Toronto is the richest city in one of the richest countries on Earth, but that isn’t so obvious in many of its neighbourhoods. After decades of neglect by local governments, poverty has become entrenched in many areas. In an effort to address this, in 2011 the City started the Toronto Strong Neighbourhoods Strategy 2020 (an unwieldy name so this article will call it TSNS). The idea is that by 2020, TSNS will improve these poverty-stricken neighbourhoods to the level of the rest of the city. The neighbourhoods were ranked according to five criteria: physical surroundings, economic opportunities, healthy lives, social development, and participation in civic decision-making. Originally called “priority neighbourhoods”, the city now calls them “Neigbourhood Improvement Areas” (NIAs). The City has identified 31 NIAs. Unsurprisingly, Jane-Finch scored the lowest among all of them.
TSNS sounds good in theory, but in practice, it’s a heavily bureaucratised way for the City to appear as if it’s doing something to address endemic poverty. TSNS has produced many reports but, without proper investment, poverty will still be widespread in all NIAs. Despite this, participation by residents is still necessary as low interest will be taken as a lack of desire for improvement and will lead to a lack of investment by the City. In response, residents in the Jane-Finch area collectively organized and wrote their own report, Community Response to TSNS. By interviewing Jane-Finch residents, community organizations, social service agencies, and grassroots groups, the Jane-Finch TSNS Task Force identified five main areas of concern: housing and physical surroundings (including public transportation), education, employment, health care, and access to healthy and affordable food. This has led to the formation of working groups on Housing, the Health Care Action Committee, and the Economic Opportunities Committee. An already existing group, the Black Creek Food Justice Network, was invited to deal with issues related to food security, food education, and growing your own food.
The Jane-Finch TSNS Task Force meets every other month at Yorkgate Mall’s York University TD Community Engagement Centre. The meeting is held on the third Monday of the month from 6:00 to 8:00 PM. Food, TTC tokens, and childcare are provided for all attendees. The working groups meet on the months in between, with varying locations and times. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, including copies of the reports above mentioned.