Open Letter to the Regent Park South Community Centre
February 23, 2008
Regent Park South Community Centre
415 Gerrard St E
M5A 2H4 (416) 392-0753
To Whom It May Concern:
As members of the Justice for Alwy Campaign, we wish to express our dismay and condemnation at the decision of the manager(s) of Regent Park South Community Centre to block our organization from using the Community Centre to host our March 1 Justice for Alwy campaign launch.
Following the murder by Toronto Police of 18-year-old Alwy al-Nadhir, his family, friends and allies came together to organize a memorial for Alwy in the neighbourhood where he spent most of his time – that is, Regent Park. For us, the natural choice for a venue was the Regent Park South Community Centre, a place designated by the city as a gathering place for the neighbourhood, especially for its youth.
The initial reaction of certain Community Centre staff was positive and supportive. They said it would be no problem to have the event at the Community Centre. However, after this verbal confirmation, and after our organization had done much leaflet distribution in the neighbourhood with all the event’s information, our organization’s members were met with almost two weeks of utter silence by Community Centre staff. The staff would not return our calls, and when we did speak to them over the phone or in person, we were told that a decision had not yet been made.
Finally, about two weeks after our organization was given informal approval to use the facilities, an employee of the Community Centre told us that her boss, Lucky Booth, had denied our access to the space. When asked why, the employee responded that it was a “delicate situation” since the police was involved and that no one knew what really happened the night Alwy was murdered.
But we know very well what happened, and we know even better what’s happening now! An unarmed youth was shot and killed by police, the police are withholding details about the murder, and now the community is being stonewalled from organizing for truth and justice.
Upon further investigation, we discovered that Toronto City Councillor Pam McConnell of Ward 28 (in which the Regent Park Community Centre is located) is the Vice-Chair of the Toronto Police Services Board. We can only conclude then that the Community Centre refused to host the memorial for Alwy because Parks and Recreation officials would sooner work on behalf of the interests of the police over and against the interests of the community and of Alwy’s family.
Toronto Police Services and Parks and Recreation are supposed to be separate and distinct bodies in the City of Toronto, and the one should not influence, bully, or direct the other. The Justice for Alwy Campaign demands answers from the Regent Park South Community Centre staff as to why exactly we were refused space for our community event and who is to be held accountable for this decision. We can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will be expecting your forthright response.
Despite our setback, the Campaign is moving forward with or without the help of the Regent Park South Community Centre.
Justice for Alwy Now!!!
Organizers of the Justice for Alwy Campaign
Muna Bafagih, Mother of Alwy al-Nadhir
Salma al-Nadhir, Sister of Alwy al-Nadhir
Fatma al-Nadhir, Sister of Alwy al-Nadhir
Basma al-Nadhir, Sister of Alwy al-Nadhir
Sabrin Sagaaf , Cousin of Alwy al-Nadhir
Steve da Silva, Basics Community Newsletter