Community Spotlight: Against All Odds (part 1)

Samuel Boakye was on a downward trajectory in his middle and early high school years.  Today, he attends the University of Toronto and runs a non-profit program that exposes marginalized youth to experiences in the field of construction.

Samuel moved into local community housing at age 10, his mother struggling to raise three children after her husband had left her some years ago.

“At my old school, I was a popular, energetic and playful kid.” says Samuel, “When I moved, it was like I dropped rank and had to ascend again.  There were many terms like ‘teacher’s pet’ that would deter you from taking a positive role and become a target of bullying.”

Samuel reflected on his feelings of isolation and being bullied when he first arrived.  His priority in school was his social status and he reached the top of that food chain as a tough kid with little interest in his studies.

The transition to high school meant starting from the bottom once more.  Samuel had few thoughts of the future and his focus was on fun and the respect of his peers.  It was a time of frequent fights, trips to the principal’s office and school suspensions.

Samuel speaks of his mother’s feelings about him during those years, “I think she had accepted I would never be the smart kid at school.  At best, she hoped I would make it through school and find any job I could.”  By grade 10, Samuel’s mother came to believe that her son’s only chance of redemption might lie elsewhere; she made the hard decision to send her son to live with his father in Ghana.

At the time, Samuel was extremely resentful of her plan to send him to his father.  He plotted mischief he would unleash upon his arrival but when he faced his father once more in the flesh, all his plans melted away.  “The moment I saw him again it was back to the drill sergeant and cadet.” says Samuel with a grin.

Samuel’s father was a successful businessman back in Ghana, managing and owning over a dozen pharmacies.  His father demanded discipline of his son but had no time to administer it so he sent Samuel to a boarding school where he would live on campus and under strict rules and supervision. At this new school, Samuel observed something that was incredibly surprising: some of the coolest and toughest kids also were the most academically involved.  This was in stark contrast to the youth culture he was used to, which he described as idolizing mediocrity and apathy towards studies.

Despite this realization, Samuel continued feeling resentment and disinterest in his studies.  Half a year passed and Samuel’s grades continued to be poor, so his exasperated father took him out of school and sent him to live with his two uncles.  It was during this time with his uncles that two defining moments happened in Samuel’s life, setting him on a path of reflection and ultimately redemption…

to be continued next month

Provincial Liberals Selling Off Hydro One Despite Public Opposition

Despite 80% of Ontarians being against the sale of Hydro One, the provincial Liberal government is moving ahead with its selloff to private investors.
The independent Provincial Financial Accountability Office has even warned about the loss of provincial revenue that would result from the sale. The provincial ombudsman and other watchdogs have also warned against the secretive manner of the sale.
Shortly after the provincial election, the Liberal government surprised the public by selling off 60% of Hydro One. To date, 30% has been sold meaning the public still currently owns the majority of shares.

The sale has been a hotly debated topic at Queen’s Park. This October, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath moved a motion to end any further sale of this important public asset. “We need to make crucial changes to stop the rising cost of hydro and stop the privatization that’s driving those cost increases,” said Horwath.

“The priority of our hydro system shouldn’t be generating big profits for investors. It should be to provide affordable electricity that keeps people’s bills as low as possible.”
The motion did not pass due to the opposition of Liberal and Conservative MPPs.

Downsview residents continue to see rising hydro bills, a cost many simply cannot afford. The rising costs particularly affect properties with electrical heating for the colder months.
Bibi Ali, a local Condominium Board President, represents one such property where some residents face $1000 bills during the winters. She was surprised to hear about the hydro sell-off when it started and fears that privatization will only make the situation worse.”It’s not fair that our hydro bills are so high,” said Bibi. “The government should have asked people instead of just going ahead and selling things off.”

A number of organizations opposed to the selloff of Hydro One, have put together a website ( with a lot of great information and opportunities to take a stand against the sale.

If the government continues in its sell-off plan, the public will lose the majority say on the future of hydro. The provincial Liberal government should listen to the will of the public and stop any further sale before they make a bad situation only worse.

Urgent Care Closed at Jane and Finch Hospital

July 2016 marked the end of urgent care at the Humber River Hospital site located at Jane and Finch.  The location will continue to provide CT, MRI and general x-rays.

The news may be bitter sweet for many residents who are watching the sun set on the community’s old York Finch Hospital, while services are being redirected to the new hospital located near Keele and Wilson.

Joe Astrella, President of the Grandravine Homeowners Assocation, says the old York Finch Hospital played a large role in his life.

When Joe moved into the community in the late 1960’s he immediately took up the call to help in fundraising for the York Finch Hospital that was under construction.  In 1970, his daughter Grace was born there and over the years, his family would drop by when the need arose.  In 1994, Joe credits the hospital for saving his life following a heart attack.

When talk began of expanding the Humber River Hospital network a decade ago, Joe joined a coalition of local residents who favoured expansion of the Jane and Finch site rather than moving it to a new location.

Joe learned of the urgent care closure through this interview and believed residents should have been better notified since the news came as a surprise to him.

Without proper notification, some residents might seek medical assistance at the hospital only to find out through a sign that they will have to seek help elsewhere.

“I am disappointed.” said Joe, “When I was active with the coalition, we were told that the Humber River Hospital site on Church Street would be closing, but that emergency services would still be provided at our Jane and Finch location.”

As services continue to be cut back at the Jane and Finch hospital location, the time may well come when the government decides to pull the plug on our local hospital once and for all.  A disappointing outcome indeed.

For more information on the new Humber River Hospital or the urgent care closure, residents can visit or call 416-242-1000.