Open Letter to All Toronto Mayoral and Council Candidates:
We are a concerned group of non-profit organizations who are ringing the alarm bell on rising poverty and inequality in Toronto. Much of this poverty is gendered, racialized and along neighborhood lines. The pandemic, paired with the rising cost of living and rent has exacerbated inequality in our city – but these are not the only contributing factors. Long before the pandemic began, 1 out of 5 children in Toronto grew up in poverty, the waitlist for social housing was 7 years long, and a subsidized child care spot was hard to come by.
The upcoming Toronto Municipal Election on October 24th represents an exciting moment – an opportunity to get things right. With a new term and a new mandate, an inclusive recovery from the pandemic is possible.
We urge all candidates to reflect on our #VoteEquityTO campaign that will be launched on Monday, October 3rd and fully commit to our policy asks across five key pillars: housing and shelter, transit and internet, decent work, community safety, and community wellbeing.
While the City has taken action to address certain social issues, as evidenced by the HousingTO 2020-2030 Action Plan – looming challenges persist including an increase in community and gender-based violence, homelessness, opioid-related deaths, hate crimes, and child poverty.
There is a greater role the City can and must play to ensure all residents are cared for and that economic growth is inclusive of all community members.
As frontline organizations, we are witnessing a heightened level of crisis in our shelter and housing programs. More community members are experiencing food insecurity, mental health instability and gender-based violence. As nonprofit agencies, we are also struggling to provide services with current funding models – and we are losing talent to public and private sectors because our wages struggle to be competitive.
We know that many women have been pushed out of the labour market because of the pandemic. Many newcomer and racialized women are stuck in minimum wage jobs with little opportunity for career advancement and no access to benefits or paid sick days. Because women continue to assume primary care responsibilities at home and face wage disparities in the paid workforce, they are more vulnerable to poverty, food insecurity and certain forms of violence.
Women and gender diverse people require access to specialized services that are anti-oppressive and culturally-responsive, as well as specific and additional avenues of financial, caregiving and employment support.
Over the past several years, we have heard many commitments made by the City to make Toronto more equitable for all. However, those words have not always turned into action. Last year, the City conducted extensive research into the impacts of the pandemic and produced a series of comprehensive policy recommendations. But many of the recommendations fell to the wayside. What was the outcome of this research? The City is now working on a new Poverty Reduction Strategy – but what has the previous strategy achieved, in concrete terms? The City claims that it is committed to applying an intersectional equity lens in the budget process but has sidelined community voices and made the process even less transparent. The City has created a Gender Equity Office – but the timelines for the Intersectional Gender Equity Strategy have been delayed and the Office is only equipped by two staff members.
We cannot achieve a more equitable Toronto without comprehensive, adequately supported and intentional plans to get there.
What we need is a bold Council to address the crises before us – before the situation gets worse. And we require clear directives from the highest level in the City bureaucracy to prioritize equity, inclusion and poverty reduction for all residents of Toronto.
Toronto must be a leader in addressing the disparities faced by women, girls and gender diverse people. Municipal election candidates have an opportunity to prioritize gender equity. We urge all candidates to reflect on our #VoteEquityTO campaign and fully commit to our policy demands.
Abode Community Service Centre
Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services
Alliance for Healthier Communities
Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario
Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
Canadian Centre for Housing Rights (formerly CERA)
Child Development Institute
Communities for Zero Violence
Community Family Services of Ontario
Council of Agencies Serving South Asians
Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre
Essential Communications Ltd.
Family Service Toronto
FCJ Refugee Centre
Flemingdon Health Centre
Focus for Ethnic Women
Kababayan Multicultural Centre
Miziwe Biik Aboriginal Employment & Training
North York Women’s Centre
Oasis Centre des Femmes
Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI)
Ontario Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty
Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care
Ontario Nonprofit Network
Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre
Planned Parenthood Toronto
Ralph Thornton Community Centre
Rexdale Women’s Centre
Skills for Change
Social Planning Toronto
South Asian Women’s Centre
South Asian Women’s Rights Organization
South Riverdale Community Health Centre
Times Change Women’s Employment Service
Toronto Alliance to End Homelessness
Toronto Community for Better Child Care
Toronto Shelter Network
Victim Services Toronto
West Neighbourhood House
West Scarborough Community Legal Services
Women’s Health in Women’s Hands CHC
Workers’ Action Centre
Working for Change
About the Vote for an Equitable Toronto campaign
This election, YWCA Toronto, WomanACT, and more than 35 community organizations across Toronto are calling on City Council and Mayoral candidates to commit to advancing gender and racial equity and poverty reduction. Together, we have launched a municipal election campaign called Vote for an Equitable Toronto #VoteEquityTO. For more information and to sign our petition: www.VoteEquityTO.ca
For more information, please contact:
Manager of Advocacy, YWCA Toronto
Telephone: 647 237 7283
Director of Programs, WomanACT
Telephone: 647 639 5801
Toronto, ON – A new poll from the WomanACT in partnership with Angus Reid Group shows that experiences of harassment are common on public transit in Toronto. While 86% of transit riders have experienced some form of harassment, it was more common among women, especially experiences of sexual harassment. Women (59%) were more likely than men (22%) to have experienced unwanted sexual looks or gestures, as well as sexual comments (experienced by 50% of women and 19% of men).
The survey of 1550 people in Toronto also found that feelings of safety are impacted by gender and race. 27% of people said they feel unsafe taking public transit. Women were more likely to feel unsafe (30%) than men (23%). This was further impacted by race. Racialized men were more likely to feel unsafe (26%) than white men (19%). Racialized women were more likely to feel unsafe (28%) than white women (23%).
