Residents and advocates rallied outside a community centre in Malton on Saturday, demanding more affordable community programs that they say are often inaccessible to low-income families.

“We have very few seniors programs, next to no adult programs and we have a very limited amount of children’s programs,” said Cecelia Lay, a Malton resident with a young daughter that takes swim lessons provided by the City of Mississauga.

There are lots of sports, she explained, but very few offerings in the arts, such as dance classes.

“We’d like to get better community service programs for cheaper, or free,” she continued, adding that many parents in the area struggle to pay for extracurricular activities for their kids.

Lay said that, with assistance from ACORN — an organization that advocates on behalf of low and middle-income families in Canada — she has tried to bring the issues to the attention of the ward’s city councillor, Carolyn Parrish.

Tough choices for families, residents say

In an email to CBC Toronto, Parrish said Malton has one of the lowest recreational fees in Mississauga because those fees are adjusted for income levels in particular areas. She also said that many of the related concerns of the demonstrators — things such as affordable housing and better transit — are issues in communities across the province, and especially in the Greater Toronto Area.

Malton residents also have access to a subsidy program called ‘active assist,’ which provides families with up to $275 for each family member who qualifies, in an effort to make community programs more accessible.

But costs still mount, said Lay, and the situation can be very difficult for families who don’t quite qualify for the subsidy but still struggle financially.

“When you have to choose between food and giving your children an activity, or paying your rent or hydro, it comes down to your kids do nothing,” she said.

“They’re losing out and they don’t have the same opportunities as other children.”

Other residents who attended the rally on Saturday echoed the sentiment that Malton is a “forgotten neighbourhood” that is neglected by city council — the lack of community programming being just a symptom of a deeper problem.

A manager at the community centre told CBC Toronto she is willing to meet with those who gathered to demonstrate, while a spokesperson for ACORN said that Parrish has committed to a meeting in the coming weeks.