Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA): The AODA is the Province’s legislation, enacted in 2005, with a goal of making Ontario accessible by 2025. To ensure that Ontario’s 1.8 million people with disabilities can participate fully in their communities, it set mandatory, province-wide accessibility standards in five areas of daily life: customer service, employment, information and communications, transportation, and design of public spaces.


Affordable housing: Affordable housing is defined as housing costs that do not exceed 30% of household income, in contrast to other definitions based on the housing market—for example, affordable housing defined as rental housing that is 80% or less than gross market rents.


Anchor institutions: Anchor institutions are defined as “large public or non-profit institutions rooted in a specific place, such as hospitals, universities or municipal governments.” Their size means they may provide the most employment opportunities or be the single biggest purchaser of goods and services in their community. [i]


Average: The average equals the sum of all the values, divided by the number of values being studied. For example, in a population of 10 people, if one person earns $1 million and nine earn $30,000, the average income would be $127,000, whereas the median income in the sample would be $30,000.

Also see: Median.


Business establishment: An establishment refers to any business or firm location. Some businesses, such as a restaurant chain, may have a number of establishments at different locations.


Capital budget: The City of Toronto’s capital budget sets aside future funding for the construction and repair of transit, roads, bridges, public buildings (such as libraries, community centres and fire stations), water and sewer facilities, parks and other major infrastructure projects. The City of Toronto updates and presents a new 10-year Capital Budget and Plan each year as part of the annual budget process. The capital budget is primarily funded by property taxes.  Other funds come from reserves, development charges, other levels of government and by borrowing funds or taking on debt.


Also see: Operating budget.


Cannabis dispensary: A storefront where cannabis (marijuana) products and paraphernalia are sold.


Census family: A census family is defined as a married couple and the children, if any, of either or both spouses; a couple living common law and the children, if any, of either or both partners; or, a lone parent of any marital status with at least one child living in the same dwelling as that child or those children. All members of a particular census family live in the same dwelling. A couple may be of opposite or same sex. Children may be children by birth, marriage or adoption regardless of their age or marital status as long as they live in the dwelling and do not have their own spouse or child living in the dwelling. Grandchildren living with their grandparent(s) but with no parents present also constitute a census family (Statistics Canada definition).



Census metropolitan area (CMA): Statistics Canada defines a CMA as an area consisting of one or more neighbouring municipalities situated around a core. A CMA must have a total population of at least 100,000, 50,000 or more of whom live in the core. The Toronto CMA (also known as the “Toronto Region” or “Region”) is the largest metropolitan area in Canada, stretching from Ajax and Pickering in the east, to Milton in the west and Tecumseth and Georgina in the north. Almost half the population of the Toronto Region resides in the city of Toronto.


Census tract: Census tracts are small, relatively stable geographic areas that usually have a population between 2,500 and 8,000 persons. They are located in census metropolitan areas and in other population areas that had a core population of 50,000 or more in the previous census.

Child poverty: Children are defined as living in poverty when they are a part of low-income families. The definition of “low income” varies by the measure being used, and there is currently no consensus among anti-poverty advocates, researchers, decision-makers or media as to the best measure.


For a discussion of poverty measures, see Richard Shillington and John Stapleton (2010), Cutting Through the Fog: Why is it So Hard to Make Sense of Poverty Measures?


Also see: Low-Income Measure, Low Income Cut Off, and Gini coefficient.


Crime Severity Index: The police-reported Crime Severity Index (CSI) was introduced in the spring of 2009 to enable Canadians to track changes in the severity of police-reported crime from year to year. Each type of offence is assigned a weight derived from actual sentences handed down by courts in all provinces and territories. Weights are calculated using the five most recent years of available sentencing data. More serious crimes are assigned higher weights; less serious offenses lower weights. As a result, when all crimes are included, more serious offenses have a greater impact on changes in the Index.


Diversity: For the purposes of this Report, diversity within a group is measured in terms of race and ethnicity, rather than a broader range of diverse characteristics.


Downtown core: For the purposes of this Report, Toronto’s downtown core refers to the area bounded on the north by Bloor Street, on the west by Spadina Avenue, on the east by Jarvis Street, and on the south by Queen’s Quay.


Established immigrant: Established immigrants refer to those who have resided in Canada 10 years or more.


