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Fulsome and Inclusive Community Consultation Required For Somali Culture & Recreation Centre and Proposed Buttonwood Park Location 

CREATE TO and the City of Toronto To Lease 3 Acres of Buttonwood Public Park For Development 

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On June 18, 2024 the Executive Committee, City of Toronto deferred the item regarding the proposed location of Buttonwood Park as the location for the Somali Culture and Recreation Centre to July 16, 2024 to allow for further consultation and consideration with the local community, Somali community and City staff.

The initial proposal was for the long-term land lease for 3 acres of Buttonwood Public Park to the Somali Centre for Culture and Recreation (SCCC), a non-profit organization that intends to design, build, finance and operate a new not-for-profit community centre. 

The Somali Centre for Culture and Recreation Centre will be used for programming specific to the Somali Community along with other appropriate City and community uses, including recreation and the City report is seeking to establish, as a condition of the land lease, a shared use agreement to provide a minimum of 50% of available time in the facility to be open, affordable and accessible to the general public. 

The following letter has been submitted to the all members of the Executive Committee, Toronto Council and Councillor Stephen Holyday for the meeting on July 16, 2024

July 14, 2024

 

Attention:  Members of the Executive Committee:

 

RE: EX16.4 - Proposed Land Lease for the Somali Centre for
Culture and Recreation (Deferred from June 18, 2024 - 2024.EX15.6)

 

Dear Members of the City of Toronto – Executive Council,

 

Friends of Silver Creek are again writing to you regarding the proposed lease and development of 3 acres of Buttonwood Park in Etobicoke Centre.

In the 4 weeks since the original deferment we have learned of the following:

 

From the June 18, 2024 Executive Meeting it was determined:

 

  • EX15.6 - Proposed Land Lease for the Somali Centre for Culture and Recreation

Decision Type: ACTION Status: Deferred Ward: 2 - Etobicoke Centre Committee Decision

 

The Executive Committee:

 

1.  Deferred consideration of the Item until the July 16, 2024 meeting of the Executive Committee to allow for further consultation and consideration regarding the Somali Centre for Culture and Recreation with the local community, Somali community and City staff.

 

No community consultation has taken place regarding Buttonwood Park. 

 

What has been discovered is that there was at least one gathering on Tuesday, July 9, 2024 which was only communicated to Etobicoke Centre after the meeting had taken place without notice to all Ward 2 residents, without notification and without any members of the Somali Culture and Recreation Centre (SCCR) Committee present.

 

Councillor Stephen Holyday sent an email only after the meeting “…I participated in a community meeting in Buttonwood Park in which community members showed their support for maintaining the green space, and took the opportunity to speak directly to elected officials.”

 

Friends of Silver Creek have conducted many community meetings with community partners including the Buttonwood Hill Residents Association and various levels of government representatives over the years to ensure as many members of the community can attend and be informed, ask questions and get access to their elected representatives. But this gathering on July 9th was not a community meeting.

 

Instead, Councillor Stephen Holyday brought Premier Doug Ford, MPP Kinga Surma and TCDSB Trustee Marcus De Domenico to the meeting – without notification to all ward 2 residents and without an invite to the SCCR committee. 

 

It is interesting and curious to note that Premier Doug Ford and MPP Kinga Surma who is the Minister of Infrastructure were in attendance to show up in support of stopping the lease and development of 3 acres of parkland while they ignore substantial public opposition primarily on the loss of green space and a secretive long-term lease land transfers to Therme at Ontario Place where the development will lead to the eradication of the ecosystem of the West Island removing 840+ trees and destroying about 36,000 square meters of aquatic habitat.

 

With many residents being omitted from any kind of information sharing FofSC reached out directly to the SCCR to learn about their committee, how they have been engaged, the process that has been taken and to understand the details of the proposed centre and their interactions with City Council.

 

WHAT WE KNOW

 

In our discussion with the SCCR members they confirmed the following:

 

  • The SCCR signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) once the process began to develop the plans for the Centre. They confirmed this is a standard procedure as per Create TO and the City of Toronto.

 

This means that members of the SCCR cannot disclose specifics or details of the project or their meetings, calls and communications with members of City Council or City Staff.

 

Also, as a result of the NDA documents including the feasibility study on project location or any other related documents are not for public consumption.

