Toronto officials are facing criticism for dismantling a historic landmark commemorating Japanese-Canadian history less than a month after its architect’s death. Known as the Temple Bell, the monument was created by Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama, who died on September 1 at the age of 93, according to a press statement from his firm. The site in Ontario Place, a park along Lake Ontario’s coastline, marks the 100-year anniversary of the first arrival of Japanese immigrants to Canada.
The monument’s removal is part of a broader redevelopment plan for the park by the Ontario provincial government. In recent months, critics have accused officials behind the plan of prioritizing the commercial interests of a $350 million mega spa and denounced the relocation of the historic Ontario Science Centre. Some have also expressed concerns over the clearcutting of trees, specifically on the park’s West Island, which was reportedly not included in the environmental assessment for the redevelopment plan.
Over the next five years, the bell will kept in storage until it is relocated to a new location on the redeveloped site, per the NAJC and an announcement from the Ministry of Infrastructure.
“While we are ‘satisfied’ with the outcome of the relocation plan, our first choice was for the Temple Bell to remain where it is,” Lynn Deutscher Kobayashi, president of the NAJC Toronto chapter, said in an email to Hyperallergic, adding that the overarching issue at hand is “tackling the erasure of Moriyama’s legacy.” The Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre and the Ontario Science Centre, both works of Moriyama, face their own threats of destruction. The chapter is currently in a Ontario Land Tribunal case to preserve the origins Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre at 123 Wynford Drive, and is also “100% against moving the Science Centre,” as proposed in the provincial redevelopment plan for Ontario Place.
The monument’s dismantling began early this morning, September 25, as construction workers first removed the bell before taking apart the structure’s glass canopy. The structure was initially erected in 1977 with the fundraising support of more 17,000 Japanese Canadians living in Ontario, according to the Toronto branch of the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC).
Weighing over 1,200 pounds, the bell was crafted out of solid bronze in Japan. Over the decades, the pavilion has served as a special ceremonial place for Japanese Canadians and other residents, and rung annually to celebrate the New Year as well as Obon, a day of familial and ancestral remembrance held in July. The traditional ringing of the bell by the Toronto Buddhist Church has been held nearly every year, with the exception of a few cases due to inclement weather.
“As a heritage site that is recognized by the World Monuments Fund, and a heritage site at risk, now we see the risk escalating with the dismantling of Raymond Moriyama’s temple bell, and the imminent cutting down of 850 mature trees that are over 50 years old, all in the context of a climate emergency,” Norm Di Pasquale, a co-chair for the grassroots organization Ontario Place for All, that has been opposing the provincial plans for redevelopment, told Hyperallergic.
Last Friday, September 22, the NAJC encouraged community members in an Instagram post to visit the Goh Ohn Pavilion to “ring the bell in its original location for the last time” before the area was restricted today.
The Ministry of Infrastructure; the Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport; and the Office of Mayor Olivia Chow have not yet responded to Hyperallergic‘s request for comment.
“In West Island, they’re erasing everything that’s there. Every tree will be gone. The temple bell, gone. Literally everything is being erased,” Di Pasquale said.