Skip to main content

Toronto Vet considers Toronto's imperilled air museum a monument to war heroes

Canadian WWII veteran, Philip Gray (Flt. Lt. Retired), 89, inside the Canadian Air and Space Museum (CASM) in Toronto on Nov. 2, 2011.

Peter Power/Peter Power/ The Globe and Mail

For some members of the public preserving the Canadian Air & Space Museum is about saving precious artifacts. For others, like Philip Gray, it's also about honouring those who served in the wars.

Since September, the museum has been under the pall of an eviction notice that would put its contents into storage, making way for it to be turned into an ice rink, alongside a condo development.

Mr. Gray, 89, who is a supporter of Downsview, flew numerous missions during the Second World War with the Royal Air Force. He served as a captain in the 186 Squadron flying Lancaster bombers – there is one on display in the museum. He even wrote a book about it: Ghosts of Targets Past: The Lives and Losses of a Lancaster Crew in 1944-45.

Story continues below advertisement

Many of the men he flew with were young, and many didn't make it back.

"I flew alongside Canadian flyers; I saw them die. We were fighting for freedom. That freedom is now thrown back in our faces," Mr. Gray said. "It seems a bit cruel."

The eviction notice, served by Parc Downsview Park Inc., a Crown corporation charged with the maintenance and development of the land, requires moving the artifacts. However, there are complications: in order to store the replica of the Avro Arrow, for instance, the wings would have to be sawn off. Then there's the building itself: Constructed in 1929, it was the original home of de Havilland Aircraft of Canada Ltd., which manufactured the Mosquito combat aircraft.

"This building is steeped in Canadian history," Mr. Gray said. "Why not keep it for the Canadian people?"

Toronto City Council adopted a motion to petition the federal government to preserve the site. The museum itself is urging the public to support its efforts by signing online petitions and contacting MPs. A Remembrance Day ceremony is planned for Friday.

"It's a David and Goliath thing," Ward 9 Councillor Maria Augimeri said. "It's like fighting a war all over again."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter