Building stronger communities by building on the past
Sharing the histories of Toronto’s grassroots community groups
In 2019-2020, Connexions worked on a project, funded by the Documentary Heritage Communities Program of Library and Archives Canada, to digitize and preserve the histories of grassroots community groups in Toronto from the 1960s through the 1980s and make them available online. Below are some of the publications, histories, and background articles included in this project. This project built on a previous project focusing on Seven News, a community newspaper published in the east-of-downtown area of Toronto in the 1970s and 1980s. The home page for the Seven News project is here. More documents will appear online as work continues on the collection in the Connexions Archive.
GROUPS and ORGANIZATIONS
Afro-American Progressive Association – one of the first Black Power organizations in Canada, founded in Toronto in 1968.
Alliance for Non-Violent Action (ANVA) – A Toronto group which believed the peace movement should broaden its critique to include militarism in general, and all oppressive power relationships.
Canadian Liberation Movement – An organization founded in 1969 dedicated to liberating Canada from U.S. control and domination.
Community Homophile Association of Toronto (CHAT) – The founding of the Community Homophile Association of Toronto (CHAT) in late 1970 marked the beginning of a larger, more diverse gay and lesbian liberation movement in Toronto.
Cruise Missile Conversion Project (CMCP) – A group of women and men committed to resisting militarism, focusing especially on the production in Canada of cruise missiles, a first-strike weapon.
Fair Play for Cuba Committee – An organization working to provide grassroots support for the Cuban Revolution led by Fidel Castro, and to challenge the U.S. government’s economic boycott of Cuba.
Greater Riverdale Organization – The Greater Riverdale Organization expanded on, and replaced, the Riverdale Community Organization (RCO) – a lively and effective organization fighting for issues relevant to Toronto east-side neighbourhoods. In the early 1970s, most of the greater Riverdale community was working class and lower income, and City Hall seemed to be biased against their priorities.
The Injured Workers Movement – A high rate of workplaces injuries coupled with an anti-worker Workers’ Compensation body, led injured workers to organize in th 1970s to fight for their rights.
Just Society Movement – Founded in 1968 by two single mothers, Doris Power and Suzanne Polgar, who were fed up with a welfare system that did not serve their needs. Cleverly named to hold Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals accountable to their self-proclaimed commitment to a “Just Society,” the JSM movement relied on grassroots organizing and information campaigns to contest unjust laws and educate welfare recipients about their rights.
The Just Society Movement – For the Poor by the Poor: A Model for Grass-Roots Activism – The Just Society Movement (1968 - 1972) was a short-lived but remarkably successful Toronto based grassroots social and political advocacy network run by and for Toronto’s poorest residents.
League for Student Democracy – A high school students’ group formed in 1969.
May 4th Movement (M4M) – A Toronto-based radical group formed after the Kent State shootings of unarmed university students on May 4, 1970.
Medical Reform Group – The Medical Reform Group of Ontario (MRG) was a physicians’ organization formed in 1978 to act as a voice for progressive doctors who were dissatisfied with the conservatism and self-interest of the established medical profession. The MRG played a significant role in shaping public opinion around health care and health policy in Ontario and Canada for the next several decades, until the group’s eventual dissolution in 2014.
Movement for Municipal Reform (ReforMetro) – An organization created in Toronto in 1975 whose purpose was to establish and institutionalize close linkages among community organizers, left-wing city aldermen, and their constituents (primarily in working-class wards).
New Left Caucus – A radical student group active on the University of Toronto campus in 1969-1970.
Parkdale Tenants’ Association – Formed in the Parkdale area of Toronto in late 1971 after local tenants and community activists decided that a collective organization was needed to fight against rent hikes and bad landlords.
Red Morning – Red Morning was a revolutionary group founded in Toronto in the early 1970s. Quasi-Marxist in orientation, Red Morning sought to organize working-class youth into a revolutionary force to contest capitalism.
Regent Park Community Improvement Association – The Regent Park Community Improvement Association (RPCIA) was founded in 1969. In the early days the RPCIA worked hard to pressure their landlord, the Ontario Housing Corporation, to spend money on maintaining their homes.
SOCCA (South of Carlton Community Action Committee) – The South of Carlton Community Action Committee was formed by a group of residents in the South of Carlton neighbourhood in 1970. Initially organized to deal with issues related to the South of Carlton neighbourhood (area between Jarvis, Carlton, Parliament and Queen Streets), the organization eventually gave birth to several different sub-committees related to different issues.
