Charles Roach was born in Trinidad in 1933. He immigrated to Canada in 1955 to pursue his dream of attending university to study theology. During his years at the University of Saskatchewan, Rosa Parks’ name became famous when she refused to give up her “whites only” seat on a bus,. This event, and, more generally, the civil rights movement in the United States, profoundly influenced him. Instead of continuing the path to the priesthood he had planned, he moved to Toronto to attend law school with a vision of fighting for civil rights and social justice. This was a vision that deeply motivated him throughout his life.
Charlie (as he asked everyone to call him) was a wonderfully friendly, talented, outgoing and optimistic person. Although many of the causes he supported were very controversial at the time, even people most opposed to his views found it very difficult to dislike him. In 1968, Charlie opened his own law practice, focusing on civil rights and social justice but also becoming a full-service law firm comprised of up to ten lawyers at a time. He often represented clients for little or no fee. His practice, first under the name Roach, Smith and then Roach, Schwartz & Associates, was located at 688 St. Clair Avenue West, at Christie Street, in our own Ward 21. Charlie generally pursued human rights on two fronts simultaneously: in the courts and through political organizing. Over the years, a large number of community activists met in Charlie’s office to plan campaigns for equality and social justice. In many cases, Charlie’s representations in court worked in tandem with community movements to achieve justice.
One of his spectacular victories was the case of the seven Jamaican mothers who won permanent residency because of his activist-legal campaign.This eased the situation of domestic workers who had been in Canada for many years without hope of permanent status. Along with Dudley Laws and others, Charlie founded the Black Action Defence Committee (BADC), For decades, BADC was the most prominent organization exposing and protesting racism in policing. In particular, BADC argued that we need an agency independent of the police that investigates when an officer kills or seriously injures someone. One of BADC’s main achievements was the creation, in 1990, of the Special Investigations Unit, the civilian agency that now investigates killings and serious injuries caused by police officers.
Charlie’s contributions to the fight against apartheid in South Africa included founding the Freedom Ride Against Apartheid (with Lennox Farrell), and undertaking the controversial 1986 court case in which he argued that the South African ambassador to Canada was complicit in crimes against humanity and therefore shouldn’t be permitted to give a lecture at the University of Toronto. He lost the court case but the media attention helped people to understand the criminal nature of apartheid.
Charlie was one of the prime organizers of the Movement of Minority electors, an organization devoted to encouraging members of minority groups to seek positions in public office and to participate in the electoral process. In addition to being an exceptional lawyer and activist, Charlie gave much to the community in other ways. He was the key founding member of Caribana back in 1967. He sat on the Board of Directors of Caribana for many years, helping Caribana to survive various difficulties. Charlie held the position of Chairperson on and off a number of times between 1967 and 2007. Moreover, Charlie was an accomplished musician, poet and visual artist. He wrote a number of songs, including the inspiring “Free the Land from Bigotry”.
Charlie really wanted to become a citizen of Canada. However, becoming a citizen requires swearing or affirming an oath to the Queen. Charlie strongly believed that no human being should be required to swear or affirm an oath to another; to do so would have violated his conscience. In several different legal cases over a period of twenty years, he tried to convince the courts to make the oath to the Queen voluntary. He lost.
Charlie died of a brain tumor on October 2, 2012. Although he became increasingly frail over the last year of his life, he remained his wonderfully optimistic self until the end. When a reporter asked him a couple of months before he died how he maintains his activism in the face of failing health, he replied, “The struggle is the important thing. Not how it ends. It’s not whether I win or lose, but did I fight and do all I can?” He did do all he could, and that was an enormous amount.
Although he never became a citizen of Canada, Charlie Roach dedicated much of his life to making Canada a better place. His work has left a lasting impact in Toronto, and, more broadly, in Canada. The fact that his law office stood within our Ward boundaries is something we can all be proud of since it was the base of operations for many progressive steps forward in Toronto history. The laneway under proposal is right around the corner from where Charlie’s office stood. It is so close that he might have walked it on a lunch break or while discussing some idea to help move our city forward.
