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Let’s Talk Toronto: Beyond Voting

By Jennifer Kou

Let’s Talk Toronto is a discussion series focusing on topical issues and current events. Bringing together students and members from the Toronto community, Let’s Talk Toronto strives to provoke thoughtful discussions and inspire action. With the federal elections so close behind us, we thought it’d be a good idea to get away from partisan debates and focus more on the core of an active democracy – civic engagement.

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There is so much we can do beyond simply voting to create impactful change. We reached out to interested community leaders from different sites of dynamic participation to ground the idea of civic engagement in real world experience. Our speakers included: Shilbee Kim from the Centre for Social Innovation, José Ramón Martí from Samara Canada, and Ric Amis from the Parkdale Residents Association

My favourite part of the discussion was when everyone shared their concerns and issues that they hoped to see change. Topics ranged from tuition to poverty to cyber harassment. Faced with such imposing issues, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. After all, what can one person do? But once we broke down those grand issues into bite sized pieces, it seemed much easier to take action. Instead of asking: “how can this possibly be solved?”, we asked: “what can I do today?”

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You could write a letter of positivity and encouragement to someone dealing with cyber harassment. You could attend a rally for tuition decreases. You could donate a can of food instead of drinking a can of coke. This discussion taught me that while the issues are challenging and unlikely to be solved in one sweeping gesture, we are not helpless. One small gesture may not result in solving world hunger but it will help one person sleep with a full belly. Real change is not over night. It is the slow building of millions of kind gestures.

So ask yourself: “what can I do today?”

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