n Wednesday international human rights activist and longtime Parkdale community organizer, Chemi Lhamo announced her campaign for Toronto City Council for Ward 4 Parkdale-High Park.
About 50 community members gathered in front of City Hall to celebrate Lhamo’s campaign registration. Lhamo is heavily involved in the Tibetan community in Parkdale. She is the Canadian representative for International Tibet Network’s Steering Committee and has served as the President of the Students’ Union at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the board of the Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontario and Students For a Free Tibet Canada.
As Lhamo walked out of City Hall towards her crowd of supporters, several people approached her and draped her with white khata, a traditional ceremonial scarf given during celebrations.
After saying a few words in Tibetan and thanking her community for coming out, Lhamo spoke about the strife her community and neighbourhood have experienced through the pandemic. She spoke about a lack of COVID-19 resources provided by the city, as well as the housing crises and an abysmal rate of affordable housing in one of the city’s most impoverished neighbourhoods.
City councillor Gord Perks is the incumbent for Parkdale-High Park. Perks has represented the area since 2006.
Later that evening Lhamo spoke to a crowd of about 300 people outside of the Parkdale Collegiate Institute on Jameson Ave. and Queen St. who had gathered to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 87th birthday.
Chemi Lhamo's Top Priorities
Affordable housing means that to be able to afford rent, [it] should only take up about 30 per cent of your income. Which means that almost all of the city of Toronto is unaffordable to our people.
I will also be active about the encampment clearings that have been happening. It is not okay that we have community members in one of the wealthiest cities in the world freezing to death. And even community members that continue to show up are being violently attacked—this is not okay. It's not an okay response for the city to be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in security making sure that people are not camping outside. It’s ridiculous.
As young folks we all know, not only can we not afford a home in Toronto, there's a climate crisis. Temperatures are continuing to rise. And for me, it's even more personal. As a Tibetan I know that the Himalayan glaciers are melting three times faster than the rest of the world. And so we need to act now and not just talk about these climate goals that we want to reach by 2030 and 2025. We need to actually be investing in local climate solutions that communities like ours have been coming up with.
I led one of the climate justice circles for Parkdale where we came up with priorities…We talked about housing justice, we talked about Indigenous sovereignty, we talked about food growing spaces, and we came up with solutions by identifying unused local areas, unused spots like parking lots that community members had noticed had not been used. And community members are coming up with local, temporary solutions of being able to grow their own food and share it with all their community. That's what it means to be grounded and in touch with the community, where community members are already coming up with solutions.
As organisers, we've already had the solutions to [many] of the city’s issues. It's just that there is a long process of lobbying and advocacy that actually becomes a barrier for us to be able to make the changes that we want to see in our community. And so our campaign will be focusing on eliminating that barrier, and making sure the community comes directly into city council to make the changes that we want to see.
We see where the priorities lie for city officials based on where they put their resources and funding. Having billions of dollars being put into police, and not into the priorities that we want to be seeing— such as housing, climate, and anything and everything that the community needs—really is a failure on the city's end, and we hope to change that.