Toronto, Ontario – August 23, 2018 – The Government of Ontario is no longer supporting community building, arts programming, and support for priority neighbourhoods, announcing a massive cut in funding for Sistema Toronto’s after-school music education and social development program for at-risk children.
The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport announced late last week that the Government of Ontario is cutting the $500,000 in funding promised to Sistema Toronto in May 2018.
Sistema Toronto is an after-school social development program, providing daily free musical and intellectual opportunities to 275 students and their families in neighbourhoods with some of Toronto’s highest child poverty rates – Parkdale, Jane-Finch, and East Scarborough.
The loss of funding means that Sistema Toronto will serve fewer at-risk children and support fewer of Toronto families living in poverty, leaving dozens of priority kids without any means to change their futures. As the parent of an 11-year-old Sistema student stated: “I need Kiara to be in Sistema and working on her viola. Her friends are already joining up with gangs and asking her to go with them. I need her with you so she has a chance for an education and a future”. A Government of Ontario report on the roots of youth violence outlines how poverty, racism, education and community design have direct links to youth violence.
Students who take part in Sistema Toronto programs are 25 percentage points more likely to achieve high scores on standardized testing than students not in Sistema, placing them on a path to better education, a reduction in poverty and an escape from youth violence. Losing this essential funding means that dozens of students will no longer be accepted into the program, instruments will not be purchased for existing students, and Sistema Toronto will be forced to cut jobs for teachers and staff.
Christie Gray, Executive Director of Sistema Toronto:
“The loss of funding from the Government of Ontario is devastating for our organization. Sistema Toronto is committed to providing vital support to vulnerable children and their families. Our team is saddened that will we no longer be able to expand our reach or welcome more students into our program. We believe that programs like ours help kids break the cycle of poverty and violence, and give at-risk children and youth opportunities to achieve their potential in ways that are otherwise not accessible to them.”
The Hon. Mitzie Hunter, MPP (Scarborough-Guildwood):
“This is a disappointing and short-sighted decision by the Ford government. This is a time when we need to focus on the root causes of social inequality that leads to violence. The Sistema program is a valuable educational program for children in my riding from priority neighbourhoods such as Danzig, Mornelle Court, and Kingston-Galloway and Orton Park. The Sistema program addresses the lack of quality educational programing available to these underserved communities and cancelling planned funding puts these children at risk of not reaching their full potential. I urge the Minister to reconsider this decision.”
The Hon. Bhutila Karpoche, MPP (Parkdale-High Park):
“I call on the Ford government to immediately reverse its decision to cut $500,000 in promised funding to Sistema Toronto. This will have a devastating impact on communities like ours in Parkdale where the program does vital work to support vulnerable kids and their families. Instead of providing support to communities that are struggling with some of the highest child poverty rates in Toronto, Doug Ford’s government has decided to pull the rug out from under at-risk children.”
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