Also see: Recent immigrant.


Food desert: A lower-income area with relatively few supermarkets nearby.[ii]


Food insecurity: The UN defines food security as access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet dietary needs and preferences for an active and healthy life. Food insecurity has been monitored in Canada since 2004. On the basis of an 18-question survey of the experience of household members, households are judged to be:

  • Marginally food insecure: Worry about running out of food and/or limit food selection because of lack of money for food;
  • Moderately food insecure: Compromise in quality and/or quantity of food because of lack of money for food; or
  • Severely food insecure: Miss meals, reduce food intake and, at the extreme, go day(s) without food.


Food system: Food systems are chains of commercial and non-commercial actors—from suppliers to consumers, regulators to advocates for system change—who collectively determine how we grow, process, distribute, acquire and dispose of food (Municipal Food Policy Entrepreneurs definition).


Gini coefficient: Named after the Italian statistician Corrado Gini, the Gini coefficient is a simple, relative measure of income inequality. It calculates the extent to which income distribution varies from a perfectly equal distribution. A Gini coefficient of 0 represents complete equality (all people have the same income), and a coefficient of 1 represents complete inequality (one person has all the income, and the rest of the population has nothing). Its focus is on relative income distribution, rather than real levels of poverty and prosperity in society.


For a discussion of poverty measures, see Richard Shillington and John Stapleton (2010), Cutting Through the Fog: Why is it So Hard to Make Sense of Poverty Measures?


Also see: Low-Income Measure and Low Income Cut Off.


Gross Domestic Product (GDP): GDP is a measure of a jurisdiction’s annual official economic output. The most direct way of determining GDP is to add up the value of production in all categories of economic enterprise. To bring the Canadian System of National Economic Accounts into line with international standards, the valuation of production is now calculated according to basic prices. GDP at basic prices (as opposed to GDP at factor costs or at market prices) includes indirect taxes (for example property taxes, capital taxes and payroll taxes) but excludes taxes and subsidies attached to the factors of production (for example sales taxes, fuel taxes, duties and taxes on imports, excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol products and subsidies paid on agricultural commodities, transportation services and energy).[iii] It should be noted, however, that GDP is seen by some as a deeply flawed measure, as it excludes the value of work that is not performed for money, nor does it consider the costs associated with the economic output, such as future economic costs or environmental costs.[iv]


Hidden homelessness: The Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (formerly the Canadian Homelessness Research Network) defines the “hidden homeless,” often referred to as “couch surfers,” as those left with little choice other than to temporarily stay (whether in their current hometown or a new community) with friends, family, or even strangers. They do so because they do not immediately have the means to secure their own permanent housing; typically, they are not paying rent. The hidden homeless differ from those who choose to stay with others while waiting for pre-arranged accommodation. People accessing short-term, temporary rental accommodations (in motels, hostels, rooming houses, etc.) that do not offer the possibility of permanency are also often considered among the hidden homeless population.[v]
Homelessness: The Canadian Definition of Homelessness, by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness (formerly the Canadian Homelessness Research Network), describes a range of housing and shelter circumstances, with people without any shelter at one end, and those insecurely housed at the other. Homelessness encompasses a range of physical living situations, organized here in a typology that includes:

  • Unsheltered, or absolutely homeless and living on the streets or in places not intended for human habitation;
  • Emergency Sheltered, including those staying in overnight shelters for people who are homeless, as well as shelters for those impacted by family violence;
  • Provisionally Accommodated, referring to those whose accommodation is temporary or lacks security of tenure; and
  • At Risk of Homelessness, referring to people who are not homeless, but whose current economic and/or housing situation is precarious or does not meet public health and safety standards. It should be noted that for many people homelessness is not a static state but rather a fluid experience, where one’s shelter circumstances change. Although many included in the category will not end up in shelters, their housing situation is defined as such because it is insecure or unstable.[vi]


Inclusionary zoning: Inclusionary zoning refers to municipal planning regulations that require a given share of new construction to be affordable by people with low to moderate incomes.


Intimate partner violence (IPV): IPV is the systematic use of tactics—such as intimidation, isolation, and threats, as well as emotional, financial, physical, and sexual abuse—to induce fear and/or dependency in order to gain power and control over another’s thoughts, beliefs, and conduct (Registered Nurses Association of Ontario definition).

LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a set of rating systems regulated by national bodies like the Canada Green Building Council and the World Green Building Council for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes and neighbourhoods. Green buildings can have advanced air ventilation systems, utilize for more natural daylight, produce less waste, conserve energy, and/or decrease water consumption. Criteria for certification continue to evolve as emerging green building technologies advance.


LGBTQ*: LGBTQ is an acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer or Questioning and is used to designate a marginalized community of people who self-identify within a spectrum/kaleidoscope of gender identity and sexual orientations.


Low Income Cut Off (LICO): The LICO is defined as the income levels at which 70% or more of a family’s before tax income is spent on food, shelter and clothing. It takes into account the total family income, the number of people supported by that income, and the population size of the municipality where they live. For example:


Census Metropolitan Area (500,000 inhabitants or more)
Family Unit Size 2013 After Tax Low income Cut-off (1992 base)[vii]
1 person $ 19,774
2 persons $ 24,066
3 persons $ 29,968
4 persons $ 37,387

The LICO has been criticized for not reflecting regional differences, and because it has not been updated to reflect changes in spending patterns since 1992. The LICO can be calculated both before and after taxes.


For a discussion of poverty measures, see Richard Shillington and John Stapleton (2010), Cutting Through the Fog: Why is it So Hard to Make Sense of Poverty Measures?


Also see: Low-Income Measure and Gini coefficient.


Low-Income Measure (LIM): The LIM is used for international comparisons and is increasingly being adopted by the anti-poverty movement in Canada. It is a relative measure of low income. LIM is a fixed percentage (50%) of median family income adjusted based on a consideration of family needs. The family size adjustment reflects the precept that family needs increase with family size. For the LIM, each additional adult, first child (regardless of age) in a lone-parent family, or child over 15 years of age is assumed to increase the family’s needs by 40% of the needs of the first adult. Each child less than 16 years of age (other than the first child in a lone-parent family) is assumed to increase the family’s needs by 30% of the first adult. A family is considered to be low income when their income is below the Low-Income Measure (LIM) for their family type and size. The LIM has been criticized for defining poverty in relative rather than absolute terms, as it incorporates contemporary living standards and is adjusted in some way to maintain this relationship, rather than being indexed to prices only. The LIM can be calculated both before and after taxes.


For a discussion of poverty measures, see Richard Shillington and John Stapleton (2010), Cutting Through the Fog: Why is it So Hard to Make Sense of Poverty Measures?


Also see: Low Income Cut Off and Gini coefficient.


Median: The median equals the mid-point in distribution of a number of values being studied, where one half is above and the other half below. For example, in a population of 10 people, if one person earns $1 million and nine earn $30,000, the median income in the sample would be $30,000, whereas the average income would be $127,000.


Also see: Average.


Mode share: Mode share is an indicator that measures the share of various modes of transportation, most often walking, bicycling, public transit, and driving. Municipalities are increasingly encouraging the more healthy and sustainable active transportation (walking and cycling) and public transit modes as a shift away from motorized transport.


Office sector: Employment activity in the city of Toronto is categorized by sector. The broadest breakdown is into six sectors: manufacturing, retail, office, service, institutions (education, health, religious and other institutions) and other. The office sector includes:

  • mining, manufacturing, transportation, utilities, construction and resource production (office workers);
  • finance, insurance and real estate;
  • business and technical services;
  • communications and media;
  • trade and personal services;
  • health service offices;
  • government; and
  • associations

Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP): ODSP is a provincial program of income and employment support to those in Ontario with a physical or mental disability of long duration (more than one year). Income support is available to those in financial need who also face substantial restrictions that prevent them from working, taking care of themselves, or participating in community life.


Ontario Works: Ontario Works is the name of the Provincial social assistance program that provides eligible Ontario residents with financial assistance to help cover the costs of basic needs (e.g., food and housing costs), and employment assistance to assist in preparing for and finding employment.


Operating budget: The City of Toronto’s operating budget covers day-to-day spending on services such as recreational programs, parks maintenance, beaches, city roads, garbage collection, delivery of safe drinking water, and police and other emergency services. Some of the funds for the operating budget come from property tax. The remainder comes from Provincial transfers and user fees.

Also see: Capital budget.


