The Divided City: multiculturalism left us stuck on the periphery of Toronto
The squat apartment building was nothing special. The super, Mr. Lee, was forever yelling at us kids. He was in a constant rage that we never shut the front door or that we rode the rickety elevator too much, and he certainly didn’t appreciate when the boys played baseball in the parking lot, using the Dumpsters as bases.
We kids were a mixed bag: Pakistanis, Chinese, Czechs, Italians. We came from disparate places but had a shared experience of being different. My parents had come to Canada from Pakistan in the ’60s so my father could do his chemistry PhD, and we settled in Toronto permanently in 1978. As a research scientist, my father felt he had better prospects here than in the developing world. Our neighbourhood near the intersection of Kennedy and Eglinton was shabby with no green space, full of working-class people who spoke with accents. In the winter, we skated at the community centre. In the summer, the boys skateboarded on the concrete hills at the nearby Catholic school while the girls watched or jumped rope.
Most of us were born elsewhere, but there were a few who were born in Canada. Upon hearing someone was from inside these borders, we’d typically exclaim, “Lucky!” We didn’t quite feel it was even appropriate to call ourselves Canadian—that was a term reserved for our white friends. Putting ourselves in the same category as the white kids felt like both a betrayal of our parents and presumptuous on our part that “we” were the same as “them.” My mom would ask me, “Where is Heather from?” I’d reply, “She’s Canadian.” She’d ask, “Who is Catherine?”
“She’s Vietnamese, Mom.”
In our neighbourhood, my mother was the Avon lady. She had an extensive client list. Her busiest time would be just before summer vacation when those who could afford it would take trips “back home,” having saved their money all year long. The women would order lipsticks and perfumes and heart-shaped lockets to take to their sisters and cousins. The families that lived in my neighbourhood were not unlike mine: the parents were immigrants of colour, well educated. But we learned early that credentials and ability are not enough. It’s not always what you know but who you know, and our immigrant parents didn’t know the right people. Our parents’ mantra of “Work hard, study hard” was more like a balm than a prescription. Many of those well-educated people, especially the ones with weak English, were toiling in factory jobs despite work experience that would make a recruiter weep.
That loss of status was frustrating for them. We’d sometimes hear the anger when the adults were talking. But we also understood that it was for us. Our parents left their homes and families, in many cases left behind wealth and comfort, to give us better opportunities in a safer place. When they saw us slacking, their sacrifices felt worthless. Every kid had heard the parental lecture that started with “Why did we come here if you refuse to fill-in-the-blank?”
Immigration is effacement. Our parents’ extraordinary stories didn’t become bold tales of survival. They were simply reduced to a shoulder shrug or a sad smile. We heard stories of war, conflict, mass exodus and post-colonial borders redrawn in snippets at gatherings of family friends, where the men usually played cards and the women ran the kitchen. We didn’t often follow up on these stories until high school or university, when we heard about faraway upheavals in international relations or history class.
To the outside world, our parents’ experiences disappeared behind the treacly doctrine of multiculturalism. We got to keep our hyphenated identities as long as the hyphens didn’t make any demands and our stories from other places were limited to tasty foods and festive costumes. The hyphen was always a problem. Where was the emphasis? Which part was paramount? When politics shone the spotlight on the wrong part of the hyphen, trouble was sure to follow.
One day, when my brothers were about eight and 11, they were surrounded by a group of older white boys from the neighbourhood. They asked my brothers if they were “Eye-ranian.” It was 1979. The American hostages in Tehran were a staple on the nightly news and people of colour are always proxies. My eldest brother replied no, they were Pakistani. He got cuffed in the head anyway because Iranian is Pakistani is Bangladeshi. Brown is brown. “Pakistani” was definitely the wrong answer, but it didn’t feel like “Canadian” was the right one either.
We eventually left our two-bedroom apartment in that squat building and moved north to Agincourt. My father had taught at universities in various countries for years but was never offered more than sporadic work lecturing at the University of Toronto. In 1980, he abandoned the academic life for a job with the federal government. With his better pay came a better neighbourhood—this one filled with immigrants who had sort of made it.
I hadn’t noticed how shabby our old neighbourhood was until we arrived at this new place. We had trees and a grassy yard. Instead of skateboarding on concrete hills, the boys rode their bikes on wide sidewalks. The girls still jumped rope.
After we left the old building, our quiet intersection became home to Kennedy Station and the traffic increased, it seemed, a millionfold. The last time I ventured there, our stretch of Kennedy Road was still shabby, the faces still mostly of colour.
I grew up on the periphery of this city, among people who weren’t creating the cultural conversation. We gazed at white Toronto and wondered if we could ever make our way over there. Was there a way to drop that nagging hyphen? Was there a way to just be Canadian and sidestep the question “Where are you from, really?”
