Self- Defense Classes

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In December 2015, TRT hosted two self-defense classes for Muslim women in Thorncliffe and Flemingdon. We learned how to kick, punch and subdue the Islamophobes who might think we are easy targets!

This year we want to take that further and organize a self-defense program!

If you would like to register and/or help plan for it, please contact us.

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Rally Speeches & Media Coverage

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It was great seeing everyone who made it out to the rally and march today: from Thorncliffe, Flemingdon and beyond! We sent a strong message of anti-racist solidarity.

Many thanks to our speakers for their inspirational speeches throughout the action:

Heather Milton Lightening (Indigenous activist), Parmbir Gill (Sikh Activist), Suraia Sahar (Afghan activist), Howard Davidson (Jewish activist), Amna Sabowala (Anti-war Muslim activist)

Check out all the media coverage: Redeye, CBC, CP24, Global, CTV, Toronto Sun and 680 News!

Redeye Collective: Interview with TRT Organizer Zabia Afzal

CBC Toronto: Rally against Islamophobia takes off in city’s north end –…/ca…/toronto/rally-islamophobia-1.3329463

CBC: (Video: Extended footage)…/cbc-news-saturday-november-21-2015-1.33…

CP 24: Residents in two North Toronto neighbourhoods rally against Islamophobia…/residents-in-two-north-toronto-neighb…

Global News: Councillor @m_layton at rally against racism we’ve seen in recent days ‪#‎StandWithMuslimsTO‬ many non Muslims here

Global News (Video): Rally in Toronto decries recent racism against the Muslim community…/rally-in-toronto-decries-recent-raci…

CTV: (Live: Video no longer available) ‪#‎Toronto‬ Community Rally Against Islamophobia

Toronto Sun: Hundreds Rally Against Islamophobia…/hundreds-rally-against-islamoph…

680 News: Video: Communities joining together to rally against violence, Islamophobia…/video-communities-joining-togeth…/…

Press Release: Thorncliffe & Flemingdon Communities Rally Against Islamophobia

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November 21, 2015

Thorncliffe & Flemingdon Communities Rally Against Islamophobia

Grassroots groups calling for unity against racism impacting Muslim communities in Canada and abroad

Saturday, November 21, 2015, 2pm. Rally at Valley Park Middle School (130 Overlea Blvd)

Toronto – Muslim, immigrant and refugee communities in Flemingdon and Thorncliffe are rallying against Islamophobia after a Muslim woman was assaulted picking up her children from school earlier this week. The attack in Flemingdon Park occurred days after a mosque in Peterborough was burned, a temple in Kitchener was vandalized and a Somali Muslim man was shot by Peel police. Reports have also emerged of multiple Muslim women being targeted on the TTC in recent days and a Black woman being assaulted because her scarf was mistaken for a hijab. Community members are calling for an end to wars of aggression in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq which have fanned Islamophobia in Canada, and exacerbated anti-refugee and anti-immigrant sentiment. Hundreds of local residents are expected to attend.

“The attack on a Muslim woman in Flemingdon on Monday has caused hurt and anger in the local communities, but not shock” says rally organizer Zabia Afzal from Thorncliffe Reach-Out Teach-In. “There’s nothing new or unexpected about racism in Canada, but with each incident our communities are becoming less afraid and more united.”

A Muslim woman was picking up her children from Grenoble Public School in Flemingdon Park on Monday when she was attacked by two men screaming racist and anti-immigrant epithets. She was punched, her hijab was ripped off and her cellphone was stolen.

“To be clear, we condemn both the attacks in Paris and the anti-Muslim attacks that have followed,” adds Suraia Sahar from Afghans United For Justice. “But we must not forget that these are not even glimpses into the terror and violence that people in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq have been suffering for years. Shamefully, this country has a long tradition of actively participating in this imperialist violence which is directly connected to Islamophobic violence here.”

According to Nadia Kanani, a Muslim woman living in Flemingdon Park, “Working class communities like ours are constantly battling injustices in the forms of precarious and exploitative work, poor housing conditions, unequal access to education and being shut out of citizenship. In such a context, incidents like this one can be all the more humiliating and painful. They are an assault on our dignity, and cannot be allowed to continue.”

