June is now officially Filipino Heritage Month in Toronto

Scarborough – Councillor Neethan Shan hosted a reception to celebrate the City of Toronto’s declaration of Filipino Heritage Month, starting in June of 2018, and to congratulate Filipino Canadians who helped make it possible. 

“I congratulate all those individuals and organizations within the Filipino Canadian community in Toronto that have been working for a long time for this to happen,” said Councillor Shan.

The motion to declare June as Filipino Heritage Month, brought forward by Councillor Shan, the City’s newly appointed Newcomer Advocate, passed at November’s City Council meeting, and marks the first time Filipino Heritage Month is recognized by any level of government in Canada. 

As part of his motion, Councillor Shan called on Toronto City Council to formally ask the Ontario and Federal governments to declare June as Filipino Heritage Month. Councillor Shan has since written to both levels of government to make the same declaration.

“Declaring June as Filipino Heritage Month will give Filipino Canadians, Torontonians, Ontarians and Canadians an opportunity to learn, celebrate, enjoy and experience the rich heritage and histories of the Filipino Canadian community,” said Shan. 

“It will also provide our City with an opportunity to reflect on the many outstanding contributions Filipino Canadians have made in Canada, and in the world.”

The packed reception featured speeches from leaders such as Paulina Corpuz of the Philippine Independence Day Council, TCDSB Trustee Garry Tanuan, and the Philippine Consul General of Toronto. These community leaders shared what Filipino Heritage Month would mean for generations of Filipino Canadians to come. 

Elected officials also attended the celebration, including Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, MPP Raymond Cho and City Councilor Chin Lee.  The Ontario NDP introduced a bill in the legislature in November calling on the Ontario Government to declare June as Filipino Heritage Month.  MPP Cho called for unanimous consent in the legislature for the declaration. 

The evening featured a series of breathtaking performances by Folklorico Filipino Canada, a dance group committed to enhancing Filipino Canadian identity by preserving traditional forms of dance. 

The reception concluded with Councillor Shan presenting certificates of appreciation to Filipino Canadian community organizations that supported the Toronto declaration of Filipino Heritage Month by sending in letters of support to Toronto City Council before and during the presentation of the motion at City Hall.

The reception was held at the Scarborough Civic Centre on Thursday, November 30.

– Office of Councillor Shan staff


Downsview’s future is at a crossroads

For the bulk of my political life, I have been fighting for the future of Downsview. Chief among my efforts has been the battle against the sale and development of the Federal lands at Downsview Park.

A few years ago, with the help of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), the first portion of this land was sold to the highest bidder by the Federal Government. Developers then turned this beautiful green space into a disastrous “neighbourhood” fraught with horrible, systemic building flaws, and unbearable quality-of-life issues for some of its residents. The City still refuses to recognize these homes as up-to-code.

This neighbourhood stands as a physical indictment of the Feds’ vision for the rest of the Downsview lands. There are three other neighbourhoods planned like this, and it seems like the same future awaits them.

To the north of this area, at Keele and Sheppard, is a beautiful swathe of federal parkland known as William Baker. It has bike trails, massive mature trees and, on a good day, you can witness some unique wildlife. According to plans by the Federal Government, this area is to be bulldozed and in its place, 3,500 apartment units are to go there, with the Feds pocketing the cash.

It’s unconscionable. Especially considering that as part of a necessary defense strategy in 1947, these lands were taken from 270 Downsview residents to build a military base. But today, with the based closed, they are trying to cash in on the lands they took away from us 70 years ago. The right thing to do is to give the lands back to the City.

That is why I am planning to bring a motion to an upcoming City Council demanding that the Federal Government give us back our lands. In the City’s hands, park land is illegal to sell. If this land is restored to its rightful municipal status, it will be protected for generations. It could thrive with amazing programming and activities that any design or control from Ottawa could never accomplish. This land is Downsview, not a cash cow for the Feds.

We have a choice. We could choose a nightmare future of shoddy homes with limited green space plagued with traffic and flooding, or we can choose a bright future with these lands in the hands of the people of Downsview who will love and care for them in perpetuity. As it stands, you have a hand in this choice. Make sure you always choose leaders who will fight for the best of these two futures. You will have the opportunity to make those choices over the next two years.

But I am not waiting. The time to give this land back to Downsview is long overdue.

Maria Augimeri is the Councillor for Ward 9 (York Centre) and has represented Downsview residents for over 30 years. She is also the leader of the SetDownsviewFree movement which demands the Feds to stop selling parkland and hand the Downsview lands back to Toronto.

Building Better Communities: Continued Economic Growth through Shared Prosperity

There was a time when it seemed as if we were all progressing towards truly harnessing human potential to its fullest. Yet, outside of North America and Western Europe, only the fortunate few make meaningful progress. When we look closer to home and in our own local communities, we see many caught in cyclical patterns where successive generations are barely making ends meet. Will the children get the opportunity to truly achieve their potential? If not, what are we losing when that potential is not realized?

The Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN) is doing as much as possible to see that everyone in Toronto reaches their full potential. TCBN helps equity seeking groups, diverse individuals and organizations gain access to opportunities to grow and thrive in their communities. TCBN has already been successful in achieving Community Benefits with the Eglinton Crosstown project. This massive project will realize the dream of improved public transit for tens of thousands of Toronto residents across Eglinton Ave and beyond. Thanks to TCBN, we are now starting to see residual benefits with real jobs for residents living along the Eglinton Crosstown LRT building site.

Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) are successful because everyone wants to work – human dignity is found in work. TCBN is currently considering several projects across Metropolitan Toronto to support and put communities front and centre in CBAs. When TCBN member organizations tap into previously hidden local talent in a community, everyone wins. Improved infrastructure and local jobs mean communities benefit through shared prosperity.

TCBN envisions Toronto as an inclusive, thriving city in which all residents have equitable opportunities to contribute to healthy communities and a prospering economy. Through formal and informal arrangements, TCBN is engaged in setting the conditions for economic growth and intensification of urban areas around a network of mobility hubs and other infrastructure projects. TCBN believes that all Torontonians should have access to the opportunities stemming from infrastructure investments. TCBN is a coalition of organizations and individuals working in direct partnership with other grassroots, community, labour and anti-poverty organizations to build a strong community benefits movement in Toronto.