Torontonians love calling Toronto one of the most diverse cities in the world. We take it as a point of pride that pretty much every language and every ethnic group is represented here and that in every neighbourhood you can find a restaurant that serves something exotic. But those angry, frustrated adult conversations from my childhood carry on in suburban neighbourhoods among a new generation of well-educated immigrants who are chronically underemployed.
We are proud of the presence of “our visible minorities.” But presence still doesn’t mean inclusion.
16 thoughts on “The Divided City: multiculturalism left us stuck on the periphery of Toronto”
Canada was founded and built by Whites. Non-Whites added to it.
Multi-culturalism is a PC word for a multi-racial society.
That being said, one must ask oneself a few important questions:
1. Is every race capable of building/maintaining a 1st world society?
2. Do non-Whites flock to White majority nations because Whites build the most desirable societies?
3. If we should be tolerant, Why are Whites tolerating their own ethnic displacement? (And funding and celebrating it at the same time! ) This is lunacy.
4. Will minorities reciprocate the altruism, tolerance and compassion that Whites have displayed?
5. Why does social trust and happiness decrease the more diverse a society becomes?
6. Will Canada be as desirable once Whites become a minority?
7. Are different races suited to being governed by different laws that reflect their own cultures and genetic uniqueness?
8. Why is it mostly only White majority nations embracing diversity?
Multiculturalism is a presser cooker waiting to explode. Birds of a feather flock together. People are tribal by nature. Canada is becoming a nation of nations. All races understand their race is their nation. Whites are playing catch-up.
I’ll be honest. People who promote diversity are the real terrorists. Multiculturalism is just one of the many faces of communism.
All western societies now are the equivalent of building a beautiful house and opening the doors and letting an infestation of parasites in. As you said, all of the most desirable places on earth with the most modern infrastructure are all built by people of European descent. Every modern convenience and invention has been designed by Europeans, no one can deny it. Look at the difference between Africa and Sweden.
What was written by White Dragon and supported by cultish, is absolutely self-absorbed ignorance and obfuscation of the true underlying geo-political realities experienced by western nations in the last century. Thank goodness there are rising powers such as China, India and Brazil which are forcing this issue into the faces of entitled middle class white folk. Just as a full disclaimer I am a result of two cultures coming together Greek and Canadian (I can trace my heredity to some of the first settlers in Canada).
This ignorance is repeated and highlighted whenever any single current event covered in the media supports this thesis. However, when information and events which sow doubt on this thesis come to light there is very little critique coming from the same middle income white class of people. First world society simply means wealthy and technologically advanced. Wealth is growing at different rates internationally and spread over a larger geographic area than at any time in the last 200 years, Europe and North America are already falling behind. Much of that wealth was sucked from the world during the colonial period, this is not controversial it is evident and supported by a plethora of facts. Specifically the British empire, they were extremely effective of destabilizing local social and governmental systems, dividing the local inhabitants and then, while distracted, laying claim to resources and wealth. The Romans were the first ones to do this effectively. America is still doing it, Russia and China are in on the game too now.
I will admit one advantage that European nations have enjoyed internationally since the 1500s; military might and strategy. This though, has been the only advantage which was truly exploited. This advantage is quickly coming to a close.
Non whites flock to white majority nations because these societies offer stability and well established public institutions – afforded by the wealth stolen from other nations. Whites, and more so white elites have been taking a ‘tolerant’ perspective exactly because of economic dependency on population growth (wealthy nations don’t reproduce well – being white is just a coincidence ie Japan) and out of economic necessity to enable trade with the nations of the world which have the most potential (developing countries, also non-white).
Minorities do reciprocate to a greater extent the tolerance shown by enlightened white people – short answer.
Social trust and happiness decreases in the face of immigrant communities whenever the local incumbent population insulates itself against immigrants (ie rural communities throughout North America). This leads to a lack of communication and then a lack of common ground and discourse which then creates misunderstanding and stereotypical thinking. This is reinforced whenever immigrant populations are exploited and systematically oppressed (this also happens to white people ie Irish immigrants in America after the potato famine).
Canada will only become more and more desirable. Exactly because we are dealing with these issues presently.
In short response to point number 7 – no.
The answer to number 8, though pervasive, would never become apparent to anyone who does not take an interest in world productive capacity, international geo-political realities or post-colonial effects. Essentially whites have destabilized the major population centers of the world which were not allied with whites ( South Asia, they tried unsuccessfully to screw up China and that region but China is another creature altogether and proved to be too resilient, all of Africa and South America).
Multiculturalism is a beautiful thing, though adversity is always there, it challenges people to appreciate alternative view points, to face up to historical realities and to come to a more reasoned sense of camaraderie and common ground. I do agree that all people are tribal by nature but that point does not support your thesis. To be honest you are probably just too simple of a person to understand why so there is no point in going into it.
No, a person’s race is not their nation – though zionists would agree with you. A persons race or creed is simply a historical fact, where allegiance to a nation is placed is a very complicated thing. The relationship between nationhood and race is not direct nor simple.
