Calum Marsh: Toronto woman gave ‘free hugs’ amid COVID-19 without a mask – and people agreed


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Tony Hawk takes to the air on a halfpipe at Yonge Dundas Square in Toronto on August 18, 2016. Photo par Michael Peake / Toronto Sun / Postmedia Network
Performers on stilts march through a busy Yonge-Dundas Square on Buskerfest opening day on Yonge Street in Toronto, August 27, 2015. Photo par Dave Abel / Toronto Sun / Postmedia Network
Juan Carlos Noguez Ortiz sits in a bubble as he is covered in honey bees in Yonge-Dundas Square to break a world record to promote a new Canadian film, Blood Honey, August 30, 2017. Photo par Michael Peake / Toronto Sun / Postmedia Network

So it should hardly come as a surprise to seasoned Torontonians that this week was the site of a woman’s campaign to give “free hugs” – a cheeky blow, which called on strangers to “feel the love” and come for a tender embrace. Inspired by the internationally renowned Free Hugs project, created to promote solidarity after the Boston Marathon bombing, the woman was seen outside the Eaton Center mall, stroking one random stranger after another.

A woman offers “free hugs” at the corner of Yonge Street and Dundas Street in Toronto amid the COVID-19 pandemic on September 3, 2020. Photo by Peter J Thompson / Postmedia

If it seems a bit reckless, if not irresponsible, to hug strangers at one of the busiest intersections in the country’s largest city in the midst of a global pandemic, consider the woman in question doing so. without a face mask – and that many of the people who accepted his offer did so without a face mask either. Of course, she wore a hot pink fabric headband, in keeping with the original message of the Open Trust and Blind Affection Campaign, possibly even for the sick and infectious.

But the attractiveness of this ridiculous spectacle, which otherwise would simply be comparable to the course of Yonge and Dundas, is considerably less fun when you think about the public health risk involved in this caper. There is a grotesque arrogance in this type of display that makes all the oddballs and ordinary crooks in Toronto’s strangest intersection seem almost holy in comparison.

The fake Peter Parkour and the guy from “Believe” don’t position themselves as shameless super-spreaders, after all. Yonge and Dundas and his reputation deserve better.


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