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December 2017


In September, Community Development Halton held its Annual General Meeting, with speaker Henriëtte Thompson on the theme of “Volunteers: Builders of Inclusive and Vibrant Communities.” As former Director of Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice for the Anglican Church of Canada, and as its liaison to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Henriëtte Thompson’s message is a powerful one – that the indispensable contributions made by Indigenous peoples in building healthy communities throughout Canada’s history, from before and throughout the earliest settler days up to the present, have for far too long remained unacknowledged, and unreciprocated. In this year of Canada 150, and grounded in the TRC’s call for reconciliation and healing, I share with you Henriëtte Thompson’s reflections on the imperative that each of us, as individuals and in community-based organizations, act to learn and acknowledge this neglected history, and to foster reciprocity with Indigenous peoples in our shared endeavour to build an inclusive and vibrant society.

Joey Edwardh
Executive Director


Address by Henriëtte Thompson, CDH Annual General Meeting, Sep 20/17[1]

Good evening. I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is part of the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit.[2] It is an honour to be invited to address all of you here tonight at the Annual General Meeting of Community Development Halton. Thank you.

The focus of this gathering and of my reflection is on the gift and the challenge of volunteers in building inclusive and vibrant communities, historically and in our contemporary context. I felt that this invitation was also an invitation to “name the moment”[3] – that is, to identify some of the deeper issues that provide both opportunity and challenge to the voluntary sector.

Recognizing Volunteering in 2017, is a report published by Volunteer Canada just a few months ago.   Just as we have evolved a notion of Corporate Social Responsibility, the report presents a notion of Individual Social Responsibility as a way of describing attitudes toward volunteer action. Individual Social Responsibility refers to “the commitment to improving the quality of life of other individuals, groups, teams as well as society at large.” This is then referred to as each person’s own personal brand of Individual Social Responsibility.[4]  

Casting a backwards glance at the role of nonprofits and volunteers is helpful. Volunteer Canada offers a helpful overview in a blog entitled, “150 years of volunteer history.” I would like to paint a picture of the ways in which volunteer history in colonial Canada unfolded alongside the historic experience of Indigenous people in Canada.

By way of explaining why I might be able to share some limited insight on this, I should mention that for six years (2009 – 2015), I represented the Anglican Church of Canada (itself a voluntary sector institution) at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, along with survivors of residential schools and Indigenous Elders, with national Indigenous leaders, and with the Government of Canada.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report was published two years ago, and it included 94 Calls to Action. I’ll come back to several of these shortly.

Several important and broad-based insights were generated during the TRC period –

  1. Canadians were not taught their real history. The lament of many is “but, I didn’t know…”
  2. The devastating legacy of colonialism and residential schools continues to reverberate in the lives of families and communities today – there are more Indigenous children in care than during the residential school era and the Sixties Scoop;
  3. Indigenous peoples who have lived on this land for 15,000 years(!) are resilient, have always resisted colonization since first encounter with Europeans, and are reclaiming their nationhood and their identities; and,
  4. Systemic racism is present in Canadian government and social structures, and white supremacy threatens to undermine the goal of having vibrant and inclusive communities.

When we talk about social inclusion, we can look at its dimensions across space and time.

First, space (or distance). Just 35 minutes down the road from here is the Mohawk Institute, a residential school in Brantford for children from Six Nations of the Grand River, the largest reserve in Canada.

The Mohawk Institute ran from 1828 to 1970. It is one of only a handful of residential schools still left standing across the country. There is a “Save the Evidence” campaign to raise funds to restore the school building as a permanent witness to what happens when we don’t challenge assumptions in dominant society.

Furthermore, just 20 to 30 minutes past Brantford live the Mississaugas of the New Credit on whose traditional land we are gathered today. 2017 marked 170 years since the Mississaugas of the New Credit moved from the mouth of the Credit River to Hagersville.

In spite of these short driving distances from Burlington to neighbouring Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe communities (and they are as different from each other culturally and linguistically as French and English), I would hazard a guess that the cognitive distance between most or many people in the Region and the Mississaugas or the Haudenosaunee is a world apart.

But, the gap is closing because the Truth and Reconciliation Commission provided a roadmap to close that cognitive distance, and communities have a critical role to play in bridging these spaces.

