By Adam Mazerall –
Story originally published on womenspost.ca
Story published: http://womenspost.ca/womanoftheweek/2010-06-21/woman-week-june-21-2010-margot-boyd
There are many contributing factors that lead people down the path of activism. For some, it is witnessing a hardship or injustice and feeling a call to action to work to correct the crime. For others, it is simply being passionate about advocacy, and trying to sway a less-than-motivated populace. Margot Boyd is an “accidental activist.” She stumbled upon her cause during her acclimatization to her community.
It all began a few years ago. Margot, her husband Andrew, and their three children moved to Moore Park, a pleasant, family-friendly area. While her family adapted to the community, Margot began learning about the area and affiliated associations. She became a familiar face at community and neighbourhood events, and it was her drive to educate herself about the area her family now called home that led her to stumbling upon a cause that has become dear to her heart.
Margot’s activism started during a research phase commissioned by the Moore Park Residents’ Association (MPRA). The “due diligence” researching, undertaken by the MPRA in 2005, “was a response to the proposed 24,000 square foot Visitation Centre and 80-car parking lot to be built” at the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, on green space land on Toronto’s Kay Gardner Belt Line/Discovery walk – a documented animal and bird migration corridor.
Margot began heavily researching the land title of the cemetery, city process, applicable bylaws, and the like. She went to City Hall and gave a deputation at the East York Community Council meeting, where both the site and tree removal plans were turned down unanimously. Margot, along with Cindy Thorburn, then President of the MPRA, “helped to get word out to the neighbourhood, and in the end, City Councillors listened to the peoples’ voice, and deemed the construction an inappropriate use of land in a 41 to 2 vote. They also voted down the tree removal application.” Unfortunately, the City’s decision to disallow the development was overturned by the Ontario Municipal Board. However, thanks to Margot, Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries (MPGC) was not allowed to build over the Belt Line Trail and as a result, both the building and parking lot were downsized.
During this time, a marketing flyer had been circulated by MPGC stating it was a “commercial, privately owned cemetery.” Margot began a search of legislative statutes, acting on a lead she had heard saying the MPGC was a public trust. “After some research at a law library, I discovered that MPGC, which now encompasses ten cemeteries and 1,200 acres of land, had initially been paid for by the public in 1826 and set up as public trust. But 50 years after its inception the government enacted new legislation and set it up as a corporation of the Crown of Ontario. This was in stark contrast to the circulated material.”
From this point, the MPRA really began its fight for the MPGC’s repatriation back to the public realm. They commissioned a law firm to properly search the legal statutes, which confirmed that MPGC “was created for the community at large and the property of the citizens.” Margot took it upon herself to write to the Province to illuminate “at a higher level the legal status of MPGC.” As a result, in 2006 the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee of the Attorney General requested financial statements from MPGC. To this day MPGC has refused to comply. Margot “cannot understand why the government does not exercise their prerogative to compel them to comply, as all crown agencies must furnish financials upon the government’s request. What’s happening to the public’s money?”
Although Margot left the MPRA in 2009, her “cemetery committee” followed her. Upon getting nowhere with the Province, Margot commissioned one of Canada’s premier law firms, McCarthy Tetrault, to compile a report that brought to light the issues surrounding MPGC. “We figured that the government must just not get it, so we figured we needed a legal opinion. McCarthy wrote out an 18-page report for us, which we sent to Premier McGuinty and the attorney general on September 25, 2009. We have still not gotten a response.”
Margot was told initially that the report had been sent off to the Ministry of Consumer Services. Margot and her “cemetery committee” were asked to a meeting with a representative of the Minister, where they were told the report had been sent to the Office of the Attorney General for a legal opinion and that they could expect a response in a couple of weeks. The response, due in November 2009, never came.
Margot followed up incessantly, continually trying to get information and meetings, but has been denied both many times. At this point many would have become disheartened and jaded to the political arena. Margot, however, continues her fight for the repatriation of the MPGC. She has fought to raise the profile of her issue with fervour and determination. “People ought to know that 1,200 acres of green space and Canada’s history in and around the Toronto area is owned by the public, not a small group of private individuals. Why would we possibly want to give it away?”
It has been nearly eight months since Margot was told that the issue would be dealt with and a formal opinion could be expected. She has spoken with representatives from municipal to provincial governments, and she is constantly told either the case needs to be dealt with at another level or that a review has not yet been completed. Yet she refuses to give in. She is not content to let her issue be sidelined, and will remain a leading force in the recognition and correction of MPGC’s status.
It is still unclear what will happen with the MPGC and what impact Margot will ultimately have on the decision of what will be done with the land. One thing is for certain: This woman has fought a strong battle, and refuses to give up hope in the face of adversity.
For more information and to help Margot and her cause, check out Take Back Mount Pleasant Group of Cemeteries on Facebook.
Thursday Night Magazine and its Editorial Board wishes to thank womenspost.ca for allowing the use of this article: http://womenspost.ca/womanoftheweek/2010-06-21/woman-week-june-21-2010-margot-boyd