The mode and time of travel also impact how safe a rider feels. The subway was the type of transit where people felt most unsafe when compared to streetcar or bus. Riders also felt more unsafe when travelling in the evening or at night. At night, 57% of men felt very safe or safe, compared to 39% of women.
Public transit riders use various tactics to cope with feeling unsafe, and women are more likely than men to do so. Women said they were often on high alert (59%), used their phone to avoid unwanted attention (46%), avoided public transit in the dark (38%), got off at an earlier stop (37%), traveled with others (32%), or decided not to take a trip at all and stay home (16%) to avoid harassment or feeling unsafe.
The proportion of Torontonians who don’t feel safe taking public transit is alarmingly high,” says Demetre Eliopoulos, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs at the Angus Reid Group, “The fact that women are adapting their travel behaviour in so many ways, to the point where some are just opting to stay home, indicates that there is a fundamental accessibility issue at play here.”
Most of the public transit riders (82%) were optimistic and felt that public transit could be much safer with the correct investments and safety measures. When asked about which proposed safety measures would help end sexual harassment on transit, good lighting, security features such as a cameras and request-stop programs topped the list.
“Tackling sexual and gender harassment requires change at system, organizational and behavioural levels. This is no different when addressing sexual harassment on public transit.” Said Harmy Mendoza, Executive Director of WomanACT. “In addition to transit policies, services and infrastructure that promote safety, it is critical that transit employees and riders can identify harassment and intervene when safe to do so.”
While the majority (95%) of survey respondents said that it was important to have information on how they can intervene, only 56% of respondents reported that they would know how to intervene if they saw someone in danger on public transit.
Other survey findings:
Access the report with key findings here
About this survey:
In partnership with WomanACT, Angus Reid Group conducted an online survey among a representative sample of n=1550 adults in Toronto. The respondents are members of Angus Reid Forum. For comparison purposes only, this sample plan would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
For over 30 years, WomanACT has been working closely with governments, organizations, and communities to eradicate violence against women through research, policy, education, and community mobilization. WomanACT uses research to promote public dialogue, transform practice, and shape policy to advance women’s safety and gender equity.
About Angus Reid Group:
Angus Reid is Canada’s most well-known and respected name in opinion and market research data. Offering a variety of research solutions to businesses, brands, governments, not-for-profit organizations and more, the Angus Reid Group team connects technologies and people to derive powerful insights that inform your decisions. Data is collected through a suite of tools utilizing the latest technologies. Prime among that is the Angus Reid Forum, an opinion community consisting of engaged residents across the country who answer surveys on topical issues that matter to all Canadians.
Toronto, ON: Today, WomanACT and The Society for Canadian Women in Science & Technology (SCWIST) are pleased to announce partnerships with three employers who are dedicated to creating workplaces free from sexual harassment: Chandos Construction, EllisDon, and TandemLaunch. The Department of Justice has funded WomanACT and SCWIST to provide custom support to STEM and trade employers to improve company-wide prevention and response measures that address gender-based and sexual harassment.
On the importance of these partnerships, WomanACT Executive Director Harmy Mendoza says, “Our 2021 survey found that 4 in 10 Canadians experienced some form of harassment in the workplace—a rate significantly higher for women (50%) than men (33%). That is why these cross-sectoral partnerships are critical to ending sexual and gender-based harassment. We are heartened by these three companies’ investments to create a culture of safety, and we are committed to supporting them to improve workplace policies, procedures, and practices.”
SCWIST President Dr. Khristine Carino reinforces this project by explaining, “As the voice for women in STEM for 40 years, we understand first-hand the impacts of discrimination, gender-based and sexual harassment in the workplace. Addressing these behaviours can decrease stress, improve productivity and motivation, and improve retention rates for women.”
As to why this work is important to them, Chandos Construction and EllisDon shared:
“Harassment of any kind shouldn’t exist in any workplace. Period.” says Tim Coldwell, President, Chandos Construction. “We will do whatever is needed to ensure that every employee is part of a pleasant and comfortable working environment. We support WomanACT and SCWIST. Their values align with our own, and we look forward to collaborating with them, and being forces for good, together.”
“Empowering our employees to prevent and respond to gender-based violence is not only an important step for EllisDon’s safety practices and culture but is crucial to advance our industry as a whole,” says Geoff Smith, President and CEO of EllisDon. “It’s no question that we are a male-dominated industry — we need to be doing everything possible to attract and retain women in our workforce, while providing safe and respectful workplaces to build meaningful careers.”
About WomanACT: WomanACT has been providing planning and coordination in Toronto since 1991. Today, we are a charitable organization working collaboratively to end violence against women and advance gender equity through education, policy and community mobilization. For more information, please visit www.womanact.ca.
About SCWIST: SCWIST is a leader in programs, partnerships, mentoring and networks across Canada for women and girls in STEM. Through innovative research, capacity building and collective advocacy, SCWIST has advanced women and girls’ participation and leadership in STEM since 1981. For more information, please visit www.scwist.ca.
About Chandos: Chandos Construction is the first and largest B Corp Certified national technical builder in North America. We are 100 per cent employee owned, and a pioneer in integrated project delivery (IPD) and collaborative construction. Please visit www.chandos.com.
About EllisDon: EllisDon is an employee-owned, $5 billion-a-year global construction services company. With over 3,000 salaried and hourly employees across fifteen national and international offices, EllisDon has become a leader in every sector and nearly every facet of the construction industry. Please visit www.ellisdon.com.
About TandemLaunch: TandemLaunch creates, incubates and accelerates early-stage technology start-ups based on inventions from the world’s top universities in the areas of artificial intelligence, computer vision, IoT, audio and advanced sensors. Having successfully executed over 50 technology transfer agreements, TandemLaunch is a spinout foundry with an international scope, producing high-impact, IP-focused companies with an unprecedented rate of success. Please visit www.tandemlaunch.com.