TORONTO - Rory McGuckin is the Director of Education for the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB). His staff will receive the “findings” of the Consultation groups regarding the proposed joint-venture with the Villa Charities Inc (VCI), then they will formulate a report – with recommendations - for the consideration of the Board of Trustees. r. McGuckin’s disposition will determine the fate of the most representative icon of the Italian-Canadian experience in the GTHA and of the role it has played in the integration of communities of all backgrounds in Canadian society.
His organization appears to have bought the Columbus Centre site from VCI for an undisclosed sum of money (estimated at $22 million) for the purpose of demolishing and then building a new High School on the western half of the premises. The pen from which his signature will flow will serve as a magic wand. Poof! Just like that, Mr. McGuckin may efface another footprint of the family, social and cultural values the Community has prized, nurtured and shared. Forty-five years of Canada’s 150 gone once he signs off.
The only other icon that comes close is Chudleigh House, Casa Italia, as it is better known. Its significance to the experiences of the Italian Canadian community are a little less felicitous, though no less impactful.
Ironically, if Mr. McGuckin were to look at the video/advertorials commissioned and distributed by his partners, he may yet wonder how he could associate his personal reputation with the destruction of a structure that embodies the “heart and soul” of the Italian community.
How can his Board of Trustees, or at least some of them, acquiesce? One would have to go to motive, “what is in it for me/them” question, or to process, the way data is gathered, filtered and presented. The first may appear a trifle crass and is better left to its own column. The second is more objectively assessed given that the consultants were provided with a specific mandate that they were expected to satisfy. The TCDSB has so far declined to make available the parameters it issued in its Request for Proposals. VCI’s classy staff and Board think it’s none of our F***ing business.
So, whom did Dillon Consulting and Maximum City “Engage and Consult” in the process to provide the feedback required to make an informed decision? Three of the 14 “stakeholders” are their contractor: VCI, TCDSB and their senior staff. Two others are staff, parents and students at Regina Mundi and Dante Alighieri. None of the current students at Dante will ever see the inside of any new facility students except as visitors. For good measure, all meetings were attended by principals and senior staff at TCDSB. Another, Centro Scuola, is a dependent of the TCDSB; and it serves as the travel agency of record for Senior staff according to sources speaking under condition of anonymity. Its Head may be one of the “cultural leaders”, along with the representatives of the press and media recipients of advertorials lauding the Reimagine campaign. No one else has come forward to support the plan. Two other consultations took place with the residents and families of Villa Colombo, Caboto Terrace and Casa Del Zotto, always with senior staff of VCI present. The same who are allegedly under continuous harassment by VCI to “go along”.
Yet another two are comprised of Columbus Centre Patrons and members as well as the CASA group. The latter is decidedly against the project and has been stymied every step of the way in the consultation process by VCI. Of the patrons and members, they have been “voting with their feet” at the protests and the meetings.
One is uncertain about which “area residents” are included in the twelfth group. Perhaps it is the one that was compelled to transfer itself to the Beth Torah Synagogue when the TCDSB shut it out of Dante. Or maybe it is the 400 who signed a petition against the plan when one of their neighbours went door-to-door - names the TCDSB prevented from being presented at a Board meeting.
Maybe it is the group in the Glen long-Playfair Association (number thirteen) whose deliberations were peppered by two strangers to the area invited by the Consultants to support speak of the plan. One of them, a former Trustee whose cousin has the contract to provide uniforms for the students at Dante. Maybe it is the January 9, 2018 Parent drop in and follow-up focus group at Regina Mundi where I and one other person waited for 1.25 hrs until [the Principal?] located a compliant parent off the street but not from the area to attend. The fourteenth group is listed as “Local politicians”. I confess to not knowing who these might be: every Municipal Councillor has voted (multiple times) against the proposal. The local MP and four of his caucus colleagues have issued statements against the proposal. The local MPP, his cabinet colleague Minister Albanese (who has attended at least three meetings in support of the anti-project groups) and several MPPs further afield have all denounced the project.
Maria Rizzo, the only other “local politician”, remains the most ardent proponent of the project.
Mr. McGuckin who has personally attended some consultations allows that “a part of the community” may be opposed, but insists he will reserve judgement until the report is completed.
It may be time for Premier Wynne’s government to help him make up his mind.