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What former mayor John Tory’s resignation means for Toronto’s Black community

If we do not act now, then when will we?

What former mayor John Tory’s resignation means for Toronto’s Black community
The resignation of former Toronto mayor John Tory has opened the door for new mayoral candidates from the public and private sectors to emerge from the Black community. UNSPLASH PHOTO

John Tory’s announcement that he is stepping down as mayor of Toronto was a shocker. But focusing on scale, not the scandal, there is an opportunity for a Black candidate to grasp the top job and, finally, guide the resources and supports needed to uplift struggling communities.

If he finished his term, Tory would have become the city's longest-serving mayor. But, after admitting an affair with a female staffer who worked in his office, his eight-year run is over, and Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie, a two-term councillor in Scarborough, will temporarily take the helm. The Toronto Star first reported the story on Feb. 10.

It is more than likely that a byelection is coming soon. Sitting councillors like Josh Matlow and Brad Bradford will no doubt look to strengthen their positions in council without the risk of losing their seats. Runner-up Gil Penalosa has already announced he plans to run again. So now, the ball is in our court as a community. Who will rise to take the shot and, more importantly, get the Black community's full support?

Former Liberal MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes confirmed she is considering a run for Toronto mayor during an Instagram live chat on Friday. Perhaps Chloe Brown, who ran an impressive campaign last October, achieving 6.31 per cent of the vote on a campaign budget of $1,950, will run too.  

Either way, we need a mayor that will use city resources to help underserved communities across the GTA so that we all feel represented. Fortunately, many local Black organizations are already doing some of that work on the ground, making diversity, equity, and inclusion a national issue.

Last week, the Government of Canada announced a $200-million Black-led Philanthropic Endowment Fund to the Foundation for Black Communities. Aimed at tackling anti-Black racism and inequities, the fund could fill a gap for Black Canadian communities, especially in Toronto, where gaps in public and private investment have stifled economic growth.

The Black Opportunity Fund has laid the groundwork for several partnerships with Canadian banks and large firms to fund startups and entrepreneurs. And the BlackNorth Initiative, founded by Bay Street financier Wes Hall, has been tackling anti-Black systemic racism for several years and is responsible for more than 150 companies increasing the number of Black employees, executives, and directors at these organizations.

Furthermore, not-for-profits like Futurpreneur, the Afro Canadian Business Network, Black Professionals in Tech Network, Federation of Black Canadians, SETSI Community Coalition, Foodpreneur Lab, the Black Business and Professional Association and so many others are doing critical work too.

If we do not act now, then when will we?


We must use our economic base to support a Black candidate with a clear vision for Toronto. The backing of the Black business community could lead to political representation in Canada's largest city for the first time. If accomplished, changing the narrative on police interactions, eliminating racial stereotypes in the media, and removing barriers to education would be attainable goals that could lead to better outcomes for our youth.

We all felt the inequities in racialized communities where Black people were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. We also suffered higher mortality rates during the pandemic than any other community, according to StatsCan. Its impact left us in predicaments from lower incomes, precarious employment, overcrowded housing, and limited access to health and social services.

Meanwhile, Black men and women who worked in the nursing, agriculture, and food production fields were at increased risk of infection, left behind without access to child care or after-school support in low-income neighbourhoods.

Tory often suggested that Toronto's finances were too tight to accommodate the city's most vulnerable. Yet, to violently oppress the unhoused and underserved, the city council under his leadership had no trouble finding $2 million to clear encampments. And if you needed further proof of the inequities, look at the billion-dollar police budget passed in January.

They were aware of a 2020 Ontario Human Rights Commission report that found Black people in Toronto were 20 times more likely than white folks to be fatally shot by police. They knew about a 2022 report produced by the Toronto Police Service that discovered Black people had a higher chance of having an officer point a gun at them — whether armed or not — than white people in the same situation. They understood, from a report released just last month by the Somali Centre for Culture and Recreation and the University of Toronto, that Black social infrastructure is struggling and severely underfunded.

Nevertheless, Toronto distributed a measly $25.7 million to 231 community agencies in 2022. With no increases to match inflation.

The last two white men in the mayoral seat have abused their power and upheld an inequitable status quo.

The question is: Will we allow a third?