Columbus Centre, the Community’s counter attack heats up

di Joe Volpe del July 28, 2017

TORONTO - Community anger to save Columbus Centre heats up. The association ’’Save Our Columbus Centre’’ delivered to the Corriere a copy of a flier that will be distributed in many churches in Toronto. Corriere Canadese decided to publish it.

“Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Catholic Community:
We plead with you to help us prevent the demolition and destruction of our beloved Columbus Centre, at the hands of Villa Charities and the Toronto Catholic District School Board.
The Columbus Centre is the heart and soul of the Italian Canadian Community. It is a serene place. It was built with contributions and donations from the entire Italian diaspora. It is a place that was built by the Italian people for ALL people.
With the demolition of the Columbus Centre, Villa Charities and the Toronto Catholic District School Board will be guilty of nothing less than the cultural genocide of the Italian community.
We must point out that we were totally unaware of the tragedy that was about to unfold. Villa Charities and the Toronto Catholic District School Board, operating like thieves in the night, with no warning whatsoever, unloaded this disaster on the community.
We are trying to understand the purpose of this disturbing alliance between Villa Charities and the Toronto Catholic District School Board.
At the meeting of June 13, 2017 of the North York Community Council, one of the speakers said, "the plan to demolish the Columbus Centre is a monstrosity conceived by barbarians who have appropriated a community asset for their own nefarious gains and designs”.
Brothers and Sisters, please visit the Columbus Centre while it is still there. Walk the beautiful grounds. Visit the Rotunda and the Art Gallery where artists from all backgrounds exhibit their work. Listen quietly and you will hear its heart beating. Listen and be still and you will feel its very soul. There is no place like it in our city.
It is beyond comprehension that the Trustees of the Catholic District School Board would destroy this place. The most despicable outcome of this tragedy will fall on the frail shoulders of those that can bear it the least, the Seniors living at Villa Colombo, Cabot Terrace, and Casa Del Zotto.
Their beautiful grounds, ideal for the use of walkers, will disappear. The seniors will be confined in their units to live like rats in solitary confinement. Why is it okay to treat people with such cruelty? Of course, we know that your suffering means nothing to the barons of Villa Charities and Toronto Catholic District School Board trustees. In their plans, you are nothing more than collateral damage. They do not give a fig about the mental anguish that will be your constant companion.
Shame on you Villa Charities! Shame on you Trustees of the Catholic Board! In the hearts and minds of thousands upon thousands of people, you will forever live in infamy and shame.
Looking into the future, one can foresee tragic and frightening consequences of traffic congestion on Dufferin Street, already statistically one of the worst streets in the country for traffic accidents.
At the north-east comer of Dufferin and Lawrence, on completion, the new condominium will house about 5,000 people. At the south side of Lawrence a new project will take place. We do not have the statistics for the population of this new place.
Slightly to the east, the Lawrence Heights project will house 60,000 people. The new high school will be surrounded by a jungle of buildings. It will be like a small mushroom in a forest. In this type of environment, traffic fatalities are bound to happen - actually they already have.
Allow us to give you some highlights about what has been happening in this saga.
The Toronto Catholic District School Board and Villa Charities presented the project to the public at the Yorkdale Secondary School. Upon learning that the Columbus Centre was destined for Demolition, people were horrified. They responded and made it abundantly clear that they wanted nothing to do with this proposal. Many people were actually screaming in opposition.
At the meeting of June 13, 2017 held by the North York Community Council, the lawyer for the developer Villa Charities was not even able to answer very simple questions.
Who owns the property? He did not know. Who is Villa Charities? He did not know. How many members sit on the board of Villa Charities? He did not know. Who is entitled to elect board members? He did not know. A truly bizarre and embarrassing performance! 
No less embarrassing was the performance of the Toronto Catholic District School Board representative, Trustee Maria Rizzo, who was unable to answer many of the councillors’ questions. But, she went on to declare that the project was totally "botched up from the very beginning’’. You really cannot make this stuff up!!
At the end of the meeting, council voted unanimously to oppose the project and refer it to the full Toronto City Council. The full Toronto City Council voted unanimously to oppose the project and has appointed their solicitor to represent the city at the OMB hearing.
A word of thanks and gratitude must go to our MPP Mike Colle for his courageous fight in order to save our beloved Columbus Centre. 
We are grateful to the Minister of Education, Mitzy Hunter for freezing the funds budgeted for Dante Alighieri and for taking a stand.
Trustees of the Catholic Board, please understand that with your actions you have planted the seeds for the destruction of Catholic Education in the City of Toronto.
The Columbus Centre was built with the blood, sweat and tears of Italians. Trustees of the Catholic School Board, we ask you to abandon this insanity. LEAVE THE COLUMBUS CENTRE ALONE!!! You DO NOT OWN IT! It is not yours to destroy. CAPISCI???
Corriere Canadese reached out to Villa Charities for comments. We did not received any answer.

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