Yesterday and Today - Dec 2020

From dairy farm to affordable housing

By Tim Lambrinos

All over the world, there are new ideas envisioned by scientists, inventors, planners, politicians or sometimes just by everyday people. Yet when a vision becomes so clear and the timing seems to be just right, this is when a vision can truly transform into becoming a success. It doesn’t hurt to have a little luck come rolling your way that can put things over the top on one of those important missions in life. And to help things out, some events seem to get balanced by cosmic forces that align key elements into a single row. This happens when miracles truly occur.

All of these indistinct factors seemed to have come into play with the building of one certain 14 storey apartment building near Finch and Islington some 30 years ago. The facility has grown to be an exclusive and beneficial component of the Humber Summit community at-large throughout this time.

The land where this apartment building currently stands was once a dairy farm operated by Fullerton McClure, approximately 100 years ago. The agricultural operation was originally called the Bow Bent Farm and was run by the Crosson family. McClure was from Woodbridge and he became engaged to Edith Rowntree from a nearby farm. Rowntree’s grandfather (Crosson) deeded the property to the young couple soon after they were married on October 19, 1921. McClure built a farmhouse in 1922 that had a long, straight driveway beginning on the westerly end of Finch and Ardwick and ended up on the north side of Islay Court, of today. On March 7, 1924, a son Bruce was born into the McClure family and eventually Bruce became the operator of this esteemed Holstein cattle dairy farm.

The farm was quite prosperous for its time up until in 1954, when Hurricane Hazel leveled the entire quadrant and transformed it into a temporary, impromptu lake. By 1967, Bluehaven Public School had been built along with most of the accompanying residential homes on the former farmland of Bruce McClure. At the time, some of the previous remaining sections of the farm, nearer the westerly end of Finch and Ardwick, had become desolate landfill areas and remained vacant for some time afterward.

In the early 1990’s, it would be on one of these areas of vacant land that a certain not-for-profit organization would see an opportunity to create a vision and build a unique housing development in Canada. The initial group of planners were from a group known as Ahmadiyya and the founding members included Nasim Mahdi, Mian Siddiq and Karim Tahir.

The first shovels were driven into the ground on a cold winter day in January of 1992. It became the first day of an historic venture that would unveil a new kind of apartment building for the immediate community. The building was intended to be a multi-unit dwelling that specifically catered to persons coming from East India and elsewhere around the world. It was created for people that wished to practise the Islamic religion, right at their facility.

On Canada Day 1993, the complex was officially opened, complete with a celebratory ribbon-cutting ceremony. The name of the facility was appropriately selected to be called the Ahmadiyya Abode of Peace. The word ahmadiyya translates in Arabic to mean “peaceful co-existence.”

The facility offered a unique arrangement with a new type of living array for the community.

The concept was based on combining religion for new Canadians as part of their everyday lives. The new residents were Muslim immigrants from East India, Asia and around the world. The idea was to have these new Canadians live together in a central location so that integration into Canadian life could be much more streamlined and therefore much more effective. And to have all this while applying enlightening elements of religious faith and belief as a primary component of the grouping strategy.

“At first, there were a lot of stigmas that were attached to some of my friends and other new residents coming from abroad. The public tirades against us came from a great number of different people. We even had unfriendly and aggressive protests that were organized against us when we first attempted to actually pour the concrete for the foundation of our building,” said Tahir. He has represented the group as a “front-line worker” of the complex since day-one. He credits proper communication as the driving force that has served to remove any previous suspicion that once existed from some regional nay-sayers.

With Tahir working along the front line, the group has been able to sustain and survive very well. They have become an integral and positive component of a healthy community while contributing to elements of a healthy society in Canada. Through responsible leadership, the nationally-run organization that is based out of Maple has shown to be innovative and reactive to meet all of today’s practical standards of living.

And complete with the building’s fourteen floors in the total complex, there has been a genuine opportunity to have some beneficial programs for community residents. Things like seniors’ activities and recreational activities for children. These features have all proven to be successful for the general community at-large over the years.

These days, the location serves as a hub for a variety of different activities and for those who wish to continue to study the practises of Islamic religion. The earlier so-called cynics, whoever they may be or wherever they may have gone to, once fabricated and raised grandiose illusions about illegitimate perceptions of new Canadians that were coming from abroad. These cynics were obviously never really part of the adjoining community while they attempted to carry out an unrestricted, diversionary-type blocking tactic against the group.

There remains a few that don’t realize that Islamic faith is a religion that teaches all to have respect of life and be at peace with one’s own life. Tahir said it’s crucial to acknowledge that it is the right of all human beings to practice their own beliefs for the, “sanctity, prosperity and respect of all life.”

Time will continue to tell whether the national organization of Ahmadiyya’s original vision for a vibrant, growing and exclusive community will continue to serve all residents of Finchdale and Humber Summit with the utmost integrity. The group has shown to operate well and continues to meet all the local community’s most urgent needs.

One important thing for everyone to be aware of is that the location of Islamic worship is one that is open to all, provided one worships one god.

Islamic teachings acknowledge that everyone, regardless of race, religious beliefs or background, are welcome at the mosque at any time to “pray in their own way.”

To illustrate things more plainly to the unacquainted, instead of meeting collectively in a church, the meeting place for Islamic religion is referred to as a mosque. The faith is driven by a motto that goodwill can be shared by everyone.

During Emery’s festive and family season, now more than ever, there continues to be a need to maintain unity and spread goodwill and peace to everyone.

Wishing all a very peaceful and Merry Christmas.

No matter who they worship.