Time – or the history of Canadian civil society organizations as they engaged in social change – is another way of understanding social inclusion at both national and local levels.

Before the first European settlers arrived and brought with them an understanding of state sovereignty, Indigenous nations were built on a notion of kinship that extended not only to human beings but to the non-human world. Indigenous nations are made up of four factors – a shared language, a sacred history, a ceremonial cycle, and a place or territory. Geography and a harsh climate across this land, meant that cooperation and a shared responsibility for the impact of actions on seven generations in the future, were crucial.

Early European settlers from the 1600s onward were challenged to establish and run hospitals, schools, orphanages and homes for the elderly in order to support the needs of communities as there was very limited government provision.[5] Without establishing these services, death and illness rates would have been much higher, and the education of settlers to read and write would have been grossly inadequate.

The French and English settlers and explorers knew that their very lives depended on the knowledge and skill of Indigenous peoples. The earliest pre-Confederation treaties in eastern Canada were peace and friendship treaties because mutual interdependence was acknowledged by both parties. As Niigaan James Sinclair says: “When immigrants came and joined our nations they were offered a place, role, and responsibility not only, so the work would be shared but so that they could feel valued, be recognized, and feel at home. So that they could help build life too. This is, after all, what keeps families together.”[6]

After Confederation, colonial volunteers focused on assisting with basic rights such as decent housing, adequate health care, and free access to education. However, these improvements in social change were not extended to Indigenous peoples. The disregard for post-Confederation treaties and the establishment of the Indian Act of 1876 resulted in federal responsibility for Indigenous peoples’ welfare and an aggressive policy of assimilation that denied Indigenous peoples of their human rights still to this day. The ground is hopefully starting to change – three weeks ago, the Prime Minister announced his wish to end the Indian Act of 1876.[7]

There was a colonial perception of an “Indian problem” that needed solving in the drive for water routes, land, and furs. To solve the so-called “problem” Indian residential schools were established.

Over a period of 150 years from the 1850s to the late 1990s, the government of Canada forcibly removed 150,000 Indigenous children from their families and communities and sent them far away to church-run residential schools. The children, some as young as three, were denied use of their language and culture; they were stripped of their identity, and siblings were separated from each other for years in the same or different schools. The government of Canada’s aim was to assimilate Indigenous people into colonial society, beginning with the children, by removing them from their families, communities, and ways of life. The churches aided and abetted this aim. The intergenerational devastation of the First Peoples was actively underway.

At the turn of the new century, the national camping movement launched by Ernest Thompson Seton and his Woodcraft Indians movement exposed middle-class kids from the dominant culture to “Indian Days” at camp and to training in outdoors skills. Who doesn’t love the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides, and summer camp? While the camping movement grew, survival skills teaching was stripped from Indigenous kids as they endured residential school for years and lost access to how to live on the land.

“During the Great Depression in the 1930s, it fell to caring individuals and voluntary organizations to provide relief for the hungry and the homeless. The role of volunteers was especially essential in supporting the war effort; and clearly proved to the world that Canadians could mobilize in times of crisis,” notes Volunteer Canada’s overview of 150 years of Canadian volunteering history.[8]

What is not as well known is that First Nations, Inuit and Metis people have a long tradition of military service. Awareness is growing around the role of Indigenous warriors during the War of 1812. In the past 100 years, 12,000 Indigenous persons are estimated to have served in the Canadian forces in three wars -- World Wars I and II and the Korean War. Sadly, the equal treatment that veterans experienced during the wars disappeared once they returned home to Canada and bureaucratic red tape between government ministries left them without access to services like housing and education that were available to other veterans. The federal government apologized in 2000 and offered compensation.[9]

By the 1950s, public health and medical research became a growing area for volunteer involvement across Canada, except on reserves. Recently, we learned that during the period between the two wars, medical scientists conducted tests on malnourished Indigenous people to answer questions about human requirements for vitamins. Research by the University of Guelph in 2013 revealed a long-standing, government-run experiment that came to span the entire country and involved at least 1,300 Aboriginal people, most of them children.[10] Thus, while public health and medical research improved for mainstream Canadians, isolated, dependent, hungry Indigenous people were unwitting subjects for medical tests.

