Destruction comes like a thief in the night

TORONTO – On July 2, I received an e-mail inviting me to stroll by Lawrence Ave. W. at the Columbus Centre and to “feast [my] eyes on a smallish sign (see below) and what it proposed”. What I saw was a mound of rubble, tangled steel and tree branches awaiting relocation (see below). Had I not known better, I might have confused the experience with pictures describing the outcome of raids in Ukraine or Gaza. This is all that remains of 25 Convent Court (the Convent) nestled behind 70 Playfair Ave. (the former Dante Alighieri Academy). The Convent site, one hundred metres south-west of Lawrence and Dufferin, was central to the development of that part of the [Borough/City] of North York, now Toronto. 

The location was “acquired” by the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) for $21.5 million as part of scheme to tear down existing buildings (schools and long-term care centres), “re-imagine” the site and erect, among other structures, at least five condo towers.

Provincial funds to the tune of $30 million had been allocated for capital improvements at Dante and the adjacent elementary school, Regina Mundi. There were no discussions regarding educational goals or outcomes. The community objected. TCDSB withdrew its “plans” when the then Minister wrote a letter advising the TCDSB that she was no longer authorizing the transfer of the monies to the board.

One can only imagine the behind-the-scenes “negotiations” to utilize the $30 million anyway. But what happened to the $21.5 to acquire the 3.5 acres of woodland and the Convent? The sign says it is now purposed for children’s playground and parking lot. Apparently, teachers cannot walk to work, use public transit or bicycle lanes. Therefore, the trees must go.

There were, as per the notice, forty-four (44) mature and healthy trees that escaped the attention of the environmentalists concerned with carbon capture, air quality and local aesthetics, terrain stabilization etc. – and historical significance.

Since 1944, when the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, as they came to be commonly known, established themselves in Toronto to found a training and rehabilitation centre for wayward women and girls, there was not much to attract anyone to the area except, housing.

Two kilometers south, the town of Fairbanks, straddling Eglinton and Dufferin, in the former borough of York, which limits were about 500 meters north at Briar Hill, was about as far north as Torontonians could go.

In the early post war years, the government began a process of parcelling portions of the land that formed part of the [Downsview] Air Force base lands to resettle returning war veterans.

The land required draining of marshland, the establishment of a pumping station – still there at Caledonia and Lawrence – and the planting of trees to “solidify” the terrain. Homeowners southwest of Lawrence Ave. West will attest to the nagging flooding issues afflicting the area.

Even when the original Dante Academy was built, the engineers and builders had trouble finding the appropriate mix of materials for the gymnasium floors an ground-level instructional areas. They no longer have to worry about those pesky trees: those plants have been removed at an average cost of $3,000 to $4,000 each ($132,000 – $176,000, plus HST, in total). At least teachers in their BMWs, Jeeps and Mercedes will have “tangible examples of environmental management” for their Biology lessons.