Ethnic Enclaves in the Toronto Metropolitan Area

The Toronto CMA is the metropolitan area centred around the city of Toronto. It has nineteen municipalities in an area of 5903 square kilometres. It functions as an integrated economic and social region. Its population of 5.82 million (2011) grew by about 100,000 persons per year in the

2000s, mostly by immigration. As described in chapter 3, immigrants are transforming the city-region into a majority-minority area.

The Toronto city-region fans out from the shore of Lake Ontario. The city's downtown has been the pivot of the urban area, but the centres of suburban municipalities serve as subsidiary focal points, turning the whole region into a multi-nuclei area. There are clusters of high-rise apartments sprinkled over vast tracts of residential subdivisions in suburbs. Many of these residential clusters have turned into ethnic enclaves with the development of ethnic malls, places of worship, and community institutions.

A recent study of the Toronto CMA's ethnic enclaves maps the concentration of six major ethnic groups by census tract (CT), which is an area of about 4000-6000 residents.14 The groups whose residential concentration has been plotted are Jews, Italians, South Asians, Chinese, Portuguese, and Caribbeans.

The study mapped two levels of concentration of these groups.15 Primary concentration occurs in a CT when a particular ethnic group is the majority, namely, 50% or more of the population. A secondary concentration occurs if an ethnic group does not form the majority but the single largest group, often between 25 and 49% of a CT's population. Map 4.1 combines contiguous secondary and primary concentrations to highlight the areas of concentration of the ethno-racial groups, which had some degree of residential concentration. It was found that these residential clusters were enclaves, as they had the corresponding ethnic places of worship, malls and stores, services, and associations.

What map 4.1 shows is that five of the ethnic groups have carved out areas of distinct identities. Three of those groups are historic European immigrants - Jews, Italians, and Portuguese - whose second and third generations have grown up in Canada. Yet their ethnic identity remains strong. A Jewish enclave aligned along Bathurst Street, shifting out towards northern suburbs, forms the core of Toronto's west end. The Italian enclave radiates northward, from the city's historic Little Italy along College Street. Its residential centre of gravity is now in Wood- bridge, a north-western suburb, though its commercial heart and many institutions remain in the city of Toronto. The Portuguese enclave is entirely at the core of the western half of the city, between Dundas and College Streets. These three enclaves are changing internally, but they are not expanding, as there is little immigration to feed their expansion.

The story of enclaves currently is the tale of immigrants becoming ethnics, that is, making a place for themselves in civic life. As the new immigrants are from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the formation of

Map 4.1 Toronto's ethnic enclaves, 2006 (adapted from Qadeer, Agrawal, and Lovell, "Evolution of Ethnic Enclaves")

Photo 4.1 Mexican food in Korea Town, Toronto (courtesy Douglas Hildebrand)

their enclaves is an indication of their settlement and an expression of contemporary multiculturalism.

The Chinese have a historic footing in the centre of the city of Toronto with two Chinatowns, the western one on Spadina Avenue and the eastern on Gerrard Street. They are the markers of historic Chinese migrations of the mid-twentieth century. The new waves of Chinese immigrants have vaulted into the suburbs, forming a large enclave in the north-eastern quadrant of the metropolis, in Agincourt, Markham, and Richmond Hill. Some of the biggest Chinese malls are in this area. This enclave has grown with both an infiltration-displacement cycle in the housing market and by the building of new dwellings.

South Asians are another group that have formed two large distinct ethnic enclaves, though these are spread out and diffused. One is on the eastern periphery of the metropolis and the other is in the northwestern quadrant, extending from Rexdale to Brampton. Their places of worship, strip malls, and service establishments anchor these enclaves.

African Blacks and Caribbeans do not have an enclave. Only two isolated CTs with secondary concentrations had emerged by 2006. A historic racial divide has not influenced Toronto's ethnic geography.

A look at map 4.1 shows small enclaves in the city of Toronto but an arch of enclaves in the suburbs forming a semicircle from east to west moving northward along a broad front. This is the new structure of the metropolis.

The suburban locus of enclaves is indicative of the new housing stock and high percentage of homeownership. It underlines the difference between contemporary enclaves and the old ethnic neighbourhoods. Another feature of the Toronto area's enclaves is that though ethnics are the dominant group in their respective enclaves, they are not exclusive places. The study from which map 4.1 has been taken concludes that all five groups were minorities (ranging from 35% to 45%) in their respective enclaves, though in the small cells of the cores they could be the majorities.16

The thriving enclaves of even long-settled groups, Jews, Italian, and Portuguese, show that social integration does not necessarily lead to spatial assimilation. Ethnicity remains a defining element of people's identity. It realigns the spatial structure of a city. As Ceri Peach sums up, the logic of spatial assimilation that the "social melting pot also melts the spatial enclave" does not happen.17

These enclaves are enduring, as a follow-up study by the University of Alberta's Sandeep Agrawal shows. He has mapped Census Canada's National Household Survey data for 2011 by CTs. His yet unpublished study shows that between 2006 and 2011, new ethno-racial groups, namely, Filipinos and Caribbeans/Blacks have also formed residential concentrations. Whereas the Jewish enclave has thinned out, with the shifting of many concentrations from primary to secondary, Chinese as well as South Asian enclaves have expanded a bit. Yet the overall pattern has remained as in 2006, except for some shifting of boundaries on the margins. The point is that with continuing immigration and the development of ethnic stores, places of worship, professional practices, and other institutions, enclaves become engraved on multicultural cities' geography.

The following points sum up the structure of ethnic enclaves in the Toronto metropolitan area, as observed in successive studies.18

  • 1. Long-established ethnics of many generations, such as Jews, Italians, and Portuguese, have enclaves as thriving as the recent immigrant groups. Most large immigrant groups of distinct culture/religion form some residential concentrations, which turn into enclaves.
  • 2. Ethnic enclaves have restructured the residential and commercial geography of the metropolitan area. They form an arc in suburbs around the city of Toronto.
  • 3. Ethnic enclaves are dominated by particular ethnic groups, who are proportionately the largest group but are numerical minorities (35%-45%), except that some census tracts in their cores have more than 50% population of the dominant group. They are not the exclusive group in the neighbourhoods, but their culture imprints these areas with their identities.
  • 4. Enclaves are vibrant neighbourhoods with high home ownership rates and thriving commercial and cultural life. There are some rental apartment clusters of low-income immigrants.

Daniel Hiebert et al. did a comprehensive analysis of immigrants' enclaves in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver and they affirm these findings. They conclude that visible-minority groups reside "typically in multi rather than single ethnic areas and they are mixed in their socio-economic composition."19

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