Donald Harvey Francks (February 28, 1932 – April 3, 2016), also known as Iron Buffalo, was a Canadian actor, vocalist, and jazz musician. Don Francks was born and raised in Burnaby, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver. He once attributed his vocal talent and career to free elocution lessons with Muriel Davis from the age of eight. He performed in vaudeville, worked as a foundryman, and was involved in summer stock before moving to Toronto.
As a spokesman for the Canadian television series Other Voices in the mid-1960s, he investigated a boy’s murder at Saskatchewan Red Pheasant First Nation. He married and moved there with his second wife, dancer and actor Lili Francks, who was named Red Eagle there. He was adopted as a Cree and named Iron Buffalo — “strong like iron; like the buffalo who knows where to go, is a good provider and good for his family.” From 1979, he lived in Toronto with his wife, Lili, and their son, Rainbow Sun. His daughter, actress Cree Summer, lives and works in Hollywood. He also had two children by his first marriage.
An avid motorcycle rider, he had a collection of 12 antique cars, mostly Model-T Ford racing cars from 1912 to 1927. He was a poet, First Nations champion, author, and peace activist. He supported Greenpeace and Tibet.Francks composed songs and played the trombone, drums, and flute. He performed in many jazz clubs, including George’s Spaghetti House in Toronto and the Village Vanguard in New York City. In 1963, in New York, he recorded the album Jackie Gleason Says No One in This World Is Like Don Francks — a direct quote from the great American comedian and television star. He also recorded Lost . . . and Alone in New York.
In August 1962, the Don Francks Trio with Lenny Breau made its debut at Toronto’s Purple Onion. In 2004, Art of Life Records released a four decades-old recording called Live at the Purple Onion. A National Film Board documentary called Toronto Jazz ‘62 includes rehearsals and performances of two other groups.
In 2010, he performed on CJRT-FM (now Jazz FM 91.1) and recorded a podcast for the station called Jazz Genesis. In January 2013, he completed mixing a double live CD to be released in the fall of 2013. He performed in Toronto jazz clubs seasonally, including an annual stint for the TD Toronto Jazz Festival.
Francks’ acting career began with CBC Television as a regular on Burns Chuckwagon from the Stampede Corral (1954 to 1955), Riding High (1955), and the drama The Fast Ones (1959). In 1957, he had a part in the American series The Adventures of Tugboat Annie (which was filmed in Toronto), Cannonball (1958) and Long Shot (1959). In 1959-60, he starred in the CBC-TV series R.C.M.P., playing Constable Bill Mitchell. In 1968, he co-starred with Fred Astaire and Petula Clark in the film version of Finian’s Rainbow. This Land (1970 to 1986) was a CBC-TV documentary series on Canadian nature, wildlife, natural resources, and life in remote communities. Francks was the narrator. He portrayed the English writer Grey Owl (Archie Belaney), who ‘returned’ fifty years after his death to be disturbed by the ecological deterioration.
From 1997 to 2001, he played Walter in the television series La Femme Nikita. Early television credits include Mission: Impossible, Wild Wild West, and several other appearances in episodic television. In the 2015 six-part series Gangland Undercover on the History Channel, he played Lizard. His film work includes The Big Town, My Bloody Valentine, and Johnny Mnemonic. On February 16, 1964, he appeared on Broadway in the title role of the musical Kelly, as a daredevil planning to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge. The show was the first on Broadway in a generation to close on opening night.Francks played Archie Goodwin alongside Mavor Moore as Nero Wolfe for Canadian radio. He provided the voice of Skunk in Gene Simmons’ animated television show My Dad the Rock Star. Francks was the first actor to voice the role of Boba Fett, a Mandalorian bounty hunter, in Star Wars Holiday Special and reprised the role in an episode of Star Wars: Droids. He voiced several characters in Inspector Gadget along with his daughter, Cree Summer, who voiced Penny during the first season of the show. He provided the voice for Mok Swagger in the 1983 Canadian animated film Rock and Rule and the voice of Sabretooth on X-men The Animated Series.
Don Francks died on April 3, 2016, from lung cancer at the age of 84.
