On Friday Apr 10, 2020 Toronto Mayor John Tory addressed the Muslim community in an online speech that was broadcast after the sermon by Sheikh Ahmad Kutty of the Islamic Institute of Toronto.
Tory instructed the Muslim community to abstain from religious gatherings during the month of Ramadan (April 23 – May 23) because of the Corona virus pandemic (COVID-19). During Ramadan Muslims gather every evening for the iftar, breaking the fast meal, and later for the tarawih, the recitation of the Quran and night prayers in the mosques.
Assalamu Alaikum [Peace be upon you] and good evening. I’m so glad that I’m able to join you at the Friday prayer service. You know it’s interesting at times like this when people can’t get together. Technology allows us to be together to celebrate Friday prayers and for me to join you and to extend all my best wishes to you and talk a little bit about what’s going on in our city at the moment. You know the virtual prayers allows us to stay connected and that’s very important at the time like this. Perhaps more important than ever because it gives us an opportunity to hardness of the technology but also to harness the power of faith. And the power of faith right now is important to keeping the city together to dealing with some of these stresses were facing in our lives. Whether it’s people like yourself personally or your friends or your relatives that are anxious about their health it’s understandable anxious about financial security and jobs which is also understandable. I think these are all things that as people are going through right now but what’s really important for all of us is to remember that we have to be there for each other. And we’ve got to support each other. And I know that that’s a great tradition of Islam. That you would be there to contribute to the community and to strengthen the community and to support each other. And that’s a lot of what goes on at the mosque the day after day especially on Fridays. So I hope that you will do that today. I also hope you will keep in mind what I would telling people is the single most important thing they can do which is to stay home. Please stay home right now. Because the scientist tell us convincingly based on science that the best way this virus can spread. And of course we don’t want that to happen. Is person-to-person contact through droplets that come from your mouth. And if you’re not away from home those droplets are not going to spread. That’s why I am emphatic saying to people please stay home. It’s why there have been various orders and guidelines given to stop people from coming to the mosque on Friday or any other day. Because it’s just not going to help us to fight this battle against the virus. I want you to know that we are trying to do what we can as a city to make sure people are left with a degree of support and comfort. We’ve got all kinds of services for our most vulnerable citizens to make sure that the elderly and the homeless are looked after. As you would expect. And by the way Muslim association of Canada the Muslim welfare centre other organizations that are known so well in our community are doing the same thing. But I also want you to know to the extent that you can volunteer to help others in the community. That’s going to be good. And we are doing some things to deferral of tax payments, utility payments so on and so forth. As well other public services to make sure that people are kept comfortable and supported. Of course Ramadan will soon be here and we hope that a lot of this will be behind us. But we should prepare ourselves, for the fact that one of the things that is most important in your calendar each year, and all the iftar dinners that it that it has been my privilege to attend, with you. It’s a time when you are getting together with family and friends. And with of course each other. And that we may have to make some alterations to that this year. As well and, will find a way, as we have found a way with Friday prayers, to make sure that people have that sense of togetherness and that they feel that power of faith. And they feel that power of observance on one of the most important dates if not the most important date on the calendar. And I hope with the help of technology we will still be able to find ways to celebrate and commemorate something that I know is very important to me as the mayor of Toronto and very important to you as residents of the city of Toronto. We are all in this together. We have overcome many things in the city over time even before I was born. And we will overcome this too we will do it together with your help. And I thank you very much for all the effort you’re undertaking to keep the city together to look after each other. And I look forward to seeing you just as soon as that is possible.
On April 10, 2020 John Tory instructed the Toronto Police Service to take more strict measures to enforce social distancing:
Chief Mark Saunders, Toronto Police Services Mr. Carleton Grant, Executive Director Municipal Licensing and Standards
First of all may I thank you for your leadership which has helped us to have hundreds of police and bylaw enforcement officers at work this holiday weekend across the city helping us to educate and to enforce our physical distancing rules.
As you know, beyond the preferred option which is for people to stay home, physical distancing between people is the best way we will slow down the march of COVID-19 and thus save lives and get us back to our normal way of life as quickly as possible. That is the advice of all public health professionals including our Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa.
As you also know, despite very simple legal and health requirements, the most important of which is for people to remain two metres apart, there are still many people who are not doing what they must do to stay healthy themselves and to protect the health of others.
We have reports of everything from bonfires on the beach to hanging out in groups in parking lots to playing pickup sports in closed areas, all of which involve groups of people who don’t live with each other and thus could spread the virus.
While the vast majority of Toronto residents are keeping their distance and helping us fight COVID-19, your officers have given hundreds of informational talks, many warnings and some tickets to the worst offenders, which is the kind of enforcement we all wanted to see to the greatest possible extent.
It seems to me however, that when, after a week, we are still having informational chats with hundreds of people who don’t get it or won’t comply, the time has come for stricter enforcement and more tickets.
We are facing a deadly virus – tragically it has already claimed the lives of 77 Toronto residents – and we need people to realize as quickly as possible what they need to do to stay healthy.
As you both know, as an elected official I cannot direct law enforcement as to how they enforce the law, but I am by way of this letter offering my strong opinion and support as Mayor for stricter enforcement which would be in the interests of fairness to law abiding people and in the interests of protecting our city’s health and moving us faster to the day when life can return to normal.
I hope you will give this request every possible consideration as I believe it is entirely consistent with our collective efforts to save lives, protect health and the healthcare system and limit damage to our economy and our way of life.