Voluntary efforts in Canada in the 1960s and 1970s were dominated by citizens' movements that grew out of vital social issues of the time. During this period, individuals and voluntary organizations began to focus on supporting the causes of disadvantaged Canadians. Volunteers worked on issues such as providing better services for disabled individuals and addressing environmental issues. Volunteer activity then began increasing throughout Canada as volunteer centres established themselves in many urban areas. Volunteers raised funds, helped run programs, and served on governance boards.[11]

Volunteering in the 1980s and 1990s continued to evolve to address the changing priorities of an ever-changing settler and immigrant society while Indigenous populations continued to struggle with marginalization, poverty, and the loss of traditional ways of life.

Tribal councils arose across the country to try to address the deep-seated discrimination faced by Indigenous peoples. Churches that ran residential schools began the difficult self-critical and constructive work of acknowledgement, apology, and living into apology. Comprehensive reports such as the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Report were shelved by successive governments and the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada grew.

The tone at the federal government shifted in 2015. Said the new Prime Minister: “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples. It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.”

Soon after the October 2015 federal election and the launch of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report two months later, the polling firm, Environics, produced a report on Canadian attitudes on Aboriginal peoples.[12]

The  study revealed that there is a broad public consensus on the importance of learning about the historical abuses and discrimination that Aboriginal peoples have faced in Canada. Solid majorities strongly back education-related recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to include mandatory curriculum in all schools to teach about Aboriginal history and culture, and to ensure that funding for Aboriginal schools matches funding for other schools in the same province or territory. So, watch out – I say this in a good way! Our children and grandchildren will not be able to say as I and probably many of us in this room could say – “but, I didn’t know.” Education for reconciliation gives me hope.

The report also found that “…many non-Aboriginal Canadians acknowledge that discrimination represents an important challenge for Aboriginal peoples, one that is also tied to a sense of isolation, separation from others in Canada, and a certain stigma for being Aboriginal. And there is widespread recognition that discrimination against Aboriginal peoples is commonplace”[13] although this recognition varies by region across Canada.

This brings us to the matter of “belonging.” In 2015, Community Foundations Canada focused their Vital Signs study on the theme of belonging.[14] When people have a strong sense of belonging and trust at community or national levels, then good things happen – social inclusion and public health improve, participation goes up, culture and identity flourish, communities are safer, and they bounce back after emergencies.

There are an estimated 4,000 Indigenous people living in Halton Region [since Henriëtte Thompson’s address on September 20, 2017, newly-released data from the 2016 Census show this number has increased to 5,455[15]] and, as noted earlier, the Region is within an easy drive of two reserves – New Credit and Six Nations.

Many of the TRC calls to action speak to the idea of “belonging” – of individual and communal healing that comes through recovery of language and culture; of apologies and commitments to Indigenous rights that create the conditions for reconciliation at the national level; of respect for land and resources to which they have treaty and constitutional rights, and that sustain a spirituality of kinship with human and non-human life.

In order to respect the nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Crown, leaders across Canadian society are called to educate themselves – to “paddle their own canoe” as it were, and obtain “skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.” (Call to Action #57 and others)[16]

As TRC lead commissioner, Senator Murray Sinclair said: “We have described for you a mountain. We have shown you the path to the top. We call upon you to do the climbing."

In the Calls to Action, community-based youth organizations are singled out as significant in “delivering programs on reconciliation, and they are asked to establish a national network to share information and best practices.”[17]

Museums are called to collaborate with Aboriginal peoples. Nationally, the federal government and the Canadian Museum Association are to set aside funds for 150th anniversary commemoration projects on the theme of reconciliation.[18]

Sports and recreation represent a major area for volunteer engagement and are called along with “…all levels of government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, sports halls of fame, and other relevant organizations, to provide public education that tells the national story of Aboriginal athletes in history.”[19]

And, finally, since Halton Region and many other regions in the country have welcomed newcomers from around the world for many years and continue to do so, it is important for voluntary sector leaders to know that there is a call to revise “…the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including Calls to Action, information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools.”[20]

In conclusion, whereas engaging in the work of reconciliation in Halton Region may initially be regarded as one more requirement for a stretched voluntary sector, I wonder if there is another form of math going on. That reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples will enhance the prospects for vibrant and inclusive communities in ways that are more than we can ask or imagine.

