Dear Urban Diplomat: My influencer friend has been travelling during the pandemic

Dear Urban Diplomat, My childhood friend, who makes her living as an influencer, has continued to travel throughout the pandemic. She justifies it by saying that it’s not illegal, her livelihood depends on it, and she always undertakes the proper quarantine. So far, she’s been to Mexico and Costa Rica, posting glamorous Instagram pics of her beachside exploits. Should I try to convince her to put her travel plans on hold indefinitely?
Flight Risk, Mississauga

I’m afraid your friend might be a lost cause. In general, it’s best not to tell people how to live their lives, particularly when income is at stake. Plus, if recent events can’t convince her to put away her passport—like the public lashing that former Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips took after his jaunt to the Caribbean—then what will? But if you want to give it a shot, tell your friend that those beach pics are bringing her more shame than clout among the people who love her, no matter how many likes she gets from online sycophants.

Dear Urban Diplomat, A few weeks ago, the city disbanded a mini-encampment in my neighbourhood. Sure enough, since then, some of the residents have returned, pitching tents, drinking beer, lighting campfires and blasting music. I was thinking about notifying the authorities, but when I discussed it with a couple of the neighbours, they said we should just let the park dwellers be. Who’s right?
Parks and Deliberation, Trinity Bellwoods

I’m with your neighbours on this one. Even if the encampment looks like a Canadian version of Burning Man—assuming everyone is being safe—I would suggest keeping the police out of it. Given the recent Covid outbreaks in homeless shelters and the lack of affordable housing in the city, urban campsites are inevitable. There’s a good chance that even if you tell the cops about the cloister of tents, more will pop up in the months to come. Instead of the bulldozer approach, try exercising some empathy for people living in the cold, and rally the neighbours to donate food and clothing to the encampment.

Dear Urban Diplomat, Last week, I took my three-year-old daughter to our community rink to teach her how to skate. When we arrived, there were way more than 25 people (the pandemic maximum) on the ice, and a group of teenagers were skating around like absolute hellions, making it impossible for anyone else to enjoy their ice time. I politely asked the city attendant working the rink to impose some order, but he just shrugged, so I took it upon myself to kick the teenagers off the ice. My partner thinks I totally overstepped. Can you weigh in?
Possibly Offside, Rosedale

Typically, it’s not appropriate for citizens to play referee in these situations. You could have contacted parks and rec to file a complaint about the rink attendant, but it would have taken too long for the city to respond, spoiling a chance to skate with your daughter. In this case, it sounds like the number of skaters posed a real health risk, so somebody needed to intervene. Since the attendant failed to act, I think it’s reasonable for an adult—particularly a community member—to be the enforcer.

Dear Urban Diplomat, The people who live behind me, on the other side of the alleyway, started building a laneway house last month. For whatever reason, all the workers think it’s okay to hang out in the alley during their breaks, leaving behind cigarette butts, empty soda cans and plastic food containers. I’m totally sick of it. What should I do? Alley Oops, Midtown   

What’s the only thing worse than a bunch of construction workers loitering in your alleyway during a months-long construction project? A bunch of really angry construction workers doing the same thing. I would suggest being very delicate in your approach. Give your neighbours a call and explain the situation. They will likely notify the project manager, who should tell his workers to clean up their act. If the problem persists, contact city bylaw services, who could slap the workers with a $10,000 fine for littering.


Dear Urban Diplomat, I’ve got a couple of elementary-aged kids enrolled in virtual school. Lately, I’ve been noticing that a few students are constantly distracting the others with profanity, goofy faces and ridiculous Zoom backgrounds. The teacher can’t keep them under control, and each lesson eventually devolves into utter chaos. How can I handle this without looking like a narc? Virtual Insanity, York Mills

Nobody likes a tattletale, but if those little scamps are impacting your kids’ ability to learn from home, you should take action. Relay your concerns about distractions to the educator, but given that there’s only so much they can control right now, do it sympathetically. Ideally, they’ll address it with the offending students’ parents, who will then reform their kids’ Zoom etiquette.

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