Scarborough’s Sakinah Center continues standoff with City of Toronto
Scarborough Mirror Jun 07, 2017 Mike Adler
A Scarborough mosque and Islamic school is spending another Ramadan shut down by the City of Toronto.
“Assembly use,” classes and prayers included, was banned at the Sakinah Center in January 2016 because of fire safety violations.
Another problem is that Sakinah’s management bought the Birchmount Road industrial building just days after a bylaw against schools and houses of worship on such properties went into effect.
Sakinah brought 1,000 people to Toronto City Hall earlier this year to protest the situation and was promised help finding a new location.
Saed Rageah, the centre’s founder and imam, said Sakinah’s not giving up. “We want to worship close to where we work, and work close to where our children go to school,” he said this week.
Of the alternatives the city showed to Sakinah, Rageah said, “some were extremely over our budget,” while others were too far away or rental properties too small for its community.
Scarborough-Agincourt Coun. Jim Karygiannis, who is working with Sakinah, said finding a new home won’t be easy. The same is true for many religious institutions struggling to find space in Toronto.
“We need to make sure people have a place to pray. The only place we have is in the industrial areas,” Karygiannis said last week.
“This is only going to translate into escalating tension, and I don’t want to see that.”
Meanwhile, Rageah said Sakinah is paying $13,000 a month for space to pray in during Ramadan and nearly $12,000 a month in taxes on the Birchmount property.
He noted that last month, the Ontario Municipal Board granted the Canada Kanthaswamy Temple permission to hold services in a warehouse near Sakinah on Birchmount until March 2018, when the temple’s permanent home should be rebuilt.
“We’ve been asking the city to give us a similar exemption until we’ve sorted our problem.”
However, local Coun. Michael Thompson continued to describe Sakinah as a group which “seems to think a set of rules for everybody should not apply to them.”
The ban will stand and the fire code violations are under review, he said. “There’s a number of actions the city can take and will take.”
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