Neighbourly help

Leaside rink gets boost from Flemingdon group

Leaside is one step closer to getting a second ice pad — thanks to the residents of one of Toronto’s 13 priority neighbourhoods.

More than 200 people filled the William Lee Room of the Leaside Gardens to experience south Asian cuisine and take in multicultural musical performances, with proceeds from the July event going toward the arena’s expansion project.

The dinner was organized by the Alliance for Cultural Equity, a not-for-profit group based in Flemingdon Park that also works with the Thorncliffe Park community. The two neighbourhoods are home to many newly arrived Canadians.

“We believe that Thorncliffe and Leaside, we share a lot of values,” said Mazhar Shafiq, chairman of the alliance. “We felt that there is a need for this second ice rink and we want to help our Leaside community in this cause.

“We raised this money and involved newcomers and newly settled immigrants and we want to make sure that we are also contributing to this society.”

The event raised $4,000, a quarter of which was donated by Don Valley West MPP Kathleen Wynne who was in attendance.

“I was there because I’ve been supportive of the project, but also because I saw it as a really good initiative that was bringing together different parts of the community,” she said.

Wynne said she enjoyed the food and the music and said it was refreshing to see a community of newcomers donating to an initiative in an established community.

“It is very much a reversal of what we normally expect and that makes it interesting and all the more worthy of support,” she said.

The communities of Thorncliffe Park and Flemington Park are relatively isolated from each other and the surrounding areas. Shafiq thought the event would serve to bridge the gap between these neighbourhoods and help immigrants integrate into Canadian society.

“Why are we always thinking that the established community will help us?” Shafiq said. “Why can’t we help them?

“We live here, we work here and we want to contribute.”

The $4,000 contributed by the alliance will go toward the $2.5 million that is to be raised by the community before the city contributes its $7 million for the project.

To date, about $1.9 million has been raised through donations and fundraising efforts within Leaside.

Donations alone are not enough to bring Thorncliffe and Leaside closer, according to Shafiq. To bridge the gap, Thorncliffe residents will literally have to cross Leaside Bridge.

“We just want to make sure that the newcomers engage in the mainstream society rather than being isolated in their own circle or their own hub,” he said.

The arena’s expansion committee has been in talks with the principal of Thorncliffe Park Public School about setting aside a few hours of ice time every week for local students.

“They have (a ball hockey league) at Thorncliffe mosque so they’ll be benefiting from this,” he said. “There is a lot of interest.”

About this article:

By: Tristan Carter
Posted: Sep 7 2011 10:39 am
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto