St. James town is one of the most populated, diverse and multicultural neighbourhoods in Toronto. It has a population of more than 18,000 people, many of whom are immigrants and newcomers. However not many people know that St. James Town is also home to approximately 1,000 Indigenous residents. Who are the Indigenous communities that live in the area and what are their needs? To help answer these questions, we turned to the Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council (TASSC).
TASSC is an organization made up of 18 different Native groups that are serving communities across the city in different areas. It offers many services like housing and shelter, employment, education, in addition to cultural and many other support services.
According to Lindsay (Swooping Hawk) Ketschmer, the Executive Director of TASSC, the needs of Indigenous communities vary from one area to another. However, housing has been an increasingly dominant issue in addition to the growing isolation of Indigenous people and the need for mental health support. Food security is another concern. TASSC has done a great job reaching out to people since the beginning of the pandemic to get them familiar with the group’s online portal. The organization helps people with access to transportation, food, clothes, childcare, medicine, as well as support with addiction. TASCC tries to make as many people as possible aware of the multiple services it offers.
Ketschmer believes that as much as the pandemic disrupted our lives, it also showed us how beautifully we can work together. TASSC and its member agencies work together to provide services and support. “When talking about indigenous communities, we need to think of each other as one community,” she says.
When asked about how the St. James Town neighbourhood can come together and build more bonds in order to support Indigenous populations, Ketschmer had some sage advice.
“It is important to locate where we are, it’s necessary to connect and reach out to each other.” Ketschmer recommends searching online, getting to know the geographically close cultural centres or First Nations friendship centres. “We have a very rich vibrant community. Find out who are the local service providers and the Indigenous residents of your neighbourhood.”
A recent initiative taken on by the City of Toronto, is collecting data that shows where folks are located by postal code across the GTA. It is important to know where Indigenous people and those that identify as Indigenous, are living in the neighbourhood. “There is a long standing history of Indigenous communities in Regent Park and St. James Town as well.” says Ketschmer.
To learn more about TASSC and Indigenous issues visit