December 14th, 2020

MPP outlines motion to Save Little Jamaica

TORONTO – Toronto–St. Paul's MPP Jill Andrew discussed the details of her motion at a virtual press conference Monday for the Ontario government to implement a 'Little Jamaica' Small Business Economic Health and Community Wellness Strategy. The plan would help Eglinton West businesses struggling due to longstanding impacts of the Metrolinx Eglinton LRT Crosstown construction, and more recently, due to COVID-19.

"Business owners in Little Jamaica have been struggling to survive for years before COVID-19 hit, exacerbating the financial challenges caused by unrelenting and years-delayed LRT construction, in addition to the effects of flooding," Andrew said.

"The COVID-19 recovery cannot ignore the disproportionate impact this pandemic has had on Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities. Little Jamaica's Black business owners have long raised the issue of systemic anti-Black racism as one of the leading barriers they face in attempts to accessing financing – an issue organizations like the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce have echoed. The Ontario government cannot sit by and watch while Little Jamaica businesses and residents are gentrified out of their community."

Andrew's motion includes a call for the government to provide compensation up to $30,000 for businesses impacted by COVID-19, flooding and LRT construction; a mandated task force to ensure transparent communication between Metrolinx, the Ministry of Transporation and Little Jamaica businesses; historical designation of Little Jamaica to recognize its unique arts and culture contributions and ensuring affordable housing is included in all new builds.

"Doug Ford has refused to give businesses the direct financial support they desperately need during the pandemic, to protect neighbourhoods like Little Jamaica, which has contributed vital arts, culture, economic, historical and community development to this city," Andrew said.

Local business owner Sharon Walker of Little Jamaica's Shahnor Hair and Beauty spoke to the challenges of trying to survive as a small business in the neighbourhood.

"I want to see a better future for Eglinton West, for us. A lot of people come from far and wide come to Eglinton West. I have people just dropping by the store. That little piece of Jamaica; where they can get a barber shop, a hairdresser, Jamaican food. It’s important that we have a Little Jamaica. I don’t know what’s going to happen. A lot of people are fed up, they’re moving out because they can’t afford to stay. Please continue fighting for us in Queens Park."

Andrew's motion includes proposals from the NDP's Save Main Street Plan for the Ford government to give businesses commercial rent relief for the duration of the pandemic and order a ban on commercial evictions.