public washrooms toronto

Popular band calls out Toronto for not having enough public washrooms

People in Toronto have long highlighted the issue of insufficent public washroom access in the city, especially since the pandemic began and the many private-sector facilities previously used by residents were forced to shut down.

Now, one of the country's most famous rock bands is also drawing attention to the problem. 

The official Twitter account for the Hamilton-based rock band Arkells shared a tweet asking about a public bathroom near Yonge and Dundas on Saturday, indicating that they had already been looking for one for 15 minutes.

"Is there any public bathrooms available around yonge and dundas? @cityoftoronto /@311Toronto," reads the tweet. "Been looking for 15 minutes and everything is closed. Kind of insane that I'll have to piss in a corner in the middle of the day but ok!"

The tweet has since been liked more than 400 times and has garnered more than 60 replies, with many saying the lack of public washroom access has particularly impacted the city's most vulnerable residents this winter. 

"The answer is not really and imagine being unhoused," wrote homelessness activist Jennifer Evans in response to the post. "Indescribably hard out there for folks with nowhere to go right now."

Sean O'Shea, an investigative journalist at Global News, meanwhile responded that this has been a problem for field journalists, police officers, essential workers and the homeless throughout the pandemic. 

Back in November, the city announced plans to open 79 new "winter washrooms" this season on top of the existing 64 in an effort to replace some of the supply lost as a result of COVID-19 shutdown measures. 

"Given the resurgence of COVID-19 in Toronto and the increased need for access to outdoor space through the winter months, staff have determined that an additional 28 park washrooms can be kept open," reads a release from the city announcing the news.

"Additionally, portable toilets will be deployed to 51 high-use locations where winter activities will occur. Washrooms will be also be available at 47 outdoor rinks."

But while the additional bathrooms may be an improvement, many experts have pointed out that Toronto was lacking public washroom access long before the pandemic hit, and the health crisis has only served to exacerbate an issue that has been ongoing for years. 

"There are not enough public bathrooms. And I mean free, municipally cared-for public spaces where anybody can go, no questions asked," Lezlie Lowe, author of No Place to Go: How Public Toilets Fail Our Private Needs, told the Globe and Mail in November.

"In most Canadian cities, what we have are lots of public bathrooms in commercial spaces, such as coffee shops, malls and restaurants. But those don't necessarily meet everyone's needs in terms of access, unlike a public bathroom that is on-street, ideally open 24 hours and free," she continued.

"We need to have a reckoning about the fact that publicly available washrooms in Starbucks or McDonald's don't actually meet the needs of everybody. If you are unhoused and haven't had a shower for three days, you're not likely to be able to use that bathroom. You're more likely to get kicked out."

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