On Saturday, November 28, Toronto Community Housing held the fourth annual If I Ruled T.O. youth summit.
In partnership with the City of Toronto's Social Development, Finance & Administration division and more than 20 community organizations, the one-day "think tank" drew more than 500 youth aged 14 to 29 (with about 85% of attendees living in Toronto Community Housing) from across the city.
Voices of Change singers perform the �If I Ruled T.O.' song for audience.
"The stories are real, and it gives me a chance to talk to youth about their life experiences, and what it means to live in our properties, said Greg Spearn, President and CEO (Interim), Toronto Community Housing. "It gives our team an opportunity to do our job better, so that youth have a better chance and better springboard to life."
Youth present t-shirts to (starting from second left to right) Toronto Mayor John Tory, Greg Spearn, Interim President and CEO, Toronto Community Housing, and Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders.
Youth participated in workshops to discuss and brainstorm solutions to issues impacting their lives, covering topics such as: accessible youth spaces, civic engagement, education, mental health, police relations, social housing, social media, and violence and safety.
"It's important that youth understand that they have a voice, an unadulterated viewpoint, to what they think the solutions should be," said Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders. "I'm excited to hear what the answers are going to be."
Youth attendees participate in one of the afternoon workshops.
Youth proposed tangible actions, policy solutions and next steps that can be put in place to ensure that the issues raised can be addressed, including action steps implemented by all participants.
"We are trying to make decisions today that will make sure the city is everything it can be for the future," said Toronto Mayor John Tory. "Today is all about you (the youth) telling us how we can do better on housing."
The ideas at If I Ruled T.O. will be documented in a report by category and shared with elected officials and other people in decision-makers to foster frank open discussion about policies, changes and challenges youth face.
In 2016, youth delegates from If I Ruled T.O. will engage all levels of government by presenting this report to City Council, the Legislative Assembly of Ontario and the House of Commons.