Last Thursday (April 7), over 120 concerned people came to a public forum and community meal at the John Innes Community Centre. Organized by Queer Trans Community Defence (QTCD), with the support of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, the Ontario Public Interest Group and Queer Ontario, the meeting drew large numbers of people who live and/or work in the neighbourhood, and focused on the future of the John Innes Centre and Moss Park.
The main issues were the proposed LGBT-focused recreation centre, the joint City and 519 Community Centre project, and the widespread trend of gentrification in Toronto’s Downtown East neighbourhoods. Organizers expressed solidarity with the Toronto Black Lives Matter movement and with Indigenous people’s struggles.
Topics that speakers addressed included gentrification of downtown neighbourhoods and the gay village, the policing of poverty, harassment of sex workers, oppression of Indigenous peoples, racist and aggressive policing practices, the George Street ‘Revitalization’ plan and the shelter bed and homelessness crisis, and impacts on harm reduction programs.
Secrecy and poor communication on the part of 519 staff and councillors, and City-controlled community ‘consultation’ practices were identified as problems. Expressing much of the sentiment of the meeting artist and community activist Syrus Marcus Ware stated “Where are you expecting us to go? You can’t scrub us off the face of the city,” via a recorded video message. He continued “As radical queer and trans people, we need to stand in solidarity with the residents of Moss Park.”
During the Q&A, community members raised issues of inclusion/exclusion, resistance strategies, the City’s plans and timelines, and QTCD’s objectives. It was suggested that a petition opposing the Moss Park redevelopment be circulated. Overall, most of those present were hopeful about progress made to date in opposing the plans for further gentrification of the Moss Park area and supported the message conveyed to the City and to the 519 that their project is not tenable.
A follow-up meeting by QTCD is scheduled for April 18 at 6 pm at St. Luke’s Church, Carlton and Sherbourne, Upper Friendship Room. All are welcome. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Also see Miles Kenyon’s article in Daily Xtra at: http://www.dailyxtra.com/toronto/news-and-ideas/news/moss-park-residents-push-back-the-519-189664