Wings Magazine

Toronto’s Canadian Air & Space Museum shut down

Sept. 26, 2011, Toronto - Toronto's Canadian Air & Space Museum has received notice from its landlord Parc Downsview Park that the Park will be locking the doors today and closing the Museum to regular business.

September 26, 2011  By Carey Fredericks

The Park, a branch of the federal government, has control over the Museum's access after changing the locks following Tuesday's original eviction notice. This threatens to bring a sudden and disappointing close to the Canadian Air & Space Museum's 13-year operation of providing the public an opportunity to experience Canadian history.
After delivery of the original eviction notice on the morning of Tuesday, September 20th, and having the locks changed by early afternoon, the Museum's staff of three and dozens of volunteers believed they needed to vacate the premises immediately. They began scrambling to load vehicles with important administrative documents and remove rare artifacts and aircraft from the building, fearing future inaccessibility to them.
As the media immediately descended upon the Museum to cover this breaking story, Downsview Park advised media that it would extend to the Museum a six month stay of execution, verbally stating the Museum could carry on business as usual, keeping its doors open to visitors, scheduled group tours, school tours, events and birthday parties — of which 5 were scheduled for this weekend.
Unfortunately, in an email dated Thursday, September 22 to Canadian Air & Space Museum CEO Rob Cohen, from Parc Downsview Park's Senior Vice-President of Operations Robert Singleton, it stated that the six month extension "was to facilitate the orderly wind-down of your operations."… "The access to the Premises that we are permitting is strictly for the purposes set out above."
A second email the next day, Friday, September 23, read:
"Further to our letter of last night this is to inform you that the Park will be opening your doors tomorrow (Saturday, September 24th) for your meeting and then locking them after that. To protect both the Museum and the Park from liability issues the doors will remain locked until we meet to finalize a schedule of access. I will make myself available anytime after 8am on Monday morning (September 26) to meet and discuss said schedule."
These and other messages from the Park are contradictory to verbal messages to Museum staff and supporters, and continue the Park's reputation for saying one thing, and acting upon another.
The main troubling issues are:
· The Park told media that the Museum could continue to welcome visitors and tours during the 6-months, when in fact they told the Museum to wind down their operations with no more public access.
· While it is true that the Museum is more than $100,000 in arrears of its rent to Parc Downsview Park, in May 2011, new management was put in place, which in mere months, managed to create a viable and profitable business that could meet its monthly contractual needs and begin to chip away at past debt. The Museum kept in contact with the Park regarding their improved financial situation, and all along, the Park indicated that the Museum was safe from eviction. Meanwhile, the Park was in secret negotiations to build the proposed 4-pad hockey arena.
· While originally, the reason for the eviction was focused on the Museum's debt to Parc Downsvew Park, the Museum soon learned that ALL the tenants of 65 Carl Hall Road had been served the same eviction papers. Again revealing that the Park had been quietly planning the clearing of this building for some time.
Yesterday's email and subsequent weekend lock out is a further blow to an already difficult and haemorrhaging situation.


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