University of Toronto to close during G20 - updated
Spillover from the G20 summit has spread to the white ivory towers of Toronto.
Spooked by its proximity to Queen's Park, the G20 designated protest area, the University of Toronto decided on Friday to shutter its St. George campus during the June 26-27 summit. As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 23, the university will close until Sunday, June 27, said vice-provost students Jill Matus.
"We had a series of deliberations and in light of the fact that the protest site has effectively been moved to our doorstep on the St. George campus, we took the decision to restrict access," Matus said. "We took this decision based on our concerns about safety. We know that in past G20 summits, in particularly last year’s summit in Pittsburgh, protests may be associated with violence, arrests, disruptions, tear gas and damage to property."
Trinity Bellwoods Park on Queen St. W. was originally chosen for the summit's "designated speech area" but organizers changed their minds after residents and nearby businesses vehemently opposed the idea.
Matus says there are no classes scheduled for the Thursday and Friday prior to the summit but the closure will force some summer session exams to be rescheduled earlier in the week. Students living in nearby residences will also be relocated and four colleges are so far affected: New College, University College, Woodsworth College and the Innis College residence at 2 Sussex Ave.
Matus said senior administration is still deciding where to move uprooted students but it's possible some will be relocated to residences at the university's Scarborough or Mississauga campuses. The heads of other colleges near the protest zone -- such as Trinity College, St. Michael's College and Victoria College -- have not yet made any decisions to relocate their residence students as well, Matus said.
Matus emphasized that the university is supportive of peaceful demonstrations but also said the school was not consulted prior to Queen's Park being selected as the designated protest zone.
She said it is still too early to know how many students or exams will be impacted, as well as what associated costs might be for the four-day university closure.
The G20 is taking place at the Metro Convention Centre from June 26-27 but security preparations are expected to begin at least a week or two prior.
Update: This afternoon, the Council of Canadians has released a statement decrying the university's plan to shut down campus during the G20, calling the decision "at odds with what would have been expected from a public institution committed to freedom of expression and the city itself."
The organization says it has already sold more than 500 tickets for its June 25 "Shout Out for Global Justice Event," which was supposed to take place at Convocation Hall and will be attended by speakers such as Maude Barlow, Vandana Shiva, Leo Girard, Amy Goodman and Naomi Klein.
"The Council of Canadians is now left scrambling for an alternate downtown location -- in a city with increasingly limited public space due to G20 security -- but will continue to sell tickets, determined that this event will not be shut down," the statement reads.
The council's director of organizing says the group is "disappointed" by the decision.
"We would have expected an institution that promotes the exchange of ideas and public discourse not to close its campus to an international forum at this pivotal moment in history,"
The Council of Canadians says it plan to contact the mayor as well as the U of T to appeal this decision.