With Earth Day approaching, can records relating to the environment be found in the Region of Peel Archives collection? While we don’t have the papers of any household names from the Canadian environmental movement, like David Suzuki (see the David Suzuki fonds at University of British Columbia Archives), Farley Mowat (Farley Mowat fonds at McMaster University), or Bob Hunter (whose personal papers remain in possession of the family), we do have a variety of options for a distinct, local perspective.
A public gardens or a conservation site?
Joe Zammit and Graham Bryan spent much of their youth in the Erindale Woodlands community in Mississauga, and were upset to learn in 1990 of a proposed development of lands straddling the Credit Rover in the west, the CPR/GO tracks in the west, Burnhamthorpe Road to the South, and Highway 403 to the north. This land, slated to become the “Mississauga Public Garden” would need to undergo a great deal of development, including the removal of 500 trees to make way for a parking lot and the building of a $40 million botanical garden. The two men were concerned that the intrinsic value of the land as a natural resource was not being taken into account, and that the development was simply too large for the proposed space.
Through the Erindale Woodlands Ratepayers Association review committee and the Riverwood Conservancy, they fought the City over the development of the lands. The groups ultimately requested that the province of Ontario conduct an Environmental Assessment of the property before any development was allowed to proceed. Revisions were eventually made to the development plan, and the outcome was Riverwood Park.
Included between the Joe Zammit fonds and Graham Bryan fonds are meeting minutes, membership lists, correspondence, site plans, memos, reports, interview/discussion transcriptions, land research, newsletters, audio recordings, and photographs. The collection was accepted in January, and the records will be eventually processed, catalogued, and available for public research.
Environmental assessment towards a Regional plan shows changing land use
In July 1975, the Region of Peel published a report containing “an assessment of the physical environment of the Region of Peel from the point of view of how various environmental factors present constraints to future urban development.” The report notes that the land in Peel “is sensitive to man’s actions, with some areas being much more sensitive than others.”
The first map below shows the “soil capability for agriculture.” The richest soil for farmland is shown by the dark areas. The second map shows existing and designated development areas in Peel. Both these maps date from February 1975. Note that as of 1975, significant chunks of land were uncommitted in all three municipalities, and you can see from the left map that northeast Caledon was essentially the only area of land not viable for growing produce.
Now take a look at the 2014 map on the right, entitled “Prime Agriculture.” This map shows the now remaining undeveloped land in Peel capable of sustaining agricultural uses, marked in the darker brown. That same region of Caledon is now slated for future development. These maps show that Peel’s most arable land now coincides with development, past or future.
David J. Culham fonds
There’s a variety of relevant files in the papers of retired Mississauga councillor David Culham, related to the environment. The future of the Britannia landfill site, environmental pollutants in the Erindale and Erin Mills areas, Friends of the Valley documents, pamphlets, and photographs, and Mississauga Clean City committee minutes.
One focus of the records are files on air quality. The files feature documents from the Mississauga Air Quality Advisory Committee, for which Culham and Pat Mullin were the council representatives. There’s also extensive correspondence with politicians, staff, residents, and organizations like the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. (Note, though, that certain files within the collection need review before public access. Please contact an archivist at PAMA in advance, if you would like to view the Culham fonds.)
For many years, there was a hot-button debate of where in Peel to locate the next garbage dump; the Brampton Library’s newspaper index notes at least 306 news items related to the issue. This interactive map (made as a side project to our Unbuilt Peel exhibition) shows nine of the proposed dump sites, seven shaded with a burgundy colour, and two more (in the middle of Meadowvale Village and right next to Bramalea’s N-section) marked with red circles.
Newspaper photos of a growing movement
The Brampton Guardian fonds, which extends from 1966 to 1996, covers the rise of environmental awareness. Among the photos, Peruvian economist Jose Tavara delivering a lecture to Notre Dame Secondary School students about “World Development & the Environment: The Complex Web”, 1990; an Endangered Species Fair run by The Body Shop at Bramalea City Centre, 1994; the International Water Saver Toilets Inc. booth at the Energy Lifestyle Show, at the International Centre, 1979; and Ontario NDP leader Michael Cassidy doing an energy audit, 1981.
You can see that by keeping original records, archives save evidence that tells us about our relationship to the natural world.
Posted by Nick Moreau, Reprographics Specialist