I am reminded of the words of Australian Aborigine activist, artist and academic, Lilla Watson, who said: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Thank you for listening.


To Learn More

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation http://nctr.ca/map.php

The permanent home for all statements, documents, and other materials gathered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including the Calls To Action (see ‘Reports’)

KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives  www.kairos.org

Ecumenical movement for ecological justice and human rights, encompassing 10 major churches and religious groups, in a cross-Canada network.

Woodland Cultural Centre and the Mohawk Institute http://www.woodland-centre.on.ca


[1] This transcript has been slightly abridged from remarks delivered

[2] Map and description: http://www.newcreditfirstnation2015.com/community-profile/#traditional

[3] Naming the Moment is a participatory method of identifying and analyzing issues in order to decide how to act on them. It began in 1986 and is based on popular education techniques, particularly those of Paulo Friere. http://www.participatorymethods.org/resource/naming-moment-participatory-process-political-analysis-action 

[4] Volunteer Canada, “150 years of Canadian volunteering history,” June 26, 2017 (blog), https://volunteer.ca/blog/150-years-canadian-volunteering-history-les-150-ans-d-histoire-du-b-n-volat-au-canada

[5] Janet Lautenschlager, “Volunteering: a traditional Canadian value,” Canadian Heritage. http://en.copian.ca/library/research/heritage/compartne/tradval1.htm

[6] Niigaan James Sinclair, “Indigenous nationhood can save the world. Here’s how”, Globe & Mail, September 12, 2017.

[7] Don Smith, “Toronto played a role in dark history of assimilation,” Toronto Star, Sept 17, 2017.

[8] Volunteer Canada, “150 years of Canadian volunteering history,” https://volunteer.ca/blog/150-years-canadian-volunteering-history-les-150-ans-d-histoire-du-b-n-volat-au-canada

[9] http://globalnews.ca/news/3053299/national-aboriginal-veterans-day-continues-to-grow-in-size-and-scope/   November 8, 2016, accessed September 19.

[10] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/hungry-aboriginal-people-used-in-bureaucrats-experiments-1.1317051  U of Guelph researcher, Ian Mosby.

[11] Volunteer Canada, “150 years of Canadian volunteering history,” https://volunteer.ca/blog/150-years-canadian-volunteering-history-les-150-ans-d-histoire-du-b-n-volat-au-canada

[12] Environics, Canadian Public Opinion on Aboriginal Peoples, June 2016. http://www.environicsinstitute.org/uploads/institute-projects/canadian%20public%20opinion%20on%20aboriginal%20peoples%202016%20-%20final%20report.pdf

[13] Environics, p 25.

[14] Community Foundations Canada, Vital Signs 2015 report, “Belonging”. http://communityfoundations.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/cfc_vitalsignsreport_oct05_FA_digital.pdf

[15] Statistics Canada. 2017. Halton, RM [Census division], Ontario and Ontario [Province] (table). Census Profile. 2016 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-316-X2016001. Ottawa. Released November 29, 2017.
http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/prof/index.cfm?Lang=E (accessed December 4, 2017).

[16] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 94 Calls to Action, http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf

[17] Ibid. TRC Call to Action #66

[18] Ibid. TRC Call to Action #68.

[19] Ibid. TRC Calls to Action #87-91.

[20] Ibid. TRC Calls to Action #93 and 94.


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Produced by Community Development Halton
3350 South Service Roard
Burlington, Ontario L7N 3M6
(905) 632-1975, (905) 878-0955; Fax: (905) 632-0778; E-mail:
office@cdhalton.ca

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May 2017


Volunteer Halton of Community Development Halton hosted its annual awards breakfast to celebrate the start of National Volunteer Week (April 23-29), as well as to recognize and give thanks to our community volunteers for all their time and efforts dedicated to the Halton community. This event also marked the launch of this year’s Change the World: Ontario Youth Volunteer Challenge. Change the World is a youth-led volunteer campaign that encourages high school students to reach out and become actively involved in their community. At this year’s Volunteer Halton Breakfast Awards, three members of the Change the World Youth Council spoke on the importance of giving back and the power of volunteerism. The words of these youth are moving and hopeful. I salute these youths and share their thoughts with you.

