(July 23, 2020) The Toronto Star is reporting that Metrolinx has “abruptly pulled out of a plan to donate land in the Jane and Finch area for use as an arts and culture hub.”
Anthony Perruzza (Ward 7, Humber River—Black Creek) told the Star after [a maintenance and storage facility] was finished, Metrolinx said it “would turn over a portion of the property to the city to build an arts and culture centre. But last week, the agency sent Perruzza an email saying it now plans to sell the land instead.”
The hub was planned for just west of the intersection of Jane and Finch on the border between Black Creek and Glenfield-Jane Heights.
In the 1960s, the Black Creek area of Jane and Finch was originally conceived as a “model suburb” in response to the rapid urban growth of Toronto. It is now a community, urban planners agree, where insufficient thought was given to the social infrastructure needed to sustain a high quality of community life.
And, despite the optimism of the original vision, and the many families who make their homes there, the Jane and Finch community today has been deemed the “least-livable” community in Toronto by the Strong Neighbourhood Strategy 2020 equity index, an index based on 15 criteria across five themes: economic opportunity, social development, participation in decision-making, physical surroundings and healthy lives.
Young people in the community are trying to make their way in the world with more obstacles in their path than faced by young people in other Toronto communities. Schools in the area are consistently have the highest ranking on the Toronto District School Board’s Learning Opportunity Index (LOI), which means educational opportunities are actually the lowest.
Families of the school population have a lower median income, a greater percentage of adults have lower education, fewer adults have university degrees, and there are more lone-parent families in this community than in other communities across the city.
Young people in the community are trying to make their way in the world with more obstacles in their path than faced by young people in other Toronto communities. Children growing up in the Jane and Finch community are not afforded the opportunities needed to expand their spectrum of experience due to systemic barriers to participation. There is an opportunity gap that the community has been fighting to narrow for decades.
Debra Eklove, co-chair of the Community Action Planning Group (CAPG) that has been working on the arts hub plan for five years, said they was “blind-sided” by the Metrolinx decision. It was hoped the hub would help mitigate the stigmatization of people living in the Jane and Finch community and “provide a new central amenity in a community where residents often have to travel far to access services.”
Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins told the Star that “in pulling out of the arts hub plan the agency is acting in accordance with the Ontario government’s realty directive, which sets out provincial agencies’ responsibilities regarding the disposition of surplus property.”
To any objective observer, the action is a shocking blow to the wellbeing of an already challenged community. Debra Eklove and her Community Action Planning Group are vowing to continue to fight.