The Forest Hill Barber Shop is the oldest business in the Forest Hill Village and Nick Vitantonio is its longest-serving owner/operator, providing service to succeeding generations of residents. Nick has contributed actively to the well-being of the City of Toronto. In 1995, under his leadership, the staff of the Forest Hill Barber Shop created a golf tournament to raise funds for charity. The Forest Hill Barber Shop Charity Golf Tournament ran for 13 years. (It was organised each year entirely by Nick and his staff without the assistance of professional event planners). Thanks to the continuing support of the barbershop’s loyal customers — as sponsors, participants, and supporters — the tournament sold out every year and raised, in total, over $600,000, the bulk of which was donated to the Hospital for Sick Children, among other charities.
The Forest Hill Barber Shop has been operating continuously in the same location since 1931. At each change of ownership, the business has been taken over by a member of the staff. Thus it is a ‘legacy’ business, handed on from an older colleague to a younger, as if from father to son. In 1931, Jimmy and Frank Di Giulio opened the Forest Hill Barber and Beauty Shoppe at 408 Spadina Road. (That was the same year that Village Apartments, the building in which the Forest Hill Barber Shop is still located, was built.) Jimmy ran the barbershop on the ground floor and Frank ran the beauty salon upstairs. In 1939, Anthony Cammiso joined Jimmy Di Giulio’s staff. According to the 1954 assessment rolls, Tony Cammiso joined Jimmy Di Giulio as a taxpayer and therefore it is reasonable to assume that he became Jimmy’s business partner that year. (Tony’s name appears as Cammiso in the City Directories starting in 1939. In 1952, some bureaucrat misspelled it as ‘Cammisa’ and it appeared thereafter with that spelling in both the City Directories and the assessment rolls.) Jimmy Di Giulio and Tony Cammisa [sic] remained partners until 1959, when Tony’s name is the only one that appears on the assessment rolls. In 1963, Nick Vitantonio came to work for Tony and, a year later, became Tony’s partner. In 1989, Nick bought the business from Tony and ran the shop with his three staff barbers. In 2013, Nick matched Tony for length of service (50 years) and subsequently became the Village’s longest-serving barber/owner.
More recently, Nick has been slowed down by Parkinson’s disease and so, while he retains ownership and still comes in a few times a week to help out and see everyone, he has turned operation of the barbershop over to his sons-in-law, Mario Smeriglio and Terry Caris, who have been both staff barbers there for decades: Mario since 1987 and Terry since 1995. Thus the legacy continues.
In 2011, the Kenwood/Wychwood lane was overrun with tagging and unwanted graffiti. Two Kenwood Avenuue neighbors and long-time St. Clair West residents decided to counter the tagging by launching “The Kenwood Lane Art Initiative”(KenwoodLaneArt.com). The initiative (which is permission-based) creates art murals on residents’ garages, free of charge, with paint generously donated by Maple Paints on St. Clair Avenue West. Some of the residents had a ton of tagging, and some had none at all—but everyone agreed that the art might be a great way to minimize future vandalism. Since 2011, over 40 garages have been painted—not one has been tagged.
As a result, the Kenwood lane has become a living art gallery—there is a noticeable increase in foot and bicycle traffic, making for a safer laneway. Since the launch of this initiative, we have also noticed that neighbours have added their own art, planted new gardens, and generally cared for the laneway. This initiative has not only galvanized the neighborhood, but the lane has become a source of pride and has helped a sense of community.
Dov was a dearly loved member of our community who died in February 2015 at the age of 55, after a valiant struggle with lung disease. He was a vocal advocate for our community, and was an engaged citizen of the city and of the world, in addition to being a devoted neighbour and friend.
It was not for nothing that he was nicknamed “The King of Westover Hill”. His interest in the well-being of his neighbours and of the neighborhood was demonstrated many times over the decades that he lived among us. Before he became ill, there was rarely a day when he would not be seen strolling up and down the street, turning back when he came to the laneway, perusing the neighborhood goings on and ensuring that all was well.
After his lung transplant he committed his energy and drive to raising awareness about organ donation, and through his efforts and outreach hundreds of people added their names to organ donation registry.
His kindness, his engagement and his advocacy have been sorely missed since his passing, and naming the laneway after him would be a fitting tribute.
Jose and Edivia Fernandez immigrated to Canada in 1963. They were from Asturias, Spain but had come from Germany after living there for several years. It was a new adventure for them.