Springboard – Springboard was a volunteer organization run out of the Christian Resource Centre at 297 Carlton Street during the 1970s. The purpose of the program was to facilitate regular contact between incarcerated men and their families during their time in prison. For single men Springboard also connected volunteers with inmates to create sustained contact and support when the prisoner completed their sentence.
Stop Spadina Save Our City Co-ordinating Committee (SSSOCCC) – A large and very active citizens’ group formed to oppose the planned Spadina Expressway.
Toronto Community Union Project (T-CUP) in Trefann Court – The Toronto Community Union Project (T-CUP) was a small group of community organizers who came together in 1966 to help working-class residents in Trefann Court who facing “urban redevelopment”.
Toronto Student Movement (TSM) – A radical student group at the University of Toronto in 1968-1969.
Toronto Warrior Society – The Toronto Warrior Society (TWS) was affiliated with the American Indian Movement (AIM), which emerged in the United States in the late 1960s to defend First Nations activists and to promote Native pride. TWS was strongly committed to socialism, and to anti-capitalist endeavours. TWS founder Vern Harper was born in the Cabbagetown area of Toronto (which later became Regent Park).
Toronto Women’s Liberation Movement (TWLM) – In 1968, dozens of women, many of whom attended the University of Toronto, formed their own organization called the Toronto Women’s Liberation Movement (TWLM).
Trefann Court Residents Associations – Faced with the demolition of their neighbourhood and inspired by earlier resistance by residents in the Don Mount on the other side of the Don River, residents of Trefann Court organized against a redevelopment plan for their area being advanced by the City in the 1960s.
United Jewish People’s Order – A national, progressive, secular and independent Jewish organization that traces its roots back to 1926.
Women Working With Immigrant Women (WWIW) – An umbrella organization, founded in 1974, for agencies and women working with immigrant women in Metro Toronto.
NEWSPAPERS AND MAGAZINES
The Activist – Newspaper of the ACT for Disarmament, a coalition of groups and individuals protesting Canadian participation in the arms race.
Alternate Society – Published in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it combined a counter-culture orientation with radical political views.
Alternative To Alienation – A bi-monthly periodical published in Toronto in the 1970s. It was especially concerned with alternative ways of living and learning that would not reproduce the alienation of capitalist society.
Antinomy – a free bi-weekly newspaper published by and for high school and university students in Toronto in the summer of 1971.
The Badger – Occasional newspaper for progressive politics in Toronto urban government.
Bimonthly Reports – A Toronto-based newsletter focused on the real estate, development, and finance industry from 1977 through 1982.
The Body Politic – Rick Bébout writes on the origins and history of The Body Politic, a pioneering gay newspaper published from 1971-1987. The Body Politic’s office was in Ward 7 at 193 Carlton Street from 1974 to 1976.
Canadian News Synthesis Project – Synthesis, the publication produced by the Canadian News Synthesis Project was published through most of the 1970s. CNSP’s voluntary, non-profit collective worked to synthesize the most important economic, political and cultural forces in Canadian society, using eleven major newspapers from across the country. Each issue presented current news coverage and was organized to show the major trends in Canada and Latin America.
City Hall – City Hall was a bi-weekly newsletter written by Toronto aldermen David Crombie, Karl Jaffary, William Kilbourn, and John Sewell in the early 1970s.
Community Economics – A newsletter published in the 1990s promoting community economic development, community partnerships, co-operatives, and the economics of sharing.
Content magazine – A Canadian journalism criticism magazine published from the 1970s to the 1990s.
Connexions Digest – Founded in 1975 as the Canadian Information Sharing Project and renamed Connexions in 1978, Connexions was housed at 51 Bond Street, just to the west of Ward 7. The project included a strong focus on issues related to skid row, inner city poverty, and homelessness, and featured many publications and reources related to these issues.
The Critical List – A magazine, published in the 1970s, about the health, health care, and the medical profession in Canada.
Downtown Action – Downtown Action was a project concerned with tenants’ issues and the role of the property industry in Toronto. Two issues of the newsletter from 1976 and 1977 are currently available online.
Harbinger – An ‘underground newspaper’ published in Toronto from 1968 to 1972.
Issues & Actions – Published in Toronto by the Community Forum on Shared Responsibility. It described itself as “a newspaper linking people for social change” and featured articles on housing, unemployment, and social justice action.
Medical Reform – Published by the Medical Reform Group of Ontario (MRG), formed in 1978 by a small group of doctors who were concerned that there was no voice for progressive, socially-conscious physicians in Canada.
