The Willowdale Welcome Centre – Toronto’s makeshift hostel for refugee claimants – is welcoming all right… in fact, it is especially welcoming to the Wuhan virus.
You may recall, when we first visited this former headquarters for North York Hydro two weeks ago, 11 refugees and 12 staff members had tested positive for the Coronavirus.
A few days later, that number had spiked to 74 refugees (the centre stopped releasing the number of employees infected.)
A few days after that, the infection rate was at 149 cases.
Behind the scenes at migrant centre's COVID-19 outbreak
And yet, despite what officials pledge, it seems pretty much business as usual there, from a lack of social distancing to a lack of personnel protection equipment.
The councilor for this ward, John Filion, was at one point demanding the centre go into lock-down mode. But as the number of cases INCREASED, Filion withdrew that request, determining, inexplicably, that a worsening of the situation meant that the rules should be further loosened. Weird… (We tried to get Mr. Filion to come on camera for an interview but he’s never returned our calls.)
Meanwhile, Mayor John Tory is too busy for an interview.
That’s too bad: we wanted to ask His Honour why he enjoys bragging on Twitter about the number of tax-paying citizens that continue to get fined $880 for breaching those COVID-19 safety precaution rules when there is a bonanza of infractions awaiting ticketing at the Willowdale Welcome Centre (alas, apparently the police only visit here when they are summoned to kick inquisitive journalists off the property as I personally discovered two weeks ago.)
Interview with Toronto councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam
We did bump into Toronto councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam the other day. We asked her about the centre but she had little to say. Besides, she’s so busy these days fretting over Toronto infrastructure projects not being put through a “gender lens” so that they will be more welcoming to non-binary and trans people. (No, I’m not making this up.)
However, I did find a citizen who lives just up the street from the Willowdale Welcome Centre.
She is not happy with what’s going on in her neighbourhood – not that things are likely to change in John Tory’s Toronto, where the makers are penalized and the takers are rewarded.