Convergence of cultures and ethnicities in the GTA
Throughout the years, many ethnic groups have built up sizable communities within the Greater Toronto Area, resulting in the region representing the epitome of cultural diversity.
As one of the most culturally-diverse regions in the world, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is known for both its established and developing ethnic communities. The diversity of these communities is incorporated into the story of Canada as a whole, culminating in the country’s multicultural identity.
Some of the communities, such as Little India and Chinatown, have been growing steadily ever since they were established. Recently, however, newer communities have become more prominent in the city’s landscape, reflecting the way the GTA’s population has grown and changed.
One of the neighbourhoods that has been expanding rapidly in recent years is located in the Bathurst-Wilson area of Toronto. Canada’s Live-In Caregiver Program, established in 1992, allowed many Filipinos to immigrate to Canada in the 1990s and early 2000s. Many ended up settling down in what is known today as Little Manila, a region that now boasts one of the largest Filipino populations in Canada.
The region has many Filipino restaurants and cafés located within. One such restaurant is La Paz Batchoy, which opened in 2015. The restaurant specializes in Batchoy, a soup that takes two days to make and originates from the owner Jennifer Bergantinos Jameer’s hometown, Iloilo City.
The Batchoy is a heartwarming meal for Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike. In an interview with the Toronto Star, Jameer explained the cultural significance of Batchoy: “People come in and immediately recognize us as fellow Ilonggos. We bond and have heart-to-heart conversations about adjusting to life in Canada.”
Filipino culture continues to be celebrated in Toronto to this day. After being cancelled for two years in a row, the Taste of Manila food festival, which was first celebrated in 2014, returned to Toronto this August. Popular Filipino pop band Ben & Ben start their first Canadian tour at The Opera House on October 9, 2022.
Other ethnic communities around the GTA can be found in Leslieville, Toronto. Known locally as the Gerrard India Bazaar, “Little India” began in the 1970s, when Gian Naz opened the Naaz Theatre on Gerard Street. Being the first Bollywood cinema in North America, the theatre quickly attracted other South Asian businesses to serve the theatre’s patrons.
While the theatre itself closed in the 1980s, South Asian businesses on Gerard Street continue to thrive, and the street is now the largest South Asian main street marketplace in North America. The development of a welcoming and stable ethnic community has turned Little India, and the GTA, into a desirable place for South Asians immigrating to Canada. According to the 2016 Census prepared by Statistic Canada, 84.6 per cent of all South Asians in Ontario reside in the GTA.
For many Canadians who have come from far away, the ability to maintain and embrace the ties to their culture is one of the most valuable things about the GTA. Residents of the area promote inclusivity in the region through festivals and events that celebrate food, music, and culture. Embracing cultures is something many Canadians strive to do every day in order to ensure the GTA continues to be a place that embraces diversity.