Public ownership of First Parliament site still not secure|
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There is growing concern in the city's heritage community that public ownership
of the site of Upper Canada's first parliament buildings, at Front and
Parliament Streets, have not been secured despite the fact that the January 31
deadline set by the owners has passed.
"Heritage Toronto applauds the ongoing commitment by government to the First
Parliament site," said Ernest Buchner, executive director of Heritage Toronto.
"I urge the City and the Province to move quickly and to consider all the
powers at their command to bring this important site into community hands,
including land swaps and expropriation."
Since the archaeological discovery of remains of the first parliament buildings
in 2000, many individuals and organizations have rallied to support the
acquisition of the site and a celebration of its rich history.
Former Lieutenant-Governors of Ontario, the Toronto Board of Trade, Tourism
Toronto, the Law Society of Upper Canada and the South East Downtown Economic
Redevelopment Initiative as well as The Citizens for the Old Town and United
Empire Loyalist Associations have written the City of Toronto and the
provincial government urging that the site be preserved. In addition, hundreds
of individuals have made their wishes known as well.
The first parliament buildings were located on the properties at 265 and 271
Front Street East, which are currently in private hands. A ruling from the
Ontario Municipal Board delayed development at 265 Front Street East to give
government and the heritage community time to make a bid for the preservation
of the property. All parties involved agreed to extend the deadline last
December, and that deadline has now passed.
"I continue to receive letters from across Canada and from other countries
urging recognition of the cultural, heritage and economic potential of the site
to Toronto and Ontario," Buchner said. "Both the City of Toronto and the
provincial government have a remarkable opportunity to take action now to
preserve a site of extraordinary historical significance."
The parliament buildings were built in 1797, shortly after the creation of
Upper Canada, and were the first brick buildings constructed in the city. In
1813, the buildings were looted and burned by invading American forces. They
were restored after the War of 1812, but burned again, by accident, in 1824.
The ruins were then abandoned.
In addition to being home to the Parliament of Upper Canada, the buildings also
housed the first Anglican congregation in Toronto, served as a military
barracks and were a temporary home for newly arrived immigrants.
"In July 1812, Isaac Brock told parliamentarians that the coming war was their
opportunity to demonstrate that 'free men, enthusiastically devoted to the
cause of their King and constitution, cannot be defeated,'" Buchner said. "In
2003, we have the opportunity to rally again to the General's challenge and
demonstrate that we have the will to preserve the first permanent home of
parliamentary democracy in Ontario."