Joey Edwardh
Executive Director


Vanshikha Sinha, from White Oaks Secondary School, remarked:

We would like to start off by congratulating all the volunteers present here. All of you are a great inspiration in our community and true examples of what hard work and dedication can result in. For us as teenagers, it is a privilege to be here and to talk about what we our doing in the community and to get other teens like us involved. We are trying our best to take those small steps to achieve something bigger. This is only possible because of all of you. So, to highlight National Volunteer Week, we are inviting youth volunteers to join us in the Change the World campaign.

So, what is Change the World all about? It is an Ontario Youth Volunteer Challenge starting during National Volunteer Week and running till June 3rd. The objective of this campaign is to encourage youth between the age of 14-18 to get involved in exciting community initiatives or even provide an opportunity to start their own. Youth are required to volunteer for a minimum of 3 hours over the 6 week time period to become part of the provincial campaign. This campaign is a great way to make a positive impact on the community and develop essentials skills needed throughout life. Our goal this year is to beat the recorded 4,212 students in over 45 community events, which amounted to 19,124 volunteer hours from last year. We continue our mission to change the world.

Piya Mehta, from Oakville Trafalgar High School, shared:

People often underestimate the power of volunteering, and sometimes, the benefits are difficult to see. Volunteering is a way to exercise various skills such as leadership and collaboration as well as adapting to a growth mindset. Volunteering helps enhance skills, like leadership and collaboration, which are very important in life, especially for young people. Learning these skills at a young age are beneficial as you will have many years to learn and improve your skills as you head into adulthood. It does not only help you learn how to be a leader or how to work well with others, but it creates your personality and image. Whether you are helping at a soup kitchen, a food drive or a marathon, it shows the initiative you’ve taken to help and the passion you have to help others.

Volunteering teaches you how to work and share ideas with all sorts of different people which is an essential skill to have. Growth mindsets are expanded when you are exposed to volunteering as well. It makes you see how you can make a positive impact for people while earning nothing but the intangibles; an experience you would want all over again. Before volunteering, you may wonder, “what’s the point if I am not getting my hours or a reward?” Think again, because the rewards you earn are more valuable than anything: a reputation of helping others.

Natasha Rozario, from Oakville Trafalgar High School, expressed:

In an incredibly stressful world that puts pressure on people to be perfect, we often neglect the simple things in life like human interaction and strong relationships. The society that we live in breeds anxiety, and the pressure to succeed can be crippling. Depression, amongst other mental illnesses, is more prevalent today than ever before, affecting individuals at younger and younger ages, as people begin to feel less and less connected to their community. Volunteering is about helping to ensure that people are not stranded alone in their community. Volunteerism ties people together. When everyone has a voice and they feel like they are seen and heard, we promote a real sense of solidarity, which makes us stronger. We rise by lifting others, and one small drop in the bucket creates ripples to reach those lost at sea. Volunteering provides people with a sense of purpose. In the confusing, busy, hustle of life, and by being invested in something greater than ourselves, we are grounded.

Humans are innately social creatures, and evolution has gifted us with the ability to connect to our past and sympathize with each other. The act of giving has been a fundamental part of human civilization since the very beginning, and is a key part of our development as a species and it shapes our humanity.

More powerful than anything are the simple acts of kindness, the small good deeds that are so easily overlooked and have a larger impact than we could ever know. Through volunteering, we can have a little ease of mind as we grow older, knowing that we didn’t just leave the Earth as we found it, but we made it better. Instead of carelessly wandering through life, we make our journey with purpose, not necessarily knowing where we’re going, but knowing why.


We cannot always build a future for our youth, but we can always build our youth for the future.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt


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Produced by Community Development Halton
3350 South Service Roard
Burlington, Ontario L7N 3M6
(905) 632-1975, (905) 878-0955; Fax: (905) 632-0778; E-mail:
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April 2017


The Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services announced that the Province of Ontario will pilot a Basic Income Program in three areas: Hamilton, Brantford, Brant County; Thunder Bay and surrounding area; and Lindsay. They state that “the purpose of this pilot is to assess whether a basic income can better support vulnerable workers, improve health and education outcomes for people on low income and help ensure that everyone shares in Ontario’s economic growth.”

