The Canadian Air & Space Museum’s landlord, Parc Downsview Park, has closed the museum to regular business.
The Park, a branch of the federal government, has control over the Toronto museum’s access after changing the locks following the Sept. 20 original eviction notice. This threatens to bring a sudden and disappointing close to the Canadian Air & Space Museum’s 13-year operation of providing the public an opportunity to experience Canadian history, museum officials said.
After delivery of the original eviction notice and having the locks changed by early afternoon, the museum’s staff of three and dozens of volunteers believed they needed to vacate the premises immediately. They began scrambling to load vehicles with administrative documents and remove rare artifacts and aircraft from the building, fearing future inaccessibility to them.
As the media descended upon the museum to cover the story, Downsview Park advised media that it would extend to the museum a six-month stay of execution, verbally stating the museum could carry on business as usual, keeping its doors open to visitors, scheduled group tours, school tours, events and birthday parties — of which five were scheduled for the weekend.
Unfortunately, in an email dated Thursday, Sept. 22 to Canadian Air & Space Museum CEO Rob Cohen, from Parc Downsview Park’s Senior Vice-President of Operations Robert Singleton, it stated that the six-month extension “was to facilitate the orderly wind-down of your operations.”… “The access to the premises that we are permitting is strictly for the purposes set out above.”
A second email the next day, Friday, September 23, read: “Further to our letter of last night, this is to inform you that the Park will be opening your doors tomorrow (Saturday, Sept. 24) for your meeting and then locking them after that. To protect both the museum and the Park from liability issues the doors will remain locked until we meet to finalize a schedule of access.”
These and other messages from the Park are contradictory to verbal messages to museum staff and supporters, museum officials said.
The museum is more than $100,000 in arrears of its rent to Parc Downsview Park, museum officials concede, noting that in May 2011, new management was put in place, which managed to create a “viable and profitable business that could meet its monthly contractual needs and begin to chip away at past debt.”
“The museum kept in contact with the Park regarding their improved financial situation, and all along, the Park indicated that the museum was safe from eviction,” museum officials continued. “Meanwhile, the Park was in secret negotiations to build a proposed 4-pad hockey arena.”
The Canadian Air & Space Museum is a non-profit organization that is housed in the original manufacturing facility of the de Havilland Canada aircraft factory. It is not government funded and credits its creation and upkeep to hundreds of volunteers and thousands of volunteer hours. In addition to opening its doors to visitors, tours and special events, the museum is part of the Toronto Board of Education’s Grade 6 science and Grade 10 history curriculums, hosting thousands of students each year, officials said.
For more information: 416-638-6078, CASMuseum.org