Mayor’s Safe City panel’s work applauded


The parents of Canadian recording artiste, Melanie Fiona, celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary on Monday, June 7. Instead of the couple celebrating the special occasion together that evening, however, mom was with her daughter at a community event at Metro Square to mark the successful completion of the work of Mayor David Miller’s Advisory Panel on Making a Safe City Safer.

Fiona has always had the support of her parents and that has allowed her to forge a successful entertainment career that saw the talented vocalist tour with American singer-songwriter Alicia Keys as an opening act on the 50-city Freedom tour that ends on July 3.

“I was raised in the Jane & Finch area, but I was fortunate to have a supporting cast of people around me who put opportunities before me to maximise and be the best person I can,” the Grammy-nominated artiste told the young people at the event. “Now I am an established recording artiste and I have been around the world.

“I am achieving and living my dreams every single day. It’s very important to never limit yourself and to understand that you should take advantage of all the opportunities and programs presented to you and use them for positive achievement. That’s very important.”

Six years ago, Toronto City Council unanimously approved a community safety plan of which the creation of the Mayor’s Panel on Community Safety was a key component.

The panel, which met for the first time in July 2007, focused on ensuring alignment of the investments in the city’s designated priority neighbourhoods and advancing partnership initiatives related to anti-violence intervention and youth opportunities.

Former Chief Justice Roy McMurtry chaired the panel.

“I have been in the justice system for almost 50 years and during that period of time I came to believe and still do very strongly that the priority should be in investing in our young people and in our neighbourhoods and giving our youth hope for the future instead of relying on the criminal justice system to do something that should be done by the community as a whole,” he said.

“As I look at the people who are here, and I have already met some of them, I see youths who are very crucial to the future of our city, our province and our country. I see tremendous leadership potential that can be exhibited.”

Other advisory panel members included director of Ryerson University Department of Social Work, Dr. Akua Benjamin, Toronto Police Service Chief William Blair and Police Service Board chair Dr. Alok Mukherjee who attended the event.

The Identify ‘N Impact Investment Fund (INI), which was one of several projects that have contributed to community safety, was created to provide funding to eligible youth groups in the priority neighbourhoods, giving them an opportunity to turn their ideas into action.

Youth between the ages of 14 and 24 sit on the panel which recommends eligible youth-led projects for city funding.

Ghanaian-born Grace Arku, who has resided in Rexdale since coming to Canada at age eight, is a member of the INI panel that develops selection criteria for the funds, receives training on the city’s grant process, share their knowledge on effective youth engagement strategies and activities, review project requests and work with other youth to recommend funding for youth development initiatives.

“I decided to get involved so I could get experience and provide input from a priority neighbourhood perspective,” said Arku who is enrolled in York University’s Masters of Social Work program. “Young people do not have many opportunities in my community.”

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