Shows disregard for history and lack of green space in city: Toronto Lawyers Association president
The Toronto Lawyers Association is concerned about the impact a new $10.9 billion Ontario subway line will have on the historical Osgoode Hall building and is raising awareness about the issue with Toronto lawyers and the Ontario bar, says TLA president Michael White.
Announced by the Ontario government in 2019, Metrolinx is constructing the 15-stop Ontario Line subway that will start at the northeast end of Exhibition Place and run through downtown Toronto before ending at the Ontario Science Centre.
CP24 reported that construction broke ground on March 27 at the Exhibition Place, and Mayor John Tory said the intersection of Queen and Yonge streets in downtown Toronto would close for years due to the project.
The Ontario line is scheduled to open in 2030, and Mayor Tory acknowledged that the construction would create anxiety for Torontonians. “I think the first thing we’ve done is to be straight up with people... there is going to be disruption. And we simply have to get it built.”
Metrolinx has indicated that the proposed Osgoode Station will be 34 metres underground, linking to the University subway. White says the site proposal shows a staging ground to the west of the Osgoode Hall building and lots of planned construction. “We’re not clear what studies and investigations the governmental departments have undertaken on the construction’s impact on court’s operations, let alone the physical aspects in the hall.”
The TLA is uninformed on whether the Ontario minister of heritage, sport, tourism and cultural industries, the federal minister of Canadian heritage and Toronto’s Heritage Planning Unit and Preservation Board have viewed the proposal and are aware of the full extent of the impact of the construction of the Ontario Line subway, he says.
Osgoode Hall is a designated historical site, and he says the construction of a subway on its front sends a negative message about Ontario’s regard for the building’s history. Furthermore, the lack of green space already poses a problem in Toronto.
Osgoode Hall is one of the last pieces of green space in the downtown region, and he says the TLA is concerned about the impact of constructing a subway station on the building’s green space. “This is about understanding and preserving the historical and architectural significance of Osgoode Hall.”
Osgoode Hall opened in 1832 and originally housed the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Osgoode Hall Law School. The building was designated a Canadian national historic site in 1979, and The City of Toronto Ontario Heritage Act also established Osgoode Hall as a historic site in 1990.
For a building that is recognized for its historical importance by the province and city, White says putting a subway station on the front line is absurd. “To preserve the dignity of a designated national historical site, something important to the province, you’d want to be very careful before making incursions on the front lawn and what we’ve seen diagrammed for a station.”
The Law Society of Ontario and the province’s superior and appeal court reside in Osgoode Hall. White says the TLA is concerned about the length of disruption, noise from tunnelling and construction, and impact on sitting courts.
“What will that mean for the courts, especially the Ontario Superior Court and the Ontario Court of Appeal? Are courts going to be sitting with this type of construction just outside, with the noise and vibration from tunnelling?”
Constructing a subway is disruptive and takes years to complete, White says, referring to the disturbance caused by the Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit (LRT) project, which has been ongoing for over a decade. In addition, he says the construction’s impact on Osgoode’s building structure because of the age is also unknown.
“We’re not saying there should be no station,” he says. “Access to justice is a crucial issue, and we hope that some compromise can be met where there’s no need to have an incursion onto the front lawn of Osgoode Hall.”