Toronto, January 16, 2019 – Regent Park community members along with Councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam and Josh Matlow called for full funding of the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy (TYES) to be included in the 2019 budget. Addressing violence and in particular, gun violence, requires immediate investments in community programs and services as outlined in the TYES.
In addition, speakers pressed the importance of improving access to recreation programs for low-income, racialized Regent Park families. They shared their experiences about how the lack of structural support and insufficient funding for youth programs has negatively impacted their community. The families have also expressed their frustration in finding new obstacles to accessing local recreation services despite the new facilities such as the Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre and the Regent Park Community Centre that have been built for them in the neighbourhood. An informal poll conducted at the aquatic centre revealed that 70% of the users are from outside of the neighbourhood.
Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam remarks, "With the adoption of the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy by City Council in 2014, it signaled positively that we were going to commit ourselves to funding and implementing the TYES programs to support low-income, racialized and vulnerable youth. Since then not enough has been done, nor fast enough, as we see higher rates of poverty, especially child poverty rise across the city and record levels of gun violence. It’s time for City Council to truly commit to the funding of the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy and its outcomes.”
Ismail Afrah of the Regent Park Residents Association and community organizer Sureya Ibrahim from Mothers for Peace say, "The City of Toronto has come to recognize centering equity in the delivery of programs and services is essential. However, equity seeking families are increasingly struggling to have access to existing programs and facilities in their own neighbourhoods, specifically in Regent Park. We have state of the art facilities, but we aren’t able to get our kids into swimming class. The City of Toronto must do more to address lack of access to programming if we are to build stronger, safer neighbourhoods."
Sal Sabila, Founder and Chair of Youth Gravity states, "Everyone asks where the young people are when it comes to shaping our city. We gave our feedback that went into the Toronto Youth Equity Strategy, but still people on the ground are struggling to access recreation programs. These community programs help young people make friends and reach our potential, but we are still being left behind. Our group of young leaders, Youth Gravity, are providing a platform to young people to make their voices heard and in return we need structural support and consistent funding."
"In this current climate, we are experiencing the rise of gun violence among our black youth in our communities. Violence is plaguing our neighbourhoods and still we do not see any change. Our young people don’t have the opportunity to participate in vital community programming because we aren’t able access it because the spaces don’t exist. Our community has said for years what we need. We cannot afford to wait." says Regent Park community organizer, Mary Ann Scott.
Louis March, Founder of Zero Gun Violence Movement says, "City assets, resources and services targeted for vulnerable youth have to be re-evaluated for effectiveness and impact. Unfortunately – we cannot undo the gun violence carnage from 2018 but we can do better at re-aligning resources and supports to ensure that they are indeed engaging the vulnerable population, as was intended. We are losing our children and communities continue to be left behind. The question must be asked, ‘are we able to deliver the right resources, to the right people at the right time and in the right place? If we are committed to making our City safe for all, and not some.”
Media Contact: Lisa Brody Hoffman; firstname.lastname@example.org; 647-332-5449.