Haven Toronto and May Birchard

Here is a short video from Haven Toronto about their organization and their Founder, one of the first female City Councillors, May Birchard.

May Birchard was a City of Toronto councillor and anti-poverty activist. During the First World War the family moved to Winnipeg. On her return to Toronto in the mid-1930s, Birchard founded the The Good Neighbours’ Club, now Haven Toronto, which continues to operate on Jarvis Street.

She first served as a Toronto school board trustee in 1942. At the height of the war she pushed for daycare for the children of women helping with the war effort for free meals for impoverished children. She was elected to Toronto City Council in 1946. She represented Ward 2 which was a mixed area west of the Don River. The northern part of the riding was Rosedale, the wealthiest part of the city. The southern part was Cabbagetown, then one of the poorest neighbour hoods.

On the council she pushed for women’s rights, most notably on improving access to birth control. She was also an advocate for the poor and for more social housing, including strong support for the Regent Park project that was built in her ward in the era. In honour of her efforts a Toronto Community Housing Corporation building at Dundas and Broadview was named the May Birchard Apartments.