By Robin MacLennan
Ontario Construction Report staff writer
An Indigenous-led coalition is demanding Metrolinx bury a 1.5 kilometre stretch of the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension (ECWE) to protect local green space.
A peaceful demonstration was held in January in the Eglinton Flats — an area in the Humber River Floodplain with parks and green space that Metrolinx is planning to build over for the ECWE.
The ENAGB Indigenous Youth Agency, along with community and park associations, say they will stop construction with a blockade that could last “days or months” if their demands aren’t met.
“This is serious. And I personally don’t want to start blockades, but if we have to then we might have to,” executive director of the ENAGB Indigenous Youth Agency Cynthia Bell said in a news release. “Today, we want to just prove to Metrolinx that we do have an impact on their construction if they don’t come to the table.”
The ECWE, an extension by Metrolinx to bring the Eglinton Crosstown LRT another 9.2 kilometres farther west, is billed as a continuous rapid transit line from the east end of Toronto into Mississauga, projected to give 37,000 daily rides.
In a letter to Metrolinx Board Chair Don Wright and Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney, Bell raised alarm at the potential impact to nearby youth programs and the removal of “thousands” of trees to make way for the elevated track between Scarlett Road and Jane Street as soon as this spring, the release reads.
“It seems that you have not taken the time to effectively and seriously deliberate our request to meet with the decision makers regarding ECWE project,” Bell wrote in her letter. “After careful deliberation with our board, youth council and committee members on Jan. 10, it has been decided to continue to pursue youth and our relative voices for protection with the underground option.
The group says Metrolinx has chosen “the most damaging construction option for all our surrounding environment, over $1 million of planted medicines, trees and a decade of restoration work.
“We will not go away,” Bell said.
A letter to the ENAGB Indigenous Youth Agency from Metrolinx Chair Donald Wright says the ECWE will “not intrude onto the ENAGB land parcel,” and that Metrolinx is committed to working with the agency to “mitigate other construction impacts.”
But the group is still demand a face-to-face meting.
“We are not going to entertain a meeting where you tell us Metrolinx knows best,” she wrote in her letter. “Let us tell you we as Indigenous people have been land stewards since the beginning of time and we know best.
In its latest public update in October, Metrolinx said headwall construction for stations at Kipling Avenue and Islington will wrap up in spring 2023.