Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Proposed LGBT-focused Sport and Recreation Centre

The 519 Community Centre, in partnership with private donors and with the support of the City of Toronto, is pushing to turn Moss Park and John Innes Community Centre into an LGBT-focused Sport and Recreation Centre.

On the surface, the idea of an LGBT sport centre sounds like an important equity initiative that could benefit queer and trans people who have been marginalized in sports and recreation. The choice of location - at the heart of Toronto’s Downtown East Neighbourhood (DTE) - means that this project will become part of the rapid gentrification of Toronto’s poorest neighbourhood.

According to a City of Toronto staff report, the LGBT Sport and Recreation Centre fits within the  larger ‘revitalization’ of George Street and the surrounding neighbourhood. That plan will shut down Seaton House - the largest men’s shelter in the country - and push out other programs that poor people in the DTE need. The loss of shelter beds is at a time when homeless shelters across the city are operating beyond capacity and there is an overall lack of sufficient space. For the City, supporting the LGBT Sport and Recreation Centre is the perfect excuse to finally pave over Moss Park and shutter John Innes for good.

Supporters of this project see Moss Park and John Innes as empty and unimportant spaces. In a recent article, Matthew Cutler, the Director of Strategic Partnership Initiatives at The 519 described Moss Park as a “blank canvas”. John Innes Community Centre and Moss Park are not empty spaces that can be bulldozed to make way for a high-end sport facility. There is an already existing community of poor and homeless people -- including many LGBT people -- who this space and this project will displace this community.The loss of the community centre and neighbouring park will be devastating for the DTE community. These are vital spaces in a neighbourhood that is home to poor and marginalized people, including many LGBT people. People that the city wants to push out to make way for more condos, more so-called development and more profit. Sadly, the 519 management seems willing to let the developers co-opt LGBT issues as yet another excuse for driving poor people out of their community spaces.

We believe that sport and recreation are vital to communities, including LGBT people. We support investing in initiatives that will facilitate queer and trans access to programming across the city. We do not need a separate LGBT Sport and Recreation Centre dropped in the middle of the DTE, waving a rainbow flag over the destruction of poor communities that include many queer and trans people.

As queer and trans people, we are here to defend our neighbourhoods and communities. Defend them from the City, the developers and challenge those in the LGBT community who are participating - knowingly or not - in projects that will drive out poor people from the DTE. We are here to call out the invoking of LGBT rights to try to prevent opposition to the George Street ‘revitalization’ and the rapid gentrification of the DTE.

No pride in gentrification! No pride in displacement! No pride in profiteering!

Contact the 519 to let them know you don’t support this project! Speak out to the Board of Directors, Executive Director Maura Lawless, and Director of Strategic Partnerships Matthew Cutler
Phone: 416-392-6874

Get involved, contact us:
Blog: queertranscommunitydefence.blogspot.ca 

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