Hundreds of members of Toronto’s faith-based community gathered at city hall Wednesday morning to protest a zoning by-law which prohibits places of worship from being situated in industrial areas.
The Sakinah Community Center, an Islamic centre based in Scarborough which offers educational and prayer services, was shuttered a year ago following zoning and fire code violations.
“The city is pushing us to buy land on commercial and residential. Both of them, for the majority of the community, is not attainable due to the price range,” Said Rageah, Sakinah’s imam, told reporters on Thursday.
“We request from our elected officials to reconsider and work with us to find a resolution and repeal this bylaw.”
Rageah said Sakinah’s location was purchased in 2013, but city council adopted a new zoning by-law several days later which banned schools and religious institutions on designated industrial land.
The harmonized by-law currently only allows places of worship to be situated in residential and commercial areas.
“This bylaw existed for over 65 years and the City of Toronto decided to take the schools and places of worship out of the bylaw,” Rageah said. “We’re not asking the city to come up with a new by-law, rather we asking the city to reinstate the old bylaw.”
Rageah said community leaders tried to move to another location but found the costs were too high.
“Our building is big. Our land is big. It accommodates the needs of the community and we cannot find that somewhere else,” he said.
Community leaders say they are looking to speak with members of council and urge them to change their minds.
“We want a tangible solution. Not for them to meet with us and say, ‘You cannot do this,'” Rageah said.