Finally, the fact that you equated multiculturalism with communism means you are not well informed and further that you speak of that which you do not know.
Read Genetic Interests by Salter, The Uniqueness of Western Civilization by Duchesne, and White Identity by Taylor. Methinks you are way behind the aaction when it comes to human psychology and ethnic conflict being the greatest cause of tension and conflict.
When your father came to Canada as an academic, there was major contraction in research and many people with academic credentials would have had a hard time making a living. Those with jobs already simply reflected the ethnic makeup of an older Canada. You can’t just arrive in any country and expect some sort of prize. Sounds like your father had unrealistic expectations, but eventually sorted things out and made for a better opportunity for you. So enough with the angst and whining, it has nothing to do with your race or identity, it would go pretty much the same for anyone emigrating anywhere and after one generation it sounds like a major success to me. Nowhere do I see you thanking Canada for providing for such an opportunity. I bet your father in hindsight is in fact pretty happy with how things have gone. If indeed all you saw from your childhood, or now, were angry and frustrated adults, maybe there is a cultural problem. Hope you work through it, there are good Canadian role models all around you, of all colours.
As for underemployed people, what makes you think this does not affect all people? Canada, like much of the western world, has deindustrialized, and good jobs are scarce for all. Underemployed is better than unemployed. I think if you stop thinking about race, you will be much more successful, and happier.
I’m CBC/Jook-Sing or whatever you want to call someone of Chinese descent, born and raised in Canada. In my experience, I’ve felt more tension from non-Chinese minority groups than from Anglos. Why is that, anyway? Why do non-whites feel that it’s okay to ask me why I’m Catholic (have you not heard of missionaries?), question the fact that my parents did NOT have an arranged marriage (Chinese people haven’t practiced arranged marriages since my great-grandmother’s generation – at least in Hong Kong), why my name is “Cynthia” rather than something more “ethnic” etc? And this comes from CANADIAN RAISED PEOPLE!
Your comment is serious garbage – you’re a self-hating bigot – of the worst kind.
‘First world’ means ‘technically advanced and wealthy’. RUBBISH. Developing wealth and technology requires significant cultural development. For example, Western academic institutions – mostly founded by the Clergy – are vastly superior to their contemporaries, aside from just a few. Such institutions are being copied wholesale, the world over.
‘White’ people, under British leadership, have created a great civilization in Canada, which attracts those from around the world.
‘Multiculturalism’ represents the utter destruction and death of all culture and all diversity. The destruction of language, locality, habit, in favor of globalized, politically correct, socialist norms, and a gullible, moldable moray for corporations to control.
Your naive wishes for the ‘rise of India’ and ‘China’ are utterly naive, please, visit North Korea to find out where Chinese values are.
The CPCC controls and censors every single packet of information that flows across their internet, this is the very tip of the iceberg of their Imperial Machine – which they are using do this day to abolish and murder and entire civilization of Tibetans.
Too much immigration.
Send them home.
Your so called great civilization that the British created was done by exploiting, eradicating and virtually stripping the First Nations peoples of their culture, values and land. So no matter how long ago your forefathers came to Canada, the fact is that they came on a boat just like everybody else and White people in Canada come from immigrant backgrounds just as much as Non-whites do.
Also White Dragon, whites are not genetically superior to non whites in any way or the other way around. An Indian scientist, Aryabhata, figured out the decimal system and the numerals we use today come from Arabic numerals. Even today, many of the advanced technology that you credit Whites for are the brainchildren of Non whites.
Go read a history textbook and educate yourself before you make such opinionated claims.
Hmm. Wait. If all Europeans had stayed in their own lands, not taken away lands of other nations, and kept their colonialism regimes amongst their continent, then all this mess wouldn’t have happened. People who think like you are the real terrorists with crazy white supremacist views. Ask yourself this, if all those colonialist whites had stayed in Europe, how peaceful would history have been with the aboriginals and all around the world. As far as I know the world would have been much, much quiet. Canada first belonged to the aboriginals, you Europeans are also immigrants who add to the problem you so call “multiculturalism”. People like you sicken me.
Your self-hate and guilt is more than obvious.
Presence doesn’t mean to take over.
Why can’t non white countries get their shit together? And don’t blame things like white colonialism. It’s been 50 to 100 years or more since that.
So there aren’t enough educated white people in Canada or what?
Every race and civilization has exploited others for wealth as well.
You could have written this article in the 60’s and replaced every mention of ‘people of colour’ with ‘Irish’ or ‘Italian’ or a host of other European immigrant colonies. Immigration is always tough and whining about not being accepted by the people who’ve already settled in your host country is a waste of time and just repeats the same old lament that has gone on forever. Canada has always been a nation of immigrants and of cities divided into cultural areas, people do this to themselves because when they come here they want to be with other people like themselves. All of us have also been told by our parents to pull up our socks and get on with it and stop complaining.
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