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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

2021 | Issue 56

The Public Health Issue

This is now our fourth pandemic issue — a full year of themes that cannot escape the way the crisis has dominated everything about our city. At this time last year, we stopped the presses on an issue that was almost ready and pivoted to one that contemplated Toronto in a sudden state of suspended animation, locked down to stop a deadly invader. Since then, we’ve explored the way the pandemic has disrupted our city and jeopardized our main streets. In this issue, we explore a bridge that has helped to carry us over the troubled waters of this crisis — our public health system. But, as with our past two pandemic-era issues, we refuse to let COVID-19 be the only story. Public health has a long and storied past in Toronto, and will be important even after the pandemic is behind us. So we look at its past, its pandemic-infused present, and longer-term questions that will shape its future.Bridges are, by their very nature, perilous. They carry us over danger, but they are not always easy or safe to cross. Public health shares this complicated identity, and this complication has perhaps been most evident for Toronto’s thousands of residents who lack permanent shelter. In this pandemic, Toronto’s unhoused people had a choice of two bridges to carry them through the crisis, neither of which was safe: the shelter system, or self-created outside encampments. There was no easy answer to this dilemma, but these pages share three perspectives on how it was navigated.

mural by Elliott Elicser