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Special Statements

 

Truth and Reconciliation: Residential Schools

The horrific discoveries of unmarked graves at residential schools are an urgent reminder for all Canadians to work towards truth and reconciliation. We are all treaty peoples and know that our Indigenous colleagues, partners and neighbours are feeling deep pain. Our hearts and condolences are with them. We acknowledge the continuing legacy of colonialism, as we work towards supporting Indigenous sovereignty.

All of us have a personal responsibility for reconciliation. And a critical part of that work is acknowledging and speaking the truth of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. The truth that these schools were one of many that operated across the country between the 1870s and 1996. And the truth that more than 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were torn from their families and sent to these institutions where they were forced to abandon their culture, language and way of life. Many suffered abuse, many disappeared, and many died.

Because these discoveries are only one part of the much larger and heartbreaking whole that is not just our history, but our present. The profound effects of personal and intergenerational trauma continue to cause harm with the descendants of residential school survivors and their communities.

Each and every one of us have a role to play in truth and reconciliation. To honour the lives of these children is to act. And we must, in allyship—as treaty people all. Because it is only by speaking this truth and taking meaningful action to oppose the devastation of colonialism that we can truly move forward in reconciliation.

Past Special Statements:


Partnerships that stand the test of time are a testament to commitment, cooperation and vision. United Way Greater Toronto’s ongoing work with Toronto & York Region Labour Council exemplifies this.

 

We are truly privileged to have played a role in Toronto & York Region Labour Council’s important history and celebrate not one, but two milestones. This year, as we honour Toronto & York Region Labour Council’s 150th anniversary, we also mark 65 years of working together, shoulder to shoulder.

 

As one of United Way’s founding partners, we are grateful that the Labour movement has stood beside us to champion many of the values we hold close and that move our mission forward – solidarity with community and the desire to achieve a just and equitable society for everyone.

 

From early innovation in 1957, when the Labour Council promoted and encouraged the concept of agency tours among our network, to the more recent, invaluable leadership provided in advocating for Community Benefits Agreements, Labour has done so much to champion the work of United Way.

 

For all of this and more, we are forever grateful, and look forward to facing new horizons and keeping decent work at the heart of everything we do.

It’s past time that employment standards and practices catch up to the realities of our labour market. For years, United Way has raised concerns that outdated employment standards and practices are detrimental to the health and wellbeing of workers and their families. With the current health crisis, we’ve seen that the urgency to modernize labour market policies and practices is a matter of life and death.

 

The Governments of Canada and Ontario have taken the first steps towards paid sick leave with the introduction of the federal Canada Sickness and Recovery Benefit and provincial Worker Income Benefit Protection Program. Many employers have also stepped up to provide paid sick leave during the pandemic. But we need to make sure paid sick days are adequate, responsive and permanent. Everyone in every sector needs to work together to make sure this happens. Let’s lay the groundwork for the more inclusive and equitable community we are all working toward.

 

United Way’s own research on precarious employment has shown that the lack of support and protection in insecure work can be devastating for those struggling on low incomes. Without rapidly accessible paid leave, a worker who needs to rest and recover risks missing rent, losing their job, or not being able to get food on the table.

 

Permanent paid sick days don’t just make public health sense, they make business sense. We know that business practices that enhance workforce security, like paid leave, can improve employee morale, motivation, productivity and loyalty, as well as decreased absenteeism and turnover. This is just the kind of change we need to create the solid economic foundation of a strong recovery. Our Better Business Outcomes for Workforce Security business case framework demonstrates how work can still be safe and secure -- even when it is temporary, contract, or self-employment.

 

The pandemic has presented challenges at an unimaginable scale, but in our collective response, sectors have also shown incredible innovation. Government and employers have the opportunity to build on this foundation and commit to modernizing employment standards and business practices to strengthen our future economy.

Reported allegations of misconduct at United Way Worldwide are deeply concerning. They are not aligned with what we stand for: creating a safe space for everyone.

 

In Canada, our national organization is United Way Centraide Canada. We are a member of the international network of United Ways but operate independently as a registered Canadian charity with our own governance, policies and practices. The recently reported allegations and financial issues at United Way Worldwide do not affect or involve United Way Greater Toronto. We remain financially strong and independent.

 

As a member of United Way Centraide Canada, United Way Greater Toronto is deeply committed to maintaining a safe and inclusive work environment that is free from harassment and violence and that enables all our employees to thrive. We value our employees and have in place the internal policies and procedures to protect them. Maintaining a safe work environment and facilitating an inclusive culture are core values of our organization.

 

We know that there is room for change, growth and learning and a lot more work that needs to be done to eliminate inequities and oppression of women everywhere. We will continue to push forward tirelessly with this work.

 

United Way Centraide Canada has been in contact with the Chair of the United Way Worldwide Board of Trustees and the Chair of the United Way USA Board of Trustees to express significant concern over these allegations. Read United Way Centraide Canada’s message to donors, supporters and partners: unitedway.ca/blog/allegations-related-to-united-way-worldwide/

Dear friends,

 

When too many in our community were dealing with the worst of circumstances in 2020, you showed us the GTA’s best -- an unparalleled outpouring of care and generosity. Thank you.

Our network of agencies modelled the power of collaboration. This invisible, impactful social safety net, already positioned and prepared to support the people and places facing the greatest barriers, pivoted overnight: meeting increased demands, tackling perennial and new needs with innovative solutions that will change the way we work forever. Thank you.