They lived in this area for 34 years, 28 of which were on Arlington. They were well-respected and loved in the community and were a driving force in the Spanish Community. They were passionate about their heritage and Jose took on many projects which supported, educated and promoted Spanish culture. He could not have done this without the support of his loving wife.
He was one of the founding members of the Spanish Club of Toronto in 1964—which is an important Spanish cultural club that organizes many social and cultural events to preserve Spanish culture. He was also a founding member of the Spanish Complementary School of Toronto in 1966, which supports and promotes Spanish language learning to children. Later, in 1982, he was on the board of directors in the development and build of Villa Campoamor at 99 Vaughan road, (Vaughan and St. Clair)—it is a beautiful building that offers some affordable housing units. All of these initiatives have benefited many and are alive and well today.
This wonderful couple worked hard to raise their family, they were a spirited pair that cared deeply about this community and city. They loved Arlington, and Cedervale Park, and so it would be fitting to have them honored and commemorated by naming our laneway after them. Especially since Jose passed in January of 2014.
A city builder and a community builder, Alan Slobodsky had an accomplished career at both North York and Toronto City Hall as Chief of Staff to Mayor Mel Lastman, and a successful private practice as a development consultant to the real estate industry.
In neighbourhoods across the city, Alan didn’t just act on behalf of the development industry he worked tirelessly to support the public interest, advising and guiding groups and individuals who sought his help on behalf of school groups, religious communities, and places of worship, charitable organizations, health care initiatives or policy matters.
In his career that spanned decades, Alan Slobodsky addressed issues in each of Toronto’s 44 Wards, including Ward 21, in which we will honour his contributions with a lane in his namesake.
In was in Ward 21 Alan responded to concerns of Upper Village residents who were struggling with the overwhelming noise created by local construction work. Through his efforts, in partnership with Councillor Joe Mihevc, Alan worked with key stakeholders to find a solution by helping to establish a 20′ ft acoustic wall, south of Wembley. With the addition of this wall, local home owners were protected from the sounds local construction projects, ensuring they were not unduly disrupted by the ongoing construction.
Finding local solutions that made city life better was what Alan did in Ward 21, and across the city. It is why Alan’s life and his work mattered to residents of this neighbourhood and to the people of Toronto. And it is why honouring Alan’s memory with a laneway in Ward 21 is a great what to celebrate his life and legacy.
Tollkeeper’s Lane Background information: Davenport is a corridor with a long history, starting as a First Nations footpath to Niagara, then a French fur trading route before ultimately becoming a road following the establishment of Upper Canada. In the 1800s, many roads were built by private contractors who financed them through the collection of tolls. Davenport was one such road. It featured five tollgates, including one at the corner of Bathurst (then known as Cruikshank’s Lane.) The cottage which housed the tollkeepers and families still stands today at the street corner, having survived several moves and threats of redevelopment. This proposed name has significance as it commemorates the local history of the construction of Davenport Road. It also complements the restored Tollkeeper’s Cottage (now a museum) and the historical plaque in the area. The name was supported and nominated by the local Tarragon Village Community Association. Tollkeeper’s Lane is also widely supported by the Ward 21 Laneway Naming Committee.
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Larry Priestman was a lifelong electrician. He was very active in his local branch of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, even after his retirement. Larry taught classes at George Brown College, and was also part of a special team of professionals appointed by UofT to advise members of the corporate world on how to relate with their unions. He volunteered at and donated to the old Hillcrest Hospital until its volunteer team was disbanded. Larry also volunteered his expertise in the restoration of the Tollkeeper’s Cottage, frequently paying for various tasks out of his own pocket. This proposed name would give homage to a man who had contributed significantly to the city and the local community. Larry’s presence in the local community was so noteworthy that he was nicknamed “the Mayor of Marchmount” by his neighbours. The nomination of Larry Priestman Lane was widely supported by the committee of Ward 21 residents reviewing potential laneway names. Larry’s son, Peter Priestman, sits on this committee and is in favour of this naming.
