The definitive list of the people and things that captivated us in 2016.
From Mirvish Village to Black Lives Matter, from the Bloor Street bike lanes to the Blue Jays, from John Tory to Michael Ford, and from Dr. Jordan Peterson to Jagmeet Singh, Toronto had a year of change, growth, heartache and joy. It was a year that Toronto continued its transition from second-tier city to world-class metropolis, and a year when the growing pains felt ever more acute. As this difficult year draws to a close, it’s time to pause and tip our hats to some of the changemakers who defined the city in 2016. These are my choices for the Top Torontonians of 2016.
The Unsold Copy of Sue-Ann Levy’s Underdog at BMV
It’s that age-old dilemma: is $12.99 too much to pay for an ironic purchase? Torontonians asked themselves this question repeatedly as they passed the unsold copy of Toronto Sun “investigative columnist” Sue-Ann Levy’s Underdog at the Yonge/Dundas BMV. While the author publicly fretted over the book’s placement at major retailers, the BMV edition was perched comfortably in the politics section next to its spiritual prequel, Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival, visible to everyone morbidly curious enough to skim its well-thumbed pages. For those of us who frequent the bookseller, seeing Levy’s debut tome day after day was like being reunited with an old friend. As the weeks passed, some of us began to realize that it must never be purchased. This book belongs to the world now. To remove it from the store would be to violate the social contract.
That Extreme Right-Wing Fundamentalist Preacher at TIFF
The glitz and glamour of the Toronto International Film Festival swept our city once again , with Torontonians waiting hours for selfies with Gosling, Timberlake, LaBeouf, and other A-listers. But it was a local celebrity who left the greatest impression: the extreme-right-wing fundamentalist preacher at Yonge/Dundas Square, who left his usual haunting-grounds for beautiful Festival Street. While the stars moved quickly between their limos and the Lightbox, only the right-wing preacher truly embraced the spirit of “the people’s festival,” making himself an ever-present fixture of the red carpets. And while I heard certain journalists and industry professionals sniping at the star, surely this is another example of Canada refusing to embrace its own talent. As Christ himself once said, “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.”
Millions of years before we arrived on this planet, they were here—dedicated to serving the most despicable masters around. From Napoleon to Genghis Khan to that incorrigible Gru, there’s no tyrant too villainous for these pint-sized scallywags to serve. So what does it mean that the Minions have been spotted in Toronto, as part of the elaborate Christmas decorations at 754 Dufferin? Friends, I fear it must mean the worst. One shudders to imagine what deplorable miscreant must live at 754 Dufferin, and we implore Toronto residents to be vigilant as the spectre of evil looms.
The clown prince of crime is at it again. Too twisted to live, too demented to die, Batman’s greatest enemy can no longer be limited to Gotham. The Joker was first spotted in our city while working on the Toronto-shot blockbuster Suicide Squad, where he careened down Yonge Street with girlfriend Harley Quinn in tow. The #Squad has long since left town, but Toronto residents still cannot afford to breathe a sigh of relief: imagine this reporter’s shock and horror upon seeing the miscreant at Toronto’s Word on the Street festival on September 25. I snapped this quick photo before fleeing.
The Future Bakery Pigeon
McDonald’s has Ronald McDonald. KFC has the Colonel. But no mascot compares to the pride of Toronto, the ol’ Future Bakery pigeon. Less an employee than a trickster spirit, the Annex pigeon pops up when you least expect it—there’s no social get-together, first date, or study session he won’t join. Plus: get ready for some of the best dinner theatre in town when the bakery employees chase the pigeon with a broom.
“Abortion bin laden.” “Fucking is great.” “evil Canada.” These are just a few of the gnomic, incisive, and oddly enchanting statements left by the mysterious Toronto Banksy. In dark times, we turn to art for illumination, and with his simple, two-or-three-word marker drawings, no other Canadian artist of his generation has spoken so directly to the times as Toronto Banksy. It’s sadly typical that our country’s art institutions continue to honour established names like Lawren Harris while vital, contemporary artists languish in obscurity.