In the neighbouring, predominantly Muslim community of Thorncliffe Park, residents have had many encounters with Islamophobia over the years. Routine experiences of harassment and abuse have been punctuated by flashpoint conflicts over community institutions. For example, many decried the construction of a local mosque in 1995 under the pretext of inadequate parking spaces. Similarly, there were protests held when the TDSB allowed Muslim children to pray at Valley Park Middle School. In light of this history and given its geographical position as the bridging point between Thorncliffe and Flemingdon, it has been chosen as the site for rallying against islamophobia.


TRT T-Shirts

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Presenting TRT’s very own t-shirt series! Designed by working class youth to raise money for Social Justice Scholarships.

John Carmichael, MP, Don Valley West: Vote No for Bill C51!

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Calling on all residents of Ward 26!

TRT's grade 3 students made posters against Bill C51 and islamophobia.
TRT’s grade 3 students made posters against Bill C51 and islamophobia.

Our MP, John Carmichael, is a firm supporter of the dangerous anti-terror Bill C-51. If it passes, more of us will be labelled as terrorists, arrested, spied on and deported without evidence. Let’s see if he is really interested in representing us! Demand that he vote No for Bill C-51. Sign the petition!


Thorncliffe Park residents tackle “twin terrors” facing Muslims in Canada

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By: Davide Mastracci

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On March 21 in Thorncliffe Park, a group gathered to discuss the “twin terrors” facing Muslims in Canada: Islamophobia and imperialism.

The event’s first speaker, Syeda Sadaf, described how Canada has changed for the worse since she arrived from Pakistan nearly a decade ago. Sadaf pointed to Bill C-51, increasing Islamophobia, and a law prohibiting niqabs from being worn at citizenship ceremonies as examples of Canada’s downward spiral.

Sadaf also argued that Muslims must fight back against these intrusions on civil liberties, as opposed to being silent or apologetic. According to Sadaf, “Nothing will be changed by closing your eyes; it will only increase the darkness.”

Sadaf’s statement sums up the consciousness raising mission of the event, held by Thorncliffe Reach-out Teach-in (TRT), a group dedicated to bringing community members “together to discuss and address issues of concern.” Approximately 40 people, mostly Thorncliffe community members, did exactly that in the Jenner Jean-Marie Community Centre.

The range of speakers at the event reflected how intertwined TRT is with the local community.

The event began with a mock citizenship ceremony, put together by a group of teens from the community, that skewered the real process for its nationalist rhetoric, imposition of religious norms as witnessed in the niqab ban, and erasure of Canada’s violent settler history.

The audience who cheered throughout the performance, however, was not just made up of teens. Instead, a large group of parents and elders had also come to find out more about Bill C-51, while their children and others could be heard playing just behind the room’s divider.

Sadia Khan, one of the event organizers, and Riaz Sayani-Mulji, a University of Toronto law student, both gave talks to help inform the community of the new anti-terror legislation.

Khan offered a summary of Canada’s imperialist involvement, from the foundation of the nation on stolen indigenous land, to its current role in military operations in Iraq. Khan noted these missions are often funded by tax dollars, claiming, “Our hard-earned money is going to kill our own people.”

The presentation also looked at the role corporations, as well as Canada’s relations with the United States and Israel, have played in driving Canada into these violent excursions.

Yet Khan noted that Canada has also autonomously embarked on a range of harmful excursions, and therefore deserves to be critiqued to the fullest extent. “Canada is not just a dog, it’s not just a puppet,” Khan said.

Sayani-Mulji’s presentation focused on Bill C-51, with Khan translating his speech into Urdu to ensure the mothers in the audience could fully grasp his message.

Sayani-Mulji asked the crowd how many had experienced first-hand discrimination as Muslims. Most had, citing examples such as getting heckled by passing cars or receiving strange looks on public transport. Sayani-Mulji then noted that, “Islamophobia isn’t just these individual acts, it’s a system.”

Some audience members were completely unaware of Bill C-51, so Sayani-Mulji focused on summarizing the Islamophobic system in Canada, and how the bill will make matters worse. The audience also asked Sayani-Mulji a range of questions, in Urdu and English, and became visibly upset by the range of answers he offered.

The organizers noted the event seemed to achieve its purpose by raising consciousness in a range of Thorncliffe community members, not just the usual crowd of students and activists. As such, it appears Sadaf’s call to action was met, as most who attended the event left with their eyes more open to the ongoing events surrounding them.

