Friday, 13 August 2021 19:00
Estonian Life No. 32 2021
The Estonian Central Council in Canada (EKN), representing the interests of Canadians of Estonian heritage, welcomes the Estonian House/IEC’s
revised decision to give Toronto Estonian community organizations the choice to complete their 2021-22 programs and activities in the Estonian House until the current lease extension term date of May 31, 2022
At the Estonian House AGM on June 29, 2021, EKN raised community concerns about the timing and relocation process of Estonian organizations operating inside the Estonian House. Of primary concern was a letter sent from Estonian House Board President to community organizations, dated May 19, 2021, which informed them of a final move out date of March 31, 2022
. EKN also raised questions about the interruption of community programming and activities, the absence of any guidance where activities would take place until the completion of the IEC.
We thank the IEC for hosting a virtual “Community Engagement Session” on July 28th, 2021, to address some of these community concerns and the Estonian House commitment to look at working with the new owner of 958 Broadview Ave. to extend its lease back agreement beyond May 31, 2022, as well as efforts to work towards a ‘one- move’ option for tenants and community organizations.
However, EKN encourages the IEC to incorporate greater participation of organization leaders in its decision-making process and include them in active and ongoing dialogue with the Project Team and Working Group, in order to meet the needs of community organizations, build greater trust, and ensure user groups are accommodated with realistic and affordable rental terms, space and storage availability. It was shared that “affordability for community space at KESKUS is a top priority”. The donors who so generously contributed to the IEC and those who funded and built the Estonian House 70 years ago, expect the IEC to first and foremost, become a home for our community organizations, and the cultural and language programming they engage in, in order to sustain and grow Estonian identity.
EKN also encourages the Estonian House/IEC to incorporate greater transparency into their future virtual meetings and ensure all participants can see who is attending; microphones are not permanently muted; text chat is visible to all; and open and free flowing dialogue between participants, IEC/Estonian House employees and board members. Active listening and addressing collective community concerns will only serve to strengthen our community going forward.
Openness, transparency and meaningful engagement are critically important to build trust and support for the IEC project among our organization volunteers, who are the lifeblood that keeps our culture and language alive and vibrant. We hope the Estonian House/IEC will build on previous engagement with organizations and look forward to continued and expanded community dialogue with updates, as soon as they become known.
Follow up items from Estonian Central Council and community groups:
- Community organizations will need to be made aware of rental costs at the IEC well before Spring 2022, in order to plan and budget for activities resuming in fall 2022.
- Regular two-way communication with organizations about IEC construction progress
- If IEC is not anticipated to reach completion by fall 2022, organizations need to be informed in a timely manner, in order to plan for alternate location space
- IEC space confirmations for multiple group use-primarily Saturday mornings.
- Storage space provisions; how much, how easily accessible etc.
- Parking and safety concerns; 40 story condo development on NW corner of Madison timelines