Dundas West | Roncesvalles Peace Garden

Roncy’s Northern Gateway

Peace Garden (noun)
A public botanical garden created to commemorate the end of conflict, OR a public space dedicated to pay homage towards the commitment of peace, or rather, freedom from the disturbance, thereby promoting quiet and tranquility. A welcoming retreat.drpg-view-01-8

The DRPG was conceived to honour the 1812 Battle of York, when Canadians of both Immigrant and Aboriginal status, fought side by side to fend off American invaders.

Because the intersection of Dundas West was once part of an indigenous trail that is, today celebrated as part of a Bicentennial Peace Garden Trail Network (combining Canadian History with promotion of Toronto’s First Nation’s heritage) – Founding Project Managers had set out to create a venture that could include many community groups as well as, benefit the area, aesthetically by serving as a Welcoming Northern Gateway to the Roncesvalles Village.

With the support of City Councillor Gord Perks, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nations, the RVBIA, Horticultural Societies of Parkdale & Toronto, RMRA, Sunnyside Historical Society, Toronto Public Space Initiative, Romero House, Bishop Marrocco/Thomas Merton Secondary School, and RoncyWorks, the ambitious undertaking is now a beautiful representation of many groups working together, peacefully – I might add.

Designed by Mary Tremain of PLANT Architect inc, the Peace Garden will now provide a space for enjoyment, contemplation, and community gathering, it also celebrates 200 years of friendship and peace for the City of Toronto and in particular, to the residents of the Roncesvalles area.

Seating areas consist of curved wooden benches that are thoughtfully integrated within the tapered concrete planter walls that surround and protect the garden beds.


construction of the curved benches

Plants and trees reflect a range of contemporary and heritage varieties local to the High Park area. Decorative, engraved granite paving tiles set among passive solar blocks, comprise the walkways, known as the Peace Path. Lighting has been incorporated to improve visibility and highlight the circular interior space.

An interpretive sign provided by DRPG community partners; the Roncesvalles Village BIA, and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, will be installed at the southwest corner. This sign will be unveiled on Saturday June 11th at the garden’s opening ceremonies.

During Roncy Rocks
11 am Opening Ceremony: Intersection: Dundas Street West at Roncesvalles Avenue

12:00 – 5:00 at the Indigenous Music Stage: Ritchie Avenue at Roncesvalles Ave

WHAT TO EXPECT: At the Opening Ceremony:

  • The Ceremony will be co-officiated with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and the Friends of Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden, to formally open the Peace Garden.
  • An Indigenous Elder gives a blessing.
  • Mary Tremain, of PLANT Architect, will be thanked for her beautiful landscape design. The City of Toronto will be thanked for capital funding and management of construction.
  • A heritage plaque revealing the indigenous origin of this portion of Dundas Street, and its rise to prominence during the War of 1812 will be unveiled by its co-sponsors, the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation and the Roncesvalles Village BIA.
  • The first community arts project between a First Nation and a Toronto community group will be unveiled — the “Peace Path” of engraved pavers winding through the Garden will be unveiled.
  • The city’s first indigenous artwork painted onto a street infrastructure box will be presented to the public by the artist.  An image from an 1812 Fort York artefact, for Luminato’s “Trove” exhibit, installed on an outside wall at the site will be revealed.
  • The Garden will be designated for the Moccasin Identifier project to mark its historical significance. At the Indigenous Music Stage:
  • 12 noon: Georgina Toulouse of Sagamok First Nation sings a welcoming song in Ojibway language. Chief Stacy LaForme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, who is himself a poet, welcomes everyone and opens the first stage of indigenous music to be performed on local streets, roads or trails in over 200 years
  • 12:30 PM Métis Fiddler Quartet: siblings Alyssa, Conlin, Nicholas and Danton on viola, guitar, violin and song merge classical strings and spirited Métis music.
  • 1:45 PM Marc Meriläinen (Nadjiwan): The untamed beauty of Marc’s northern Manitoba home infuses smoking hot rock, with the heartbeat of a community
  • 2:30 PM Métis music workshop
  • 3:00 PM Manitou Mkwa: Inspirational singers and hand drumming family group from the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. Raised in the tradition of performing at Pow Wows, the group is devoted to raising awareness and support for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and their families.
  • 4:00 PM Cheri Maracle: hypnotic vocals with contemporary four-piece jazz ensemble pulses with Cheri’s Mohawk heritage style.
  • 5:00 PM Donna’s Boy: Glenn Gould expresses his Mi’kmaq roots with a deep, full voice and six piece Blues/Rock band of horns, harmonica, guitar, fiddle. They’ll pump up the tempo. Spark

Taking it to the Street

It took a village to raise that baby!

