YWCA Toronto Statement on The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 

March 21, 2021 -- YWCA Toronto joined the YWCA international movement in 1873. While the original intent was to support women’s equality and safety, most of the programs offered focused on helping young, white, Christian women.

Clearly, things have changed. We have not been a religious organization for many decades; our staff and program participants reflect the ethnic, racial, religious, and linguistic diversity of Toronto; we serve women of all ages; our programs welcome non-binary, trans and Two-Spirit community members; and, we incorporate anti-oppression principles in our services. We strive to be a place for all to thrive.

However, we have not always succeeded. While we have moved away from the white feminism of our 19th century founders, we have not fully or successfully addressed the colonial foundations of our Association.

We have been reminded – sometimes gently and sometimes more forcefully – about truths that we must confront in order to heal: we have sometimes failed to acknowledge and address racism at YWCA Toronto. In some instances, we have perpetuated racist actions and beliefs, whether intentionally or unintentionally. For this we sincerely apologize.

In the imperfect journey of responding to racial trauma, and understanding our role, there is still much we have to learn – and much we have to unlearn. We are committed to eradicating all forms of prejudice and discrimination in our Association. We are committed to promoting the safety and leadership of Indigenous, Black and racialized staff, and all other equity-deserving staff members. We have taken steps in the right direction but we recognize they are not enough. Ours is not yet a fully told story.

While the past cannot be changed, the future is decided by us: the communities we work in, are connected to, and represent. YWCA Toronto’s leadership will actively work towards a future where racial justice can thrive within our staff body, our programs and our movement. Where Black, Indigenous and racialized staff and community members are seen, heard, and reflected across our programs and leadership. Where all staff members feel they belong.

To this effect, we are undertaking an equity audit of our Association. Our aim is to ensure our systems, policies and practices are aligned with our commitment to racial justice and safety for all women, girls and gender diverse people.