We know the horrific violence we are seeing in Gaza and Israel is causing immense pain, anger, and sorrow here locally. These emotions are powerful, and lead to the compassion and empathy we hold for others both near and far. At the same time, many people across East Ontario have been experiencing violence and hateful rhetoric as a result of these emotions spilling over in harmful ways.
Words can be a comfort through times of pain, and what is important to us is that our words are tied to action, and are grounded in the responsibilities we have to the communities we serve.
So, over the past month and a half, we have been reaching out to our networks, our partners, and members of Jewish, Muslim, and Palestinian organizations and communities to not only hear how they are doing, but to understand how United Way East Ontario can make a tangible difference locally.
Feelings of fear, isolation, and horror, underlined by intergenerational traumas, are affecting the mental health of so many in our communities – including those working on the frontlines. There is a high demand for culturally appropriate and linguistically diverse mental health supports to help the wide range of people who are struggling. These services exist, but they may not be equipped to deal with the sharp increase in demand.
We recognize the dramatic increase in antisemitic hate incidents reported to police here in East Ontario. We also know that Islamophobic hate incidents have been on the rise since early October. We are heartbroken to see people show hate against their neighbours, at a time when we should be united against the forces that divide us. In times of crisis, we must be able to rely on our community for safe spaces and respite from the violence in order to heal and fight back against division. Our humanity shines brightest when we acknowledge others’ pain and work to alleviate it, even while we are going through our own heartache.
That’s why today, United Way East Ontario is announcing an immediate investment of $100,000 to support Jewish, Palestinian, and Muslim serving organizations to help their respective communities with mental health and trauma supports, and an investment of $30,000 into hate prevention and community resilience programs. This investment adds to the nearly $1.1 million we invest annually into community-based mental health programs, and the $220,000 we invest annually into hate and violence prevention, which aligns to the work of United for All.
When we launched United for All in 2019, the landscape of hate was vastly different than it is today. The mental health crisis has been building since the start of the pandemic, as has the spread of hate and polarization.
We need cohesive, well-resourced, community-wide approaches to preventing and responding to these challenges. No one organization alone can solve them. That’s why 44 organizations representing 150+ partners rally together as United for All to counter hate in all its forms, and to build safer, compassionate, resilient communities for everyone. This work is hard, slow, sometimes messy, and the path is winding – but we have been, and remain committed to this work. We are always seeking new partners to join us so everyone can reach their full potential.
For media inquiries or to arrange an interview pertaining to this announcement, please contact:
Manager, Media Relations and Communications
United Way East Ontario