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How do you build an inclusive community?

Multicoloured illustration of a city scape with pedestrians from United Way's Building Inclusive Communities report.

This week we’re talking about building inclusive communities, combating Islamophobia and setting community-minded goals for 2023

Dear Friend,

Look around. Everywhere, there are signs the GTA is growing. Ambitious immigration targets and recent projections show Ontario’s population is on track to increase by six million in 20 years. We know there’s no slowing down. We know, too, that what helps us address labour shortages and ensure economic growth also brings added pressures: to transportation and housing systems, to government and social services — and to the very neighbourhoods in which we live.

The good news is we know what works. We launched Building Inclusive Communities: Learning from Programs and Policies that Work earlier this month to offer a roadmap forward, spotlighting programs and policies that have demonstrated success in promoting social and economic inclusion and diversity, and create positive social change amid growth and development. Programs and policies like workforce agreements and development programs, community land trusts and inclusionary zoning.

With the More Homes Built Faster Act signalling rapid change to come, we’re working with others not just to accommodate growth, but to leverage it to invest in and strengthen communities, to navigate neighbourhood change today, and in the future.

Existing or new, neighbourhoods should be inclusive, strong and vibrant. Places where people have equitable access to services and amenities; opportunities for civic engagement; and the means to financial empowerment and stable housing. Communities where people can build good lives.

The interventions in our report can help us get there. They offer us the best way forward. The rest is up to us. Together, we can deliver the kinds of communities we all deserve. Thank you for being with us for every step towards this collective future — from the funding to the research to the systems change work and collaboration.

Out of great change can come opportunity. Let’s seize it.

Always, and only, thank you. 

Daniele Zanotti
President & CEO
United Way Greater Toronto

Things to Know Right Now

A child holds up containers of plants in a community garden being worked on by a group of people

Setting Goals for 2023

Looking for new ways to do good this year? We’ve got some ideas. We’ve outlined five community-minded goals that you can set for 2023. Each will help you give back, connect with your neighbours and help to strengthen this place we call home. Read our blog and get inspired to start the year off right.

Charitable Giving

With the holidays over and so much economic uncertainty ahead, many Canadians are looking to cut costs where they can. One of the first areas people cut from their budgets in rough economic times is charitable giving — right when it’s needed the most. As Darryl White, CEO of BMO Financial Group and United Way Community Campaign Chair, and Pat O’Campo, Executive Director of the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute and our Board of Trustees Chair, write, non-profits are experiencing increased demand and rising costs, which is exacerbated by burnout of staff and volunteer shortages.

Affordable Housing

Our President and CEO Daniele Zanotti spoke to the CBC about the residential development project in the Greater Golden Mile neighbourhood of Scarborough and the importance of including local residents at the table to ensure the development benefits the community. Members of the Inclusive Local Economic Opportunity (ILEO) initiative, led by United Way and BMO Financial Group, are doing preliminary studies and mapping before construction begins in 2024, so that there are good local jobs and deeply affordable housing for the community, to ensure residents aren’t left behind as the neighbourhood prospers.

Update from the Frontlines

Two people clasp arms in front of a table with cooking and craft supplies

Community Services Recovery Fund

We’re proud to be delivering the Community Services Recovery Fund — a $400-million investment from the Government of Canada to support charities, non-profits and Indigenous Governing Bodies as they adapt their organizations for pandemic recovery. Apply by Feb. 21, 2023.

Helpline Combats Winter Isolation

Winter can be an isolating time for many, particularly for older adults and people with mobility challenges. The Toronto Seniors Helpline, run by United Way-funded WoodGreen Community Services in partnership with Home and Community Support Services and Les Centres d’Accueil Heritage, aims to combat that isolation by offering counselling as well as connecting callers to local resources and services like transportation and meal services or adult day programs.

Get Involved

Photo of a lantern with a green square pinned in the corner. Overlay copy: National Day of Remembrance of the Quebec City Mosque Attack and Action Against Islamophobia

Stand Against Islamophobia

On Jan. 29, 2017, a gunman killed six men and injured many more in a hateful attack at The Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City. The National Day of Remembrance of the Quebec City Mosque Attack and Action Against Islamophobia on Jan. 29 honours the victims and shows solidarity with the survivors. It is also a reminder of the work we must do to combat Islamophobia. A few good ways to start include:

  • Reading our interview with Elaaf Siddiqui from United Way-supported ISNA Canada. We talk to her about the impact of Islamophobia and where she finds hope. 
  • Participating in the Canadian Council of Muslim Women and the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians’ anti-Islamophobia online workshop on Jan. 24.
  • Joining the National Council of Canadian Muslims’ Green Square Campaign to show solidarity and stand against Islamophobia.

Volunteers Needed

United Way-funded Dixon Hall runs several community programs and services, including Meals on Wheels, which helps bring meals to seniors and conducts safety checks. They need volunteers to help pack meals, load vehicles and deliver meals to residents. To sign up, visit their website.

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