The Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN), DUKE Heights BIA and Osgoode Hall Law School organized the March 23 and 24 Creating Opportunities Summit to take a good hard look at what truly makes great communities. In our efforts to find the perfect solutions, we often ignore big problems and make matters worse by doubling down on things that aren’t working. Whether it’s capacity building in marginalized communities, local policy making in neighbourhood improvement areas (NIAs) or just plain racism, no one answer fits all. If the summit had one great takeaway for me, it’s that finding shared prosperity will come through working with community and not for community.
The summit was an amazing chance for communities to come together with agencies, government workers, thought leaders and entrepreneurs, to really drill down and explore community benefits together. The two-day event kicked off with a bus tour that took delegates along the future Finch West LRT route. The route holds much promise for investment where there has been so little for nearly 40 years. There was a short detour to the future Woodbine Racetrack redevelopment, another possible place for community benefits. An incredible “poster exhibit” on community benefits was moved to Day-2 because of the strike at York University and even the strike didn’t put a damper on the success of the event. The bus tour was followed by a celebration dinner at York University’s Underground restaurant. The dinner included a speech from Senator Ratna Omidvar who will sponsor the Community Benefits Bill when it reaches the Senate from the House of Commons.
The conference which took place the next day at Jackman Law Building at the University of Toronto was full of timely information on what community benefits can mean and how they can be achieved. The opening panel discussion included a passionate address from Hamilton City Councillor Matthew Green who has been at the forefront of the community benefits movement in Hamilton. Other incredible speakers included lawyer Anthony Morgan who spoke on racial justice issues in Canadian law and policy. Climate change and its impacts on communities were also covered. There were case studies on community benefits in action and there were new friendships hatched and plans for future cooperation laid out. I’ve only scratched the surface here of all the amazingness that happened over the 2 days – I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next year.