This Thanksgiving is unlike any other. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new normal, the ongoing issue of systemic racism demands we think critically about our own actions while the climate emergency asks us to consider the planet in all that we do. Perhaps it is time to consider whether or not our current traditions demand a rethink.
Thanksgiving usually kick-starts the holiday season, and it’s the beginning of the busiest time of year for most charity organizations. The food drives, collection baskets and free meals initiatives that have been working hard over the past few months come to fruition when the weather turns colder and the need increases.
We live in a new Toronto, and although there are plenty of stresses and issues we need to grapple with on the daily, there is also an opportunity to forge new paths and create new traditions with our families that reflect the times.
Respect to Indigenous Peoples
The history of Canadian Thanksgiving is complex and isn’t the same as our neighbours to the south, but it does have a lot to do with Indigenous Peoples and in a bad way. We are the colonizers here, and we need to pay respect to those who were here first and in whose territories we continue to live and prosper.
Learn: Spend an afternoon with your family and get to know the Indigenous communities upon whose land your household is located. For instance, Toronto is home to the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples. What can we learn from these First Nations that we can apply to our own lives? How would they give thanks?
Volunteer: Take the time to learn about issues affecting Indigenous communities in the GTA and across Canada. Some Indigenous communities welcome volunteers throughout the year and especially during the holiday season. Find out if there’s an opportunity for you to help out this year by checking the Canada Helps website.
Donate: Help support Indigenous communities by donating food, money or clothing to kids and women that need both tangible and monetary donations. You can contact the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto to find out where you can donate. Also check out the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto.
Consume: Consider shopping at Indigenous-owned businesses and even incorporating Indigenous cuisine into your holiday meals.
A high-five for the planet
Neighbourhood cleanup: Giving praise to the planet on Thanksgiving may seem odd, but it’s actually a great way to say “thanks” for all the Earth does (especially since it takes so much of our abuse). How do you give back to the planet on Thanksgiving? One way is to organize a neighbourhood cleanup of masks and gloves and other discarded debris (make sure to wear proper safety gear while cleaning and stay physically distanced).
Save a duck or turkey or other feathered friend: Why not turn the tables and save a turkey or duck or other feathered friend on Thanksgiving? Animal shelters and farm sanctuaries across the province can always use donations. You can also sign up for an Adopt-A-Turkey program and save a bird from slaughter.
Avoid excess waste: Billions of dollars in uneaten food is thrown away every Thanksgiving. You can cut down on this waste by only cooking what you intend to eat, avoiding buying too much of any one thing, making an effort to only use reusable plates and napkins and donating any extra food to people in need. It may be easier this year than ever before to cut back on Thanksgiving waste as gatherings will be smaller in size.
Support local businesses
Now more than ever, there’s a dire need to support local businesses. If you usually buy your Thanksgiving ingredients from the local supermarket, see what you can find locally.
Vegetables from Toronto Urban Growers: Find a local urban farmer to purchase vegetables and other local goodies. You can track down the closest source to you by visiting the Toronto Urban Growers website. Not only will you be supporting local commerce, you’ll also find that fresh produce can’t be beat.
Turkeys from local farmers: Order a turkey from a local farm this year and skip the guilt that can come with buying a commercially farmed bird. There are lots of farmers surrounding the GTA that will be happy to take your order.
Give to those in need
Scott Mission: Hot meals to-go have been on the menu at the Scott Mission (502 Spadina Ave.) since the start of the pandemic. From Monday to Saturday, free meals are available at the mission, and staff confirm that Thanksgiving will be no exception. Mission staff isn’t sure if the Thanksgiving meal will be to-go this year, but they have confirmed that it will “still be delicious!”
Toronto Lawyers Feed the Hungry (TLFH): This organization will be serving a Thanksgiving meal on Sunday, Oct. 11, at 10 a.m. The group doesn’t know what the menu will look like, yet, but it’s one place to grab a great meal or ask to volunteer.
Good Shepherd: The Thanksgiving Food Drive for the Homeless is a great way to give back. Good Shepherd Ministries will help you organize your own food drive and show you how to support the homeless during the holiday season and throughout the rest of the year. Visit the Good Shepherd website to help.