The Columbus Center is the heart and soul of the Italian-Canadians experience in the GTHA. True, it is now also a cultural home for people of all backgrounds.
It was built by the donations of the Italian Community. It is an iconic place that represents the history of the Italian immigrants and is a landmark that should be preserved to teach our children what their parents contributed to the development of this country and what they have accomplished.
Columbus Centre and was built in 1980. It has expanded to house daycare, educational programs, fitness amenities, a library, banquet rooms, restaurant, an art gallery and beautifully landscaped grounds. Again, these accomplishments were made possible by the donations of the Italian Community
That community is appalled to learn that the Toronto Catholic District School Board has partnered with Villa Charities to demolish Columbus Centre, the Rotunda and its beautifully landscaped park in order to build a “joint-use” secondary school. The cost of the operation will be over $70 Million.
The School Board already owns 13 acres plus two schools on adjacent land. It proposes to build a new 400,000 ft. secondary school where Columbus Centre presently sits.
Why can’t the anticipated new school be build on their property instead of demolishing Columbus Centre which belongs to the community. In the end, the Board will own the new structure while Villa Charities will get only a long-term lease to co-use the facilities, likely after school hours.
This deal was negotiated behind closed doors. The Italian Community is now demanding that those partners reconsider their decision.
The Community’s outrage is understandable. In the early Fifties, hundreds of thousands of people migrated from Italy to Toronto. They had a dream to provide a better future for their children.
They did not know the language or what they were going to find once they got here. With great courage, they left their families, homes and friends behind for a chance to succeed.
Primarily labourers at first, their energy and sacrifices helped to construct Toronto and make the city what it has become today.
Some people lost life and limb in the process. Others in the Community, after many years of sacrifice and back-breaking work, were proud to donate some of their hard-earned money to build Columbus Centre and Villa Colombo.
Both represent our parents’ Legacy of hard work and community building. It is a Legacy worthy of appreciation and respect.
It is time all Italian-Canadians stood up to express their opposition to the project, their support for saving our Legacy and voice their opinions to save our Columbus Center!
Landed Immigrant from 1955