(photo taken by Waterfront Toronto)
It is rare in Toronto to have a canvas like the West Don Lands to paint with. When the WDLC started their work, much of the land was functionally undevelopable due to the risk of flooding from the Don River. Today, the area is home to flood protection that has allowed thousands of new homes–including new affordable housing–new community and health facilities and one of the most beautiful parks in the city at Corktown Commons. A new Indigenous health care hub run by Anishnawbe Health Toronto and a new long-term care home run by Rekai Centres are coming soon, pieces the WDLC has had a strong role in advocating for.
While there are many hands that were involved in the development of the West Don Lands, a strong resident-led voice was critical not just for the local advocacy, but ensuring institutional memory was preserved as governments and politicians came and went. None of this happens without patience, hard work and leadership.
That patience, hard work and leadership are now being carried by local resident associations. I know they are proud to welcome the new Canary District Neighbourhood Association, a neighbourhood that may not exist today without the WDLC’s advocacy. The WDLC has frequently collaborated with the Corktown Resident and Business Association, the East Waterfront Community Association, the Gooderham and Worts Neighbourhood Association and the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association, and know that their presence and impact the WDLC has had will be sorely missed by those communities.
In my short time as a City Councillor for the West Don Lands, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the WDLC and the tireless advocacy of the co-chairs, Cindy Wilkey and John Wilson. They have continued to shape Toronto’s waterfront neighbourhoods through their advocacy around the Dominion Foundry, the Ontario Line and Ontario Place. I know that I have not seen the last of Cindy and John, and I look forward to continuing to work with them in the future.
On behalf of the City of Toronto, I sincerely thank everyone on the West Don Lands Committee for their work. The city still has more to do, including securing new grocery, retail, and school facilities and continuing to improve and expand transit and cycling facilities. The WDLC has been a giant on our waterfront, one whose shoulders I am now fortunate to stand on.