Immigrants, Greek Priests. c 1908-1912
I have always maintained that we should have a civil, independent, non-profit organization
representing the Greek community in Toronto.
The first places Greek immigrants in Canada got together were churches, as they fulfilled their
religious needs and served as places of social contact, an opportunity to speak their language, to find friends and companions, etc. To respond to social needs, churches created centers or social event halls, usually in their basement.
Although churches also took on a social character, they did not constitute a general
representation of the Diaspora. A large percentage of people did not go to church, for whatever reason, and the need for representation was much broader.
The more the community grew in number, the greater the need for a Greek representative
organization, predominantly of cultural character. It would run Greek language classes and
promote the Hellenic culture and civilization. At the same time, it would have a dynamic
presence in the broader community as well as the political scene of the country.
Certainly, a big factor was finances. How would these endeavors be paid for? Churches have a stable income, but they cannot function as a representative organization. They operate under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox Archdiocese of the country they are in. Certainly, agreements can be struck between the ecclesiastical and the civil entities, but there may be conflicts, as they have different roles.
In Toronto, there are 16 Orthodox churches, which are also called communities, but there is no
representative civil community. Four of the churches belong to an organization called Greek
Community of Toronto (GCT). The name denotes broad representation of the Greek community of the city whereas, in reality, GCT represents only its members. Nevertheless, GCT has been a strong organization, but could have done much better.
Recently, we hear about major problems in the GCT, particularly its enormous debt. A
fundraising campaign committee of volunteers has been set up to deal with the huge financial
problem. Dr. Tasos Karantonis, a well-known physician in the Greek community in Toronto,
leads the committee. The committee has raised a significant sum so far, but nowhere near what is required.
I really appreciate this effort and, knowing how much Dr. Karantonis cares about the GCT, I
hope the endeavour will not be futile. The enormous debt is not a new problem. It is the result
of many years of mismanagement, as Dr. Karantonis rightly pointed out in a recent interview.
For an organization to function properly, it certainly needs a board of capable, honest, and
unselfish people with the necessary knowledge and time.
It also needs qualified people in charge of its various activities, not just anyone. For example,
how could a dissonant, or person unrelated to music direct a choir? How could a person 82
years old, whose only qualifications are finishing one year of kindergarten teaching school (in
1958) run a school? Major changes will have to be made.
I hope that Dr. Karantonis succeeds and helps the GCT be reborn on a healthy basis, without the "sins"; and shortcomings of the past. There will have to be a complete makeover.