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Tackling Poverty And Unemployment In Toronto

March 26, 2015


Tackling Poverty And Unemployment In Toronto

Tackling Poverty And Unemployment In Toronto

Photo above is of Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell and Gary Pieters. Photo by Lincoln Depradine.

By Lincoln Depradine
Pride Contributing Writer

TORONTO, Ontario – A Toronto City councillor has given her commitment to efforts to end poverty, which includes putting more people to work.

Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell told a forum of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) that “poverty is everybody’s business’’.

“It certainly is a business that has to be resolved,’’ she said.

“Poverty in Toronto: What are we doing about it?’’ was the title of the forum, which coincided with the annual general meeting of the UARR.

The meeting culminated a three-year term for educator Gary Pieters as UARR president.

“During 2014-2015, the UARR continued to make a positive difference in the areas of race relations, social justice, equity, diversity, inclusion and human rights. We appreciate the ongoing support of our funders and donors; collaborating partners; supporters; members and the general public who attended our public events or participated on our social media,’’ Pieters said in his report to the meeting. The UARR is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its founding.

Pieters described the organization’s events of the past year as “meaningful, purposeful, relevant, engaging and effective in the public interest of advancing harmonious relations and social cohesion in the GTA and beyond. We are pleased with the outcomes that were achieved, but we have much more to do – and we look forward to your continued support’’.

Asked to summarize his tenure as UARR president, Pieters told Pride News Magazine that it was “very busy, very productive, being an agent of social change’’.

“I think the most important as president,’’ he explained, “was ensuring that we achieve our mission, which is to promote and maintain a harmonious society; to build bridges between cultures; build bridges between the police and community groups; and build bridges between the diverse peoples who live in this city; and looking at the issues that matter most to people, whether it’s in employment, whether it’s in access, whether it’s in terms of jobs’’.

Job concerns were a constant theme at the forum, with the revelation of a 20 percent to 30 percent unemployment rate among youth and non-white residents of Toronto.

Panelists and other participants at the forum provided suggestions to Deputy Mayor McConnell, including the need for the City of Toronto to “act as a model employer’’; and increasing social assistance subsidies.

“A living wage is terribly important,’’ one person offered. “We don’t need to study poverty anymore. Let’s move forward.’’

McConnell, who has been having a series of meetings on Toronto’s city-wide poverty reduction strategy, said it will address not just unemployment among the poor, but also how to provide them with greater access to affordable housing, public transit, city services, and to food.

McConnell’s current anti-poverty work is back by $25 million in the City of Toronto’s budget.

“We have already taken the first step but by the fall we’ll have the entire roadmap finished and the funding strategy in place to continue with the work,’’ she said in an interview with Pride News Magazine.

“The plan is to put together a very strong safety net so that people don’t fall into poverty. And also, to develop a lifeline that pulls people out,’’ McConnell added.

“What is also terribly important is that the dialogue we’re having, the conversations that we’re having around the city, is to have all Torontonians understand that poverty is everybody’s business and what we’re trying to do is move everybody, so that everyone can enjoy the prosperity of the city together.’’

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UARR AGM and Community Forum on addressing Poverty in Toronto a success!

March 23, 2015

On Thursday March 19th, the UARR hosted it’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) with another “standing room only” turnout. The feature of the AGM was a community forum: “Poverty in Toronto – What are we doing about it?” The keynote address was delivered by Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell whose mandate includes creating a poverty-reducation strategy for the city of Toronto. A special thank you to featured panelists: Sharon Anderson (Put Food in the Budget), Randell Adjei (R.I.S.E Edutainment), Sharon Simpson (Good Jobs for All Coalition) and Effie Vlachoyannacos (Scadding Court Community Centre) for providing shared narratives that added value to the much needed dialogue. Thank you to Councillor McConnell for listening and engaging with the issues raised by the panelists and audience members. Below are some tweets of the occasion.

