Goodbye, WiTOpoli

Photograph of nine women smiling for the camera in a sunny park, in front of a newly planted tree

Members of the WiTOpoli team at our goodbye party. Top L-R: Farah Mawani, Lauren Atmore, Sonya William, Lauren Simmons, Amrita Kumar-Ratta. Bottom L-R: Jennie Worden, Steph Guthrie, Terra Gillespie. Not pictured: Kate Bangay, Rudayna Bahubeshi, Wyndham Bettencourt-McCarthy, Ikram Hassan, Glenda Jowsey, Claire McWatt, Alejandra Ortiz, Abby Plener, Heather Reilly, Jessica Spence, Dai Williams.

Constant change, growth and rebirth are facts of life for volunteer-run groups. As the people who power those organizations undergo changes, whether a change in their politics or their life circumstances, the life of the organization evolves to accommodate it. These changes can be an opportunity for the organization to reimagine itself and its role in the community.

The lives of many members of our team have transformed since Women in Toronto Politics first emerged in 2012. Some team members had children and are now learning how to balance motherhood with the many other roles they play in their lives as loved ones and community leaders. Others started new jobs or even entirely new career paths (sometimes to explore a new passion, other times because, lol, late capitalism). Others were involved in protracted legal cases that sparked vicious and unwarranted attacks on our organization.

The degree of personal change our team members have experienced has stretched beyond the limits of WiTOpoli’s capacity to evolve. To create the space for our team members to find new equilibrium in their personal lives, the organization’s work must come to a close. WiTOpoli will be ceasing operations, effective July 8, 2016.

We hope that our community will think of this as a chance for rebirth. WiTOpoli team members are eager to reimagine the roles they wish to play in social change, and what new projects they can envision together beyond the WiTOpoli mandate. Our social media accounts and email list will remain dormant but operational so that we may keep our community informed on any new civic inclusion and equity initiatives propelled by WiTOpoli team members.

Civic inclusion and equity are critically important to all WiTOpoli team members. These fundamental values have guided our work at every stage, and helped us amass an incredible community of supporters who share these values. We want to thank our community members for supporting our projects.

Thank you for supporting our 2012 workshop series that led several women to deliver their first-ever deputations to Toronto Council. Thank you for backing (and using!) our 2014 Position Primer website that allowed users to quickly and easily compare their municipal election candidates by simply entering their postal codes. Thank you for participating in our 2015 #countrywewant campaign in support of Muslim Canadians targeted by Islamophobic rhetoric leading up to the federal election. Thank you for spreading the word about Reclaiming Our Narratives, the 2015 conference on gender and racial profiling which we co-organized, and which has since grown into an ongoing event series that WiTOpoli team members continue to co-organize. Thank you for attending the 2016 Toronto The Just exhibit we co-curated to showcase some of the women throughout Toronto’s history who have played pivotal roles in building a more socially just city.

We are so proud of what we have accomplished together, driven by a shared value of civic equity and inclusion. These issues continue to be a priority for all of us, and will likely underlie any new directions our team members may pursue in the coming months and years.

In the four years of WiTOpoli’s lifespan, the municipal politics discourse itself has changed, with many exciting and diverse voices exerting profound influence upon our civic conversation. We are grateful to these activists, organizers and engaged Torontonians for all we have learned through their efforts – especially Black Lives Matter Toronto, with whom we urge you to act in solidarity. These years have been (and continue to be) deeply challenging for equity-seeking groups in Toronto, but they have also been an inspirational time to be involved in city politics at a grassroots level.

WiTOpoli is honoured to have been part of our political landscape for the past four years. We look forward to the new iterations of equity-focused activism and organizing that will undoubtedly proliferate in our civic fabric. As individuals who cherish Toronto and the people who live here, we know our team members will find new ways to join you in weaving that fabric into something that can keep our whole city warm.

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