The Lieutenant Governor and former CivicAction CEO Sevaun Pelvetzian

City building
In a poignant email to friends and close colleagues the great civic entrepreneur and visionary David Pecaut wrote of Toronto, “The most amazing thing that struck me at every turn was how many people from all walks of life in this city were passionately concerned with making it a great city.” Pecaut had a talent for convening people from varying backgrounds to collaborate on bold city-building goals. In 2002, he founded Toronto City Summit Alliance, now named CivicAction, before passing away in 2009. Today CivicAction remains a lasting legacy of Pecaut’s dedication to the city and region.

CAVAS summit 2019 panelists on stage at the AGO

Inclusive cities
CivicAction is a non-profit organization that brings together established and emerging leaders from many sectors to tackle complex challenges impacting the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Every four years the non-profit hosts a summit that invites hundreds of civic leaders to connect and collaborate to resolve pressing urban issues. In 2019, the organization’s then-CEO Sevaun Palvetzian advocated for including new voices along with the next generation of leaders. Together they identified five areas of focus: the future of work for youth, unlocking inclusion in our cities, affordable housing, resilience to climate shock, and sex trafficking. Palvetzian’s message was simple, “We’re CivicAction, not CivicChitChat.”

Collective leadership
Before stepping down in early 2020, Palvetzian led the launch of MindsMatter, CivicAction’s mental health assessment toolthat supports workplace culture and practices nationwide. Recently named one of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women, Sevaun Palvetzian is one of many influential leaders, board members, supporters and participants who have built CivicAction into the premier civic engagement organization in the country. As David Pecaut wrote, “Toronto’s gift to the world could be this unique and powerful model of city building that comes from collective leadership.” His passion and insight was a gift to his beloved city, and an inspiration to the many people who have since come together to improve the lives of millions.

The Lieutenant Governor stands with Diversity Fellows participants in the Lieutenant Governor's Suite

CivicAction focuses on building inclusive cities that value the perspectives, experiences, abilities, and aspirations of all their residents. Throughout my term as Lieutenant Governor, I have seen how important it is that the places where we work, play, raise families, study, and age are resilient. All voices and experiences must be at the table when we look to build a future that works for everyone. The vision of David Pecault has, since 2002, been faithfully adhered to through CivicAction.

Indeed, all great leaders often see beyond their own immediate experience to a time when their work is realized for future generations. We are learning the importance of this vision today, in the activism from our youth and discontent we see in inequalities around the world.

In 2019, I attended the organization’s latest summit and was able to meet with people from non-profit, business, health services, government, academia, and more whose energy and enthusiasm was channeled into action. They were not merely content to discuss or ‘admire the problems’ facing their communities, together, they were inspired to act and make long-lasting change.

CivicAction is an organization that, through its very existence, seeks to address today’s challenges head on. The impact of its work in the five areas; future of work for youth, unlocking inclusion in our cities, affordable housing, resilience to climate shock, and sex trafficking, is already apparent. The lessons from its initiatives are being shared beyond Toronto to the rest of the province and I look forward to watching this organization as it expands its reach, influence, and impact.