Permanent resident: Permanent residents are those in Canada who are not Canadian citizens but who have been granted permission to live and work in Canada without any time limit on their stay. A permanent resident must live in Canada for two years out of every five, or risk losing that status.


Police Reported Crime Rate (PRCR): The PRCR is a rate per 100,000 population measuring changes in the volume of reported crime, and counts each criminal incident equally. As a result, the rate is dominated by high-volume, less-serious offenses.

Also see: Violent Crime Severity Index.


Precarious employment (or employment precarity): Precarious employment is employment that is uncertain, insecure and lacks the benefits associated with conventional full-time, permanent work. Those in precarious employment are more likely to receive no benefits, face irregular hours and shifts, be paid minimum wage (sometimes in cash), have to pay for their own training, and face limited career prospects.


Priority neighbourhoods: In 2005, the City’s Strong Neighbourhoods Task Force recommended the designation of 22 areas of Toronto (commonly reported as 13, as some adjacent communities are grouped and counted as one) that faced particular economic and social challenges for particular attention and investment. Some of these challenges included low income, high levels of unemployment, and high numbers of recent immigrants. These 13 Priority Neighbourhoods (sometimes referred to as Priority Areas) were:

In April 2014 Toronto City Council approved a recommendation by Social Development, Finance and Administration staff to increase the number of priority neighbourhoods from 13 to 31. A name change occurred as well, with these neighbourhoods now being called Neighbourhood Improvement Areas (or NIAs). Of the original 22 neighbourhoods, eight no longer qualify as neighbourhoods requiring targeted investment: Westminster-Branson, Malvern, Dorset Park, L’Amoreaux, Yorkdale-Glen Park, Steeles, Englemount-Lawrence and Humber Heights-Westmount.

The 31 NIAs are:

  • Beechborough-Greenbrook
  • Birchmount-Eglinton East (BEE) (previously “Ionview”)
  • Black Creek
  • Downsview-Roding-CFB
  • Eglinton East
  • Elms-Old Rexdale
  • Flemingdon Park
  • Glenfield-Jane Heights
  • Humber Summit
  • Humbermede
  • Keelesdale-Eglinton West
  • Kennedy Park
  • Kingston Road/Galloway Road/Orton Park Road (previously “West Hill”)
  • Kingsview Village-The Westway
  • Mornelle Court (previously “Morningside”)
  • Mount Dennis
  • Mount Olive-Silverstone-Jamestown
  • Oakridge
  • Regent Park
  • Rockcliffe-Smythe
  • Rustic
  • Scarborough Village
  • South Parkdale
  • Taylor-Massey (previously “Crescent Town”)
  • Thistletown-Beaumond Heights
  • Thorncliffe Park
  • Victoria Village
  • Weston
  • Weston-Pellam Park
  • Woburn
  • York University Heights

    For more information, including description of the 15 indicators of neighbourhood inequity used to choose the NIAs, see the City’s Neighbourhood equity index: Methodological documentation.

Professional Employment in Arts and Culture: Using the National Occupational Codes defined by Statistics Canada, professional occupations in art and culture include:

  • librarians, archivists, conservators, and curators;
  • writing, translating and related communications professionals; and
  • creative and performing artists.


Racialized: Racialized is a term that is increasingly used in place of “visible minority” or “racial minority.” It affirms that “race” is a social construct imposed upon people and used to discriminate against those people on the basis of generalizations and stereotypes that are perceived to be associated with particular physical and cultural characteristics.

Also see: Visible minority.


Recent immigrant: Recent immigrants refer to those who arrived in Canada in the five years prior to a particular census. The most recent immigrants are those who arrived in Canada between January 1, 2006, and Census Day, May 16, 2011.

Also see: Established immigrant.


Refugee claimant: A refugee “claimant” (the term used in Canadian law) is a person who has fled their country in fear for their life and is asking for protection in another country—unlike an immigrant, who chooses to move to another country. We don’t know whether a claimant is a “refugee” or not until their case has been decided (Canadian Council for Refugees definition). Refugee claimants have temporary resident status but have no access to federal programs or provincial programs such as Ontario Works and OHIP.


Resilience: Resilience is the ability of a system, entity, community, or person to withstand shocks while still maintaining its essential functions and to recover quickly and effectively (Rockefeller Foundation definition).


Self-reported data: Self-reported data is information reported by study participants themselves rather than measured independently. Self-reported data is subject to bias, as respondents may over- or under-report. Activity levels, for example, tend to be over-estimated, while obesity tends to be under-reported.


Sharing economy: A market model based on the trade of goods and services involving online transactions, sometimes using social media. Its disruption of current markets with technologies like the online accommodation marketplace Airbnb and the transportation app Uber is requiring governments to consider regulating both the sharing economy and affected markets. Originally growing out of the open-source community to refer to peer-to-peer based sharing of access to goods and services, the term is now sometimes used in a broader sense to describe any sales transactions that are done via online market places, even ones that are business to consumer (B2C), rather than peer-to-peer. For this reason, the term sharing economy has been criticised as misleading, some arguing that services that enable peer-to-peer exchange can be primarily profit-driven.


Social capital: Social capital refers to networks of social relationships between individuals and groups with shared values and assets that benefit those individuals, groups and communities, and the larger society. Examples of social capital include networks of social support, membership in voluntary organizations and associations, civic participation, and levels of trust and sense of belonging to the community. By investing in and leveraging social networks, social capital can be developed to help communities build and create together.


Social housing: Sometimes called subsidized housing, social housing is housing that receives some form of government or not-for-profit subsidy. Forms of social housing include some housing co-ops (with rent geared to income for low-income residents, or housing geared to specific low-income groups such as seniors or artists), public housing (where the government directly manages the property), and rent supplements (paid to landlords). Tenants must generally meet eligibility requirements for social housing.

Unemployed: The unemployment rate expresses the number of unemployed persons as a percentage of the labour force (the labour force is the population aged 15 and over who were either employed or unemployed; it does not include those who were not working nor anticipating a return to work within four weeks, nor does it include those not available nor looking for work). Unemployed persons are defined as those who are available for work but without it, and either on temporary layoff, had looked for work in the past four weeks, or had a job to start within the next four weeks (from Employment and Social Development Canada, using Statistics Canada definitions from the Guide to the Labour Force Survey).


Violent Crime Severity Index: In addition to the overall police-reported Crime Severity Index, the Violent Crime Severity Index measures only violent crime. It is also available for crimes committed by youth.

Also see: Crime Severity Index.


Visible minority: Visible minority refers to whether or not a person, under criteria established by the Employment Equity Act, is non-Caucasian or non-white. Under the Act, an Aboriginal person is not considered to be a visible minority. The term is controversial and deemed by many to be problematic for a number of reasons. It is vague and subject to confusion. In some instances it is used to refer to ethnicity or nationality, which may include both white and non-white people; in others to sub-regions of entire continents (East Asia, for example), which comprise multiple ethnic and racial groups.[ix] Throughout this Report, the term is used when original source material uses the term.

Also see: Racialized.


Working poor: For the purposes of this Report, a member of the working poor is an independent adult between the ages of 18 and 64, and not a student, with earnings of at least $3,000 per year, but an income below the median Low-Income Measure (LIM) (Metcalf Foundation definition).



[i] Nevena Dragicevic. (2015). Mowat Centre and Atkinson Foundation. Last accessed February 22, 2016 from The Prosperous Province: Strategies for Building Community Wealth

[ii] City of Toronto, Toronto Public Health. (June 2015). Toronto Food Strategy: 2015 Update. Last accessed February 22, 2016 from

[iii] United Nations. Water and Food Security. Last accessed August 2, 2016 from

[iv] Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. (2009). Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Frequently asked questions. Last accessed June 12, 2015, from

[v] Jim Stanford. (2008). Economics for Everyone: A Short Guide to the Economics of Capitalism (1st ed.), Canada: Fernwood Publishing/Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

[vi] Canadian Homelessness Research Network. (2012). Canadian Definition of Homelessness. Homeless Hub. Last accessed June 12, 2015, from

[vii] Canadian Homelessness Research Network. (2012). Canadian Definition of Homelessness. Homeless Hub. Last accessed June 12, 2015, from

[viii] Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. (2014). Low income after tax cut-off 2013. Special request.

[ix] For an expanded discussion of this term, see Myer Siemiatycki, The Diversity Gap, pp. 2-3, last accessed June 12, 2015, from