Toronto Peace Garden move doesn't please all

  • April 18, 2010
Toronto City HallTORONTO - Some supporters of Nathan Phillips Square’s Peace Garden say moving one of Toronto’s monuments to peace away from the centre of the square as part of a facelift is like pushing to the side the message of nuclear disarmament.

The move is part of the City of Toronto’s $42.7-million, two-year Nathan Phillips Square Revitalization Plan.

Order of Canada recipient Setsuko Thurlow, who survived the 1945 Hiroshima nuclear bombing as a 13-year-old, says she’s “disappointed” about the relocation.

“That saddens me. We felt that the Peace Garden had a very important symbolic significance for the citizens (of Toronto), and that it has been the centre of peace-related activities and social justice-related activities,” she told The Catholic Register.

But the City of Toronto said moving the garden doesn’t have a “political message.” Sheila Glazer, manager of strategic policy and projects in facilities management, said the relocation is for practical reasons. During large events, the garden “gets overshadowed, barricaded” and no longer becomes a “peaceful environment,” she said.

According to the new design, the existing Peace Garden will be relocated from the middle of the square to the west landscaped area, next to Osgoode Hall and the new Law Courts Sculpture Garden. It will be expanded and organized around a long, reflecting pool. It will be set between two elevated planting areas filled with plants and flowering trees.

A granite bridge will span the pool and connect to the garden’s relocated pavilion. As for the eternal flame, which was originally from Hiroshima, it will sit within a vessel of water that will cascade into the reflecting pool. The original water from Nagasaki and the existing pavilion will also be incorporated.

Thurlow said the move appears to be putting “commercial purposes” ahead of spiritual purposes. The newly designed square will feature a new theatre stage, a new skate pavilion and concession stand, and a two-level restaurant with outdoor seasonal patio and terrace. There will also be a new green roof on the City Hall podium roof.

Fr. Massey Lombardi, who first proposed the idea of the Peace Garden and founded it with Thurlow, echoed her concerns.

“I’m disappointed that they moved it from the centre. It says to so many people that it’s not that important,” said Lombardi, who headed the Toronto archdiocese’s former justice and peace office.

“Given the significance of the Peace Garden, I don’t see what’s more important in this world than the abolition of nuclear weapons (compared to) a fashion show and a jazz concert.”

The garden’s relocation will start in June and continue until September 2012.

The original Peace Garden was established in 1984 as a reminder of the horror of nuclear war. Thurlow travelled to Hiroshima whose then mayor agreed to share the city’s eternal flame with Toronto.

The garden was blessed by the late Pope John Paul II, inaugurated by Queen Elizabeth II and proclaimed by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

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