It was a hot summer day as Toronto’s finest creatives flowed into Second Floor Events on King St West for the first-ever Justice Fund Summit. The area was spacious yet welcomed interaction, a perfect setting for a summit in the bustling city. The event started at 2 PM, and the schedule was action-packed. With performances from acts such as Taima and Nina Offline, alongside fireside chats amongst the attendees, all from different areas of creative backgrounds.
Throughout the entire day, pre-recorded fireside chats with John Wiggins, Vice President of the Toronto Raptors, Olivia Chow, Mayor of Toronto, Meghan Yuri Young, Founder of The Sad Collective, Yasin Osman, founder of Shoot for Peace, played in the background as the venue echoed with innovative interaction throughout.
As the performances came to a close, the stage was set for Yonis Hassan, the CEO of the Justice Fund. They thanked those who came and prepped the audience for the announcements of collaborations that the attendees highly anticipated.
The first collaboration announced was the Justice Fund x York University a Black and Indigenous Student scholarships program within the University’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance and Design (AMPD).
They also announced the Justice Fund x NBA Foundation, specifically through The Creative Pathways to Employment Program (CPEP). A four-million-dollar partnership between Ontario’s Ministry of Labour Training and Skills Development of Ontario, the NBA Foundation, and Northpine Foundation and Justice Fund Toronto. This program aims to provide underserved communities access to jobs in creative industries, serving as an entry point to creative industries for youth.
Additionally, Justice Fund x TTC (The Toronto Transit Commission) has partnered to revitalize the TTC into a safer, more mentally nurturing space that resonates with the city’s vibrant arts culture. This collaboration aims to use the creative industries to enhance safety measures, provide mental health resources, and integrate public art. Free TTC rides for youth under 18 during specific events, Justice Fund decorated streetcars, and dynamic platform art are among the exciting initiatives planned.
The final announcement was Justice Fund x TCHC (Toronto Community Housing Corporation). The initiative aims to address the community’s need for more resources for youth in conflict with the law within the Toronto Community Housing Community. The Unit will focus on research, creating new avenues of BIPOC homeownership, and building access to programs for economic mobility.
After making the announcements, Yonis welcomed Noah “40” Shebib to the stage. He discussed his love for the Justice Fund and identified attributes within our city that require improvement. His philanthropic speech indeed showed how involved he is in making a change in Toronto through the initiatives of the Justice Fund.
Shortly after the announcements, we had the chance to speak to Yonis Hassan.
Why do you think it is important for creatives to stand up and participate in the philanthropic sector?
“The creative sector generates over 50 billion in the province of Ontario each year and 10 billion in Toronto alone. Creatives have access to vision and the courage to speak up. They have the audacity to dream. Philanthropy is the one vehicle that exists to transform society and take risks. Unfortunately, there is a lack of urgency, and who better to bring out that urgency than the creative community? Which has, again, courageousness and creativity.”
Can you tell me more about the Move the Money Campaign and the Skills Development Fund?
“The Move the Money campaign was an awareness campaign during the pandemic to hold the philosophic sector accountable. At that time, there were over 85 billion dollars in philanthropic resources and foundations, but now there are over 120 billion dollars. When we are suffering from all of these perpetual cycles of crisis, we will not solve them without performing philanthropy and holding that sector accountable.”
“Nobody wants to give money and be the first one in; the government and corporations are scared. But it is the act of philanthropy ask those assets to do it. At the end of the day, it’s for us Canadians to speak up about this. We should hold the sector accountable.”
Can you explain the vision behind the Justice Fund’s collaboration with the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission)? How do you plan to use this partnership to enhance economic empowerment opportunities for Black and Indigenous youth?
“We partnered with TTC because we both believe that the round of violence on transportation is the byproduct of not investing in communities, historically. For us, I can’t improve the safety features or public policy of the TTC. But I can help create activations and engagement around the TTC that raises awareness about violence, mental health, and awareness in supporting communities.”
“Additionally, in creating economic opportunities for youth, there are hundreds of millions of dollars in public parks contracts and the TTC, which we will work on opening up for frontline organizations and these communities.”
How will the Justice Fund actively involve Black and Indigenous youth and other stakeholders in decision-making and ensure their voices are heard throughout these collaborations?
“It’s a non-linear process; you must approach it from a comprehensive — long term and meaningful approach. That’s the only way you’ll get change, and that’s exactly what we’re doing with our collaborations as we lead into our next strategic plan.”
After the announcement, guests took over the floor to discuss the groundbreaking collaborations announced during the summit. Yonis and Noah took the time to have one-on-one conversations with guests. Not to mention, Noah works alongside Drake as his right-hand producer; he is currently travelling around North America for Drake’s It’s All A Blur Tour. Yet he took the time to listen individually to what each guest had to say about the fund.
After a brief opening conversation with Noah, we had the chance to ask him a personal question about the Justice Fund.
What has been the most personally rewarding initiative that has come out of the Justice Fund?
“The potential of what we’re doing. I don’t think we’ve reached what I want to feel personally rewarded for, but we’re starting to. The potential to have the culture we’re trying to build replicated is what I’m most excited for.”
While the Justice Fund’s existence may be relatively short, the profound impact directed by Yonis and Noah has already been felt by many. Seeing creatives stand up and speak for underrepresented people exemplifies the modern-day embodiment of heroism. This summit merely offered a glimpse into the boundless potential of authentic philanthropy. We eagerly await the unfolding chapters of the Justice Fund’s journey, which will indefinitely reshape our city in the years to come.