The Plaque at Columbus Centre: persistence in the face of adversity

di Ynot del 2 December 2019

TORONTO - The weather in Canada is a safe topic of debate, no matter one’s perspective. And rich with metaphorical allusions for anyone: politicos, activists, regular folk … and editorialists.

Saturday morning, for example, on the public property bordering 901 Lawrence Ave. West, the cross currents and the dropping temperature conspired to make the climatic conditions colder than a witch’s heart and as treacherous to one’s health as Cassius’ loyalty to Caesar.

Or, to make it more contemporary, it was, as they say in the Queen’s English, bloody cold! A little like the social disposition of those who have seized control of Villa Charities (full disclosure, the Corriere is in litigation with one of the [former?] members of the Board who took exception to our comments on their actions).

And, no, I’m not picking on the bedevilled Administration at the Villa Charities Inc., the “peoplekind” who surreptitiously took control of a public, not-for-profit, community asset with a goal to turn it into the private preserve and profit of who knows whom. I digress purposefully.

The Columbus Athletic and Social Association (CASA), led by Ian MacDonald, was at the vanguard of resisting the condominium-ization of 901 Lawrence, the demolition of the Columbus Centre but also of the restoration of services members had contracted to use. For his efforts, Mr. MacDonald was initially suspended from the use of the facilities, then permanently prohibited from entering the Centre. Classy move!

Undaunted, following the unanimous motion by city Council to accept the Toronto Heritage Board’s (THB) recommendations to include the site in its Registry of Heritage sites, at the end of January, 2019, CASA commissioned a plaque to commemorate the decision of the THB.

Saturday, after almost a full year later, the THB conducted a ceremony to unveil the plaque – on city property adjacent to the Columbus Centre in the presence of roughly 150 citizens who had been a part of the concerted effort to save the site from the avaricious designs of Villa Charities Inc.

Villa Charities had forbidden the placement of the plaque on property designated as 901 Lawrence. Its CEO, he of firmly established boorish behaviour, apparently also forbade anyone associated with sta¤ or the CASA organization to express themselves at the event.

Not sharing the same lack of couth, the THB allowed the Chair of Villa Charities (VC) a final presentation.

It must have been a bitter pill to swallow for VC. Everyone who had been involved from the earliest days when a Motion by City Council to defer to North York Community Council and the subsequent first meeting with the required public consultation on May 11,2017 started the ball rolling, so to speak, was present to give testimony to the fact that the public can and should defend its interests against haughty pretension.

Mayor Tory, who took part in one of the early demonstrations o®ciated, as did [now] Councillor Colle, who moved acceptance [unanimous] of the THB recommendations referenced above.

They were gracious in acknowledging the input of the various “public celebrities” present: [former] Councillor Maria Augimeri, [former] MPP Laura Albanese, [former] TCDSB Trustee Sal Piccininni, the Hon. Marco Mendicino, entrepreneurs/philanthropists Sam Primucci and Donato Montesano, Paul Cavalluzzzo, Elio Costa, Angelo Scioscia, Lawrence Pincivero, Franco Misuraca, two local MPPs, Faisal Hassan and Tom Rakocevic, and others, including Luigi Tosti, TV producer and activist, who drove in from Windsor to attend.

Notwithstanding the weather, there was a celebratory and congratulatory atmosphere. Except for the dour three or four VCI members in the audience. Perhaps in a further display of an “in your face” attitude, they decide to put aside any association with traditional Italian good manners and civility o¤ering post event co¤ee and desserts ONLY to the VIPs present. Again, classy move!

Maybe the Plaque will remind everyone of what once was an example of civic leadership – it is no longer resident at VC or VCI. Too bad.

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