The Latvian Canadian Cultural Centre is the heart of Latvian life in Toronto and Canada. Its mandate is to foster and sustain Latvian heritage and cultural traditions and to provide a venue for social and cultural exchange with other cultural communities in Canada. The non-profit Centre provides facilities for cultural, social, business and recreational activities for the general public and its members.
The Centre was incorporated in 1977 as a non-profit registered charity and the facility was purchased in the same year with the help of a Wintario grant. The building was remodeled and opened to the public in 1979. The Honourable William G. Davis, Premier of Ontario, and his Worship Mel Lastman, Mayor of the City of North York, officially opened the Centre in 1980. Since that time, the Centre has received two grants from the Trillium Foundation (2003/04 and 2008) as well as a grant from the City of Toronto (2007 Culture Built Grant) for capital improvements.
Over 750 events take place at the Centre annually. The majority of these are culturally focused and include concerts, theatre productions, lectures, and dance performances. The Centre provides classrooms for two heritage Latvian schools as well as facilities for girl guides, boy scouts, dance groups, choirs, and the Latvian artisan group. The Latvian Federation in Canada, the Latvian Credit Union, the Latvian Relief Society and the newspaper Latvija Amerikā are also housed at the Centre. The Centre’s heritage library has more than 15,000 Latvian books and is the largest such library in North America. The Centre is home to many other organizations, of which the largest is the Toronto Latvian Retired Persons Association that meets weekly. The Centre is fully wheelchair accessible and has a large children’s outdoor playground.
The Centre has approximately 600 members, who are those who have donated at least $1,000. Members can vote at the annual meetings and elect Board members.
The Centre supports its day-to-day operations through room rentals, catered events, and fundraising. The Centre’s catering division – “The Birches” – hosts corporate events and private parties in ranging from events for small groups of 20 to 200 to large events such as dinner for 300 in the ballroom. The “Letts Shop” art and gift store was opened in 2008 and offers a wide array of books, CD’s, jewellery, toys, and other artworks for sale to the public; its proceeds also support of the Centre. The pub “Umurkumurs” provides a comfortable meeting place and serves light meals.
Approximately 200 volunteers participate on various committees, prepare Sunday brunches, work in the library; garden, do groundskeeping and minor building repairs, and many other activities. Most notable is the Women’s Committee that organizes craft fairs, sells baked goods and organizes social events.