Davide Mastracci is a Toronto-based activist and student of journalism. He writes for many news publications. You can follow him on Twitter (@DavideMastracci) or reach him by e-mail at


Iftaar in solidarity with the people of Waziristan

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P1050310On July 19, 2014, TRT and CADiP (Campaign Against Drones in Pakistan) joined hands to organize an iftaar discussion and dinner at the Jenner Jean Community Center in solidarity with the victims of the war on the people of Waziristan. Under pressure from the West, the Pakistan military launched Operation Zarb-e-Azab, allegedly to root out militant havens in the region. This came after a decade of smaller operations and drone attacks in the area that have killed tens of thousands and displaced nearly 5 million. Zarb-e-Azab alone has left more than 600,000 homeless, but the operation still continues with no end in sight. Heavy bombardment and use of artillery gunships means that the region has been completely destroyed. Those displaced by the war are living in poorly managed camps, longing to return home. Read the rest of this entry »

Reaching and Teaching

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TRT holds tutoring sessions for people of all ages. Photo courtesy of TRT.

Every Sunday, over thirty students aged 4 to 28 and even adults attend a free tutoring program called Thorncliffe Reach-Out Teach-In (TRT) at 47 Thorncliffe Park Drive.

TRT started one year ago by young adults who were members of other local social justice organizations to raise awareness on issues such as tenants’ rights issues. TRT started off as a tutoring program, but is starting to provide a variety of workshops to expose their youth to important skills that “everyone should have”.

TRT also hosts workshops for parents to learn more about their rights as a resident and as a Toronto citizen. Topics of previous workshops include educational gap between Thorncliffe schools and Leaside, the neighbouring community, schools – one cause of the issue being lack of involvement of parents at schools, which is because parents don’t have much time from working long hours and trying to make their financial ends meet.
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Highrise hell for low-income families in Toronto

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TRT's Rubena Naeem Speaks with U of T researcher Emily Paradis - Courtesy Toronto Star
TRT’s Rubena Naeem Speaks with U of T researcher Emily Paradis – Courtesy Toronto Star

Overcrowding, elevator breakdowns, broken door locks, persistent pests, peeling paint and the ever-present worry about paying the rent.

That is the growing reality for families with children living in Toronto’s aging highrise apartment towers that dominate the city’s low-income neighbourhoods, according to a University of Toronto study being released Wednesday.

It is the first attempt to define and measure inadequate housing, hidden homelessness and the risk of homelessness among families in these communities, where about half of the city’s tenants live.

Preliminary findings from the research, released last fall, showed that as many as nine in 10 of these families are at risk of homelessness.

The full study paints a broader picture of the housing crisis facing these low-income families by delving into their immigration status, income, education, health and social networks.
Continue reading →

Free Learning

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Shocked by the gross inequalities in Ontario’s education system and the way it is hurting the futures of students in working class communities like Thorncliffe, in 2013 TRT decided to organize its very own tutoring program.

Two years of running this program have confirmed for us that while necessary, numeracy and literacy skills are not sufficient. In order for the children and youth of such marginalized communities to understand and change the world around them, we must create an environment that fosters critical thinking and builds capacities so that they may realize their potential as agents of social justice.

TRT’s team of qualified teachers work with students from grade 1 and up, including parents. We encourage our older students to give back to the program in the form of providing free tutoring for younger kids and becoming community organizers.


image(11)Tutoring Grade 1-2

TRT also provides a platform to host skills workshops that are open to high school and post secondary students and anyone who is interested in participating. Largely intended to cultivate leadership capacities amongst the youth and democratize access to skills and knowledge, these workshops are offered by PhD students, professors and activists from around the city. We offer workshops on topics such as writing, presentations/public speaking, researching, facilitating meetings, designing posters, popular theatre and more.

TRT provides an important space to community residents to learn about, discuss and debate local and international issues. It regularly organizes Know Your Rights Workshops, film screenings and community potlucks. At these events, we are joined by respected academics, lawyers and activists who help us to clarify our understanding of what is happening around us.

When: Every Sunday

Time: 12pm – 2pm

Where: Jenner Jean-Marie Community Center, 48 Thorncliffe Park Drive

** Please note that the Community Learning Centre only runs during the school year. Our first session for the upcoming school year will be on September 27th, 2015.**