toronto activist

How to be an activist in Toronto

Some Torontonians don't feel comfortable marching in public, or even choosing a side. Some folks want to help, teach, learn or even just yell out loud and don't know how to go about it.

Anna Willats, Coordinator of Women Transitioning to Trades & Employment at George Brown College, runs Rise Up!, a newsletter that draws connections between all the movements happening in Toronto and helps people get involved in them.

"I think a lot of people are feeling kind of helpless right now because so much of what's going on is in the realm of the United States, the pipeline, Trump's rise of fascism and Quebec City," she says.

"Having a place to meet and gather and yell your head off or take a sign or express yourself and be with other people and have community is a very important thing."

Protests are important, according to Willats, but it's what happens after these marches that's almost more important.

"The challenge with these things is they mobilize people, but does that turn into organizing? Does that become something sustained? are they following it up with writing to their MP or MPP or City Councillor?

"That's pretty critical so that we're not doomed to endlessly be just responding."

Here are some ways to be more of an activist in your community.

Amnesty International Toronto

Through volunteer initiatives, this group helps to fund human rights public awareness events like Films for Change and the annual November Reel Awareness Human Rights Film Festival. It also supports the work of Amnesty International Canada.

Black Lives Matter Toronto

One of the city's most outspoken and critical community groups works tirelessly to dismantle all forms of oppression and violence by making connections with members of the Black community, Black-centric networks and solidarity movements.

Centre for Social Justice

The CSJ conducts research, education and advocacy on issues of equality and democracy. It helps strengthen local and national movements through courses, lessons, discussions and more.

No One is Illegal

This activism network exists in many other Canadian cities and actively posts about community events you can attend to talk politics.

Ontario Public Interest Research Group

This is a volunteer-based group at the University of Toronto, with a mandate for action, education, and research on environmental and social justice issues. It's big on giving people the tools and opportunity to work cooperatively for social change.

Park People

This group pushes not only for green spaces and places in the city, but for a better, healthier Toronto. Subscribe to its newsletter, sign up to volunteer or follow the Facebook group to learn more.

Rise Up! News and Events

Willats creates and publishes this activist newsletter that acts as a calendar of events in the city. It's extensive and truly provides a snapshot of what is going on politically in Toronto and how to get involved. Email awillats@sympatico.ca to sign up.

Toronto Activist Calendar

This Facebook group is a great resource to find out about marches, protests, group meetings and other types of activist-based events in and around the GTA. It connects community members around social justice, environmental and human rights issues.

Toronto Environmental Alliance

This group promotes a green city and works with community members, groups and professionals to push Toronto in a more environmentally sound direction. It also acts as an environmental watchdog at City Hall.

Why Should I Care?

This non-profit group brings back the old-school political salon format "where people could come together and have thoughtful discussions about the issues they cared about in a safe, non-partisan environment." It's trying to make it okay for anyone to talk politics in Toronto.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez


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