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Remembering the Battle of St. Clair

This weekend, the City of Toronto remembers the 200th anniversary of the Battle of York. As we look back on this conflagration, it seems appropriate to remember a less explosive, but no less battle in our city’s history: the fight to put St. Clair’s streetcars onto private right-of-way.

This article on the Battle of St. Clair and a full chronology of the St. Clair Right-of-Way project details the history of what started as a modest proposal, but grew into a battle over two competing visions of the city, and now remains a symbol on both sides of what is wrong and what is right about the city. As in all histories, there’s a lot of grey between the black and white. In my opinion, St. Clair today is greatly improved from where it was ten years ago, but that doesn’t excuse the complications that occurred with the project, or the disruption local residents had to endure.

With the help of other resources, including Steve Munro, I hope I’ve crafted a fair representation of what happened eight years ago, because it will be worth remembering in the years to come. Save Our St. Clair and SCRIPT, the grassroots organizations at opposite ends of the right-of-way debate, have faded into the mists of time. By and large, now that the surrounding neighbourhoods are through the horrible reconstruction, they’re getting on with their lives and embracing the St. Clair streetcar line. And as the forces of this city continue to debate subways versus LRT, and how to pay (or even if) for transit expansion, I hope this page will be a resource of how this city changed, and what people have to do to make things change.