Where is the structural change to make Burlington a truly inclusive city going to come from?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

February 22nd 2017



We recently published two articles that lead us to this third article.

In January we published the Mayor’s State of the City in full. The Gazette has done this for the past five years – it gives citizens the opportunity to review just how the Mayors sees the city he governs.

Earlier this month we did an article on the Friday Night Community event that takes place at Wellington Square United Church where some 300 people gather for an evening of fellowship and a meal that gets put together by one of the more ambitious bunch of volunteers from different faith communities in this city.

Pic 2 - ladies at a food table

Setting up a food table at Wellington Square United Church Friday Night Community event.

Lisa Lunski co-ordinates the event at Wellington Square. Glad Tiding Pentecostal church in the Guelph Line – Upper Middle Road part of the city also has a program where more than 300 people gather regularly.
St. Christopher’s Anglican Church also has a program.

These are not “soup kitchen” operations. These events are intended for people who, while perhaps marginalized, are active and have the same social interaction needs as any other group.

Some people meet regularly at the Legion, others go to one of the four Rotary clubs in Burlington – everyone needs to be part of something.

Spend half an hour at a Friday night community at Wellington Square United church and experience the caring, the sharing and the fun that goes on. I’ve never seen anyone at a Legion hand out a birthday card to a member.

Someone at Wellington Square seems to know when a birthday is taking place – and it gets remembered.

The crowd in the Wellington Square kitchen is a marvel – some arrive as early as 7:00 am to get the food preparation rolling. The menu has been worked out and most of the food has arrived – and it all gets done by people that show up regularly as volunteers.


Glad Tidings runs a community program twice a month. You want to hear this crowd when they sing.

Glad Tidings does this twice each month and it becomes a placed where a man named Luke makes a point of standing by a street crossing and pressing the button that will activate a change in the traffic lights so people can cross – that’s the contribution he can make. He also walks up and down |Palmer Drive and caries waste bins from the sidewalk to the door of many homes,

When Mayor Goldring gave his State of the city address he said:

Flood Goldring with chain of office

This interview was the first time Mayor Goldring wore his Chain of Office outside the Council chamber. He was getting used to the job.

“I want to take time today to talk about the whole issue of housing affordability. When I say affordable housing, I am not talking about subsidized or social housing; I am talking about housing that is affordable for the vast majority of people, from millennials to seniors, and everybody in between.”

One got the impression that the Mayor wasn’t interested in social housing – it doesn’t quite fit the image he likes to project of the city. He seemed prepared to leave them at the curb while he does something to make “housing that is affordable for the vast majority of people from millennials to seniors and everyone in between.”

Our Mayor at the same time tells his audience that “we are all in this together”.

And indeed we are all in this together.

Shortly after we published the article on Wellington Square a colleague wrote and pointed out where she felt the need was:

“We need a dialogue on the difference between charity and social development, one meets immediate needs (food banks and food cupboards) and the other changes the structural causes of poverty and marginalization;

“We need a dialogue on community building and inclusive neighbourhoods that create a space for human interaction and belonging, a lot of that interaction starts around food.”

Gift of Giving back logo - 10th

Now into its 12th year The Gift of Giving Back is Burlington at its best.

We are doing pretty well on the charity side – much of the food used at the three churches is raised by high school students as part of the marvelous 10 year Giving Back program.  These are great band aids – what we need are fishing rods so these people can take care of themselves by fishing for their own needs – that is what structural change is all about.

The space between the thinking that was heard at the Chamber of Commerce sponsored State of the City address and the comments made about inclusiveness is very wide.

We do not yet have a table at which all are welcome.

What do we have to change to make that happen?

Related articles:

State of the City 2011
State of the City 2012
State of the City 2013
State of the city 2015
State of the City 2016

Wellington Square United Church – Friday Night Community

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