Metro Network for Social Justice newsletter – MNSJ was a non-profit network of organizations committed to promoting social and economic justice in Toronto
Network – A newsletter sharing information and analysis among and about radical movements.
Nexus – Billed as a magazine of land, corporate, and community affairs. Two issues from 1978-1979 are currently available.
Phoenix Rising – Phoenix Rising: The Voice of the Psychiatrized was published from 1980 to 1990. An annotated index of back issues is available on the Psychiatric Survivors Archive website. Don Weitz, a frequent contributor to 7 News, was one of the founders of Phoenix Rising.
The Red Menace – The Red Menace was published by the Toronto Liberation School between 1976 and 1980. The collective publishing The Red Menace described its political orientation as follows: “We want to overthrow the capitalist system and build a new world in which freedom and creativity can flourish, a world in which people are in control, in which they run things democratically and collectively. A libertarian socialist world.”
Reform Metro News – Newsletter of the Movement for Municipal Reform (ReforMetro) in Toronto, published from the mid-1970s to the early 1980s.
Regent Park Community News – A paper by and for Regent Park, published 1972-1978.
Rikka – Quarterly magazine focusing on multiculturalism, racism, civil liberties, and policing, with special emphasis on the Japanese-Canadian community.
Seven News – For a list of all published issues of 7 News, each linked to a PDF of the issue, go here. For a list of all articles published in 7 News, each linked to the issue it appeared in, go here. See also Cabbagetown Riverdale News – Successor newspaper to Seven News published 1985 – early 1990s.
Switchboard – A weekly newsletter published in Toronto in the 1980s by Community Switchboard, offering a forum for those interested in social change.
This Magazine is About Schools – A magazine about schools and education, This Magazine is About Schools was founded in 1966 and continued under that name until 1973, when the name was changed to “This Magazine”“THIS”).
Toronto Citizen – A community newspaper published in the 1970s covering Toronto city politics and urban issues.
Toronto Clarion – A progressive Toronto newspaper published from 1976 to the mid-1980s.
The Toronto Disarmament Networker – Publication of ehe Toronto Disarmament Network, a coalition of about 70 groups supporting disarmament.
Transformation – A magazine on the theory and practice of social change. Four issue were published in 1971 and 1972.
Up From The Ashes – A journal “for the self-education of revolutionary activists” published in the 1980s.
Waffle News – Newsletter of the Waffle movement, published in the early 1970s.
The Yellow Journal – A fortnightly review of the quality and accuracy of the local press, published in 1974.
ISSUES AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
Alternative Schools in Toronto in the 1960s & early 1970s – In the 1960s, there was increasing criticism of the education system, and a corresponding search for changes or alternatives.
Black Power in Toronto – The Afro-American Progressive Association, founded in 1968, was Toronto’s first Black Power organization. It was later joined by other Black Power groups, like the Black Liberation Front and Black Youth Organization. Students at dozens of local high schools, colleges and universities formed Black Power student clubs.
Master builders meet citizen activists – Rick Bébout writes about Trefann Court & beyond: from “urban renewal” to true civic life.
1960s Counter-Culture in Toronto – The development of alternative sub-cultures, including beats and hippies.
Rooming Houses in Toronto – 1960s & 1970s – Rooming houses in Toronto became a big issue in the late 1960s and early 1970s as housing priorities were changing rapidly. These dwellings were usually old houses that had been converted for single-room-occupancy tenants, who typically paid weekly rent and shared the bathroom and kitchen facilities with four or more (unrelated) tenants.
Allan Gardens – A public park bordered by Carlton, Sherbourne, and Gerrard streets. Due to its central location and large size Allan Gardens Park has long been a chosen site for protests and demonstrations in Toronto.
Bain Coop – Built as a low-income housing project in 1913, Bain became a co-operative in 1977.
Brickworks – Beginning in the 1840s brick works operations began to locate near the Don River to take advantage of the large clay deposits and water power, as well as easy access to the growing city.
Cherry Beach – Cherry Beach, originally called Clarke Beach Park, was established as a recreational beach in the 1930s. Established close to the mouth of the Don River, Cherry Beach was very close to what was then a heavily industrial area.
Don Mount (Napier Place) – Located just east of the Don River in Riverdale, the area bordered by Queen, Broadview and Dundas Street as well as the Don Valley Parkway.
Don River: Of time & the river – Rick Bébout on the life of a city stream.
