As COVID-19 continues to steal lives and livelihoods, “we’re all in this together” has become a favourite refrain. Though well-meaning, the catchphrase is simply untrue. You need only glance at a map of COVID-19 cases across the GTA to see that the impact of the virus is unequal. Different communities need better and more equitable supports.
After all, how are you supposed to “stay safe, stay home” if you don’t have housing? Or if your home is a long-term care facility at the epicentre of an outbreak? Or if you can’t work from home, and you can’t pay your rent if you don’t go to work?
COVID-19 did not create these inequities. It brought them out of the shadows, painfully reminding us that different people have different chances of living a good life in the GTA.
To help change that, over the next five years, our YMCA will work to boost well-being and promote equity. By well-being, we mean feeling healthy and happy. At the bare minimum, most of us need a few things to experience well-being: a safe place to live, a decent job and income, human connection, and a sense of purpose. But these and other necessities are not equally available to everyone in our communities.
That’s why equity is just as important to Ignite the Light. By equity, we mean ensuring everyone is treated fairly and has access to the opportunities they need to achieve their full potential. If we don’t promote equity, our work to boost well-being will only benefit some of our community members, leaving others behind.
“We’re all in this together” is a message of equality. It implies we’re all going through the same thing, with the same supports and resources at our fingertips.
The tragic, recurring loss of Black lives is just one example that clearly shows we are not all going through the same things. Systemic anti-Black racism illustrates the need for equity.
To understand the difference in very broad terms, think about the shoes you wear every day. If we treated everyone equally, we’d give everyone the exact same pair of shoes, no matter their size. Treating everyone equitably, on the other hand, means each person gets a pair of shoes that fit.
Equity means recognizing that different people need different support as we walk through life to get us wherever we want to go.
This metaphor, though overly simplistic, helps explain why our YMCA doesn’t take a one-size-fits-all approach to our work, even though we want everyone to enjoy the same outcome of improved well-being. We consider many intersectional dimensions of diversity, each consisting of communities with unique histories, experiences, and needs. And when we work to support those who need us most, it helps our entire region shine even brighter.
That’s why several of the strategic goals you are about to read focus on supporting the well-being of particular populations. For example, we’re committed to:
Other goals aim to address key issues in our region that hold people back from reaching their full potential. These include:
These are just a handful of examples, but equity shines through every aspect of Ignite the Light. If we’re going to say “we’re all in this together” and truly mean it, promoting equity is the first step.