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Community Engagement for Social Justice and Social Change

Starting in 2007, the Mennonite New Life Centre identified community engagement as one of its three organizational priorities. It stems from the belief that full integration happens when newcomers participate in shaping their own environment, exercising leadership through reflection and action on social justice issues.

In recent years, our community engagement work has focused on building civic participation to address systemic barriers to fair and meaningful employment in newcomer communities. We work alongside immigrants and refugees to build analysis and policy recommendations, develop advocacy skills and understanding of our political context, and establish partnerships for collective action and a stronger, more effective voice.

“To work for justice requires us to give priority to the dignity of the person – the first step is to make people active agents of their own lives.”
-Program Participant.

Our work is organized around four strategic lines of action: Civic and political literacy, participatory action research, coalition work and newcomer organizing.

Quick links to the sections

Education in Civic and Political Literacy 

These workshops, done individually and in series, with newcomer groups across Toronto create spaces of critical reflection about the Canadian state and society. By tailoring each workshop to the particular group of participants, we are able to facilitate relevant and engaging discussions about topics as diverse as socio-economic inequalities, government structures and decision-making among others. We embrace controversial conversations while relying on the latest data and analysis to present an accurate overview of each issue.

Projects include: Latin American Civic participation Campaign (2010/2014); Building Blocks (2012-2013); Unlocking Newcomer Civic Participation – Here samples of calls out for Youth and LGBT  (2013-2015)

Participatory Action Research (PAR) process

Our PARs are opportunities to immerse ourselves in a deeper investigation of particular trends within our work. In this process we engage with community members to better understand issues like civic/political engagement, and income/employment and produce critical pieces of knowledge and reflection that can be shared with our allies inside and outside the settlement sector. These research projects inject new insights into our community engagement work and allow us to shape discourses in relevant fields of work.

PARs include: Refusing to Settle for Less (2009); Community Mappings (2011-2012 * Here a video reporting 2012 activities); A Question of Lacking Access or Diversifying Action (2013-2014)

Coalition Work

By working with other organizations from the settlement sector as well as those in the public, private and academic sectors, we develop innovative means of doing adult education work with immigrant communities. As part of this process, we challenge our peers, and are challenged by them, to think differently about the causes of struggles faced by newcomers and how best to address them. These spaces allow us to better understand where we stand as an institution relative to others in terms of our adult education approach.

Projects include: Latin American Civic Participation Campaign (2010-2015); Beyond Canadian Experience project (2011-2013); LIP working groups; Roundtable for an Inclusive Toronto

Newcomer Speakers Bureau at Toronto City Hall 2012

Newcomer Organizing

Among the most challenging and rewarding aspects of doing adult education work for us has been starting and sustaining  newcomer groups in such a way that it results in the participants eventually feeling the capacity to become leaders and adult educators themselves. Our combination of political literacy about immigrant struggles along with a robust training on public speaking has been successful at nurturing such spaces and allowing newcomers to find their voices.

Projects include: Newcomer Advocacy Committee (2009-2012); Newcomer Speakers Bureau (2012); I Vote Campaign (2014)

Take Action

Through our community engagement work, we challenge unjust policies and practices that stand in the way of newcomer settlement and integration. At the same time, we propose and support alternatives that affirm the dignity and potential of newcomers.

We believe that sharing our clients’ stories and our frontline experience can help policymakers to better understand the experience of newcomers and make more informed and compassionate decisions.

What you can do:

Stay informed. Pay attention to news reports about immigration issues. Look for alternative sources of information. Talk to newcomers about how they have been affected by immigration policies.

Educate others. Organize a talk or a workshop. Invite both newcomers and advocates to speak. There are many myths and misunderstandings about refugees and immigrants that contribute to prejudice and racism. Education is the first step to change.

Write a letter or visit your MP. Let decision makers know what you think. Share your concerns, and give clear recommendations for change. Newcomers have rights to be respected and contributions to offer Canada.

Participate in advocacy campaigns. Watch this website for information about current campaigns, or visit our advocacy links.

What’s New with Community Engagement

Job Connect Café

Prepare Yourself for Success Thursday, March 10, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm In this interactive online session hosted by MNLCT, you will: Meet employers that are hiring from TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) Home care providers: Comfort Keepers Canada, Qualicare, Mosaic Home Care Services  Learn about entrepreneurship opportunities Discover our MNLCT bridging programs: BEMC, BESIP, BREM, C-Women Find out job search tips & mock… Continue Reading Job Connect Café

Introducing our new MNLCT Newcomer Support App!

We are gearing up for the soft launch of our new MNLCT Newcomer Support app, powered by iCent! Coinciding with Newcomer Day in Toronto on May 21, we are happy to launch this app in celebration of newcomers and provide them with immediate information at their fingertips! Read here for more information.

Love is in the Air

Giving with Love fundraising event was fun for the whole family. Continue Reading Love is in the Air

HOLIDAY MARKETPLACE: Newcomers and locals join hands to promote their creative inspirations

Mennonite New Life Centre’s Queen Street location was alight with holiday cheer as local vendors teamed up with immigrant and refugee artisans to market their talents in the third annual Holiday Crafts & Food Marketplace. Written by Aparna Chandra, Photos by Mirna Chacin How long can the good of a random act of kindness last?… Continue Reading HOLIDAY MARKETPLACE: Newcomers and locals join hands to promote their creative inspirations

MNLCT Partners with Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund Again

Once again this year, the Mennonite New Life Centre of Toronto is partnering with the Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund to make the holiday season a bit brighter for eligible newcomer children. The Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund is a registered charity that provides underprivileged children under the age of 12 with a gift to… Continue Reading MNLCT Partners with Toronto Star Santa Claus Fund Again

Opening Doors Job Fair

Come on out to meet employers, neighbours, and MNLCT staff at this week-long event. Continue Reading Opening Doors Job Fair

The Giving Tree plants its roots at MNLCT

May 2019, By David Gomes Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said, “It’s not how much you give, but how much love you put into giving.” That very quote now adorns the walls of our very own MNLCT – Keele location as part of a beautiful mural painted by volunteer placement students from Seneca at York… Continue Reading The Giving Tree plants its roots at MNLCT

Opening Doors Job Fair 2018 Memories

Thank you to everyone involved with the Opening Doors Job Fair this year! This year’s Opening Doors Job Fair was on July 26th, located at Montecassino Event Centre and sponsored by United Way GTA and Duke Heights BIA. The event was an experience that connected employers, newcomers, staff front line workers and community. This was… Continue Reading Opening Doors Job Fair 2018 Memories

Let’s PLAY Ultimate!

Do you know any youth ages 8-17 who would be interested in learning to play ultimate frisbee? Fall sessions runs November 18th- December 16th. Continue Reading Let’s PLAY Ultimate!

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In-person English classes for beginners are now available at our Keele office from Monday to Friday.Check details here.