[A friend of Concord West who participated in the email campaign urging Vaughan Municipal Council to pass a resolution supporting our community’s efforts to preserve the Concord West Greenspace, forwarded to us a letter she received from Councillor Deb Schulte (which, we believe, was also received by other participats in the campaign), as well as her response to Councillor Schulte’s letter. We asked her if we could publish it – and she agreed on condition that her name be withheld. Here, then, is our friend’s response to Councillor Schulte:]
Dear Councillor Schulte,
Thank you very much for your response to my letter. I don’t want to take up too much of your time, but would like to comment on a few points in your email.
You talk of the necessity of “taking into account all the needs for this area”. But, you know, “all the needs for an area” is a very abstract concept. Who is doing the needing, and what exactly do they need? Unless this is made concrete, how can one decide what (if anything) should be done to meet those putative needs? Meanwhile, here is something very concrete: the needs of the very actual people of the Concord West community: the need for continuity, for living among “good neighbors”, for maintaining a link to the earth, for not being suffocated by fumes or deafened by street noise, for relative safety from crime, for daily enjoyment of naturally growing grass, trees, and wildlife. It seems to me exceedingly bad policy to take away the means by which these concrete needs are currently being satisfied, in the name of the abstract collection of “all the needs for the area”.
You say “the only way we can get it [the greenspace] protected it is to prove its environmental significance through evaluation in the spring.” There are two points I would like to make here. First, it reduces the environmental significance of the greenspace to its significance for plants and animals – things which are best studied in warm weather. But what about its significance for humans? This is a point that seems to be severely and chronically underaddressed in the institutional discourse concerning this issue. What is a proper environment for sustaining human life – not just survival, but life? Is living among greenery, within a pleasant walking distance from an established green space, not one of the conditions that distinguish mere survival from living, and should not we, Canadians, strive to bring this condition to as many of this country’s residents as possible? It seems to me that the answer is an unqualified “yes, we should”. But in the case of Concord West, it is argued that a community that already enjoys this condition should be deprived of it!
But much worse – and this is my second point: what is also being chronically underaddressed is the fact that locating the transit hub where it is being currently planned by the MTO will destroy not just the greenspace, but the Concord West community itself. This point has been argued over and over again by the community, and the community has presented (to use your expression) many valid data to back up the claims that the construction and presence of an intermodal hub right next to Concord West will result in the community’s destruction. Yet these claims have never been given a proper hearing by any of the ministries, or the town planners, or even you, an elected representative of this very community. And as these claims are being disregarded, the destruction of this existing community is being justified as required for the accomplishment of “an optimal solution for connnecting the GO station to the Transitway station”. In your opinion, is this a rational argument?
I know that you are a champion of sustainability. In my view, destroying an existing community that cherishes the earth, that maintains a culture of respect for the land and the art of its cultivation, and trading it for a transit hub, an expanse of concrete and a high-rise development, is not the way to foster sustainability. You use the word “respectful” – and this seems to me a beautiful concept that forms an essential component of sustainability. A respectful approach to the earth and its creatures, and a respectful approach to living on this earth. Destroying green – literally and truly green – communities such as Concord West, and repopulating the earth, instead, with desolate “intense” developments such the one surrounding the Yonge/Finch transit hub or the one surrounding the Walmart across from Promenade Mall (a more “genteel” variety of desolation) is, to my mind, not respectful of life and not a road to sustainability. It works against sustainability, not towards it. And packaging it in invocations of “the needs for the area”, “growth” or “optimality” does not, the way I see it, make the contents of the package any less toxic.