Muslims stage city hall protest over closed Scarborough community centre

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Cii Radio| Ayesha Ismail| 20 January 2017| 21 Rabi ul Aakir 1438

Local community bought Sakinah Community School in 2013, but zoning rules forced closure

Hundreds of Muslims demanded answers from the mayor on Thursday morning about why the city is blocking the use of a faith-based community centre in Scarborough.

Members of the Muslim community purchased the Birchmount and Lawrence-area building that would become the Sakinah Community School, which includes a school and mosque, in 2013. However, a city zoning bylaw coupled with concerns over fire safety forced it to close.

Said Ragaeh, of the Sakinah Foundation, said his community has been trying to get the centre reopened but hasn’t had any help from city officials.

“We don’t think the faith-based community is being treated right, or fairly,” Ragaeh told CBC Toronto.

“We had to show up with all these people to get an appointment with our mayor. That’s ridiculous, don’t you think?”
He said the group met with officials at city hall and Coun. Michael Thompson, who represents Ward 37, but the meetings proved fruitless.

Mayor says rules must be followed
Mayor John Tory invited Ragaeh into his office for a closed-door meeting. They emerged shortly after, with Tory telling those who made the trip to city hall that he’s assigning two city staff members to look into the issue and explore how to fix it.

“I can’t promise that I can dictate what those resolutions are,” Tory told the crowd.

“We have zoning laws for a reason. We have fire safety rules for a reason. And we have to make sure we go along and comply with those,” he said.

Ragaeh said the fire code issues have already been addressed and that his community isn’t asking the city to overlook any building issues. He would, however, need the city to rezone the property.

The building is located in an employment industrial zone, which means it is intended for a mix of manufacturing and office uses. According to city bylaws, some of these zones are allowed to have parks, hotels and small-scale retail.
Ragaeh said the mayor vowed to provide an update in two weeks.

He said his community, which raised funds to buy the Birchmount building, can’t afford to purchase another property on land zoned for commercial or residential use.

Source – cbc