Rouge Park

Toronto Mu­­­­slims join National Environmental Cleanup



Greater Toronto Area Muslims came out on Sunday to take part in a national environmental program, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, joining with other citizens who are seeking to reduce the harmful effects of litter on fragile aquatic ecosystems and their surrounding shoreline environments.


“Shoreline cleanups are important because they are a tangible means to mitigate pollution, reduce threats to wildlife and ecological health, and reconnect people with nature to help keep our shared waters sustainable,” said Aasiya Hussain of Ecohesian Inc. and Site Coordinator of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup at the Finch Meander site.

At the Finch Meander in Rouge Park, located in the north-east of the city, a number of Muslim groups collaborated in the environmental cleanup, including CivicMuslims,, Canadian Muslim Fellowship of Scouting, Islamic Institute of Toronto and Pickering Islamic Centre.


During the cleanup, participants removed harmful items from the shorelines of the Rouge River’s Finch Meander, near the north end of The Metro Toronto Zoo off of Old Finch Ave E, and recorded the type and amount of litter they collected on data cards.


“From our rivers, to our lakes, to our oceans – water connects us all – and as Canadians, we have a strong connection with water,” added Aasiya Hussain. “Our nation has the longest shoreline in the world, 20% of the world’s freshwater, and 7% of the world’s renewable freshwater supply – we’re also blessed with breathtakingly beautiful and essential natural capital.”

In 2002, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup emerged as a national program, providing all Canadians the opportunity to make a difference in their local communities.

Meanwhile, a group of students from the University of Toronto came out to another site at Cherry Beach to take part in the Shoreline Cleanup as part of a monthly program at the university that seeks to actualize virtues through a community service project.


“Our Shoreline Cleanup was organized by the Multi-Faith Centre and Volunteering with Virtue, with help from a number of other organizations, including Common Ground Project, Hillel, Muslim Students’ Association, and Faiths Act, UofT,” said Ishraq Alim, one of the organizers.

Volunteering with Virtue is a once-a-month project that brings together students and youth of different faith backgrounds to discuss common virtues and to work together on a community service project,” added Alim. “This month’s theme was Environmental Preservation.”

Following the cleanup, the students reflected on the day’s project.


“We discussed what we came out of the event,” said Ishraq Alim. “Some students were quite impressed at the efforts of Toronto Parks Services at keeping the beaches clean, while others were quite surprised by the level of small and unusual items that were left on the beach, such as cigarette butts, drinking straws, personal hygiene material and a coconut.”

Shoreline Cleanups started appearing in every province and territory, and by 2011, the Shoreline Cleanup celebrated its 18th anniversary with more than 56,000 volunteers.


Over the following years, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup has continued to expand its reach and influence, aided by the support of sponsors, donors, and partners, such as WWF Canada, who became a full partner of the Shoreline Cleanup in 2010.

Today, it is recognized as one of the largest direct action conservation programs, as well as the most significant contributor to the International Coastal Cleanup in Canada.


In the west end of the Greater Toronto Area, Muslims also took part in the shoreline cleanup.


“Faith of Life Network and Sayeda Khadija Centre volunteers were at Meadowvale Conservation Park last Sunday to participate in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup,” Imam Dr. Hamid Slimi told IQRA. “More than 60 volunteers showed up and cleaned up the shoreline.”

“The efforts of today’s volunteers and supporters were inspiring, bringing together government officials, ENGOs, civil society, the corporate sector, educational institutions, and faith-based communities” said Aasiya Hussain. “Our collective efforts became a tangible means to keep our shared waters and environment sustainable, while leaving a positive national legacy for generations to come.”


Rouge National Urban Park: How You Can Help


By Aasiya Hussain - Environmental ethics are inherent in Islam, and we’re blessed with the opportunity to fulfill this sacred trust with a natural gem right in our backyard; Rouge Park.   Rouge Park encompasses 10,000 acres (over 40 km2) of protected park land in the Rouge River, Petticoat Creek and Duffins Creek watersheds of the Greater Toronto Area.  It is 5,000 acres  south of the Oak Ridges Moraine and is the only region linking the Ontario Greenbelt to Lake Ontario in the City of Toronto.  With this landscape, Rouge Park provides an essential natural corridor and is now home to one of Canada’s last remaining Carolinian habitatsrare and vulnerable species, a provincially significant geologic feature, 10,000+ years of human history, and is a source of our drinking water.

Located in Canada's most densely populated region, Rouge Park offers an oasis that reconnects urban communities with nature and outdoor recreation.  Among these communities is a significant Muslim population residing in the Rouge, along with members of Canada's beautifully diverse multi-faith and multicultural social fabric.

As Rouge Park becomes Canada’s first national urban park, it needs our collective help now more than ever.  Please help leave a positive Canadian legacy that protects the Rouge's ecological health, natural capitalnatural and cultural heritage, and the rights of people in this region, including Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. Opportunities include:

Sept. 1,  2pm & Sept. 29, 9:30am  Rouge Park's Guided Walks. Explore the splendour of Rouge Park while replenishing your mind, body, and spirit.

Sept. 15: Tour de Greenbelt in Rouge Park.

Sept. 22: Friends of the Rouge Watershed's community tree planting in Bob Hunter Memorial Park, Rouge Park.

Sept. 23, 2:30pm: The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup at Finch Meander in Rouge Park. Help keep our waters and natural environment healthy and sustainable.  Spots are limited, please reserve yours by pre-registering today.

From now until Oct. 8, 2012: Help create The Rouge National Urban Park by reviewing the Park's concept and submitting your feedback on-line to Parks Canada before their Oct. 8, 2012 deadline.  Amplify your voice by sending a letter to your leaders for support.

Additional Resources:

UPDATE (October 10, 2012):

The following public meetings are now taking place to inform and seek input from residents regarding changes in the Rouge:

1)      October 11, 2012 from 6:30-8:30pm: Beare Road Park Master Plan Public Meeting at Blessed Mother Teresa Catholic High School.

2)      October 15, 2012 from 7:00-9:00pm: Rouge National Urban Park Community Meeting at the Scarborough Civic Centre.

Aasiya Hussain is an environmental steward, community catalyst, and award-winning socio-environmental entrepreneur. Her journey includes reconnecting people with nature as a certified hike leader and leading innovative conservation, stewardship, sustainability, and community development initiatives across Canada and abroad.  She is dedicated to collaboration for the common good and building bridges towards greater understanding.