 

Our donors -- new and long-time supporters, individuals and corporations, labour, government and agencies -- held virtual events, ran employee campaigns, made corporate gifts, gave generously and then gave again when we appealed for help in closing a stubborn 25% fundraising gap. Thank you.

 

Now we are faced with two realities. First, in the long road to recovery, United Way and our network of agencies must continue to respond to the pandemic, while blazing a trail forward. Second, we are forecasting a 10% gap in meeting our current community investments. While this is encouraging given where we were just months ago and the financial reality facing so many, it is a gap nevertheless. And recognition that fundraising challenges will remain with us through the foreseeable future and a recovering economy necessitates a more sustainable response than digging into our reserves, as we have.

 

That means that we must make some tough choices. We’ve reduced our own operational expenses and will continue to plan our future operations efficiently. In consultation with our sector and our Board of Directors, we have also made the difficult decision to adjust and reduce our investment portfolio by 10%.

 

We’ve been in close communication with our agencies throughout the pandemic. This week we met to map our way ahead – to ensure a network that can respond today and support people and neighbourhoods through recovery in the years to come. We are committed to supporting agencies through the transition and to minimizing impact on the sector.

We have extended most contracts through to March 31, 2022 to provide stability through the pandemic. We continue to offer flexible funding so our agencies can do what they do best: respond where need is greatest. We are maintaining funding to our community hubs, critical social infrastructure in neighbourhoods most impacted by poverty and COVID. We are maintaining our funding to Black and Indigenous focused agencies -- a signal of our ongoing commitment to equity. Projects in partnership with our donors and communities that are already underway will continue as planned.

 

The road ahead is unknown, full of challenge, but also, we hope, of opportunity. We enter 2021, where we have always been -- with community -- and ready to address immediate needs and support an inclusive recovery across the GTA. To build back better in the face of greater economic uncertainty, increased inequality, and deeper poverty in a united way.

With partners like you, and your record outpouring of care, we are confident that this place we love will emerge stronger -- for all.

 

Always and only, thank you.

— Daniele Zanotti, United Way Greater Toronto President & CEO

These are challenging and uncertain times. But the research is clear and consistent. The stronger the sense of connection—local people working together in a united way—the more resilient the community.

 

And we are resilient. We are a community that cares about each other.

 

We are already at work with our partners, donors, and agencies developing shared solutions. To start, as the largest investor outside of government in the GTA, United Way is offering our agencies even more flexibility on how they use our dollars so they can do what they do best: meet urgent need for people experiencing poverty. Flexibility so they can change or adapt their programming and services in a rapidly changing time. We’re working closely with these front-line agencies as they identify the needs and issues that may be emerging locally. Know we will keep you informed on our responses—always with a range of partners, always in a united way.

 

With our collective health and wellbeing in mind, we have decided to close United Way’s physical offices until further notice. While our offices are closed, we’re still present and active, working remotely and supporting the critical services our region needs right now.

 

In times like these, we look out for others. While you take care of yourself, take a moment for someone else who may need that connection. Call your elderly neighbour, videochat with your friend who lives alone. Email someone who may be isolated. People matter. Place matters. Because we always are, and always will be, stronger together.

 

I hope you’ll support some of our community’s most vulnerable friends and neighbours impacted by COVID-19 by making a gift right now.

United Way Greater Toronto is deeply committed to our values of diversity, inclusion and equity – welcoming, celebrating and valuing the contributions of all.

 

Systemic anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism means that our Black and Indigenous colleagues, partners and neighbours do not feel safe. We understand many are feeling deep pain and anger during this time, and we stand together with them.

 

Structural racism is deeply historical and destructive to our colleagues, neighbours, partners and the communities we serve. United Way will listen to our Black and Indigenous colleagues, partners amongst our network of agencies, and the Black Community Advisory Council to continue to learn and work together to support community leadership. It’s important that we work together to develop solutions that address the destructive elements of systemic racism.

 

We are heartbroken at the pain around us, but we are not dissuaded. We cannot build communities when so many do not feel safe, valued, heard, and seen. We will work harder – always with community – to ensure equity and a future free from racism.

In this region that we love, where we have the right to worship or not, where we have the right to love whom we want to, where our children can grow, play and learn amongst a rich diversity of faces and cultures - there is hate growing. This growing hostility is translating to violence in the communities we serve; violence rooted in ignorance and bigotry. Recently, that has manifested itself in brazen public assaults, in vandalism and death threats at local mosques, and in explicit acts of bigotry and racism in our institutions.

 

The increase of acts of hate in the GTA reflects a growing international influence of extreme political views and xenophobic hate groups that perpetuate intolerance, lies, and hatred against women, newcomers, Chinese, South Asian, Black and Indigenous communities, those of Jewish and Muslim and other faith groups, the LGTBQ community and those with disabilities.

 

Like many of you, I am saddened and angry at the violence that continues to impact our communities. Hate is a cowardly and oppressive force that exploits existing vulnerabilities and destroys the potential in people and communities. It’s the antithesis of everything that United Way works towards.

 

United Way stands with our colleagues and communities in condemning all forms of hatred, bigotry, and threats to individuals' and families' safety and well-being across the GTA. We will not waver in our commitment to work tirelessly with our network of agencies and partners to give people of all backgrounds the opportunities they need to thrive, and to make the GTA a safe and welcoming home for all.

 

— Daniele Zanotti, United Way Greater Toronto President & CEO