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.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, May 20

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, May 13

 

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • The Crown opted to accept a peace bond in the final sexual change against Ghomeshi instead of proceeding with the case in court. Complainant Kathryn Borel explained in her statement that the peace bond was “the clearest path to truth” as it required an admission of guilt on Ghomeshi’s part
  • At Queen’s Park, a debate on ranked ballots saw Toronto Councillor Justin Di Ciano advocating against the voting system, which has previously recived from John Tory and many other councillors
  • On Parliament Hill, MPs discussed a proposed gender equity bill which would encourage political parties to run more women candidates
  • The Liberals also made moves on electoral reform this week, though opposition parties criticized the party’s suggestion to create a committee with a majority of Liberal MPs
  • MPs Lisa Raitt and Ruth Ellen Brosseau discuss balancing child care with their House of Commons life

 

WiTOpoli Weekly: Friday, May 6

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, April 29

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

 

 

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, April 22

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, April 15

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

 

 

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, April 8

 

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • Black Lives Matter supporters marched to Queen’s Park Monday, prompting a response from Premier Wynne. Wynne promised she would set up a formal meeting to discuss the concerns they’ve raised about accountability at the Special Investigations Unit. The exchange prompted demonstrators to pack up #BLMTentCity at Police Headquarters as they wait for the Premier to follow up. John Tory has yet to reach out to BLM for a meeting.
  • Rogers is making to low-cost internet plans accessible to Toronto social housing tenants.
  • Miscarriage is now considered a disability according to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, paving the path for folks to receive appropriate work benefits after a miscarriage.
  • Brandon University in Manitoba is being criticized for its campus sexual assault polices. Two students have come forward saying that the school made them sign a contract to silence themabout their sexual assault complaints. The school administration did admit their wrongdoing publicly, but some students are leaving the university because of the ordeal.
  • MPP Jack MacLaren made a sexist joke about MP Karen McCrimmon at a recent fundraising event. MacLaren apologized privately but his party leader Patrick Brown says MacLaren won’t be kicked out of the party caucus for his vulgar remarks.

 

 

In solidarity with Black Lives Matter

Women in Toronto Politics stands in strong solidarity with Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLM TO) and the global Black Lives Matter movement. Our team, which includes Black women and allies, are angry at the systemic violence and exclusion that is killing Black people in our city. We are inspired by and grateful to the courageous organizers leading this movement for turning that violence and exclusion into love and inclusion, and centring women, queer, trans and non-binary voices in this movement.

We share BLM TO’s vision for a world that doesn’t justify the murder of Andrew Loku. A world where Alex Wettlaufer isn’t killed while holding a phone. A world that asks questions about the death of Sumaya Dalmar. A world that sees a pattern of authorities using excessive force against Black community members and calls it what it is: racism, often intersecting with other forces such as ableism, classism or transphobia.

We demand a system that uses de-escalation methods with people in crisis. A system that recognizes its responsibility and accountability to all people, instead of insisting it has performed due diligence or that it does not owe us further explanation. We demand a system that places no limits on what kind of Black lives matter, what spaces Black lives can occupy, or how Black lives can exist in our systems. We demand a system that does not compromise dignity, equality, or human rights with practices like carding; and we demand a system that prioritizes community,humanity, and accountability over protecting those in power from the criminal consequences of their actions. We believe in a system that doesn’t intrude and intimidate, doesn’t conduct immigration raids, and doesn’t inflict violence.

BLM TO is fighting for Black people’s right to live free of systemic racism and violence, while bravely opening dialogues for so many other marginalized groups. In two weeks, the movement has helped mobilize community action to reinstate Afrofest, and compelled Toronto City Council to investigate transparency and fairness amongst Toronto Police and the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). It has fostered deep solidarity and community amongst people in Toronto, across Canada, and around the world.

BLM TO’s bravery has created an important opportunity to address our city’s racism problem and for all of us to recognize the city’s institutionalized anti-Black racism in particular. The motion City Council passed to review how police services are provided in Toronto and how SIU investigations deal with people from racialized communities is important. But as BLM TO has highlighted, there is so much more work to be done.

Women in Toronto Politics implores people in Toronto to publicly support BLM TO’s demands. Reach out to City Councillors to demand the names of officers who killed Andrew Loku and Alex Wettlaufer. Call on Premier Kathleen Wynne and Mayor John Tory to be accountable to BLM TO organizers and all Black Torontonians – meet with them, listen to them, involve them in decision-making. Condemn Toronto Police’s violence against BLM TO members and supporters at #BLMTOtentcity. Hold City Council accountable throughout their review of police services and SIU investigations, so we can ensure the review centres families of those killed by police violence and addresses anti-Black racism in meaningful ways. Finally, stay vigilant, self-critical and vocal about anti-Black racism in our day-to-day lives – at work, on public transit, at the grocery store, or around the dinner table. Our solidarity is needed to ensure that Black Lives Matter to institutions and people in all corners of the city.

WiTOPoli Weekly: Friday, April 1st

 

A roundup of some of the latest news in women, Toronto, and/or politics this week. What stories did you read this week? Tell us in the comments.

  • The Black Lives Matter demonstration at Toronto Police Headquarters is still going strong, after protests started on March 21st. This week, BLMTO released a mixtape featuring Toronto artists to support their cause, and 3 councillors delivered a petition and motion on police accountability to city council
  • Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam hosted a great panel of women’s political engagement this week – catch up on the conversation here if you missed it.
  • After last Sunday’s attacks in Lahore, Pakistan, Toronto’s Pakistani community organized a vigil at Queen’s Park on and shared their solidarity in the wake of the tragedy
  • Sponsorship groups for Syrian refugees are expressing concerns about the slowing pace of arrivals.
  • PEI announced that islanders will soon have access to abortion services, which has been unavailable in the province for over 30 years. Earlier this year, PEI pro-choice activists made plans to sue the provincial government over the long-standing lack of services.
  • A whole bunch of stuff was discussed and voted on at City Council on Thursday, including plans for SmartTrack and the East Gardiner. Check out Neville Park’s liveblog for Torontoist for the most salient details.