Election season is here. On June 7th, Ontario will elect a new provincial government and on October 22nd, Toronto will hold municipal elections. In between these two votes local ridings will be working to select candidates for the 2019 federal elections.
In preparation for these upcoming changes in government, we can’t help but turn our attention to some of the city’s most pressing issues, including security, safety and private investigation. Due to the recent van attack, we’ve noticed that many Torontonians also want to know how candidates in all levels of government will help to improve safety and security.
Rachel Willson is running to become the Conservative Party of Canada’s candidate for Toronto’s riding of York Centre (federal). We recently had the chance to sit down with her to talk a little bit about her platform. It was a great opportunity to better understand some of the top of mind issues for many Canadian and Torontonians. We covered a wide range of topics including:
- The importance of family, community and supporting youth
- Current security issues at the Quebec/United States border
- How to keep our city safe for generations to come.
Keep reading for the full interview.
Smith Investigation Agency (SIA): Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Rachel: I was born and raised in Toronto and truly love this city, the people and the culture. I attended York University where I received an Honours BA. At the same time, I maintained a full-time career in Rogers Publishing. Then, I earned my teacher qualifications at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Upon completion of school, my life changed when I became a mother. I am married to a Toronto Police Officer. Together, we have two young children: a son (Eli) and daughter (Lily).
In the years since, I have served as Assistant Director for a non-profit organization. I worked to assist youth and young adults to develop a more hands-on approach to Canadian politics. I have presented before Parliamentary Committee and worked closely with a number of Members of Parliament and Senators in Canada. Currently, I am running for nomination to become a candidate for Member of Parliament in the York Centre riding in Toronto.
SIA: What do you love most about the city of Toronto and the York-Centre Region?
Rachel: I love Toronto because it is, and feels, like home to me. I have lived here my entire life in various neighborhoods across the city. There are pockets of communities everywhere you go but also a general Toronto community that is identifiable.
The recent attack on Yonge Street was proof of this; it affected us all together and reminded us of that shared sense of community. We truly came together which I think in some way has helped us through these past few weeks.
York Centre is for me the truest representation of the wonderful diversity Toronto has to offer. There are people from all cultures and backgrounds here. These cultures can be experienced first-hand in small businesses and family restaurants across the riding. York Centre somehow manages to bring a big city and small-town feel all at the same time. Everyone is welcome.
SIA: How do you think Canada’s freedom has been affected over the past few years?
Rachel: I am very concerned about what we have witnessed happening in Canada in terms of freedom of speech, conscience and religion in recent years. These freedoms are being diminished.
Freedom is a priority to me because it affects all Canadians. We’ve seen free speech infringements as well as censorship on university campuses across the country. Events and debates have been shut down simply because the guests (Jordan Peterson, Lindsey Shepherd, etc.) may have different perspectives from the mainstream or popular opinion.
Another example is that when assisted suicide was made legal in 2016, the legislation did not include any conscience rights protection for doctors, nurses and other medical professionals to safeguard them against participating in assisted suicide against their conscience.
Most recently, Canada’s government introduced an attestation that small businesses and organizations had to agree to. This basically forced these groups to subscribe to a liberal “values test” on issues like reproductive rights. This, to me, is more about freedom of speech than about women’s reproductive rights. We cannot force or control the values and beliefs of Canadian individuals or organizations.
Freedom is what makes Canada so great. It is why people from all over the world desire to make Canada their home. Freedom is fundamental to the Canadian way of life and must be absolutely protected.
SIA: Equal opportunity and pay for women has been a hot topic of conversation for many Canadians. How do you plan to help further this cause in Toronto?
Rachel: I am running for my children and the rights and freedom of both of them. With my daughter Lily, I want to ensure she has the same opportunities in life as her brother. I want to make sure that she is equally respected and compensated for her work. Women must be free from discrimination and harassment.
I am passionate about standing against these issues as well as fighting human trafficking and modern day slavery, which is prevalent across the GTA and affects mostly girls. One of the main reasons I am running for elected office is for the next generation and advancing equal opportunity for women is a big part of this.
SIA: You’ve spent the last three years directing a non-profit organization to help increase youth involvement in Canadian politics. Why is this cause so important to you?
Rachel: I have been working to increase youth involvement in politics because democracy only works when all Canadians are represented in and by its leadership. Youth and young adults need to know they can make their voices heard about the issues that matter to them. They are all a significant part of this country. The nation we are building today is the one that they will inherit tomorrow. I am committed to creating a stronger Canada for my children’s generation and future generations to inherit.
SIA: What’s it like being married to a police officer?
I am honoured and proud to be a police officer’s wife. My husband loves Toronto and the community he serves and works to make a positive impact in people’s lives. He is passionate about what he does and I am happy to see him pursue his dreams and make a positive change for the city of Toronto.
