Petition update


Diane Buckell
Toronto, Canada

Jun 20, 2023 — 

On behalf of the three leading Ukrainian-Canadian umbrella organizations
representing 86 branches and member organizations, we, the undersigned, 
appeal to the City of Toronto to end its discriminatory policy aimed at 
permanently banning vehicle access to High Park.
The City of Toronto has embarked on a policy path that has snowballed into a de facto “war on 
equal access to High Park.” What initially began, in the spring of 2018, as a restriction on the 
number of vehicles having access to the park during cherry blossom season, has morphed into 
an extremist Committee motion to keep the park closed to vehicles on weekends and statutory 
holidays, culminating in an “end goal” that the City says will be a permanent ban on vehicle 
access to High Park.
Sadly, the City has failed to conduct a transparent and democratic consultation process with the 
various stakeholders that will be impacted by the proposed policy, including the Ukrainian 
Canadian community which has a historic relationship with the park.
High Park is home to the iconic statue of Lesya Ukrainka, the world-renowned poetess, civil, and 
feminist activist, whose monument in the park was commissioned by the Ukrainian Canadian 
Women’s Council. The statue’s unveiling in 1975 was presided over by Canadian officials from 
three levels of government. Since then, for almost 50 years, the site has served as a gathering 
place for annual literary and cultural events, attracting participants of all ages from across 
southern Ontario, most of whom travel to the park by car. Each of these events are attended by 
families, school children, and seniors, who have difficulty walking long distances and who 
depend on the convenience of parking their vehicles near the site. These visitors bring strollers, 
blankets, chairs, musical instruments, etc., all of which require transportation by vehicle and the 
convenience of parking. Because of the weekend restrictions to vehicles, many of these cultural 
gatherings, including the annual cultural tribute to poetess Lesya Ukrainka held by the UCWC in 
September, is forced to limit itself to weekdays, because access to parking is essential. What’s 
more, most of these attendees cap their visit with a meal at the Grenadier Restaurant. Banning 
access to drivers will not only negatively impact the number of repeat visitors to the park but 
also the loyal patrons who support the restaurant.
Yet neither the Ukrainian Canadian Women’s Council and its member organizations, nor any of 
the other Ukrainian Canadian organizations utilizing the park (such as the Ukrainian Canadian 
Congress – Toronto Branch, Toronto Ukrainian Festival, etc.) were invited to participate in the 
City’s consultations with stakeholders on the proposed restrictions on public access to High Park.
Equally troubling is the way that City Council has used the access issue to create what amounts 
to an artificial class war between bikers, pedestrians, and vehicle owners. No group of users is 
more important than the others. Yet, in public debates by city councillors, visitors who rely on 
car parking have been depicted as undesirables, whereas biker access is characterized as noble. 
The approach is illogical, since it punishes the vehicle-owning families and seniors who loyally 
frequent the park and ignores the often-dangerous incidents involving racing bikers. Let us not 
forget that the drivers together with the passengers of their much-maligned vehicles in fact 
represent the thousands of visiting pedestrians that wish to enjoy the park, its programs, and 
Vehicles no longer pose the environmental menace of the past. As experts now contend, the rise 
in fuel-efficient technologies coupled with society’s transition to electric vehicles are diminishing 
environmental hazards, ushering in a steady decline in greenhouse gas emissions. 
Ultimately, banning vehicle access to High Park will have several negative consequences:
- Drivers will seek parking on neighbouring streets, causing distress for both the residents 
of the area and frustration for the aspiring visitors.
- City Hall will likely attempt to remedy a problem that it itself created by installing parking 
meters on these streets (once again financially burdening the wallets of Torontonians —
visitors and local residents alike).
- Visitors from southern Ontario and the GTA will eventually stop frequenting High Park.
- Eventually the sports, cultural, senior programs will suffer and nature lovers, picnic-goers, 
dog owners, as well as the visitors to the historic Grenadier Restaurant and the beloved 
Zoo will ALL decline.
- In short, you will have punished the very demographic that we need to make High Park
the welcoming and dynamic place it has always been.
We can already foresee the detrimental impact of denying visitors equal access to High Park:
• As of August of this year, the City is proposing to reduce the parking spaces in High Park 
by 60% from 562 to 227 which will have a negative effect on the High Park area in 
general. Visitor parking adjacent to the park is minimal, and parking on the local roads is 
already above capacity.
• West Road will lose 105 spots on the east side, leaving 0 parking spaces for the 
Playground, Splash Pad, sports fields and nature trails. Colborne Lodge Drive will lose 154 
spaces, all on the west side from Bloor to the Restaurant, leaving only 48 on the east side 
for those wishing to access the Allotment Gardens, the Dogs Off Leash area, pool, tennis 
courts, theatre as well as visitors who simply want to picnic, enjoy the gardens and 
• The Restaurant Parking area will be reduced from 130 to only 96 spots, the Zoo parking 
lot will be reduced from 73 to 62 and Spring Road will remain at 21. 
This represents a net loss of 335 spaces, leaving only 227 parking spaces for a regional park 
that hosts over a million visitors a year!
What punitive policy will follow next? Paid parking — which will further PUNISH current and 
future visitors who we should be attracting, rather than penalizing?
We appeal to you to keep the existing 562 parking spaces and increase parking for persons with 
disabilities and urge you NOT to ban visitor vehicle access in the future!
Let’s end this elitism! 
Let’s end the planned restrictions on vehicle access! 
Let’s stop punishing families, small children, seniors, out-of-town visitors, and those with 
mobility issues! 
Let’s embrace transparency, inclusion, and open access to High Park for all!
Yours respectfully,
Lisa Shymko
President, Ukrainian Canadian Women’s Association – Toronto Branch
Petro Schturyn
President, Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Toronto Branch
Taras Bahriy
President, Ukrainian Canadian Congress – Provincial Council
For more information, contact :
Lisa Shymko
Tel: 416-894-5518

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