A talented storyteller, Helen Carmichael Porter was very effective at developing complex characters and storylines by seeing the world through various points of view. Always looking for stories in the things she saw, Helen based her works on what she researched and what she created; stories based on historical characters; stories on people she met locally or in her travels; stories on her own experience, transmuted and imagined. Helen drew on the landscapes of where she spent her time, including her home in Toronto. Although she spent much time in other regions such as the Ottawa Valley and the Northern Ontario Lakelands, Helen’s roots were still strong in this city, obtaining a Master’s Degree at the University of Toronto, and teaching English and Drama at the Vaughan Road Collegiate Institute. Some of Helen’s contributions to the community include her published stories – My Father Taught Me to Swim, My Grandmother’s Mouth, I Love You So Much It Hurts, and The Bully and Me: Stories that Break the Cycle of Torment. The latter saw great success on her tours in countless schools – a testament to Helen’s ability to connect with other people’s issues and struggles. Some other venues she told her stories in were the National Arts Centre, the Blyth Festival, St. Lawrence Centre, Roy Thomson Hall, the Hans Christian Anderson statue in Central Park (New York), and on CBC radio, television, and film. Helen passed away in 2007, after a three month battle with leukemia. She is missed dearly by the storytelling community in Canada, as her contribution was very well known and extensive. Having lived on Pinewood Ave in Ward 21, the naming of Helen Porter Lane would honour this woman’s great works, and her impact on countless people her stories have touched. This laneway name was proposed by a fellow storyteller in the community, and endorsed by the Ward 21 Laneway Naming Committee.
This proposed name gives homage to a local shopkeeper, Domenico Cozzi. Him and his wife, now in their elderly years, have been firmly rooted in the community. Their shop is colloquially known as “Dom’s” and is considered a landmark in the neighbourhood. Generations of locals have been into the shop for almost 50 years. During lunch hour, local schoolchildren line up to buy homemade sandwiches at Dom’s – some of these children have parents who did the very same thing many years before. To the many locals who shop at Dom’s, this store is more than a business to them, but an integral and unique piece of their neighbourhood’s fabric. Dom’s is even featured in a children’s book, “Our Corner Grocery Store.” The nomination of Dom’s Lane has been put forward by 22 neighbours of Dom; these people feel this would be an appropriate honour to one who has enriched the neighbourhood for so many years. It was also endorsed by the Ward 21 Laneway Naming Committee
Lauretta lived many years in the Humewood area of Ward 21 before her passing in July 2014. She was considered the heart and soul of thecommunity by many neighbours, was well connected with people, and often went out of her way helping others in the area. Lauretta worked as a school and community liaison in the City of York Board of Education, and volunteered in many groups, such as the Humewood Neighbourhood Safety Audit Committee, the Vaughan Road Co-operative Nursery School, and the Wychwood Open Door drop-in. She also co-founded the Humewood Neighbourhood Association, the Humewood Multicultural Dinner Dances, the Humewood School Mom and Tots group, and the Humewood Neighbourhood Fair. Lauretta was also instrumental in advocating for the restoration of the pedestrian bridge over the Cedarvale Ravine, which would have been torn down if not for the community activism. The naming of Lauretta Brooks Lane would therefore highlight this person’s tireless and extensive contributions to her community. This name was put forward Lauretta’s friends, and has the endorsement of 53 community members who signed a petition. The proposed name is also widely supported by the Ward 21 Laneway Naming Committee, who recommend this application
Bishop Brown, his wife Norma and their three daughters lived in the rectory next door to St. Michael’s and were active members of the neighbourhood. “He wasn’t just a minister at the church; he got involved more than someone who just showed up on Sunday morning. I think it was because he had children in the community,” says Mrs. Longworth, one of the nominators. Perhaps his most lasting legacy in the area is the St. Michael and All Angels Day Care Centre, founded in 1976 and still flourishing today. “The daycare was founded because there was nothing available for kids over two years old at that time,” says Mr. Longworth. “There was a private daycare in the church, but once the kids turned two and a half, they all had to go to different places.” After he left St. Michael’s, Bishop Brown continued to provide advice and financial support to the daycare until his death in 2011. One of his daughters, Carrie Brown, was the centre’s longest-serving supervisor. The nominators also wanted to recognize Bishop Brown’s advocacy around race relations and multiculturalism, something he is still known for across the diocese. “He was very active in promoting the West Indian community, and he had a strong sense of the of the civil rights movement in the States,” says Mr. Longworth. Bishop Brown invited many dignitaries to St. Michael’s over the years, welcoming guests such as Premier Bill Davis and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. That welcome was also extended to newcomers from around the world, whom he invited to take on leadership roles in the church. “He appointed our first black warden and one of the first female wardens probably in the diocese,” says Mr. Longworth. “St. Michael’s became a socially active church largely because of him.”