Almost 70 years ago, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights had articulated that the basis of human dignity and well-being are fundamental human rights. Article 25 states:

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself (herself) and of his (her) family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his (her) control.”
(Article 25, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948)

As the Government of Ontario evaluates a Basic Income Pilot, I thought it useful to share a set of principles developed by the Social Planning Network of Ontario against which it should be appraised.

Joey Edwardh
Executive Director

Principles for a Basic Income: An Income Security Policy

It is imperative that income security and all social welfare policy in Canada be grounded in the conviction that it is a shared public responsibility to provide the conditions and supports for all Canadians and residents in our land to live in health and dignity as a matter of fundamental human rights and that strategies, policies and programs that fulfill these rights should be developed and implemented in accordance with the social determinants of health.

Livable Incomes

Everyone needs sufficient income to meet the necessities of living in health and dignity in the community.

Non-conditionality

Public income support must be provided to individuals and families living below the poverty line without other eligibility requirements or conditions related to its use.

Non-Replacement

Basic income payments must not replace, disrupt, or limit access to other essential health and social service benefits and supports, which people on low incomes need to survive and thrive in community.

Augmenting Education and Employment Supports

Individuals receiving a Basic Income must be able to access additional supports to develop and advance their talents and skills through education, employment and other pursuits driven by their own personal initiative.

Sustaining Employment

A Basic Income program must complement, not supplant, a public policy commitment to the creation of good jobs for all, including opportunities for decent work in the community and civic sector.

Wage Protection and Enhancement

Implementation of a Basic Income must have no bearing on the need for an adequate legislated minimum wage that ensures an individual working full-year, full-time escapes poverty nor should it discourage all employers from paying a living wage to their workers based on the cost in their areas for individuals and families to sustain themselves and fully participate in community life.

Gender Lens

Basic Income policies and programs must not indirectly result in compelling women in the household to assume the full burden of caregiving roles for children, elderly or other family members.

Ethical Research Practices

Basic Income recipients or participants in a Basic Income pilot must have their privacy protected; no individual or family should be worse off during or after participating in a pilot study.


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Produced by Community Development Halton
3350 South Service Roard
Burlington, Ontario L7N 3M6
(905) 632-1975, (905) 878-0955; Fax: (905) 632-0778; E-mail:
office@cdhalton.ca

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February 2017


The Premier’s Advisory Group on Community Hubs published their report Community Hubs in Ontario: A Strategic Framework and Action Plan in August 2015. Although community hubs have been around for decades, momentum surrounding hubs has increased due to Premier Wynne’s interest. Given the importance of the subject, with funding support from Social and Community Services of the Regional Municipality of Halton, Community Development Halton (CDH) embarked on building a broad-based conversation on community hubs. A recently released background document, Community Hubs in Halton, provides the basis of a full discussion on hubs. This Community Dispatch captures some of the important understandings outlined in the document.

Joey Edwardh
Executive Director

Introduction

Community hubs are an alternative approach to delivering services in a holistic manner guided by the principles of community involvement and partnership. Important questions need to be answered such as:

  • How exactly do we define a community hub?
  • What is the purpose of a community hub?
  • Who is better off because of community hubs?

The background document, Community Hubs in Halton, speaks to an understanding and development of hubs within the Halton context. It explores different models of hubs, their characteristics, their role in community, their strengths and weaknesses in supporting planning, service delivery and community infrastructure and, importantly, community well-being. It also reviews experiences in hub development in countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia.

CDH engaged with community agencies, grassroots community-based organizations, and selected community members across Halton’s municipalities, exploring the multiple definitions or understandings of ‘hubs’ and their role in the development of community well-being in Halton. These discussions also assessed the readiness of community to embrace hubs as a model of collaboration and integrated service delivery at the local level, as well as the barriers to hub development in Halton.

Background on Hubs

Community hubs are believed to assist in building cohesive and more resilient communities. In fact, community hubs have the power to bring community members together, assisting them to form new relationships and support networks that did not previously exist. This is facilitated through community-based activities that bring people together and by the fact that community hubs are community-led. Community hubs also hold out the prospect of providing more effective services, since they can be shaped to be responsive to the needs of people in the communities in which they are located, as well as being more easily accessible.

