Symbolic Hike Honours 1700 Victims of Toronto's Killer Smog

For Immediate Release, September 23, 2007

“Smog gives me asthma” is one of 1,700 personalized messages in the shape of silhouetted faces that’s now adorning Yonge Street lamp posts today as part of a citizens’ hike to represent annual smog-related deaths in Toronto.

Smog Hikers PosteringHundreds of Torontonians congregated at the park beside the ferry terminal (Bay and Queen’s Quay) at noon today and proceeded along Yonge Street, posting the silhouettes on every street-side lamp post. Each silhouette represents a smog death in Toronto and contains a hand-written message from a Torontonian about the negative effects of smog. The hike is expected to last into Monday and possibly exceed Toronto’s city limits, in order to post all 1,700 silhouettes.

“Seventeen-hundred Torontonians die prematurely every year because of smog, yet no one remembers them,” said Dave Meslin, who led the hike. “Today, we’re remembering these victims by putting a face to them and reminding Toronto that these deaths are preventable.”

TEA, and its co-sponsor the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF), began collecting the 1,700 personalized posters for the hike in August. Many messages talk of smog’s burden on health and what we can do individually to help. Others mirror demands the two organizations have been making for years – fund public transit, conserve energy, build renewable energy, and rid the country of coal-fired electricity plants.

“Canadians should not have to breathe polluted air. There are clear solutions to smog and these should be implemented immediately,” said Lisa Gue, DSF’s environmental health policy analyst. ”Smog days are completely unacceptable in Canada.”

Franz Hartmann speaks about the smog issueThe hike was timed during the provincial election to impact voters’ choices. “The message to Torontonians is simple,” said Franz Hartmann, TEA’s Executive Director. “If a candidate wants your support they should answer yes to these three questions: Will you commit to a phase out of coal-fired electricity production by 2012? Will you provide adequate funding for operating the TTC? Will you support the Renewable is Doable energy strategy that significantly reduces smog pollutants?”