Junction Residents Association focused on combatting hate, building community

In order to build inclusivity in The Junction neighbourhood, a group of residents has developed the 'Hate has no home here' campaign. Nick Westoll has more.

As Toronto has seen a recent surge in hate-motivated incidents, the Junction Residents Association (JRA) has been working on a grassroots campaign aimed at combatting hatred.

“One of the values that we have as an organization is inclusiveness,” Helen Vassilakos, the organization’s co-chair, said.

“We wanted to make sure that that message was clear in our neighbourhood.”

Two-and-a-half years ago, the JRA developed the “Hate has no home here” campaign, which is based on a similar initiative in Oakville. The campaign involves lawn signs and window decals. The organization has sold around 25 window decals and 75 lawn signs to date. The proceeds of sales were set to go toward funding educational workshops for Junction residents.

“If anything, this brings people to a conversation about the issue,” Vassilakos said, referencing the campaign.

“There’s one person that had mentioned that they had someone who came to do work at their house and they made a note of coming back and just telling them that they really appreciated that sign being at their home.”

The design incorporates a train to honour the rail history in The Junction along with hearts showing solidarity with 2SLGBTQ+, Black, Indigenous and religious communities and people with disabilities.

Vassilakos described the area as having a “small-town feel” with the benefits of living in a big city, adding there’s “a real sense of connection in this community.” She said while there wasn’t one particular factor in developing the campaign, there was a feeling more needed to be done to show support for all.

“I think it just really keeps it top of mind and keeps us motivated to keep doing something even if it’s in our corner of the world,” Vassilakos said.

“It at least makes us feel like we’re not helpless and that we can find a way to support people who are actually going through the trauma of everything that’s going around.”

Stefano Petti, the owner of Petti Fine Foods, a business focused on selling fresh pasta and Italian food items, took a window decal and sign early in the campaign.

“Everything’s so negative in the world bringing that cloud over everybody’s day is what causes more of it, so why not just try to be positive and enlighten everybody rather than darken it,” he said.

Petti said he’s operated his business in other parts of the GTA, but The Junction has stood apart. He said the area’s community spirit needs to be celebrated and enriched.

“I’m so happy that we landed in The Junction because that neighbourhood has been overwhelmingly welcoming to us … everybody’s beautiful,” Petti said.

“You’ll catch people having conversations on the street scene … they’re not just walking past and treating them like another day.”

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