What initiative do you think made the biggest gains for the community benefits movement in 2020?
That was the question posed in a recent survey that outlined 12 game changing moments for the community benefits movement in Toronto in 2020. The winner was recently awarded the Toronto Community Benefits Network’s (TCBN) Changemaker Award.
The winner is the TCBN-led national inclusive recovery campaign that invited supporters of community benefits from community, labour, corporate and philanthropy to endorse a letter urging the federal government to “remain steadfast and strengthen its policies and implementation of community benefits as part of all large scale federally-funded infrastructure projects.”
There were over 1,000 signatories to the letter and a petition pressing the government to ensure community benefits are incorporated into its inclusive recovery response.
“We had so much support from our coalition, from all stakeholders…including our funders, The Atkinson Foundation, was one of the first to step forward and say, ‘yes, let’s do this,’ ” said Rosemarie Powell, executive director of the TCBN, during the annual general meeting where the winner was announced.
The recipients of the actual award were Victor Beausoleil, executive director of the Social Economy Through Social Inclusion, and Ryan O’Neil Knight, president of the Afro-Caribbean Business Network, who helped fuel the promotion of the initiative, said Powell.
“They were the two mighty social enterprises who really stepped up and supported the TCBN staff,” she said. “They ramped up, they reached out to their networks, they put out messages, they made telephone calls. We just want to thank them for their support and leadership. It’s a reminder to our membership that the social enterprise component of our community labour coalition is also very strong and they bring a business perspective and an enterprise perspective to the conversation.”
The federal government announced it will be investing $12 billion in shovel ready transit projects in Toronto and as a result of the campaign, community benefits agreements will be on those projects, added Powell.
“What is going to be our challenge for this year, and we’re looking forward to everybody coming on board with this, is an Ontario-wide inclusive recovery campaign,” she explained. “We are going to have to pull ourselves together and really develop a strong campaign to move the provincial government to really step up to the plate and sign a strong community benefits agreement. The city already has a framework. How do all these three different governments collaborate together to ensure a strong community benefits agreement?”
Other initiatives up for recognition included:
The Mount Dennis Eco-Neighbourhood Initiative, a local grassroots effort launched by the Mount Dennis Community Association that aims to secure strong community social economic and environmental benefits from development in the neighbourhood.
Community Solidarity Against Racism in Construction launched a community response when nooses were found on construction sites in Toronto. They mounted a petition asking the Government of Canada to take action.
The Lawrence Heights Revitalization Coalition, a resident-led coalition supported by the TCBN and North York Community House, launched a campaign to help inform the next phase of revitalization in Lawrence Heights and to secure community benefits.
CreateTO Housing Now – TCBN secured a commitment from the CreateTO board and city council to work collaboratively with the TCBN on developing a community benefits agreement as part of all large-scale Housing Now projects in Toronto.
Black Urbanism Toronto, CP Planning, the BBPA and other groups collaborated with the City of Toronto to protect the Little Jamaica shopping district from the devastation that was caused by poor planning, a decade of construction and the global pandemic.
The foundation of the Afro Canadian Contractors Association, a step forward to build capacity within the Black contractor community to compete for infrastructure contracts.
The Carpenters’ Union created a new position at the Carpenters’ District Council and when nooses were found on construction sites they collaborated with the Toronto and York Region Labour Council and other industry and labour organizations to develop the Charter of Inclusive Workplaces to promote inclusion of under-represented groups into its locals across Ontario.
The Golden Mile Community Benefits Framework. The TCBN worked in partnership with the Working Women Centre to facilitate community conversations and discussions on informing community priorities and a community benefits vision for the Golden Mile.
The Scarborough Community Benefits Advocacy committee was launched to seek strong community benefits outcomes as part of infrastructure and development projects in Scarborough.
The RPNA Community Benefits Coalition, who signed a community benefits framework with Toronto Community Housing for phase four and five revitalization in Regent Park.
The Jane and Finch community mobilized and won when faced with the prospect of losing the land transfer that they had bargained for through community benefits.
“We have had an incredible year of change and growth and ups and downs with the COVID-19 pandemic, with the attention to the cause of the Black Lives Matter movement and with nooses found on construction sites,” said Powell. “We were still able to make some incredible achievements and all because of the dedicated work that is happening in communities and neighbourhoods all across Toronto.”
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