagine the horrors guys like Reggie Harrison saw fighting to keep us safe and enabling the very lives we too often take for granted today. I caught Reggie once again as he and his son exited the Vets Hall, the Mayor holding the door for me as he exited and I prepared to enter. Reggie's son was carrying a street sign called Harrison Trail and with Mayor Van Bynen having just left it didn't take a rocket scientist. For once I agree with a street naming by a politician wholeheartedly.

" Geez Reg I missed it! I said, " I didn't know they were doing this or I'd have come right way. I didn't get a pic!"

" We can get one outside", his proud son replied.

And we did! You can catch Reg Harrison's full History Hound interview here as produced by TPE.

We now add forevermore Randy Leaman's name to the crosses on Decoration Day
Vet Decoration Day organizer / host Wes Playter is congratulated  by Mayor Van Bynen on a good job

Spot the diff!?

Until next time!

TP out!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

York Region Forests Map Developed Trails

Spotted at Jokers Hill, King Township
Summer seems finally within grasp and with that this year were being told to expect higher than usual numbers of mosquitoes and black flies and something else - ticks they say are also more plentiful this year and as spreaders of Lyme disease something we surely want to avoid.

As a person who loves the outdoors and is prone to venturing off beaten paths at times to capture wild life and nature photos if not cleared them of fallen trees, I've come up with a few rules I use to make my outdoor experience less annoying (nothing more annoying than batting off mosquitoes as you try and hold for a shot) and ultimately more safe. Ditto thought to batting bugs while using a chain saw.

Before anything else, I douse myself in bug repellent, ensuring to cover areas like my head, face and susceptible spots like above the waistline and ankles and if I'm working outdoors or around swarms of bugs when further north ensuring to close my eyes when spraying my face and keeping cameras and sunglasses out of spray shot so as not to damage them, I might even wear a cheap dollar store type of overalls with hood as well as gloves which leave only your face at risk, but, barring all that, wearing long sleeved shirts or jackets with hood  and long pants is best to avoid unpleasantries. Shoes and socks over bare feet or sandals are recommended as well.

While out in nature, just remember that any new nearby land development - maybe even your home - will shakes out a few casualties or displaced wild life looking for new territory so be on the look out while driving and on the trails, and be sure to respect their habitat.

Residence near Bathurst St. Newmarket
It's usually best to stick to the marked trails if you want to avoid black legged ticks and if you have dogs and allow them to run free, please don't if you want to avoid ticks and especially don't during June's nesting season, as free-for-all-running dogs often uproot ground nests or spook wild life out resulting in lost wild life and habitat.

Bathurst Street 
York Region has some of the greatest trails in Ontario to check out also whether the around the Oak Ridges Moraine, York Regional Forest main trails, Vivian Forrest, Thornton Bales, Jokers Hill, Tom Taylor Trail, wherever you trek out to, enjoy! Just respect nature and nature will respect you! And remember doggy poop bags do no good lying on the ground, plastic does not decompose, and neither do Timmies cups! Enjoy it...just don't destroy it!

Tom's Green Show

List of York Region Trails and Maps here.

Newmarket's Tom Taylor Trail
Joker's Hill dog owners often don't use leashes jeopardizing nesting sites
No bugs on him

Glenway property at Bathurst

Aurora grows up

Info here
Former Macgregor Farm in Newmarket by Glenway


Later, Tom