Toronto, April 29, 2022 – The Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto (MCC Toronto) today announced the naming of the Paul Austin Human Rights Centre and the expansion of community accessible human rights programming. The Centre will build on MCC Toronto’s 50-year history of advocacy for LGBTQ2S+ rights, its work with refugees and extend its advocacy to fight islamophobia, anti-Semitism and transphobia.
The naming was announced as part of the launch of the ELEVATION – MCC Toronto Campaign, a $5 million fundraising campaign. The P. Austin Family Foundation’s lead gift of $1.38 million to the Campaign is the largest single gift ever received by MCC. The Austin family and foundation are long-time supporters of organizations and causes that promote equality and human rights as well as social justice in society.
At a ceremony today at the Church in Riverdale, Mayor John Tory proclaimed, “This is an exciting step forward for MCC Toronto and for our city as this will help us further spearhead change in our city. Toronto prides itself on being an equitable and inclusive city and through MCC Toronto we can further demonstrate our commitment to our values. MCC Toronto has been a leader when it comes to human rights including their work marrying the world’s first legalized same sex couple. While much has been done we still have more work to do in human rights advocacy. Expansion of the work happening through MCC and this centre will help us achieve this critical work. Thank you to MCC Toronto for being strong examples for our city and within the community.”
The event also announced the launch of the public fundraising portion of the ELEVATION Campaign Toronto with $4.75 million already raised towards a $5 million fundraising goal that will fund new programming, renovations to the existing space and the creation of an endowment.
Paul Austin said, “The work that MCC Toronto does reaches many people and promoting equality and human rights is fundamental to a just society. We are proud to support this meaningful initiative.”
Rev. Jeff Rock, the Senior Pastor of MCC Toronto, said, “As a diverse faith community with a local and global reach, thanks to our in person and online programming, MCC Toronto is grateful for the support we’ve received through the ELEVATION Campaign that will truly allow us to continue building on 50 years of human rights legacy and address outstanding human rights concerns in our city, country, and world.”
The ELEVATION Campaign was co-chaired by supporter Michael McCain and former Board Chair Anne Brayley. Michael McCain said, “My family have been long-term advocates and supporters of the inspiring work of MCC, who represent the values of human rights and inclusion we hold so dear as Canadians. I am grateful for the support we have received in this campaign to accelerate and elevate the human rights work of MCC, providing an endowment for an ever-changing world that has made great progress, but there is so much more to do.” Ann Brayley is leading the public and congregational fundraising element of the campaign.
It was also announced that BMO Financial Group made a lead corporate gift of $300,000, and that their support will be earmarked for leadership training initiatives.
“Driven by BMO’s Purpose to Boldly Grow the Good in business and life, we share a vision of building an inclusive and more just society,” said Scott Brison, Vice-Chair, Investment & Corporate Banking, BMO Capital Markets. “We are proud to support MCC Toronto’s ELEVATION Campaign and their community-based human rights advocacy. By investing in the ELEVATION Campaign’s Leadership Development initiatives, we will be providing training and educational opportunities for the next generation of human rights leaders. Together, we can make meaningful progress towards eliminating barriers and accelerating positive change to inclusion in our communities.”
RBC Foundation will fund a new “Building Youth Human Rights” Program training initiative. Other major Campaign donors include: Margaret McCain, Michael McCain, Andrew and Valerie Pringle, John Lederer, Mark S. Bonham, Geoff Beattie and Amanda Lang.
To creating lasting change MCC will hire a new Director of Human Rights to expand its programming with community accessible training and forums. As well, MCC Toronto’s LGBTQ+ Refugee Programs, including recent efforts to bring refugees from the Ukraine and Afghanistan, will be strengthened through annual core funding as Canada’s only LGBTQ2S+ Sponsorship Agreement Holder with the Federal Government. MCC also seeks to entrench and deepen partnerships with diverse communities.
Space and core funding for the Triangle Program High School, North America’s longest running high school for LGBQT2S+ students will be extended. The Church will also be outfitted as a hub for human rights and community programs.
A Timeline of MCC Toronto’s Legacy Human Rights Work
Under Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes, MCC Toronto has long fought for human rights. Brent played a key role in activating Canada’s LGBTQ2S+ movement by protesting police brutality in association with the Toronto Bath House raids in 1981, a defining moment in Canadian queer history.
MCC Toronto provided vital support to people with AIDS/HIV, as the pandemic devastated the gay community in the 1990s and continues to advocate for services and supports for those living with HIV/AIDS.
MCC Toronto also played a landmark role in enshrining same sex marriage and adoption rights in Ontario and Canada. Canada’s example led to 30 other countries around the world changing their laws. Rev. Dr. Brent Hawkes performed the first legalized same sex marriage in the world in this building.
Recently, Rev. Jeff Rock and other national advocates fought for the federal government to ban conversion therapy, a victory secured in December 2021. And he expanded MCC Toronto’s human rights goals recognizing that none of us are truly free until all of us are free. MCC Toronto is also active in LGBTQ+ refugee work for people from Ukraine, Afghanistan and around the world.