COVID-19 in Toronto: Lawsuit shelved as city, advocacy groups come to agreement

A coalition of public-interest organizations that filed legal proceedings against the City of Toronto over what they called "deplorable" conditions in the city's shelter system amid the COVID-19 pandemic now says it has reached a deal with the city.

City's death toll now at 690, more than a quarter of all Ontario deaths

Toronto public health data shows while half of the confirmed COVID-19 cases stem from close contact, nearly a quarter of those infected may have contracted the virus somewhere in the community. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

A coalition of public-interest organizations that filed legal proceedings against the City of Toronto over what they called "deplorable" conditions in the city's shelter system amid the COVID-19 pandemic now says it has reached a deal with the city.

"Since the pandemic began, we have been worried about our community members who use shelters and sleep on the streets," said Christa Big Canoe, Legal Advocacy Director of Aboriginal Legal Services, in a statement. 

"Finally, two months later we have a commitment from the city that shelters will follow the same public health guidelines required everywhere else. That is a positive outcome from this lawsuit."

According to Goldblatt Partners LLP, the law firm representing the groups, the terms of the agreement include:

  • That the city use its best efforts to have two metres between beds and end the use of bunk beds in shelters, respites, and overnight drop-ins.
  • The city provide space to all shelter system clients by making enough beds available across its shelter system.
  • That everyone who received support services from the city's shelter system since March 11, including those now in encampments who left the shelter system because of fears of COVID-19, are included within the scope of the settlement.
  • That the city will report regularly on its progress until it reaches and sustains compliance for two months.

"We had to fight hard to win from the city a commitment to take a basic life-saving measure," said Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Equality Program Director at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, in a statement. 

"We will keep fighting: to make sure they uphold this commitment, and to protect the rights of every human being, without discrimination based on housing status, race, disability or otherwise."

Tell us what you think!

Help shape the future of CBC article pages by taking a quick survey.

In a statement, the city said the interim settlement "confirms the city's commitment and ongoing work since March to physical distancing in shelter and respite sites of at least two metres of lateral separation between beds or alternate sleeping arrangements, and no use of the upper bunks of bunk beds in any setting.

"The City is also ensuring that all alternative indoor space offered to anyone living outside meets physical distancing measures."

What the data says about Toronto's COVID-19 situation

Toronto's COVID-19 curve still appears to be flattening, but public health officials report that 15 per cent of all of those who have contracted the novel coronavirus in the city have needed to be hospitalized.

About five per cent of those hospitalized remain in care, and one-in-five of that group is in intensive care.

About 75 per cent of all those who have had a confirmed case of COVID-19, however, have recovered.

Here's a look at the city's most recent data:

  • There have been 8,866 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Toronto.
  • A total of 690 people have died — more than a quarter of all of the deaths in Ontario.
  • There are outbreaks — defined as more than one case — at 137 institutions (some of these outbreaks may have been resolved, the city notes).

How are people getting COVID-19 in Toronto?

Half, or 50 per cent, of all confirmed cases stem from close contact with someone who has the virus.

Another 23.6 per cent arose from community spread — a number officials will be keeping a close eye on as the weather improves and more Torontonians venture out to parks and reopened stores.

A full 12.1 per cent of all confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city are health-care workers, while eight per cent of cases have been deemed travel-related and 6.2 per cent of those who became ill did so at an institution.

Meanwhile, the province has released its most recent COVID-19 statistics. You can find those details here.

The city is working to open more than 70 off-leash dog areas across Toronto. The areas include this one at Allan Gardens, which has a space for small dogs and another for large dogs. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

Off-leash dog areas being opened across city

On Tuesday, the city said its staff members are working to open more than 70 dog off-leash areas following the easing of some restrictions by the Ontario government.

The city said it takes time for staff to travel to all locations to unlock padlocked gates and some are not immediately accessible by car. That means it will take longer to open those areas.

At Colonel Samuel Smith Park in Etobicoke. the off-leash dog area has not yet been reopened because there are killdeer nests nearby. The city said the nesting will delay the reopening of the area by about a week.

Stay the length of 3 dogs apart, city says

The city reminded residents that they must continue to practise physical distancing when in off-leash areas. Signs are being erected to remind dog owners to follow public health directives to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the city said.

"People must always stay two metres (six feet), or the length of three dogs, apart while visiting the city's parks and dog off-leash areas," the city said in a news release on Tuesday.

According to the province, outdoor playgrounds, play structures and equipment, fitness equipment, public swimming pools and splash pads will remain closed for now until the province eases more restrictions as part of its gradual reopening plan.