Catholics rally in defense of the Marian Shrine of Gratitude

TORONTO – The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) is a school board beset with its own ills. Yet, in its end of summer full Board meeting, Thursday, August 24, 2023, it chose to bypass its own procedural bylaws to introduce, debate and approve a motion in respect of the Marian Shrine of Gratitude. 

As the old saying goes: “The Lord works in mysterious ways”. On Tuesday, August 22, 2023, the “deal” to transfer ownership of 3001 Weston Rd., and control of the Lease arrangements with the City of Toronto to #1000331275 Ontario Inc, registered October 6, 2022 (no, they are not Italian builders from Vaughan), “closed” in consideration of a $16.5 million final payment.

The Leasehold contract with the City comes due November 30, 2024 – and so with its sub-tenants, including the Catholic [Youth] Soccer League. The gross Lease was worth $750,000 annually to the former, as it is now to the current owners.

It is being argued that this included the “enjoyment of the improvements and maintenance” of the property known as the Marian Shrine of Gratitude. Volunteers/devotees, including the entrepreneurs who built the retaining walls, the altar and outdoor chapel say this was done with the knowledge and consent of the former owners, whose Secretary Treasurer is Zhakary Shwaluk. Various bishops, including Cardinal Collins have celebrated mass and prayers at the Shrine.

Who knows what the Developer/buyer now has in mind for the property, but the 13.5 acres falls under the jurisdiction of the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (as well as the Archeological Management Plan), and is, reportedly, also directly governed as per the municipal by-laws of the former City of North York. The North York Community Council would need to debate and approve any building/demolition application before they could be authorized by Toronto City Council.

Nonetheless, # 1000331725 Ontario Inc appears insistent on limiting access to the Shrine to people who go only to enjoy the serenity of the locale and to pray, within the limits of the current Lease agreement. They have removed and defaced signage and installed “Security” with the aim of preventing the faithful from praying at the Shrine.

Yet, circumstances suggest there is “no rush” to do anything precipitously. In fact, according to Toronto City Real Estate Division public documents, as of August 10, the potential purchaser(s) had entered into talks with the City to extend the Lease arrangements for a further four-year period to November 30, 2029. That would be plenty of time to present and argue a development project plan – while the City and its sub-tenants take up a $3.25 million burden off the Developer’s hands.

If the TCDSB, Canada’s largest Catholic School Board, is any indication, it seems the community has finally awakened to a “sense of obligation” and to come to the defense of the Catholics it serves.

After a 1.25 hrs “debate”, the Board resolved (unanimously; two Trustees were absent): “That Director and Chair of the Board write a letter to all MPPs and City Councillors, the Mayor of Toronto and the Premier of Ontario asking that the former Gardiner Family Summer Resort (Basilian Fathers’ House), including the Marian Shrine of Gratitude at 3100 Weston Rd., Toronto, be designated as a Heritage Site and protected by the Ontario Heritage Act; [Furthermore…] that Trustees would delegate to the Heritage Preservation Board at the Hearing [… to determine the outcome of the application].”

The Heritage Preservation Board has a scheduled meeting for 9:30 AM, August 28, 2023, and another for September 12, 2023. The public is invited to submit positions via email or phone to (a) or, phone at 416-392-4666. (b) the City Clerk’s Office, email:; phone 426 392-8016.