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October 18, 2002
Nearly 300 citizens rally to save first parliament site
  
Note: The following is being released by Heritage Toronto, Old Town 1793, and
Sederi-Revitalizing Old Town Toronto, the South East Downtown Economic
Redevelopment Initiative.

There was a large and enthusiastic turnout at last night's public meeting to
rally support for restoring the site of Upper Canada's first parliament
buildings. The standing-room-only crowd of nearly 300 at St. Lawrence Hall
learned about the vital importance of this site to Ontario's political and
cultural heritage - and the urgent threat it faces from redevelopment.

Part of the site, which is at Front and Parliament Streets, is owned by a
private developer, who has been granted approval by the Ontario Municipal Board
to build a Porsche dealership. However, the OMB has given the community until
December 1st to find a way to buy the site.

The audience heard from a number of speakers, including Pam McConnell, Toronto
City Councillor for Ward 28; Dr. Ron Williamson, the archaeologist who
uncovered the remains of the parliament buildings in the summer of 2001; and
Peter Carruthers, chair, Heritage Toronto. The first parliament's new Web site
was also unveiled, www.firstparliament.ca.

One of the key messages delivered to the audience was that the provincial
government must intervene if the site is to be saved. As McConnell remarked in
her speech, "It's time for the province to join our campaign and become a
partner in the effort to preserve this important piece of Ontario's heritage."

Those in attendance strongly endorsed returning the land to public ownership
and the vision of developing a public space to celebrate the cradle of Ontario
democracy. Some ideas for the site include a recreation of the original
parliament buildings, commemorative gardens and a public archive.

As one of the organizers of the event, Williamson was "very pleased" with the
turnout. "We were especially gratified by the response we got from the crowd,"
he said. "They clearly recognized this is a matter of provincial, and even
national, importance. Their questions and comments showed just how much the
public cares about the future of the site."

The biggest task facing heritage groups is mobilizing the public. "We've only
got six weeks left," said Carruthers, "and the clock is ticking." He mentioned
that further public events have been planned leading up to December 1st, but
added that "the public has to speak up if the site is to be saved."

The meeting was sponsored by three organizations: Heritage Toronto, Citizens
for the Old Town, and SEDERI - The South East Downtown Economic Redevelopment
Initiative.


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