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Celebrating Indigenous History Month

Cynthia Bell, an Indigenous woman wearing a black T-shirt standing in front of a purple wall.
Cynthia Bell, Executive Director, ENAGB Indigenous Youth Agency

This week we’re talking about Indigenous History Month, rental replacement policies and Pride Month.

Dear Friend,

I am writing from my desk on Wellington Street, overlooking the haze from fires raging above us. A reminder that even here, we cannot take fresh air for granted. A reminder that our land—our forests, ravines, farmland—needs stewardship and care and traditional expertise. A reminder too of how the Wendat, Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, and other Indigenous nations have cared for this region through hazy and clear days for millennia.

Never a better time than Indigenous History Month to remind that most of us are guests here who have responsibility towards the lands we work and live and play on, and towards its fellow inhabitants. We settlers have not been good stewards. We have wreaked havoc, and forgotten how interconnected our lands and communities really are.

So it is with enormous respect and admiration that we seek to learn from our Indigenous Partnership Council and Indigenous-led partner organizations that do so much for our communities, often using the land and traditional knowledge as a starting point for health, healing and well-being, and passing it down to newer generations eager to learn.

I find hope in the work of The Indigenous Network, for instance, a Friendship Centre in Mississauga that takes a holistic approach to improving the social determinants of health among Indigenous residents, with spirituality and culture at the forefront.

“That spiritual connection is one of the main primary drivers for me and has deep meaning for me and for the community because it just has a deeper cultural significance to it,” says Executive Director Jairus Skye. “It’s something that’s part of you.”

The Network’s United Way-funded food security project, for example, shares traditional Indigenous knowledge about growing and harvesting and traditional food to help residents meet nutritional needs in an urban setting. Beyond food programming, the Network also offers youth programming, mental wellness programs, Indigenous ceremonies, Elder and spiritual guidance, and more.

Another organization ensuring continuity of Indigenous knowledge and practice is ENAGB Indigenous Youth Agency, which provides cultural, employment, life skills, wellness and recreational opportunities through holistic and “land-based” programming and teaching for young people.

“We always say youth are our future,” says Executive Director Cynthia Bell. “So if they’re our future, then they need to be involved in what we’re going to leave behind for them.”

Despite the harm we as settlers and colonizers have caused, there is so much hope offered by our Indigenous neighbours.

To all the First Nations, Métis and Inuit community partners, organizations, and Elders sharing their knowledge: Miigwech, Mîkwêc, maarsii, Nakurmiik, Wela’lin, Nia:wen, thank you.

Daniele Zanotti
President & CEO
United Way Greater Toronto

Things to Know Right Now

The six leading Toronto mayoral candidates and debate host standing on stage behind podiums in front of a black backdrop at the Toronto For All debate.

Mayoral Debate

Last week, the six leading candidates in Toronto’s mayoral election offered up their visions of Toronto in front of a live audience of 500 people at a debate we co-hosted with The Toronto Star and Toronto Metropolitan University. Many attendees were representatives of the agencies we fund and people with lived experience of poverty and related issues. Such residents informed the questions asked of candidates on homelessness, affordability, transit and more. The next day on Breakfast Television, our President and CEO Daniele Zanotti shared his thoughts on the debate, community engagement, and the necessity of policy changes to make Toronto a more affordable place to live. If you couldn’t tune in live, watch the full debate on our websiteAdvance voting continues until June 13, and election day is June 26.

Rental Replacement

Rental housing options remain limited across the province, and the options that do exist are unaffordable and out of reach for many. Preserving and renewing existing affordable rental stock is essential so that people with low incomes can be safely and securely housed. That’s why we partnered with United Ways across Ontario, Tower Renewal Partnership, and Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership to submit seven recommendations for the government’s proposed changes to rental replacement by-laws. Rental replacement policies are an important way to deal with worsening rental housing security, affordability and attainability and enhance protections to more tenants.

Get Involved

A group of United Way staff cheering and holding ‘United With Pride’ signs at the Toronto Pride Parade.

Pride Month

Our United Way staff, volunteers, donors and friends will be marching at the York Pride’s 10th Parade on June 17 and the Toronto Pride Parade on June 25 to celebrate 2SLGBTQ+ communities. We hope to see you there, and if you’re looking for other ways to celebrate Pride Month, consider these:

Indigenous History Month

As we enter the last half of Indigenous History Month, including National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, there are still many ways to learn and celebrate:

2023 Annual and Special Meeting of the Members

Join us at our virtual 2023 Annual and Special Meeting of the Members on June 22 to learn more about the progress we are making together. We’ll be welcoming former Mayor of Calgary Naheed Nenshi as our keynote speaker and will hear his thoughts on city building and the challenges and hope of creating truly inclusive communities. Register now.

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