“None of your F #@% ing Business”
“None of your F #@% ing Business”
TORONTO – It started badly, then it got worse. I refer to the “public consultation” organized by Villa Charities (VCI) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) to “sell” their unpalatable development project at Lawrence and Dufferin – something now baptized “The Columbus Centre/Dante Alighieri Community”.
Strange things happen when you hire two “consulting firms” to determine what the community thinks about the destruction of what is already theirs to replace it with a massive construction project. It’s called “putting lipstick on a pig”.
To begin, the consultants reached out to the local pastor, hoping to get his personal assistance in convincing parishioners that this is a worthwhile exercise, and through him the blessing of the Archdiocese. He was asked to distribute flyers like the ones that had been “carpet-bombed” through Canada Post on an unsuspecting public over the previous two weeks.
Those who were not yet aware of the laughable “reimagine” campaign, were invited to register online to attend a public meeting where, presumably, someone would “roll-out” a shiny new plan that would convince the world of its merits. Not so fast.
The Consultants’ website for the event was non-functioning for registration. One needed to call in. I did. Those who did not were turned away at the door. They numbered at least twenty angry local residents, by my count, when I approached the entrance to Sala Caboto.
I invited them to enter with me, after all, it was supposed to be a public meeting. Three ladies at the door who worked for the TCDSB and VCI summoned Security guards to again usher everyone out.
It wasn’t difficult to see why. Inside, a carefully staged event was unfolding. There was no presentation.
Instead, a series of tables at which groups were to “discuss and report their views” on what might be ideal for the redevelopment project – psychologically, an acceptance of the premise that the demolition of the Columbus Centre is a fait accompli. The audience was only supposed to imagine what to “reimagine”.
I surveyed the tables. One was filled with students and teachers from Dante Alighieri; another with the Principal and individuals associated with Regina Mundi elementary school; yet another by Senior Staff and Trustees from the TCDSB; another still with VCI Staff.
It quickly became evident that VCI and TCDSB had brought in “facilitators” for the other tables to “guide” the discussion towards the desired objective. And, there were only so many “resource Quislings” and “useful idiots” available to secure proper management of the evening.
To better record interventions, I proceeded toward a table at the front of the hall. It was occupied by four rather unhappy – looking individuals. The mutterings and discontent began immediately as the Consultants ended their instructions for proceeding.
One of them [rhetorically] asked me “how much did this sham exercise cost?” I went to the TCDSB table to ask, “what was the amount allocated for contract to retain these Consultants” and when would the details be posted on their website.
No one seemed to know. I expressed surprise that two Associate Directors, [at least] one Superintendent and three Trustees of a publicly funded entity could/would not provide an answer for monies entrusted to their care. A discussion ensued. One of them suggested they could not divulge because they had a partner (VCI) who also needed to consent to divulging the information.
Their CEO, Anthony DiCaita, was at the next table. I asked him the same question. “None of your F___ing business”, he answered, sounding every bit the part of Spada, in an exchange with a journalist in Rome, last week.
That is who the Catholic School Board has chosen as a partner. TCDSB officials, hearing the exchange, offered to provide the Corriere Canadese with the information by 12:00pm Wednesday (yesterday).
Still, they had to be embarrassed by the reports – described by one dissenting voice at the end as “scrubbed”, or sanitized – presented by the tables. One related the bullying and intimidation tactics by senior staff at VCI who made it clear that any objections to the redevelopment program would result in evictions (“lose our residences”).
One rapporteur objected to being treated as “clients” of the Centre – without rights and without the right to communicate with each other or to participate in these meetings. These “leaders” are supposed to be the custodians of our culture, our community but they have offered nothing, she said, “where are the fundraisers, the community events”, etc., that made us feel part of a thriving cultural hub?
Yet another reported that, at her table, participants maintained that Columbus Centre represents a heritage, a culture and a building with a culture design and integrity with a style that is timeless. But VCI and its partners at TCDSB want to tear it down.
The Consultants said there will be another meeting on the 6th of December but no member of the public there Tuesday could attend, just employees and others whose usefulness is beyond reproach. A final report is planned for public viewing in mid-January before it is submitted to the “partners”.
Why bother, asked a lawyer in the audience; it has already been written. Besides, he said for all to hear: “we have lost confidence in the TCDSB and Villa Charities”.