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