Toronto Animal Services, the City division devoted to the care and keeping of Toronto’s furriest citizens, is happy to work with a number of partners to alleviate animal population stresses in its shelters. One of them, a public-private partnership between the City and PetSmart has improved the domestic scene for the City’s furriest citizens.

Typically, PetSmart focuses its retail efforts on pet supplies only; beyond fish and small rodents, the stores don’t make any animals available to the public. They don’t, that is, except for those occasions when they team up with the City’s animal services crew.

Cats from Toronto Animal Services regularly leave the shelter behind to hang at three of PetSmart’s retail locations, thus increasing their exposure and upping the possibility of their adoption. There are between two and 10 there on any given day, and the store can do 600 cat adoptions a year. But PetSmart additionally plays host to adopt-a-thon weekends that match both cats and dogs with grateful new owners. The company runs advertising around the events, which are staffed by store employees and City volunteers, and collects adoption fees on the City’s behalf.

This partnership, which launched in the 1990s, offers a fruitful arrangement for all of its participants. People adopt pets, and find ready access to all the supplies they need to care for them in the same spot. The involved organizations get a blast of goodwill within the community. And, best of all, the itinerant animals get a loving home. Wins bark all around.

So invested is PetSmart Charities in improving the lot of Toronto’s critters, it raises funds (in part through the toonies it collects at the register) to donate to pet-loving initiatives. In all, Toronto Animal Services has been the grateful recipient of four significant grants from this organization, including $10,000 it used to set up a subsidized spay-neuter clinic, $40,000 for a targeted spay-neuter project tackling the City neighbourhoods with the most stray cats (400 kitties benefitted) and $5,000 for buying transportable cages to increase the number of animals it can get to adoption events. Most recently, PetSmart gave the City a $250,000 grant to create the “SNYP—or ‘Spay/Neuter Your Pet’—Truck,” which is a mobile spay/neuter clinic that travels out to low-income communities in Toronto to offer accessible services.

Taken together, the partnership has made great strides in reducing intake at City shelters. And, with shrinking shelter populations, euthanasia rates have improved to the point that, today, no animal is euthanized unless they’re dangerous or critically ill.

PetSmart has been such an integral partner in helping us. It’s working. Now we can see a bright future for animals in Toronto. Elizabeth Glibbery, Manager, Toronto Animal Services

“Every year at Toronto Newcomer Day, tens of thousands of people from around the world choose Toronto as their new home. Half of the city’s residents were born outside of Canada and Toronto has a long history of welcoming newcomers and helping them settle and integrate.Mayor John Tory

In order to celebrate the contributions of newcomers, the City has held an annual Newcomer Day to showcase Toronto’s diverse communities. In 2018, Toronto Newcomer Day will be held on Tuesday, May 29 from 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m at Nathan Phillips Square.

In all, some 6,000 people—including private sponsor groups and newly arrived Syrian refugees—gathered at Nathan Phillips Square for Toronto Newcomer Day 2016 on May 24.

Toronto Newcomer Day is a collaboration of community and agency partners, and sponsors such as Tim Hortons and Metroland Media with the goal of making our newest residents feel welcomed and supported.

Highlights of recent celebrations include a formal stage program headlined by Mayor John Tory who formally proclaimed “Toronto Newcomer Day”. Guests experienced performances by newcomer artists sponsored by the Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation.  A large information fair showcased the services and supports available for newcomers across the city, and a citizenship ceremony supported by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC) was held with Minister of Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada, John McCallum, officially welcoming 60 newcomers as new Canadian citizens.

Other activities ran throughout the day to highlight newcomer contributions. An art exhibit was hosted at City Hall through a collaboration with the Toronto East Quadrant Local Immigration Partnership featuring newcomers’ paintings. A speakers’ corner booth filmed enthusiastic newcomers talking about what they love about Toronto. Passages Canada organized  roaming storytellers throughout the event carrying signs reading, “Ask me my story,” to facilitate conversation amongst participants. Passages Canada also collected digital newcomer stories that they posted online after the event. A popular activity was the volunteer-guided City Hall tours which engaged interested participants including many ESL and LINC students.

Two new initiatives were launched at Toronto Newcomer Day 2016. REFTalks, a speaker series featuring refugees who have made a prominent contribution to Canada  in partnership with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), York University and Ryerson University.

The Welcome Fund, a program which provides a rent supplement to government-assisted Syrian newcomers was also launched. This initiative was made possible by a partnership with the Community Foundations of Canada, Toronto Foundation, COSTI and Polycultural Immigrant and Community Services,

Toronto Newcomer Day 2016 was sponsored by Tim Hortons and Metroland Media. They promoted the initiative within their restaurants and papers. Toronto Newcomer Day was also made possible through valuable partnerships with the Toronto Arts Council and Toronto Arts Foundation, Toronto Region Board of Trade, Toronto East Quadrant Local Immigration Partnership, Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC), and UNHCR.

We have only gained in strength by all the people who have come here and now call Toronto home. Stewardship of that strength may be my most important responsibility as Mayor. Mayor John Tory

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In 2012, during his annual visit to Toronto Island Park, William Meany, a Calgary businessman originally from Mississauga, was astonished to learn that the Toronto Island hedge maze had been dismantled after being crowded out by shade trees. The maze was designed by the late Peter Vanderwerf, landscape designer, in 1967 and it was originally a donation from the Dutch Canadian Society.

The maze was the highlight of my visit to Toronto Island Park as a child. When I found out it had been removed, I knew I had to do something to bring back this Toronto treasure.Meany

Working with Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff, Meany provided all of the materials and equipment required to rebuild the maze to its original specifications, a donation valued at over $200,000. Staff were able to locate the original blueprints drawn by Vanderwerf, which were used to guide restoration of the new maze.

I am thrilled with the results and it gives me great pleasure to know that children will enjoy the new maze as much as I did when I was a child.Meany

Construction began in May 2014 and was completed by September 2014. Over 1,200 black cedars were planted by hundreds of volunteers from various groups, including Boy Scouts Canada, Labatt Breweries, Toronto Island residents and Live Green Toronto. The restoration of the maze has reinstated a landmark feature for one of Toronto’s most significant and well-used public parks. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on June 19, 2015 to officially open the William Meany Hedge Maze on Toronto Island Park.

Two hundred volunteers and six hours is what it took to build Heron Park playground in 2015. This rebuild led to improved accessibility design, including a new AODA-compliant playground surface made of engineered wood fibre and a ramp from a new accessible pathway into the play space.

The new playground is among the latest of Toronto’s “partnership playgrounds.” It was built thanks to a collaboration between Parks, Forestry and Recreation, the U.S. – based charity KaBOOM!, financial services company Foresters Financial, Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough, the Toronto Public Library, and many other partners.

Take a look at the hard work our volunteers did:

To hear more about Heron Park from one of our partner check out this video: