Viewpoint: Moss Park: Whose park? Whose ‘redevelopment’?

The Context: Social Exclusion and Gentrification

The Downtown East has already been the target of major attempts to push homeless and poor people out of our communities, including through a major loss of shelter beds and services.The Downtown East is already threatened by massive gentrification, particularly the ever-increasing numbers of condo buildings. Residents’ Associations and Business Improvement Associations support the growth of expensive condo units and up-market retail outlets, and want more aggressive policing of homeless people, sex workers, and drug users.

Moss Park

There are already plans for the further development of condos and upscale apartment buildings in the Moss Park area. Especially in this context we believe that the proposed City/519 Moss Park ‘redevelopment’ plan — which has an LGBT-inclusive recreational centre at its heart — poses a threat to current users of the John Innes Community Centre, the Moss Park Arena, and the surrounding parkland and especially to homeless and poor people, sex workers and drug users – including many indigenous and racialized people — who live, work and frequent the area. This includes many queer and trans people.

Whose ‘Redevelopment’?

The City/519 ‘redevelopment’ planning with initiating funds from a private, anonymous donor is relying on the expertise of the 519 which is not based on addressing the needs of poor and homeless people, sex workers or drug users. The City/519 is initiating a process of ‘consultation’ with people in the ‘community’ as part of this ‘redevelopment’ planning. Unfortunately the 519’s view of the ‘community’ to be ‘consulted’ includes the very Business Improvement Associations and Resident’s Associations who are behind the gentrification efforts.

Whose Consultation?

In our view any real redevelopment plans need to start not with the needs of these groups but with the needs of poor and homeless people, the sex workers, the drug users, current Moss Park residents and users of Moss Park facilities. This must include individuals and groups whose voices are often neglected, for example, members and/or clients of organizations of such groups as Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, Maggie’s, the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, the Street Patrol, Toronto Community Housing tenants, and shelter users. Any process of ‘consultation’ must be open-ended and up to people in the local community to define with no preconceptions by the City/519 of what people should need. It must move far beyond helping to “shape the proposed design of new Moss Park facilities” (from the More Moss Park website). It must not be driven by the architectural designs that firms develop but architects must instead base any designs on what people say they need from the bottom up.

The funds intended for the new recreation centre must be used in ways that serve the needs of poor and homeless people in the Moss Park area (including racialized and indigenous people, sex workers, and drug users) and current users of the Arena, Community Centre and park while at the same time promoting LGBT inclusive programs and practices throughout the City’s recreation facilities.

Some questions we need to ask

  • How can this plan assist in facilitating shelter, housing and services for poor and homeless people in the area?
  • How will the needs of sex workers who live and work in the area be protected?
  • How will the needs of drug users and harm reduction efforts in the area be facilitated?
  • Will local people and groups be directly involved in the governance of the new facilities if they are constructed?
  • Will this plan destroy any park space?
  • How will this plan incorporate respect for indigenous/First Nation cultures and needs?
  • How will this plan work against the development of racism and racist policing in the area?
  • Would it not be a better idea rather than simply focussing on Moss Park to work towards LGBT inclusion in all the recreational centres across the city?

Who we are?

Queer Trans Community Defence (QTCD) is a new group of queer, trans people, and allies – including both people living in poverty and allies, and people who live and work in the Downtown East and elsewhere. QTCD exists to defend and build people’s power within our communities, so that we can defend our neighbourhoods from the City and developers. We oppose projects that will drive poor people out of their homes and communities and we reject the invoking of LGBT rights to justify the gentrification of Toronto’s Downtown East neighbourhoods.

No Pride in Gentrification!