 

This NDA makes it difficult for the SCCR and the community at large to have a transparent and informed consultation on the proposed location for the SCCR Centre without reviewing data and reports from City Staff, Create TO and those involved.

 

⮚  The City of Toronto put an embargo on the release of information regarding the project and location in April 2024 – but as per the SCCR,  Councillor Stephen Holyday was in regular contact with members from as early as September 2023 onwards and  multiple formal meetings between the two have happened since the original motion was put forth at City Council by Councillor Nunziata and seconded by former Mayor John Tory in 2022.

 

As per Councillor Holyday’s email dated June 12, 2024:

“However, they denied me the right to give you this information and voted down my motion to seek community consultation. A copy of the motions and vote record may be found here: https://secure.toronto.ca/council/agenda-item.do?item=2024.EX13.4

 

Given the way that the report has been brought before Council and the prior decision to keep the location secret, there is very little opportunity to gauge local community support for the proposal to lease the Buttonwood park lands for a community centre.”

 

As the project progressed, discussions were conducted by Councillor Holyday with the SCCR committee members and he was free to share details with all Etobicoke Centre residents – as brief as they may have been due to the NDA, from June 2022 up to April 18, 2024. 

 

It is of interest to note Councillor Holyday proposed a motion in 2019 to build a community centre on Buttonwood Park lands similar to that of the SCCR project now. Here is the link https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2019/ey/bgrd/backgroundfile-137620.pdf

 

WHAT ETOBICOKE CENTRE NEEDS

 

  • The Somali Culture and Recreation Centre Committee are a part of Etobicoke Centre and should be supported and represented and FofSC support having this project take place in our community.

 

  • FofSC call for the SCCR to be released from their NDA so that all documents, city council and staff communications, meetings and other relevant information be shared with the community at large so that there can be a robust and fulsome collaborative and consultative process.

 

  • Etobicoke Centre is in need of a recreation centre and as far as residents are aware nothing has been done to move that idea forward. We now have a group of committed and engaged residents who want to see a cultural centre exist for the Somali community but who also want to see a recreation centre be available for all residents of Etobicoke Centre.

 

  • Friends of Silver Creek are steadfast in their commitment to protecting parkland and greenspace. We do not agree with the lease and development of any parkland as per our earlier communication and in line with the City of Toronto Park Strategy.

 

  • FofSC are committed to the transparent, accountable and inclusive process of community consultations and information sharing with all residents by City Staff and not just the engagement of those who will support a specific agenda or in the exclusion of anyone in our community.

 

  • We call on the Executive Committee to defer the decision on this project until all residents including the SCCR are included in a public meeting with City staff present to share all details, documents and answer questions. The time period for the deferment should be more than 4 weeks (ideally three months) to have City Staff and all involved parties, properly plan for a meeting to ensure that timely communications can be shared with the community to ensure the most number of residents can attend.

 

This should be an occasion to celebrate an exciting new endeavor and much needed opportunity for our community but unfortunately it is not.

 

The SCCR members have received messages publicly and privately that are hate-filled and racist attacking the Somali Community.

FofSC call on Councillor Stephen Holyday and other members of City Council to unequivocally publicly condemn these racist attacks on the Somali community.

 

Councillor Holyday, City Council members and all other involved elected officials should be working to unify and not divide Etobicoke Centre while delivering a positive outcome for both the SCCR and the preservation of the park.

 

Parkland should never have been provided as an option for lease and development. There is great concern that Create TO and the City of Toronto are looking at previously protected greenspaces to generate revenue while density and intensification from development continues in our community. Council members may be unaware that Etobicoke Centre had abundant land belonging to the City of Toronto along the Eglinton Corridor that was sold by Build TO (the former name of Create TO) for development.

 

Our neighbourhoods need more parkland, greenspaces and infrastructure to support the needs, as well as the health and wellness of communities – not less.

 

We are still waiting to learn the rationale by City of Toronto Council to lease and develop parkland.

 

We welcome a fully inclusive and collaborative consultation to find a suitable location for the SCCR and a commitment from Toronto Council to ALWAYS protect parkland!

 

The community looks forward to your response.

 

Friends of Silver Creek

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Why MUST the development site be on parkland???

There are other options - Why are they not being considered???

CITY OF TORONTO PARKLAND STRATEGY

The Final Parkland Strategy Report  was adopted by Council on November 26, 2019, with amendments.

