Shanta Sundarason, founder of the Giving Tree Unionville, contributed so many headlines to Markham over the past year, playing significant roles in various community events.
In April, a group of Markham students held a protest with Sundarason’s assistance to demand transparency and sustainability of Chinese fast fashion retailer Shein. They believe that fast fashion is killing the planet through filling up landfills with unwanted clothes and using toxic chemicals in the manufacturing process.
She led a protest against youth exploitation in front of Unionville’s Dairy Queen in July after she learned high school students were paid only half of the minimum wage. “This is illegal, this is having a hugely negative impact on students’ self-esteem, causing stress and anxiety. The owners have to be called out to ensure that any others doing this know that they will also be called out,” she said.
In November, Sundarason organized a candlelight vigil in Unionville to commemorate the loss and suffering in Israel and Palestine, offering people an opportunity to feel the love and support within the community.
Meanwhile, she has been promoting her project called The Canadian Library, which aims to remind Canadians that every missing and murdered Indigenous woman and child has a story. Their names are printed on the spines of books individually hand-wrapped in original, Indigenous-designed fabrics.
Sundarason and her team were invited to host a booth at the One of a Kind Show in Toronto from November and December to share the stories of MMIW and children and the true history of Canada. Many newcomers were touched by the stories and offered to volunteer and learn something new about Canada.
“My passion for civic affairs stems from a deep belief in the power of collective action to bring about positive change,” she noted. “I believe that by addressing issues such as workers’ rights, international conflicts, and cultural appreciation, we can foster a more just and inclusive society.”
As an immigrant and having chosen to call Canada home, Sundarason feels it is incumbent upon her to understand and appreciate the true history of this country and share her strengths to help make this a safe and just space, especially for youth.
Looking ahead to 2024, Sundarason plans to continue advocating for social justice, exploring new avenues for positive impact, and collaborating with like-minded individuals and organizations.
“I have been the Greenbelt champion for Markham, and I will continue to fight to ensure that politicians and businesses are prevented from using protected lands for their own gains,” she said.
The food crisis is an additional fight she hopes to take on because she sees hundreds of thousands of Canadians struggling to feed themselves, and restaurants suffering, with many closing their doors.
“I look forward to the opportunities and challenges that 2024 will bring,” she said, “Together, we can create a more compassionate and equitable world.”
– Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Markham Economist & Sun
The Local Journalism Initiative supports the creation of original civic journalism that is relevant to the diverse needs of underserved communities across Canada, broadening availability and consumption of local and regional news on matters of civic governance. Launched by the Government of Canada in 2019, the Local Journalism Initiative provides news organizations with funding to hire reporters to cover underserved communities.