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Canadian Air and Space Museum Facing Eviction

By Ian Brown, EAA 657159, for e-Hotline

Museum

September 29, 2011 – The Canadian Air and Space Museum, located in Downsview Park, an area just north of downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada, has consolidated a reputation for excellence on a shoestring budget.  The museum occupies the historic 1929 de Havilland building, where the de Havilland Chipmunk, Beaver, and Mosquito were constructed as well as the creation of the companies responsible for the Canadarm and the Alouette 1 satellite. The present owners, a Canadian Crown Corporation operating Downsview Park, have given the museum and multiple other tenants six months to vacate the premises.

The museum, which receives no government support, is located next to Downsview Airport, an old military base that is now used by Bombardier Aerospace. This is the third-oldest historic aviation building in Canada. All sources of visitor revenue have ended with the closure to the public, so the financial difficulties of the CASM are unlikely to be resolved. 

Still in the facility is a Lancaster project in pieces, in the middle of plans for a full restoration. Though it never flew in combat, FM104 served after World War II as a search and rescue aircraft and was eventually donated to the City of Toronto and placed on a plinth at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds. 

Having suffered from the weather and some vandalism, the aircraft was recently “brought home” to Downsview, where a thorough restoration began. The museum contains many exemplars of Canadian aviation heritage, which will be extremely difficult to move, and certainly impossible to exhibit without adequate museum space. The volunteers even rebuilt a full-scale replica of the Avro Arrow, a centerpiece of the museum. 

Presently the Crown Corporation, which is an arm’s-length branch of the Canadian government, plans to demolish all but the facade and build four hockey rinks in place of the present building. While some question the need for more rink capacity, representatives of the museum have suggested that it might be cheaper to build four hockey rinks somewhere else on the 500 acres of land occupied by Downsview Park, rather than pay to have the existing building demolished.

Perhaps there is a willingness on behalf of some of the other museums to take some of the exhibits, but this is certainly a sad loss of the historical building. There is a six-month window of opportunity for public opinion to perhaps reverse the decision, but it is certain that the volunteers at the museum will have their hands full in trying to move the exhibits. 

With the future location of the exhibits uncertain, many volunteers may be wondering if they will be able to continue their labor of love.

You can check out the web site www.casmuseum.org for more information. The latest news is updated daily, and there is an online petition and contact details. Members of parliament, when contacted, commented that since crown corporations are technically supposed to be at arm’s length from the government, they could not intervene. 

Concerned citizens can contact the following government officials regarding the plight of the museum:

Rona Ambrose - Minister of Government Services - Ambror@parl.gc.ca
James Moore - Minister of Heritage - James.Moore@parl.gc.ca
Peter MacKay - Minister of Defense - dnd_mdn@forces.gc.ca

David Soknacki – Chairman of Downsview Park - dsoknacki@pdp.ca
Bill Bryck - CEO of Downsview Park - bbryck@downsviewpark.ca

Maria Augimeri - Downsview City Council - councillor_augimeri@toronto.ca

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