Limitations of and Barriers to Implementing Hubs

Three areas that challenge hub development are:

  • Time for planning
  • Integrated service delivery
  • Community infrastructure and public property

The Australian Hubs Strategy Group has identified additional barriers that can impede the creation of a community hub:

  • Unable to initiate planning processes;
  • Challenges with staffing
  • Collaborating to create a joint vision;
  • Managing multiple partnerships;
  • Managing community expectations once a community hub is established/built;
  • Finding a fit between existing organizations that have their own way of operating;
  • Scepticism;
  • Potential segmentation of roles internally and externally; and
  • Dealing with change.

(Hubs Strategy Group, 2007, 23-24)[1]

Defining a Community Hub

There is no generally accepted definition of a community hub as it is a term that is driven locally and varies in meaning depending on its context. One definition that has resonance is as follows:

A community hub is a conveniently located place that is recognised and valued in the local community as a gathering place for people and an access point for a wide range of community activities, programs, services and events.

Rossiter 2007[2]

Community hubs do not just provide services for the community, but are orchestrated and driven by the community as well. A community hub can also act as a gathering place for local community members to come together to meet, collaborate, and build relationships with each other. Some even identify community hubs as a central meeting point that allows for communities to live, build social capital, and grow. In brief, a community hub is the concentration of various activities and services that are not only accessible to all within the same proximity, but serve the needs of all community members.

Purpose of a Community Hub

A community hub consists of publicly accessible services, spaces, resources, and activities that respond to the ever-changing needs of a community over time. These services are reflective of the community’s self-identified needs and are co-located, integrated, and delivered by the community under nonprofit community-based governance. A review of the literature indicates that community hubs have three primary purposes: community building, service coordination and delivery, and placemaking.

Community Participation and Engagement

The ‘elephant’ in the discussion about community hubs is the need to understand the dynamics and meanings associated with the word ‘community.’ Concepts such as community engagement, community participation and empowerment are rarely defined. What meanings are attributed to these words and how will they influence hub development?

The Halton Perspective

Over the last year, CDH has been engaging leaders from the health, education, and social services sectors in conversations about collaborative work and community hubs. Through these conversations, it has become evident that there is a strong desire to work together, that community hubs are about bringing together community partners who can create synergy and that collaboration and coordination is more important than integration.

As people discussed community hubs and their place in Halton, the language that wove through the conversations contained words such as network weaver, collaboration, partnership, gathering, democratic public space, quality of life, social inclusion, social capital, and synergy. These terms are helpful in framing the emerging conversation on hubs.

Based on the discussions, common themes appeared: that hubs could be those places that provide services to people of all ages and stages of life, that hubs support intergenerational opportunities, that hubs decrease stigma as people from all walks of life interact with each other. There needs to be a holistic approach for community hubs to thrive and hub development requires time, focus, resources, and staffing for community planning. Finally, there was a desire expressed around the creation of a meeting point or roundtable to initiate dialogue among all community actors who are integral to hub development.

The conversations highlighted the following areas that need definition and support. They are:

  • Leadership
  • Financing
  • Neighbourhood hubs
  • Shared spaces in usable spaces
  • Limits to space
  • Shared resources, shared program beyond co-location
  • Hubs as connectors
  • Hubs as knowledge exchange, shared learning
  • Processes
  • Common identified issues

Future Planning: A Journey into Hub Development in Halton

The document turns to how planning processes may be created in Halton that are holistic and recognize the continuum of hubs and the important contribution of each not only to the health and well-being of individuals and families but also, importantly, to a socially cohesive and inclusive Halton.

Activities that are considered necessary to the fulfillment of the steps to the development of hubs are suggested below. They are:

  • understand local needs and demands of community
  • establish a clear vision and mission with the community
  • collaborate, develop partnerships, and build relationships
  • develop strategic objectives
  • develop a ‘business’ [planning pathway] model for hub development
  • secure support and resources
  • acquire assets
  • establish an appropriate governance structure
  • implementation and sustain operations

(My Community 2016, 34; Mulligan 2010, 61)[3],[4]

Future Planning Framework: A Suggestion

As CDH engaged leaders in the human services sector in conversations about collaborative work associated with hub development, it was important to recognize that in Halton there are existing and thriving collaborative initiatives and emerging opportunities. However, there is no overarching planning framework for these developments at the local or regional level but rather, as the Special Advisor noted, multiple planning tables usually organized by field of service (Pitre, 2015). At the same time, there is no interest in a highly controlling and directing planning body for collaborative or community hub development. Planning and development in this area must be a cooperative undertaking for success.