Don Vale (“Old Cabbagetown”) – Don Vale, or “Old Cabbagetown” as it now usually called, is a small neighbourhood on the west bank of the Don Valley. Roughly bordered by Parliament and Gerrard Streets as well as St. James Cemetery, the Toronto Necropolis Cemetery, and Riverdale Park.
Don Valley Parkway & Gardiner Expressway – The first chair of the Metropolitan Toronto council, established in 1953, was Frederick Gardiner, who quickly drew up plans for a system of expressway and parkway arterials that expanded outward from the city centre. Gardiner’s plan, which was considered progressive and reasonable at the time, included five total arterials including the Gardiner Expressway, the Don Valley Parkway and the Spadina Expressway.
Miriam Garfinkle Lane – Laneway named after Toronto physician and social justice activist Miriam Garfinkle.
Parliament Street – An impressionistic account of walking up Parliament Street, written by Rick Bébout in 2001.
The Parliament Streetcar – An account of the streetcar that used to run up Parliament Street until 1966.
Queen Street east from Jarvis to the Don River: Blight & the Brave New World – Rick Bébout's 2002 account of Queen Street between Jarvis Street and the Don River.
Regent Park – One of the oldest public housing projects in Canada. Approved in the mid-1940s and finally completed by 1960, Regent Park consisted of high- and low-rise, subsidized apartment buildings in the area of Toronto bordered by Gerrard, River, Shuter and Parliament Streets. The area is now being rebuilt with mixed-income housing.
Riverdale – Consisting of a the area east of the Don Valley and bordered by the Danforth, Greenwood Avenue and Lake Ontario, Riverdale was annexed into Toronto in 1884.
Riverdale Community Organization – The RCO emerged out of discontent at the city,’s handling of the housing expropriation in the Don Mount renewal zone. In 1969, several religious figures from the area formed the East Don Urban Coalition to represent local interests and hired organizer Don Keating. After six months several smaller organizations that had formed around specific local issues united to form the Riverdale Community Organization.
Riverdale Zoo – A zoo which existed on the west bank of the Don River, at the east end of Winchester Street, from 1899 to 1975.
St. James Town – Bounded by Wellesley, Howard, Sherbourne and Parliament Streets. Originally comprised of houses, the area was demolished in the 1960s and filled with highrise apartment buildings.
South of St. James Town – The area just to the South of the St. James Town apartments, roughly bordered by Wellesley, Sherbourne, Carlton and Parliament Streets.
Todmorden Mills – Todmorden Mills were a series of mills built in the Don Valley, north of Bloor Street.
Toronto Necropolis Cemetery – A historic cemetery in Toronto, located on the west side of the Don Valley near Riverdale Farm.
Trefann Court – A thin strip of land just south of Regent Park and bounded by Queen, Parliament, Shuter, and River Streets, Trefann Court was slated for “urban renewal” by the City of Toronto in 1966. Residents fought back and eventually managed to stop the redevelopment plan.
Ward 7 – An overview of the area of Toronto that was designated as “Ward 7” of the City in the 1970s and 1980s. It comprised the area east of downtown on both sides of the Don River, including Regent Park, Moss Park, Trefann Court, Cabbagetown, Don Vale, St. James Town, and Riverdale.
Winchester Streetcar & Bus route – An account of the streetcar (later bus) route which terminated at the end of Winchester Street at Sumach btween 1881 and 1930.
Yorkville in the 1960s – A section of urban Toronto that was the centre of the counterculture in the mid-1960s.
Thornton and Lucie Blackburn – Former slaves and early Toronto entrepreneurs
Pat Cole – Regent Park resident and community activist. 1943-1998.
Karl Jaffary – Ward 7 alderman (1969-1974). b. 1936.
Charles Sauriol – Naturalist and conservationist; resident of the Don Valley. 1904-1995.
John Sewell – Ward 7 alderman (1969-1978); Mayor of Toronto (1978-1980). b. 1940.
Cabbagetown People – A website featuring biographies of some prominent people who lived in the area called Cabbagetown.
Company of Young Canadians – A federal program established in 1966 to encourage social, economic and community development in Canada.
Local Initiatives Program (LIP) – A federal program established by the Liberal government in 1971 to provide grants to a variety of community and cultural projects.
Opportunities For Youth (OFY) – A federal Liberal program of the early 1970s that provided funding for a variety of community projects.