Feel Good was the performance name of a former Ward 21 resident, Barry Luksenberg. Barry grew up in the St. Clair West neighbourhood, and was very passionate about hip hop. He and his friends formed a group named “512”, after the local streetcar line. Each of these members were very dedicated to their neighbourhood, and contributed to the musical culture of the area. Even when Barry lived in Victoria, BC, he continued to promote his “512” roots to the people he knew there. This young man tragically passed away in 2014, at age 24. Barry was well-loved and touched many people’s lives. An online petition on change.org had 458 supporters while another petition gathered 427 signatures, all in favour of this proposed laneway name. His memorial at the Wychwood Barns was attended by over 300 people. The widespread support for this tribute to Barry is a testament to his roots in the local community and shows how tragic and untimely this young man’s departure was. This name application was initially nominated by Barry’s father and aunt, and was endorsed almost unanimously by the Ward 21 Laneway Naming Committee. As such, the naming of Feel Good Lane would be significant to the community, as it honours the life of an individual passionate about the St. Clair West neighbourhood who touched many hearts and contributed to the community’s musical culture
Dr. Lowrey was a lifelong social activist and fought alongside Dr. Norman Bethune in Spain during the Spanish Civil War against the “Falange”, General Franco’s Fascists army. He devoted many years of free medical services to poor and underprivileged citizens here in Toronto and helped out many of the dispossessed and desperate men on the breadlines during the Great Depression. I believe there may even be a book about him somewhere.
Born in Budapest, Robert Zend and his wife and baby escaped the failed 1956 Hungarian Revolution to start a new life as refugees in Canada. He soon became a Canadian citizen and worked his way up as an employee for the CBC, becoming a producer of over 100 radio documentaries for Ideas. Zend also obtained a Master’s in Italian Literature at the University of Toronto and was a long-time resident (20 years) of Ward 21. His family home is still in the Hillcrest neighbourhood of Ward 21. Zend’s invaluable contributions to Canadian culture go beyond his documentaries with the CBC. Upon arrival in Toronto, he immediately became active in literary and artistic life, publishing five collections of poetry, fiction, and a unique type of typewriter art he referred to as “typescapes.” Five more books were published posthumously by his widow, Janine. Zend’s works are praised by many, including Margaret Atwood, Northrup Frye, Glenn Gould, Marcel Marceau, Jorge Luis Borges, and John Robert Colombo. Robert’s work frequently had Toronto as a motif. His literature also featured themes of transition from one culture to another and newfound freedom in a democratic and multicultural country. As such, his story is one that is very representative and relatable to many citizens of this great city. Therefore, Robert Zend Lane would be a great tribute to a man who found his success and his home in Toronto, while greatly contributing to Canadian literature and arts in his life. The nomination of this laneway has been strongly endorsed by the Ward 21 Laneway Naming Committee
George Bilton was the long time owner of a former grocery store in the Forest Hill Village. This grocery store was located at the northwest corner of Spadina and Lonsdale and operated for 60 years, until 1986. The store opened in 1926 as Black’s Forest Hill Market, owned by Frederick William Black. Ownership of the business by the Bilton family began in 1943 when it was purchased by George’s father, Frederick Bilton. When the store ownership turned over to George, it was renamed Bilton’s Fine Foods. George Bilton operated the business for 32 years – the longest of all the owner-operators. The residence above the grocery store was also his family home. George and his business are remembered by long time residents of the Forest Hill Village. As such, the naming of Bilton Lane would be a token of local history to this community. The name was proposed by a resident of the neighbourhood, and supported by members of the Ward 21 Laneway Naming Committee.