A Letter from CEO Sharon Avery

We opted to forgo a subtitle on this, our 18th Toronto’s Vital Signs Report. How to sum up 18 months of devastation and despair? There’s no simple roundup, no original, insightful, singular analysis that can make sense of all of this. There’s little comfort in pretty words in the face of the greatest crisis of many of our lives. Instead, we share a simple message: Let’s Get Better.

Also absent from the cover is the word equity. Some may see this as an omission. But for us the reality of our city’s foundation and advancing inequality is implicit throughout this report. It surfaced in all 10 chapters we track in our attempt to understand the evolving nature of quality of life in Toronto. The facts of the growing divide between who thrives and who doesn’t were reinforced time and time again, through the dozens of interviews we did and the almost 250 citations from what is without a doubt the most comprehensive collection of inputs into making sense of our city.

We believe better means more equal. More kind, more fair, more just.

If we’ve learned one thing during the pandemic, it is that we were not prepared. Our report shows the ramifications of this, and it’s not the same for everyone. Those at the bottom of the income ladder were hit the hardest — on all indicators — and this hurts everyone. What we do next will say a lot about who we are and what we value as a society.

We don’t have all the answers, but we certainly know now where the problems lie.

Racism, hatred of all kinds, and indifference to the suffering of others have risen to the fore in these months of profound loss and separation.

On our own we have little to offer. But together we truly can learn from this experience. We can imagine a better city and we can build it, too.

In philanthropy we have our own reckoning underway. Our world profited while the death toll mounted, jobs disappeared, depression soared, and we came face to face with our colonial crimes. The very systems that enable wealth to prosper and fuel charity sustain a status quo that propel some forward and hold the rest in the rear. Better for us means stepping up by stepping back. It means questioning everything and following the lead of those whose lived experience of inequality must chart the road ahead.

In each chapter of the report we highlight some opportunities and obstacles to getting better. They are by no means exhaustive, but a place to begin. In the past, Toronto Foundation has refrained from making direct recommendations to policymakers and others, but we believe the unprecedented nature of this pandemic compels us to use our community insights to mobilize others into action. At the end of each chapter you will find some priorities for decision-makers and tips for just about anyone who cares about Toronto and wants to make it the best it can be.


But to close my note, I offer four simple steps to the mix:



The Globe and Mail said it first. With 90% of the population vaccinated, we stand a chance of defeating this thing and protecting our most vulnerable neighbours.



Make space and give money to individuals and organizations who live the realities of inequality and are brave enough to speak up and challenge the status quo.



Imagine what our world could look like if we put others less advantaged first before ourselves.



With the exception of Indigenous peoples, all of us have benefited from treaties in some way. Now, reciprocity and restitution are the only way forward.


Sharon Avery
President & CEO
Fundholder, Avery Family Foundation