Being a Police officer’s wife does come with its challenges as we have two small children. It can sometimes make the long hours, shift work and overtime difficult. However, it does make the time we do have together even more special.
We both agree that his work has the potential to make such a positive impact that we will work through any challenges together as a family.
SIA: How do Toronto police officers work with private investigators within the community?
Rachel: The private investigative industry works more on the civil side of the industry where police deal with the criminal side. I would say the most significant collaboration of policing to investigations is that after retirement, many police officers become private investigators.
Often a retired police officer will obtain a private investigator license and begin working within the industry as they share many strengths especially in regards to surveillance, and investigative research.
SIA: What are your thoughts on the current safety and security of Toronto communities?
Rachel: Unfortunately from updates on the news we can see that the safety and security of the city of Toronto communities could use improvement. We know that police are working hard to ensure safety and protection of Toronto residents and that these issues are of the utmost importance.
We are also thankful for the community. There are many community centres where youth can go to a safe, positive environment. It is in these kinds of spaces where they can find opportunities to learn valuable lessons and skills. We need to do more to inspire individuals towards a life of contribution to the community and personal development and fulfilment from a young age.
It is also very important we do more to protect our youth from addiction, human trafficking, and child abuse. These are just some of the issues I am passionate about finding a solution for.
SIA: Is there anything you think Canadians can do to help promote safety and security in their own communities?
Rachel: Yes! Canadians and residents of Toronto can certainly get involved to help be a part of the solution in promoting safety and security in their communities. Homeowners could use alarm systems, CCTV and motion systems to monitor their homes and property more effectively. Our youth can attend more community functions and events like sports which help to occupy their time and teach them valuable life skills and lessons.
The most important thing the average Canadian can do is to be part of building stronger community in their neighbourhoods. It can be as simple as getting to know neighbours, showing kindness and offering help to others, especially seniors, single mothers, and families with children.
SIA: Have you worked with Toronto security personnel at any point in your career? What was that experience like?
Rachel: I have not worked with Toronto Security personnel. However, I have enjoyed the safety and freedom they provide as they secure airports, hospitals, malls and schools. I am grateful for their hard work.
SIA: Can you tell us about the security situation near the border in Quebec?
Rachel: Under the “Safe Third Country Agreement,” if asylum seekers come to a Canadian border crossing from the U.S., they will be turned away since they have already landed in a safe country and should claim asylum there. However, there is a loophole, and the agreement only applies when coming into Canada at an official checkpoint or crossing.
There has been a steady and growing wave of individuals coming into Canada without going through official checkpoints. It is illegal to bypass the Safe Third Country Agreement.
There is an obvious safety concern when streams of individuals are coming into Canada without going through proper screening and identification. In addition, the financial impact is substantial. It has taken $250,000 to build an unofficial police station on the US border. This has also put a strain on the shelter systems of cities like Montreal and Toronto.
Experts estimate that the numbers will only grow over the summer months. Because of the severe backlog in processing cases, asylum seekers now have to wait up to 11 years to have their cases processed during which time taxpayers pay for their living and health care.
SIA: How has this situation affected the RCMP’s working in the area?
Rachel: It is difficult for the RCMP and CBSA to halt illegal border hopping. There have been many pictures in media showing RCMP officers helping with luggage as individuals cross the border into Canada.
Unless the current Canadian government closes the loophole in the Safe Third Country Agreement by making the entire Canadian border an official border crossing, the RCMP and Border Patrol will remain unable to help protect our borders effectively.
SIA: With the rising need for better security globally, how do you think this will impact Toronto and the rest of Canada in the years to come?
Rachel: Canada must continue to be a peacemaker and defender of international human rights and freedom. We also need to increase our diligence when it comes to national security at home and in addressing issues such as the current asylum seeker situation in Quebec.
It is more important than ever that all Canadians come together and fight the tendency to blame whole groups based on the actions of a few. It is not diversity that is our strength, but unity in diversity in our shared Canadian identity/community that creates a strong multicultural society.
SIA: What hopes do you have for Toronto’s future generations?
Rachel: As a mother of two young Torontonians, I have high hopes for Toronto’s current and future generations. I believe that Toronto is a city of vast opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds. It’s a place where you can become who you want to be, and anything is possible. We have the best people, the best cultures and the best cuisine from around the world!
That being said, I do hope that I see Toronto become a safer city, with better infrastructure, increased education, more businesses opened and opportunities for the community to become involved.
SIA: How can the York-Centre Community of Toronto reach out to you with questions or concerns?
Rachel: I would love to connect with residents of York Centre (Jane to Bathurst, 401 to Steeles) about the issues that are most important to them. I would also be grateful for their support of my nomination.
Please visit my website at: http://www.rachelwillson.ca or send an e-mail to: email@example.com to connect with me today.