Give Communities a Voice in Addressing Violence
Community groups offer vision on how to nurture a sense of belonging in Toronto’s troubled neighbourhoods
A group of community organizations, including the Urban Alliance on Race Relations have been meeting to discuss the recent violence in Toronto and ways to promote healthy neighbourhoods.
This is their joint statement:
As Torontonians who share a common vision for our city that is guided by the principles of justice, equality and respect for all people, we believe everyone in our society deserves to live in safe, secure and healthy communities.
When violence strikes a community, we all suffer. To end violence, our challenge lies in embracing solutions that strike at its core.
A surplus of research shows us there is more than one way to stop violence from infecting a community. The most successful way to avert crime is a concerted effort to get at the root causes of violence.
Too many young people, notably black youth and racialized communities, are being scapegoated and misrepresented. This only feeds into the cycle of violence. While effective law enforcement is a place to start, a more balanced response is needed to fix the underlying systemic conditions that contribute to violence in our communities.
Our increasingly diverse racialized youth, who experience isolation and see no hope for the future are at greatest risk of violence. Unless governments of every jurisdictional level take full responsibility to adopt urgent measures to redress the underlying social conditions of systemic inequality in its many forms, violence in our communities will persist.
We need every order of government and community organizations in all sectors to unite in an ongoing commitment to work together to build an inclusive and caring society by investing in our youth, in our communities, and in our social infrastructure.
We know what is needed — communities where everyone enjoys an equal opportunity to succeed; where young women and men are entitled to an equal chance to learn, play, and grow; where everyone has access to a clean and safe environment, with decent and affordable housing, recreational, and learning opportunities.
Toronto’s summer of violence challenges us to enact high-impact, evidence-based interventions and public policy measures that advance fair and equitable economic opportunities and create good jobs that pay a living wage, while providing support for those who need additional help to succeed. Further, we need to embrace a comprehensive, youth-focused strategy that revolves around youth-led organizations.
This final element is crucial: the time has come for a community-based approach that ensures those communities most affected by violence have a direct say in the political, social, and economic decisions that directly affect them. They hold in their hands the knowledge Toronto needs to find its way.
Belonging. It’s a simple word that holds immense power. By giving every one of our neighbours a sense of belonging, a ray of hope, a real opportunity to prosper, we can make a difference. We can plant seeds of hope, rather than allow violent crime to take even deeper root. We — as a community committed to fairness, unity and well-being — hold that power.
We, the undersigned, are united in this belief:
Urban Alliance on Race Relations, Social Planning Toronto, Toronto and York Region Labour Council, Ontario Coalition of Agencies Serving Immigrants, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians, Chinese Canadian National Council-Toronto, St. Stephen’s Community House, Scadding Court Community Centre, YWCA Toronto, Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, Hispanic Development Council, Dejinta Beesha, Midaynta Community Services, Somali Immigrant Aid Organization, Labour Community Services, Alliance for a Poverty-Free Toronto, Ontario Black History Society, Canadian Tamil Youth Development, Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 79, Scarborough Campus Students’ Union, UNITE HERE Local 75, Atkinson Foundation, Colour of Poverty-Colour of Change, Elementary Teachers of Toronto.
- Endorse the Joint StatementClick on the link below to download the joint statement from a group of community organizations that have been meeting to discuss the recent violence in Toronto and ways to promote healthy neighbourhoods. Embracing Hope – Building Communities Joint Statement
- We undertook to create a common statement on the complex and difficult issue of violence and community safety. If your organization would also like to endorse the statement, that would be very welcome. Please let Gary Pieters, President of Urban Alliance on Race Relations know so he can follow up.
- Get Involved We did strike a group to plan a series of community forums, intended to reflect the approach taken in the statement and gather public support for a comprehensive approach to the problems outlined, tackle the issue of violence and engage with our communities. Again, if your organization would like to be involved with the public forums, please let Gary Pieters, President of Urban Alliance on Race Relations know so he can follow up.
Urban Alliance President Gary Pieters, and Vice-President Tam Goosen met with John Cartwright, President of the Toronto and York Region Labour Council to discuss the intensity of gun violence in Toronto and a community response. Following their meeting, they agreed to convene a meeting of community groups to come up with a community response.
Gary Pieters, and Tam Goosen led the Media Strategy Group for over 20+ Community-Based Organizations/Agencies that met to discuss violence prevention and healthy communities in Toronto. Arising from that meeting, twenty-four community organizations agreed on a joint statement ‘Embracing Hope – Building Communities’ and are encouraging everyone to use their joint statement, published by the Toronto Star, as a catalyst for suggestions and solutions to the issues and concerns that Toronto’s young women and men are facing. The joint statement published as an editorial in the Toronto Star on August 3, 2012 and titled City-s Summer of Violence Calls for Community-Based Solutions is available online at http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1237084–city-s-summer-of-violence-calls-for-community-based-solutions.
The adhoc community response group formed two committees and heres’s what they are tasked with:
- Forums Group– Purpose is to discuss community groups response and to plan a series of forums in various neighbourhoods across Toronto to discuss the increasing violence and what communities are doing to successfully engage and foster healthy neighbourhoods and the key initiatives that organizations are involved with/implemented that addressed the joint statement. The Forums Group met on August 1st, 2012.
- Media Strategy Group – Purpose is to prepare and disseminate a joint statement “Embracing Hope – Building Communities”; Share the joint statement in the media (Toronto Star and other media/social media); arrange a meeting with the Toronto Star Editorial Board; ongoing media/social media campaign to highlight what community organizations are doing successfully to engage communities and foster violence prevention. The Media Strategy Group met on July 23rd, July 30th and August 13th, 2012 at YWCA Toronto.
On August 13th, 2012, Urban Alliance President Gary Pieters, participated in a panel discussion with delegates of the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario Black Caucus, with a focus on strategies that ETFO and educators across Ontario can use to engage young people and promote healthy communities.
On August 13th, 2012, Urban Alliance President Gary Pieters and Vice-President Tam Goosen conducted a presentation on community-Labour response to gun violence and community safety to members of the Good Jobs for All Coalition.
On August 11th, Urban Alliance President Gary Pieters, did a live phone interview on ‘Black on Black’, a public affairs community program on CHUO 89.1Fm Ottawa. He discussed a variety of issues including; the mission/vision of Urban Alliance; the Urban Alliance’s involvement in developing a community response to addressing some of the socio-economic roots of violence in our communities; the joint statement published in the Toronto Star; public reaction from the community; and next steps moving forward.
Additionally, Urban Alliance president Gary Pieters was invited to speak on the recent violence and known ways to promote community safety at the Toronto and York Region Labour Council meeting on Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 along with community members Shukri Mohamed, city youth worker, Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 79; and Karen Dublin, Respect Scarborough and UNITE HERE Local 75 leader.
In response to the gun violence on Danzig St. in Scarborough on Monday, July, 17th, 2012, Gary Pieters, president of Urban Alliance, published an op-ed in the Star website on July 19th, 2012 entitled Scarborough shooting aftermath: It’s time to get serious about stopping gun violence Read it here http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/122849
At the provincial level, Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Children and Youth Services and Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services conducted a 30-day review following consultations with police, community, business and youth leaders that focused on the many policing programs and community supports to determine which programs will be refocused and what strategic new investments need to be made. Through a web-based survey, online public input was also sought at http://www.children.gov.on.ca/htdocs/English/topics/youthandthelaw/youthactionplan/survey.aspx
Ontario’s Youth Action Plan was released by the Ministers on Wednesday, August 22, 2012 at the YMCA Toronto location on Grosvenor St. in Toronto.