Between 2021 and 2022, SPW examined the working conditions of people in frontline peer positions in Toronto’s social services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

We interviewed 35 peers and 16 supervisors at drop-ins, Community Health Centres (CHCs) and other “low barrier” social service agencies across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We discovered that while peers do powerful community work, they are also subject to discrimination, neglect and double standards that block them from making positive change at their organizations and in their lives.

These forms of oppression emerge from and reinforce white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, cisheteropatriarchy, and ableism.

Based on our findings, SPW demands that agencies:

  • Provide peers with a living wage and better control over their working conditions.
  • Drop racist, ableist, and classist standards of "professionalism".
  • Stop criminalizing and oppressing drug users and people who have survived incarceration.
  • Transform workplace cultures that discriminate against all peer workers, but most of all Black and Indigenous peers.

To support change in the field, SPW has put together several different versions of our findings:

The Full Report

Our 50-page report documents our research process and the values we brought to our work. It defines peer support work as a radical practice and shares stories of resistance and innovation by people working in peer positions. It also documents the oppression that peers face at social service agencies, and explores how managers, supervisors, and other decision makers justify this oppression. It concludes with ideas and strategies for change. Read this if you want to really understand the SPW project and think deeply about our questions and demands.

The Summary Report

Our 6-page summary report contains a brief overview of what SPW did. It also shares a shortened version of our main findings, and a set of demands for social service agencies. Read this if you want to see what can be done right now at organizations to make change.

The Short Report

Our 2-page short report presents our most important research findings and demands in bullet-point format. Read this if you only have a few minutes but want to know about what SPW found and what we think can be done.

Report design and layout provided by The Public, an activist design studio specializing in changing the world.

“People in power are making six figures, and I struggle with that because we taught them.

We have all the expertise and the knowledge, and you take that information from us, and you put it in a book, in a text, in a language that is hard for us to interpret, and we have to come back and ask you [what it means], like you are the one with lived experience? That’s wrong.” –Peer Worker