#TorontoIsFailingMe: My seniors’ group safeguards the mall

#TorontoIsFailingMe: My seniors’ group safeguards the mall

Toronto’s inner suburbs have become shorthand for crumbling postwar apartment blocks, underfunded schools or gang warfare. They’re among the neighbourhoods with the lowest incomes in the city, the longest trek to a TTC stop, and the highest concentration of immigrants and visible minorities. This month, we’re sharing stories from Torontonians who live in the inner suburbs, told in their own words. Some are shocking, some tragic, some hopeful. Together, they convey an urgent truth: Toronto is failing too many of its citizens. Have a story of your own? Tweet, Facebook, or Instagram with the hashtag #TorontoIsFailingMe to tell us.
#TorontoIsFailingMe: My seniors' group safeguards the mall Wilma Inniss, front and centre, and members of her mall walking group. (Image: Eamon Mac Mahon)

Wilma Inniss, 77

I came to Canada from Trinidad in 1963. When I retired from my job at the ­Ministry of Transportation 14 years ago, a couple of my friends told me about a seniors’ walking group at the Malvern Town ­Centre. I’ve been going ever since, and I now run the program with my younger sister, Gemma.

We meet three times a week, on ­Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, and do laps through the mall from 7:30 to 8:30. And then we do aerobics. We’ve got more than a hundred members, mostly women but some men as well. It’s a mixed crowd, but the majority are from Caribbean islands—Trinidad, Barbados, St. Lucia. I lead the exercise class once or twice a week. We organize dances, dinners, casino trips. You have to pay a toonie a month, and we use that money for birthday parties and to help each other. If someone gets sick or a family member passes away, the walkers make a donation.

Walking through the mall for so long, I’ve seen the good and the bad. A few years ago, you’d see Malvern in the news all the time—stories about shootings and violence. A barber was killed at the mall in 2012, and there was a shooting in the parking lot last May—but those incidents are rare. Mostly it’s just people making mischief. At lunchtime, it’s full of kids eating at the McDonald’s and hanging out. Occasionally you’ll see a big crowd and someone will say, “Oh, somebody just snatched that woman’s purse.” But I don’t feel ­threatened—I’m here with my friends. I like to feel we’ve made a difference.

—as told to Nicholas Hune-Brown