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Every Sunday morning last summer, seniors and family members have been protesting Global Kingdom Ministries (GKM), a Scarborough mega-church. In 2016, GKM advertised and started taking deposits for a 605-unit "Trinity Ravine Towers" (TRT) condo promising a "seniors faith-based community" with luxury amenities but left seniors with a bankrupted project, resulting in the loss of tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.
"They're saying 'Lord, Lord, Lord' and still robbing us," Trevor, one of the seniors who lost money, tells North Star. Trevor lost $150,000 and he and his fellow seniors are now fighting to get their money back—with interest. "Blessings be to you... and a curse on your church!" he politely offers to parishioners as they enter and leave their weekly Sunday service. "The church robbed the seniors! They're all crooks, all the directors in there," Trevor adds.
From November 2015 through to November 2016, GKM launched the Trinity Ravine Towers, advertising a "55+ faith-based condominium community" consisting of a two-tower development that would be "connected by a four-storey amenity podium" with "wellness and fitness facilities, entertainment venues, a computer lab and even a community dining room." These condos were selling for under $500,000 at the time—a tantalizing deal, even in 2015.
Abdul Wahid was really convinced that he was investing in something to look forward to: "They told us that they were going to build a seniors' condo [and that] they would put all the facilities [needed] for seniors."
But a number of people reported to North Star that the project hadn't even secured construction financing when the church began taking people's deposits. Even more egregious was all the attention the project was receiving from industry boosters and local politicians at the time.
GKM lent immense credibility to its venture with a ground-breaking ceremony and dinner for TRT in October 2017 where over 300 attendees, including local political representatives at all levels of government eagerly posed for photos. Notable guests included then-Toronto City Councillor Glenn DeBaeremaker (2003-18), then-Scarborough-Guildwood MPP and Ontario Minister of Education, Mitzie Hunter (who recently left her seat after a failed 2023 Toronto mayoral race bid), and representatives from federal MP John McKay's office.
The hype around TRT would ultimately rake in deposits totalling to $27.6 million from 439 separate purchasers. Over $16 million of this money would never be returned, and 280 purchasers would be left without their money and without the homes they were promised.
Despite the fanfare, TRT would experience year after year of inexplicable delay. The repeated announcements in 2019 and 2020 triggered a wave of purchasers demanding their money back.
Gopal says that, in 2020, "they bifurcated the church property into two entities." GKM's severed its land base into two blocs: the first going back to the church itself, which was then renamed GKM Church, and the second bloc set aside as development land now controlled under the newly-named Trinity Ravine Communities Inc. (TRC). Organizers with the protest informed North Star that both of these entities were being run by the same board of directors. "They were supposed to have transferred all our deposits to TRC Inc," Gopal continues. "Unfortunately... they went to the court and declared bankruptcy [in 2022]. Then all our money got sunk."
In February 2022, Deloitte Canada submitted documents to Ontario's Superior Court of Justice revealing that Global Kingdom Ministries Church Inc. is part of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, a network of 1,100+ Canadian churches. GKM, with a Scarborough history dating to the 1960s, raises questions about how a mega church with nearly 2,000 weekly attendees could defraud many seniors of their life savings. Protestors highlight that the church still owns most of the land promised to secure deposits.
"We put our deposits in a trust with GKM Inc." Abdul Wahid tells North Star. "All the properties were in one name." He believes that the mega-church took the decision to declare bankruptcy "in bad faith." Once they did, "we had no assets to claim... They said we were 'unsecured creditors.'"
"Did they distribute the money among themselves?" Abdul Wahid wonders. "We don't know, because we have no access to their accounts. The government, or RCMP, should audit their accounts."
As dubious as the TRT development has been for the seniors group, they've come to learn of the even more dubious "developer" behind the whole operation. Trevor had this to say of the project and church's former CEO and Lead Pastor: "Kern Kalideen... [He] was in charge of the Trinity Ravine project. He had no experience in building. And he was being paid $40,000 a month for his services—God knows what for. And I heard he eventually got a total of $2 million." When asked where Kalideen is now, Trevor said it was rumoured that he's now "living in the Bahamas with our money."
Seniors feel deceived by the "life lease" ownership model they were sold. Typically, real estate developers cannot create age-specific developments due to human rights code regulations. However, GKM categorized the development as a "life lease," typically associated with charities. This allowed GKM, leveraging its charitable status, to bypass regulations against exclusive sales to a specific age group. They assured purchasers that these leases could be transferred to family members and even sold.
North Star's investigation and interviews did not reveal whether the entire project was fraudulent, or simply a poorly managed commercial operation with no accountability. However, some of the mega-church's actions raise suspicions of fraudulent practices. For example, there are concerns about a possible "transfer below value" when the church transferred a significant portion of its land to the GKM church before TRC Inc. went bankrupt. In addition, there are concerns about preferential treatment on the part of the church in terms of refunds, as it seems that a disproportionate share of non-members have still not received their deposits.
When asked about government officials or politicians taking action on their case, the protestors expressed frustration. Abdul Wahid admitted, "Not really, not in a conclusive way. We're not getting help from any quarter." Another protestor mentioned that they had invited the newly-elected MPP for Scarborough-Guildwood, Liberal Andrea Hazell (chosen by Mitzie Hunter as her successor), to join their protest and meet with them. However, they claimed to have faced obstacles from Hazell's staff. Furthermore, the protestors reported being ignored by the office of Ontario's Minister for Seniors and Accessibility, Raymond Cho.
At the time of writing, the seniors movement was exploring its legal and political options moving forward.