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UARR Participates in Racism Free Ontario Event at Hosted by CASSA

March 23, 2015

Event Photos-24Panelists Avvy Go, Ausma Malik, and Gary Pieters discussed about race, justice and education at the 5th annual Racism Free Ontario Forum at the Mid-Scarborough HUB (Photo Credit/Raafay Ali)

On March 21st, 2015, Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) President Gary Pieters participated in a panel discussion that looked at Race, Health, Justice and Education in observance of the UN Designated International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, sponsored by The Council on Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA).

The Forum was the culmination of 5th Annual The Racism Free Ontario campaign – 100 day initiative, which was conducted from December 10th, 2014 to March 21st, 2015 with the goal to goal to involve the community in the fight against racism to ensure that:

  • people recognize that racism exists in Canada
  • share tools and resources to those who are affected by racism
  • support the people who fight against racism
  • create policy level changes against racism into actualized systemic changes against racism

The Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA) is an umbrella organization of agencies, groups, and individuals that provide services to the South Asian Community. CASSA envisions and strive for a Canada free of all forms of discrimination in which all communities are free from marginalization and are fully empowered to participate in defining Canada’s political, economic, social and cultural future..

During his presentation, Mr. Pieters urged members of the audience to combat bigotry and its various intersections of oppression.

He also expressed UARR support for CASSA’s campaign urging the Government of the Province of Ontario to establish an Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate.

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Citations/Quotes: Racism Free Ontario and The Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA). Photo Credits: Raafay Ali

UARR President’s Report

March 19, 2015

UARR President’s Report 2014-2015

by Gary Pieters, OCT, M.Ed.

As the Urban Alliance on Race Relations observe and celebrate its 40th year as an organization committed to fostering social harmony across people of all diversities, I am pleased that it continues to be highly influential in the social justice landscape of Toronto and beyond.

During 2014-2015, the UARR continued to make a positive difference in the areas of race relations, social justice, equity, diversity, inclusion and human rights. We appreciate the ongoing support of our funders and donors; collaborating partners; supporters; members and the general public who attended our public events or participated on our social media. Our public forums, presentations, participation in public deputations, attendance at social justice events, video screenings, and awards dinner were meaningful, purposeful, relevant, engaging and effective in the public interest of advancing harmonious relations and social cohesion in the GTA and beyond. We are pleased with the outcomes that were achieved, but we have much more to do – and we look forward to your continued support.

Setting Directions
We convened a strategic planning session to look ahead to the organizations’s mandate and to establish some strategic directions to move the organization forward.We looked at program, finances and initiatives.

We have been able to hire an Executive Director on a part-time basis, as well as a project staff on a part time basis.

We continue to look at community grants that support the work done by UARR and we are also exploring applying for related SSHRC grants in collaboration with some post secondary institutions in the Greater Toronto Area.

We recently embarked on a project looking at the experiences of Somali Canada youth reintegration following incarceration. We have successfully concluded the Making Noise at Humber project funded by Status of Women Canada, with the impact being the creation of resources, student advocacy and a toolkit to end violence against women on post secondary campus. We also concluded the Racism 360 project which received funding from the City of Toronto and institutional partnership from Ryerson Diversity Institute. We continue to conduct presentations and provide resource support to organizations and sectors that request our knowledge and expertise on equity, diversity and inclusion.

Public Education
We hosted several events including: A panel and video screening of the Policing Literacy Initiative (PLI) documentary ‘Crisis of Distrust'; our 39th Anniversary Awards and Dinner; and a post-election forum with racialized candidates from the Toronto Municipal Election. We co-sponsored a Somali-Canadian Policing Forum with Positive Change and the Toronto Police Services with keynote presentations by Somali-American officers from Minneapolis. We wrote OpEd pieces and provided subject-matter expertise to various media outlets that touched on issues of compelling public importance including Carding, World Pride, Bigotry in The Municipal Election Campaign, International Human Rights Day, and The Militarization of Policing. We wrote letters of support to the City of Toronto on the Honorary Naming of University Ave as Nelson Mandela Blvd; and to call for the creation of an Equity Advisory Committee – both of which received a favourable response and approval by the Toronto City Council. We are a founding partner in the Nelson Mandela Freedom Walk to be held on June 20th, 2015 to celebrate, honour and remember the 25th Anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s visit to Toronto

