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Reconciliation and recreation at heart of North York’s newest, and largest community centre

The largest community centre in North York is now open to the public, complete with a gymnasium, pool, library, child-care centre and a name that reflects local Indigenous culture.

The Ethennonnhawahstihnen’ Community Recreation Centre and Library is a three-storey facility in the Bayview Village neighbourhood with an $81 million price tag. It will offer a variety of programming and services.

Among the highlights, the 218,400-square-foot centre features a large aquatics centre, a double gymnasium, indoor track, weight room, dance studio and teaching kitchen for community cooking classes.

“[It] just creates so much more reason to come here, stay and play all day,” said Howie Dayton, director of community recreation for the city’s parks, forestry and recreation division. 

“A parent can drop off a child and they’ll have a lot to do after school until nine at night.”

A reception desk at an athletic facility. One person sits at the desk
The Ethennonnhawahstihnen Community Recreation Centre and Library opened Saturday, and is the largest community centre in North York, according to the city. (CBC)

One local says the space fills a gap in the neighbourhood.

“Bayview Village has been an active and vibrant community for almost 70 years, however we lacked the public space and indoor recreation facilities that Ethennonnhawahstihnen’ community recreation centre offers,” said Jane Robertson, president of the Bayview Village Association.

The large facility will also serve the new Park Place development nearby, which is expected to have 10,000 residents once complete. It’s also located right next to Bessarion subway station, which Toronto’s program manager of capital projects Mario Pecchia hopes will “draw people from outside the community as well because it’s such a large facility.”

Three boys and a man sit around a drum on a stage indoors, as part of an Indigenous drum ceremony
An Indigenous ceremony at the community centre’s grand opening. The centre’s name, Ethennonnhawahstihnen’, was a gift from the Huron-Wendat Nation to the city of Toronto. (CBC)

The centre is also located near a culturally significant site for the Huron-Wendat people. The Moatfield Ossuary, discovered in 1997, was once an Indigenous village, dating back nearly 800 years.

The new centre’s name — Ethennonnhawahstihnen’ — which means “where they had a good, beautiful life,” honours that heritage. The name — pronounced Etta-nonna wasti-nuh — was chosen by the Huron-Wendat Nation, and gifted to the city of Toronto. It is also the name of a local street and park.

At the grand opening Saturday, Indigenous leaders and city politicians celebrated the collaboration between the city and local First Nations.

Chief William Romain of the Huron-Wendat Nation for Ontario said the naming of the new centre to honour a nearby site of cultural significance “reflects the City of Toronto’s great willingness to recognize the Huron-Wendat Nation’s historical presence, and we truly appreciate this.”

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