Toronto’s Vision for Somali Community Center Takes Major Step Forward

Toronto Somali hub advances towards becoming a reality

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Earlier this year, leaders took a crucial step in rectifying the community’s sense of isolation by agreeing to collaborate with advocates in establishing a Somali Centre for Culture and Recreation.
With the tireless efforts of figures like Obo Hassan, manager at Istar restaurant, backing the cause, Rexdale’s Somali population eagerly anticipates the development of a much-needed communal haven.
After years of perseverance, Toronto’s Somali inhabitants may finally have a dedicated place to call their own. Despite making significant contributions to various aspects of city life, the community feels marginalized due to discrimination, lacking the same opportunities as other Torontonians.
In a recent move, council members voted overwhelmingly to begin negotiations with local advocates towards the creation of a Somali Centre for Culture and Recreation (SCCR). The proposed center aims to provide culturally appropriate services while offering a space for Somali residents to celebrate their heritage.
Zakaria Abdulle, the SCCR’s chair, expressed profound pride in Toronto’s support, marking a significant milestone in the community’s longstanding battle for recognition. However, not everyone welcomes the initiative just yet. Councilor Stephen Holyday voiced concerns about a lack of consultation regarding potential sites for the facility.
The estimated 20,000-strong Somali community in Toronto, concentrated in areas like Rexdale, has long awaited a dedicated center. This opportunity, decades in the making, could allow Somali-Canadians to establish a permanent presence in Toronto, similar to previous waves of immigrants.
Additionally, the SCCR highlights the need to address the lack of Black-led and Black-serving community centers in Toronto, with only three percent currently meeting these criteria.
Abdulle emphasized the importance of providing community spaces that foster a sense of belonging and growth within the city. Consultations have revealed a desire for the new center to feature recreational facilities, cultural spaces, and resources focused on promoting Somali heritage.
Local figures like Obo Hassan and Sahra Siyaad advocate for the center to offer programs aimed at steering youth away from negative influences and addressing mental health challenges. They envision the facility as a place for learning, growth, and community building.
As plans progress, the SCCR hopes to secure land from the city at a minimal cost, with funding for construction and operation coming from various sources. Mayor Olivia Chow has expressed her full support for the initiative, recognizing the significance of investing in the Somali community.
With city staff set to provide updates in the coming months, comprehensive consultations will ensure community input throughout the center’s development and operation.

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