The Parkland Strategy is a 20-year plan that guides long-term planning for new parks and expansion and improved access to existing parks. It aids in the decision-making and prioritization of investment in parkland across the city.

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A city builds a park so that people can build community. We are globally known for our parks and natural environment. So as Toronto grows, our parks system must grow along with it.

However, there are gaps in the system; areas in the city where more must be done. And we must reinvest and re-invigorate our existing green space.

Toronto’s parks system is much more than official city parks; it includes open spaces, conservation lands, ravines, hydro corridors, schools and other privately owned, publicly accessible lands. We need to work together to ensure a liveable Toronto for today, and for future generations.

Why is the City of Toronto ignoring the Parkland Strategy?

Where is the Transparency? Communication? Accountability?

Why was Etobicoke Centre kept uninformed?

There are other options that could accommodate the Somali Centre for Culture and Recreation (SCCC) in Ward 2 without taking parkland that should be protected.

 

All other options should be reviewed and exhausted BEFORE the sale and development of parks which we will never be able to get back.

The full report to the Executive Committee for this item under consideration may be found here: https://bit.ly/3XowoAG

All Toronto Councillors and Mayor Olivia Chow need to hear from concerned residents about how the process was moved forward without any consultation, communication or transparency and how it is unacceptable to develop parkland in our community which is facing significant intensification and an increase in density.

This is not an Etobicoke Centre issue - Toronto Council voted to development the parkland.

Send emails and make calls to ALL of the following.

Mayor of Toronto Olivia Chow 416-397-CITY (2489) or mayor_chow@toronto.ca

Etobicoke Centre Councillor Stephen Holyday 416-392-4002 or councillor_holyday@toronto.ca

Etobicoke North Councillor Vincent Crisanti - 416-397-9255 or  Councillor_Crisanti@toronto.ca

Etobicoke-Lakeshore Councillor Amber Morley - 416-397-9273 or Councillor_Morley@toronto.ca

Parkdale-High Park Councillor Gord Perks - 416-392-7919 or councillor_perks@toronto.ca

York Centre Councillor James Pasternak - 416-392-7299 or councillor_pasternak@toronto.ca

Humber River-Black Creek Councillor Anthony Perruzza - 416-338-5335 or councillor_perruzza@toronto.ca

Eglinton-Lawrence Councillor Mike Colle - 416-338-2500 or councillor_colle8@toronto.ca

Davenport Councillor Alejandra Bravo - 416-392-7012 or Councillor_Bravo@toronto.ca

Spadina-Fort York Councillor Ausma Malik - 416-392-4044  or Councillor_Malik@toronto.ca

University-Rosedale Councillor Dianne Saxe - 416-392-4009 or Councillor_Saxe@toronto.ca

Toronto-St. Paul’s Councillor Josh Matlow - 416-392-7906 or councillor_matlow@toronto.ca

Toronto Centre Councillor Chris Moise - 416-392-7903 or Councillor_Moise@toronto.ca

Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher - 416-392-4060 or councillor_fletcher@toronto.ca

Don Valley West Councillor Jaye Robinson 416-395-6408 or ward15@toronto.ca

Don Valley East Councillor Jon Burnside - 416-397-9256 or Councillor_Burnside@toronto.ca

Don Valley North Councillor Shelley Carroll - 416-338-2650 or councillor_carroll@toronto.ca

Willowdale Councillor Lily Cheng - 416-392-0210 or Councillor_Cheng@toronto.ca

Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford - 416-338-2755 or councillor_bradford@toronto.ca

Scarborough Southwest Councillor Parthi Kandavel - 416-392-4052 or Councillor_Kandavel@toronto.ca

Scarborough Centre Councillor Michael Thompson - 416-397-9274 or councillor_thompson@toronto.ca

Scarborough-Agincourt Councillor Nick Mantas - 416-392-1374 or Councillor_Mantas@toronto.ca

Scarborough North Councillor Jamaal Myers - 416-338-2858 or Councillor_Myers@toronto.ca

Scarborough-Guildwood Councillor Paul Ainslie - 416-392-4008 or councillor_ainslie@toronto.ca

Scarborough-Rouge Park Councillor Jennifer McKelvie - 416-338-3771 or councillor_mckelvie@toronto.ca

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PROTECT PARKLAND - STOP DEVELOPMENT OF BUTTONWOOD PARK

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