The Canadian City. Kent Gerecke (ed.) – Based on the belief that a healthy city life is possible, this volume collects articles, stories and histories about the city and its people, covering aspects such as human and social relations, art and architecture, urban planning, land development, and the greening of the urban environment. 1991.
A Citizen’s Guide to City Politics. James Lorimer. – A guide to how city politics really work in Canada, focusing on the role of the property industry, which dominates municipal decision-making. 1972.
The City and Radical Social Change. Dimitrios Roussopoulos – A collection of essays dealing with the dynamics of forces for social change in our urban milieu, discussing how new ideas are contributing to an urban insurgency which could lead to a new city and a new concept of citizenship. 1982.
Fighting Back: Urban Renewal in Trefann Court. John Fraser. – A detailed report on the conflict between city bureaucrats and residents of Trefann Court, a five-block area just east of downtown Toronto. Bent on tearing down the community as a step towards urban renewal, the planners and government officials met organized resistance from homeowners and tenants for over six years. 1972.
Highrise and Superprofits. Barker, Penney, Seccombe – An analysis of the development industry in Canada. 1973.
How We Changed Toronto: The inside story of twelve creative, tumultuous years in civic life, 1969-1980. John Sewell. – By the mid-1960s Toronto was well on its way to becoming Canada’s largest and most powerful city. One real estate firm aptly labelled it Boomtown. Expressways, subways, shopping centres, high-rise apartments, and skyscraping downtown office towers were transforming the city. City officials were cheerleaders for unrestricted growth. 2015.
The Intruders. Hugh Garner. – A novel depicting the gentrification of the Cabbagetown neighbourhood in Toronto. 1976.
Liberal Dreams and Nature’s Limits. James Lemon. – An exploration of city life through time, focusing on the life (economically, socially, politically, etc.) of five large North American cities, including Toronto, at various times in the past. 1996.
Local Places in the Age of the Global City. – The contributors to Local Places look at the complex social, economic and political contexts of cities in the 1990s and suggest that cities and urbanity, while part of the problem, also need to be considered as part of the solution. 1996.
The Real World of City Politics. James Lorimer. – A report about what is going on – and what is going wrong – in Canada’s cities. Urban renewal, public housing, downtown schools, citizen participation, highrise development, city politicians. 1970.
Regent Park: The Public Experiment in Housing. David Zapparoli – A history with many photographs. 1999.
Remembering the Don: A Rare Record of Earlier Times Within the Don River Valley. Charles Sauriol. – Memories of Toronto's Don River in days gone by. 1981.
The Tiny Perfect Mayor. Jon Caulfield. – An analysis of Toronto city politics in the wake of the election of David Crombie as mayor in 1972. 1974.
Toronto Rocks: The Geological Legacy of the Toronto Region. Nick Eyles & Clinton. – Toronto’s urban geology, including The Don Valley Brick Works. 1998.
Toronto Since 1981. James Lemon. – A history of modern Toronto, 1921-1985. 1985.
Toronto’s Poor: A Rebellious History. Bryan D. Palmer and Gaetan Heroux. – Toronto’s Poor reveals the long and too often forgotten history of poor people’s resistance. It details how the homeless, the unemployed, and the destitute have struggled to survive and secure food and shelter in the wake of the many panics, downturns, recessions, and depressions that punctuate the years from the 1830s to the present. 2016.
The Trouble With Co-ops. Janice Dineen. – The story of a pioneer co-operative housing project in downtown Toronto: Don Area Co-operative Homes, inc. (DACHI). 1974.
The Underside of Toronto. Mann (ed.) – Sociological essays on Toronto. 1970.
Up Against City Hall. John Sewell. – John Sewell describes his early life and explains how he accidentally got involved in politics. He tells of his experiences in Trefann Court, and how this opened his eyes to the realities of civic politics, and gives behind-the-scenes accounts of some of the major battles at City Hall. 1972.
The Universe Ends at Sherbourne & Queen. Ted Plantos & Angeline Kyba. – A literary and photographic look at the area known as Cabbagetown. It describes the myths and legends of the area as well as the lives of the people who live there.
Working Class Toronto at the Turn of the Century. Gregory Kealey. – A look at working class life in Toronto at the beginning of the 20th century. 1973.
Bleecker Street – Through the courts, through City Hall, and out into the streets, the residents of Bleecker Street, a poor working class neighbourhood in Toronto, carries the battle to save their homes. 1982.
Free Bleecker – Emil Kolompar. 1974.
Created and maintained by Connexions Archive & Library. This project has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada (Library and Archives Canada).