Kristyn Wong-Tam is running for Ward 27 councillor

Kristyn Wong-Tam talks about shaking the haters

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By Farnia Fekri

How have the last four years at city hall been?

They have been challenging, largely because we’re operating under a … government that has been rudderless and full of distractions.

We’ve had an absent, part-time mayor who seems to have a disdain for different communities. And as a city councillor who represents a downtown and midtown part of the city, I’ve had to work very closely with my city colleagues to get things done.

What do you hope to achieve as councilor for Ward 27 if you’re reelected?

Almost every single park in the ward is either planned for improvement or improvements are underway, which is very exciting because its been a priority of mine to ensure that our green spaces are adequately invested in, better maintained and also that they serve a higher purpose and function.

I’ve been championing wider sidewalks and more welcoming, safer and walkable, sustainable neighbourhoods. I can point to some very iconic successes such as

Celebrate Yonge, [which] launched in 2012 [and] won an international award in New York City for being a special event. The Church Street parklets, which is the very first time we were able to introduce the parklet program in Toronto, … happened in Ward 27 under my leadership.

How did you deal with the hate mail you recently got from a self-identified Ford Nation supporter?

It’s not the first letter we’ve received of that nature. And certainly I have recognized that over the last four years the tone of some of the correspondence we’ve received has become very hate-laced.

I recognized that it was very important for me to stand up against homophobia, against sexism and against racism. I have been on the receiving end of certain venom coming from members who describe themselves as being supporters of Ford Nation.

What happened since my speaking up and naming what’s happened to me is that other racialized candidates who are running for city offices have also been able to speak up and share what’s been happening to them and their campaign.

And I think that’s actually a really important step forward for the city of Toronto.

What was the response like after you posted the photo of the letter?

Obviously it hit a nerve. This city has always prided itself on its diversity.

It’s a city that understands that it is built on thousands and millions of people from around the world who have chosen Canada as their home. Whether it’s people who are arriving today on our shores or if it’s people who are seventh-generation settlers.

What I think is important is that there was also a very private response.

The private response was the response of my family. My mom and dad were obviously very alarmed that someone would want to hurt their daughter.

Is there anything you’d like to say to Ryerson students?

I have a very strong and deep connection to Ryerson. I used to work on the campus at the campus radio station, called 88.1 CKLN radio.

I watched Ryerson grow up from being a polytechnic institute to being a full-fledged university. I am really proud of my working relationship with Ryerson Students’ Union, with the faculty and administration.

I am very proud to be able to champion some of the initiatives that Ryerson has planned out such as the Gould Street closure.

I was also incredibly proud to be able to work with Ryerson … to work on and improve and approve the Ryerson Student Learning Centre, which I believe is going to be a striking and iconic building.

I know that the ongoing issues that we have for students is trying to ensure that there is affordable housing so students don’t have to work two or three part-time jobs to try to make ends meet. I was a student once who had three jobs and trying to focus on studies while paying my own rent and while paying my own tuition was a challenge.

I’m at city council because I want to make things better, I want to improve things and I want to create things and I want to innovate.

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