How then to create a local or regional planning framework for community hub development? Perhaps, adapting the “constellation model” proposed by Tonya and Mark Surman (2008) offers some promise.[5] The constellation model refers to a collection of community partners (stewards) committed to a shared purpose that intentionally provides the space and support for smaller groups among their number to self-organize around specific initiatives that are consistent with and reflect the larger shared purpose. The overarching stewardship structure is not highly directive, but provides lightweight governance or oversight to the development of the overall shared concept or purpose. Partners organize themselves into “action-focused work teams” to achieve specific objectives, driven by their own energy and commitment to the task.

How could this approach be adapted to the issue of community hub, or collaborative services in Halton? In this case, the magnetic attractor is the opportunity presented by the provincial government’s interest in and support for community hub development, consistent with the interest and actions of the community and service sector (civic, health, education, and social service organizations). The “shared vision” is to promote and support connected, coordinated service delivery to people and communities, recognizing that this will be most effectively done through partnerships and collaborations rather than highly centralized corporate models. This is particularly true when the hub development is responding to service and social development initiatives at the smaller geographies (neighbourhood) of community. Since there are a variety of different areas involved, marked by distinct organizational cultures and experiences, what is required are “lightweight agreements” to explore hub development in self-selected areas from which all contributing partners (“stewards”) can learn and benefit.

A hub or community hub planning framework for Halton might be pictured as shown below. Organizations and agencies active or interested in hub development come around a table under an agreement to learn together and support each other in hub development and collaborative work. They may commit to hold educational and shared learning sessions from each other’s work, meeting perhaps three to four times a year. Among these “stewards” of community development there will already be some that are partnering in collaborations that may be well developed and that may be able to offer support and guidance to others at earlier stages of development. Others will be organized and evolving and still others just in the formative or emergent stage. Again, participants self-select into these circles of activity. The benefit of creating a space for this range of activity and a table convened regularly to stay connected in common purpose is shared learning, mutual support, and awareness of collaborative activity throughout the region.

As described in the Surman’s paper, it is recommended that an intermediary body not directly involved in any area of direct service would serve as a secretariat to convene the Regional Community Hub Action Network and keep track of and provide updates on hub developments.

Community Hubs Planning Framework diagram

Conclusion

This report establishes that there is not just one universal type of community hub; rather each community hub can be conceptualized, defined, and developed in numerous different ways depending on the needs of the community it serves. A community hub is not only unique, but contains specific resources, programs and a wide variety of social and health services that assists in implementing local and community-based solutions and supports.

The development of a successful and fully integrated community hub requires working at a community level and working with community members and forming local partnerships; a top-down approach cannot be employed. Rather, it is immensely important for the province, as well as local municipalities, to partake in a collaborative approach in the development of a community hub.

A community driven, collaborative, neighbourhood-based approach between government agencies and communities must also be implemented to adequately address the many challenges communities may encounter in the development of a community hub. Community hubs have the power to not only be a solution to ensure that a community’s needs are being met, but also to involve and empower residents, to increase social capital, and to build inclusive and cohesive communities.

The full document, Community Hubs in Halton, can be found on Community Development Halton’s website at http://www.cdhalton.ca/pdf/Community-Hubs-in-Halton-FINAL.pdf.


[1] Hubs Strategy Group. “Setting the hubs humming: Working together for children and their families.” Australia, 2007.

[2] Rossiter, Steve. “Feasibility Study of Community Hubs for the Parramatta Local Government Area – Briefing Paper.” Sydney, 2007. https://www.parracity.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/12851/Community_Hubs_Briefing_Paper_26-09-07_website.pdf

[3] My Community. “Community Hubs: How to set up, run and sustain a community hub to transform local service provision.” 2016. http://mycommunity.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Community-Hubs-FINAL.pdf  

[4] Mulligan, Suzanne. “A Toolkit to Outline the Development of the ‘Hub Model of Integrated Services’ in Halton.” Our Kids Network Halton. Burlington, 2010.

[5] Tonya Surman and Mark Surman (2008). Listening to the stars: the constellation model of collaborative social change. Social Space, pp. 24-29.


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