They came to a funeral for the trees at risk from the building of the Ontario Line, but it was the line itself they wanted to place underground.
Calls to “Bury the line! Bury the line!” broke out among the crowd of 100 people at the mock funeral in Leslieville’s Jimmie Simpson Park on Nov. 28. They continued as the procession wound its way to Metrolinx’s east-end Ontario Line offices.
Local residents were protesting the rapid transit line planned to run from Exhibition Place downtown to the Ontario Science Centre in Don Mills. Much of the line is to run underground or on elevated tracks, but the section crossing Leslieville and Riverside is to use the existing GO train route on a railway embankment.
This will lead to a massive increase in trains coming through the area, Toronto-Danforth councillor Paula Fletcher told the gathering.
“Instead of 200 trains a day, there’ll be 1,500 trains a day running through this neighbourhood,” Fletcher said.
This will require expanding the rail lines, raising the track bed and rebuilding bridges, she said.
The event was organized by the Save Jimmie Simpson group, which argues the above-ground Ontario Line would increase noise and vibrations in the neighbourhood, divide the community with a 12-metre high wall along the tracks, and remove mature trees from the area.
Standing near the trees that line the route, speakers including MPP Peter Tabuns and environmental experts railed against the Ontario Line for what they said would mean the destruction of trees, local parks and the area’s environment.
Children at the event lined up to deposit dead tree branches in a coffin at the front of the event.
A choir of local activists sang a newly written “Tree Funeral Song,” to the tune of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
The coffin was later carried on a winding route north to Dundas Street and to Bruce Mackay Park on the west side of the rail line, where people tied green ribbons around trees thought to be at risk of being removed.
Eventually the procession made its way to the Metrolinx storefront office at 772 Queen St. E. and the coffin was placed on the front doorstep.