7 News Archive
Riverdale Community Organization

The Riverdale Community Organization emerged out of discontent at the cities handling of the housing expropriation in the Don Mount renewal zone. In 1969, several religious figures from the area formed the East Don Urban Coalition to represent local interests and hired a permanent organizer named Donald Keating. Unlike many of the ratepayer organizations in Toronto, Keating preferred a strategy of confrontation that he had learned during his days organizing in Chicago. The goal was to organize residents around political actions and protests, to generate small victories and build momentum toward a mass-movement.

After six months several smaller organizations that had formed around specific local issues united to form the Riverdale Community Organization. In the early 1970s the RCO organized campaigns against negligent landlords, planning decisions, schools, transit rates, parking and industrial pollution, all of which had the dual purpose of seeking results and building momentum.

In 1972 the RCO decided to organize an inaugural area convention to unite all of the different interest groups in the area. After several months of organizing and planning on November 12, 1972 approximately 900 local residents attended the first community convention in the Monarch High School. Representatives from various ethnic communities arrived with signs in their own languages and the organizing committee set up translation services in Chinese, Greek and Italian. At the convention the attendees voted to found the Greater Riverdale Organization (GRO). When it came time to vote for a new president a divisive split formed between Anglo-Canadians on one side and representatives from different ethnic communities on the other. A close election threatened to divide the brand-new organization but eventually the different groups arrived at a compromise.

In the coming years the GRO took on expressway expansion and worked to improve local services for new immigrants Unfortunately the GRO slowly declined in influence over the coming years due to factionalism and reduced funding. Many participants, however, remained politically active and moved on to other organizations.

Donald Keating, The Power to Make it Happen: Mass-based Community Organizing, what it is and how it Works (Toronto: Green Tree Publishing, 1974).

Linda Torney, "Greater Riverdale Founding Convention" (7 News, Bov 25, 1972)

Lilian Yates, "Is Community Participation Dead in Riverdale" (7 News, October 9, 1976)