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Demolition and Destruction of a Community Icon: Follow the Money

Demolition and Destruction of a Community Icon: Follow the Money

 <= Official land transfer record payment for 18 M $ from TCDSB to The Sisters of the Good Shepherd (click to see enlarged) 
TORONTO – Here are some dollar amounts to whet one’s appetite: $ 1.92 million, $18 million, $ 32.8 million; estimated net profits of the first phase of the condo redevelopment following the destruction of the Columbus Centre demolition, $300 million.
The Toronto Catholic District School Board (formerly, Metro Separate School Board, MSSB) and Villa Charities Inc (formerly, Italian Canadian Benevolent Corporation, ICBC) have a longstanding history in the southwest quadrant of Lawrence and Dufferin.
Some dates and figures may help to provide context to the current controversy surrounding the proposed Villa Charities Inc/TCDSB massive condo and townhouse development proposal to replace Columbus Centre and Villa Colombo.
The location, currently the main campus of Villa Charities, has been a cornerstone of Jewish and Italian-Catholic activity in Northwest Toronto (formerly North York} dating back to the 1950s. 
For the Italian Catholic community, that activity invariably meant the involvement of construction magnates, the school board of the day and the Catholic Church (the Bishop and the Religious orders operating under his authority and per The Sisters of the Good Shepherd mission). That history has never suffered for shortage of chicanery. 
A key and unwitting player has been The Sisters of the Good Shepherd. It is a religious order living the Christian ethic of good works. The Sisters used to operate a training school for wayward girls on the site. 
When, in or about 1970, they decided to change focus, their chief administrator, a Trustee on the MSSB, allegedly using insider information, exercised a $ 20,000 option to acquire the property and to propose a Caledonia Village-type condo and townhouse development. Public outrage ensued. The Premier and his party became concerned about the potential political fallout.
The ICBC, under the inspired leadership of one Tony Fusco, offered a solution: transfer title of the land to a non-profit (community) organization for the purposes of developing a complex to include an elementary school (Regina Mundi) a High School (Dante Alighieri) a retirement Home/ Community Centre with an indoor piazza, banquet hall, outdoor theatre and gardens. All justified under a provincial power vested in the concept of “in the public interest”.
The government bought in to community pressure. The Trustee was “bought off” with an award of a parcel subdivision then valued at $2.5 million. The Sisters, an ageing group, lapsed into a relatively quiet, cloistered state. Until 2015.
According to Charity Data, they declared no “program” activity, had no revenues other than investment income (relatively negligible) and conducted no fundraising – at least not during the period 2010-2015.  (See color chart above)
Then, in 2015, the Sisters declared “revenues” sourced from “another registered charity” in the amount of $ 1.92 million. What did they provide in return for that “donation”?
The revenue may in fact be related to a June 2, 2015 TDCSB press release announcing the completion of “a Land Purchase Agreement for 25 Good Shepherd Court”. The Sisters have the right to sell off their property, always after consultations with the diocese in which they operate.
If one believes in coincidences, that followed roughly a year of negotiations after the TCDSB formally abandoned the purchase “of land on Dufferin Street from the Daughters of St Paul”, on March 12, 2014. 
The amount in question was approximately equal to that offered to the “Daughters” by Villa Charities, which was handling the proposed acquisition. It had, through the TCDSB, even intimated “expropriation” as part of its negotiating tactics. VCI continues to nurture an interest in developing the general area in partnership with TCDSB.
No dollar amounts were provided by the TCDSB in the June 2, 2017 Release. But it did indicate that the property was “3.15 acre[s]”- about seven (7) times that of the Dufferin property.( See document above)
On January 01, 2017 the land Registry Office made an entry indicating a transfer of $18, 000, 000.00 from the TCDSB to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd for that same property. 
TCDSB continues to await release by the Ministry of Education of the $32.8 million that, thanks to intense lobbying by MPP Mike Colle, were allocated for the construction of a new Dante Alighieri in 2011.
To be continued
 
 

 

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