We presented in person or written deputations at the Toronto Police Servicers board on carding, racial profiling and we attended the press conference and offered public comment on the release of Justice Frank Iacobucci’s report on Police Encounters with People in Crisis. We presented deputations to the Toronto District School Board that touch on issues pertaining to the Confucius Institute as well as the recent Margaret Wilson Report and directives. We attended the Good Jobs for All monthly meetings as well as the Good Jobs Summit in the Fall 2014. We attended the EI panels. We also participate in the Toronto Community Benefits Network. We wrote letters of concern pertaining to a racially motivated incident at Sutton District High School following the beating and racial name calling of a Black student. We attended meetings of the Joint OIPRD/SIU Director’s Resource Committee on civilian oversight leadership of policing in Ontario.

Community Presence
We continue to either participate, attend, sponsor or collaborate with institutions and organizations with a social justice lens in events that address all categories of the Human Rights Code and their intersections. These include the Aboriginal and Workers of Colour Conference; the Bromley Armstrong Awards Dinner; the CANtyd Gala, the Harmony Movement Awards event; the Social Planning Toronto Frances Lankin Community Services Awards Ceremony; Labour and Community Services Annual General Meeting; and the Scadding Court Gala. We attended several conferences including ‘What Makes a Man’ hosted by the White Ribbon Campaign; and we participate in various events that championed Gender-Based Violence Prevention.

Social Media Presence
The UARR website was viewed over 25,000 times in 2014-2015. Thanks to everyone who supported our social media and digital presence by visiting our website, following us on Twitter and joining our Facebook group for up to date information on compelling issues of the day pertaining to equity, diversity, inclusion, human rights, social justice, police accountability and gender-based violence prevention in Canada and beyond. We encourage everyone to stay connected for an even more exciting social media presence that celebrate our past and look ahead to our future in championing harmonious relations and social cohesion across the full diversity of Toronto and its intersections.

Board Changes
Thanks to all Board Members for their commitment and service to the UARR. We also thank outgoing directors Margaret Hageman, Chris Rahim, Monica Varga who have submitted resignations and Gary Pieters, who will not seek re-election following the expiration of his term as a director.

Looking ahead, we are in the planning stages of exciting public education and celebration events, as a fitting observance of our 40th Anniversary milestone! Please be sure to attend, participate and celebrate with us!

Urban Update: March 2015 Newsletter

  • Tackling Poverty and Unemployment in Toronto
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    UARR AGM & Community Forum presents: Poverty in Toronto – What are we doing about it?

    March 9, 2015

    Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 4.53.08 PM


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    Steps to Women’s Wellbeing @Scadding Court Community Centre

    March 5, 2015
    What: Continuing Scadding Court Community Centre’s Community Conversation on Women and Poverty in Toronto

    When: Friday, March 13, 2015
    What time:
    (refreshments will be provided)
     Scadding Court Community Centre
    Meeting room # 1
    707 Dundas Street West
    (Dundas Street and Bathurst Street)

    This is Scadding Court’s second community conversation as part of the City of Toronto’s poverty reduction strategy consultation. Share your voice and help identify the concrete ways that they City can support the wellbeing of women in Toronto.

    This is a women-identified only event.

    Child minding will be provided for children ages 1-7 years.
    Please register for child minding before March 11, 2015

    For more information and to register for child minding, please contact:
    Effie Vlachoyannacos
    416-392-0335 x230

    UARR delivers Human Right’s keynote speech at OFL’s Annual Educational Equity Retreat

    February 27, 2015

    The Urban Alliance on Race Relations (UARR) has a historical relationship with the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL). This morning, Executive Director Jason Merai shared the history of the UARR, it’s partnerships with communities, and the struggle for Human Rights,  at OFL’s Annual Educational Equity Retreat.


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