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Cawthra Park officially becomes Barbara Hall Park

Wong-Tam apologizes for removal of trans memorial hours before naming ceremony

Surrounded by family, friends and political guests, former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall celebrated a rare honour July 16  — the unveiling of a park named after her.

Previously known as Cawthra Park, Barbara Hall Park was officially renamed by a motion at city council on June 10. The park, which wraps around the 519 Church Street Community Centre, was opened just in time for WorldPride after a 10-month renovation.

“What an incredible call I got one day,” Hall said of learning that the park would be named after her. Several of her former colleagues, including Kristyn Wong-Tam, Pam McConnell and George Smitherman, spoke about Hall’s political activism, including her advocacy for gay men caught up in the 1981 bathhouse raids, to a crowd of approximately 100 people.

“I can’t believe that a park that I began and ended dates in back in the day is named after a woman [who did so much],” Smitherman quipped.

Also in attendance were mayoral candidates Olivia Chow, Karen Stintz and David Soknacki. John Tory tweeted his congratulations to Hall at a party in her honour that took place across the street at House-Maison.

Many of the speakers also took time to affirm their support for Toronto’s trans community. Earlier in the day, while cleaning the park in preparation for the evening ceremony, city staff removed a chalk memorial erected across from the AIDS Memorial on July 12 by members of the trans community.

Wong-Tam explained that the removal was accidental and apologized. She also said that she would work with the community to help build a permanent trans memorial.

After the ceremony, Hall went to the memorial, which had been redrawn by several members of the trans community, to pay her respects.

Hall, wearing the same rainbow earrings she wore when she first arrived in Toronto many years ago, told the assembled guests that her career has depended on the help of many people and that she hopes the park will, in the same spirit, be for the whole community.

“The park for me will always be Barbara Hall and Friends Park,” she said.