Beautiful day on Roncesvalles avenue showing passengers boarding streetcar, trees, plant beds and shoppers.With a team of many BIA members, TTC delegates, advocating residents, and City of Toronto officials, the long, arduous task of co – creating the Roncesvalles streetscape was a group effort.  The process was based on consultation, collaboration and transparency.

Several members of RoncyWorks were involved in the process and are pleased to report that Roncy’s development history is intact, safe and on the cutting edge of experimental projects.  For example the Greening of Roncy by local volunteers and the success of the Cigarette Litter Prevention Campaign is inspiring other neighbourhoods.

Creating an accessible street that people would enjoy for generations was the group mandate. And, if the TTC has to make some adjustments to get that perfect, well that’s OK with me.

The group had to scale their vision to budget and other limitations, while pursuing the common interests of all businesses, residents, motorists, cyclists, transit users and pedestrians of all ages — some with strollers, walkers or wheelchairs.

Roncy Works… because we all work together.

More on:  Community engagement with Roncesvalles Renewed

Roncesvalles Renewed

RoncyWorks was rooted from Roncesvalles Renewed, a community group initiated by the Roncesvalles Village BIA in 2005, four years before construction began on our main street.

People sitting around a table at a meeting for Roncesvalles Renewed

Members of Roncesvalles Renewed at one of the many meetings held at the home of John Senders and Ann Crichton-Harris on Indian Road.

Roncesvalles Renewed included reps from the BIA and three local Residents Associations, other local residents with particular interests or expertise in urban planning and renewal, business owners, local institutions and political representatives. We saw this reconstruction as an opportunity to try a new model for how communities collaborate with the City on major infrastructure projects of this kind.

Beginning in June 2009, Roncesvalles Avenue underwent a major reconstruction. The sewers were rebuilt, followed by the water mains, streetcar tracks and sidewalks. It meant digging, dust and detours for about two years. It also presented a number of opportunities, not least of which was to create a thriving canopy of trees along Roncesvalles.

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Roncy’s Century Old Tree nominated for Heritage Designation


For almost a century, Roncesvalles’s  Silver Maple, located midway up the corridor  slightly NE of High Park Blvd, has stood as a living testament. It has overseen evolving urban growth and settlement. It stood idly by and flourished throughout the decades of change. Historic changes that have modified our sleepy village east of the great High Park.

This tree surveyed modest community beginnings, when waves of Polish immigrants sought refuge in 1914, 1920-1939 and again in 1941. It heard tales of World Wars and the Great Depression.  It was young then and had a nearby companion, sadly lost in this last, past decade. But no one mourned as we do with many of our resident elders,  elders whom we respect and honor, for the lives they have lived.

And lived it had, despite concrete sidewalks and heavy pedestrian traffic, it has faithfully  served as the lungs of our neighbourhood,  neutralizing the carbon emissions escaping the parade of motorized vehicles that have drove past it everyday, throughout the decades.

It is quite unique, for it is believed to be one of Toronto’s oldest trees in a commercial district, how did it manage to survive?  If each beautiful gnarled wart could tell a story, I’m sure there will be narratives of seasons passing, families strolling and businesses coming and going and many an anecdote of lives… well, lived.

It is time to respect our elder, our stately Sliver Maple who “we” and City Officials safequarded during the reconstruction of our street.  This tree has been recently nominated, via video submission, to the Heritage Trees Ontario Program and I am proud to have spearheaded that endeavour.



As a volunteered environmental advocate, I personally hope to celebrate with you, when our moniker of Resilience can be commemorated for being the Grand Dame, that she is!

Read Inside Toronto article about designation


A glimpse of our street’s namesake

Sheep grazing on the Pyranees foothills of Roncesvalles in Spain.

Sheep grazing on the Pyrenees foothills of Roncesvalles in Spain. Photo: Ed Lamb

Local history buffs may know that our main street was named by  Col. Walter O’Hara after the Battle of Roncesvalles, which took place in the Roncesvalles gorge in Spain in 1813, in which he led a regiment that fought against the retreating army of Napoleon.

Here we’ve posted a few photos and a bit of history provided by our newest Roncy Sweeps volunteer, Ed Lamb, from his travels through Roncesvalles in Spain.

Ed points out that in the Pyrenees Roncesvalles of today “there is absolutely no village, no neighbourhood(s), only a large old hostal building, including a church.  There are also two small hotels – the staff would live in local villages or in more distant Pamplona. The setting is wonderful in the foothills of the Pyrenees.  (An earlier) …battle in 788 was as a result of Charlemagne’s attempt to push the Moors out of Europe.  He failed miserably.  The pass of Roncesvalles is one of only a few ways of penetrating these mountains.”

Ed has also posted a simple panoramic video of Roncesvalles in Spain on YouTube.

To see historic photos of our street and the area, see Years Gone By: A Photo Essay of Roncesvalles Village.

For more local history, connect with The Roncesvalles Village Historical Society on facebook.