Not far from the towers of Toronto’s business and banking community, a sampling of the bustling commerce of the streets of the Far East can be found. Much like a street scene in Hong Kong, throngs of people crowd the neighbourhood on weekends to patronize restaurants that offer traditional Chinese dishes including Beijing, Cantonese and Szechuan dishes, and stores that sell everything from live crabs to decorative fans, jade jewelry, Chinese herbs and medicine, and chopsticks.
With over 435,000 members, the Toronto region is home to the largest Chinese community in North America and consists of six Chinese neighbourhoods: the vicinity of Spadina Avenue and Dundas Street West, Broadview Avenue and Gerrard Street, Scarborough, Richmond Hill, Markham, and Mississauga.
Early Chinese settlers arrived in British Columbia from the United States and Hong Kong during the Cariboo and Fraser gold rushes of the 1850s and ’60s. Later, some 17,000 men came from rural areas of the South China Sea region to help construct the Canadian Pacific Railway. Chinese labourers settled in towns and cities along the railway tracks and eventually opened restaurants and laundry businesses.
The seeds of Toronto’s Chinese community were planted at the turn of the century in the area of York Street, between Queen and King streets. The Ward, as it was called, was primarily a Jewish neighbourhood when Sam Ching, the first Chinese person to be listed in the city directory, opened a hand laundry.
“Old Chinatown” evolved from laundries, restaurants, and small tea, herb, and vegetable shops that sprang up behind City Hall along Elizabeth and Dundas streets. An early community institution was the Presbyterian Church on University Avenue, purchased in 1919. It maintained a school and was a meeting place for social and cultural groups. The Shing Wah Daily News began publishing in 1922; later the Chinese Benevolent Association was formed to provide legal and social assistance. By 1935, there were 300 Chinese hand laundries located in the area behind Toronto City Hall, operated by Chinese railway workers who had come to the city from Western Canada.
Toronto’s Chinese population grew considerably between 1947 and 1960. Beginning in the 1950s, students from Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan entered Canadian universities and upon graduation stayed and worked in the country. In the 1960s, the political and social instability of the Southeast Asian countries prompted more students, skilled workers, business men, and entrepreneurs of Chinese origin to immigrate to Canada. Early settlers were mainly from China’s northern provinces; the later group came from Hong Kong and Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, South Africa, Peru, and the West Indies. In recent years, many more Chinese immigrants have come from mainland China; most of them are skilled and highly educated professionals, such as computer programmers, engineers, medical doctors, scholars, financial professionals, entrepreneurs and other high tech professionals who are needed in Canada. There are now over 200,000 (mainland) Mandarin speaking people living in the Toronto region.
The building of the new City Hall in the 1950s pushed the neighbourhood north. The new settlers, many more skilled and educated, concentrated on opening businesses and offices on Dundas Street West and along Spadina Avenue, giving rise to “New Chinatown.”
As well as a large number of Chinese professionals who practise in the city, numerous Chinese-owned import and export companies, construction firms, electronics companies, and banks have been established. In the 1980s, and the start of the new century, real estate investments by Chinese, especially Hong Kong entrepreneurs, not only changed the look of the old neighbourhoods, but also sparked the creation of new Chinatowns across the city and modern Greater Toronto. But while only one-fourth of the community lives in downtown Chinatown, it remains a major commercial and meeting place for the community. Around Chinese New Year, the streets come alive with the lantern festival, highlighted by the lion and dragon dance. Lucky red envelopes for gifts of money and firecrackers for driving away evil spirits appear in the windows, in anticipation of the event. The image of the Chinese lion weaves its way through the streets as jesters swing colourful lanterns to rouse the powerful beast into a dance amid the sounds of drums and firecrackers.
INTERNATIONAL COMMERCIAL BANK OF CATHAY (CANADA), (Tel. 416-947-2800, 4950 Yonge St., 10th Floor, #1002, and Tel. 416-597-8545, 2415 Spadina Ave).
HONG KONG BANK OF CANADA, (Tel. 416-868-8000, 70 York St.; Tel. 416-348-8888, 222 Spadina Ave).
BANK OF CHINA, (Tel. 416-362-2991, 130 King St. W., Suite 2730, and Tel. 416-971-8806, 396 Dundas St. W).
NEW YEAR’S DAY. Between January 20 and February 19, the Chinese greet each other with “Kung Hei Fat Choy,” meaning “good fortune for the new year.” The Chinese calendar is both lunar and solar. The year comprises 12 new moons and a thirteenth one is added every 12 years. Chinese legend says that Buddha once summoned all the animals to his court and promised them a reward if they came. Only 12 animals showed up and a year was named after each of them. It is believed that a person’s character is dependent on the animal sign under which they are born.
New Year’s celebrations last over 15 days and are primarily a family affair. Prior to the celebration, the house must be cleaned, debts are settled, and it is customary to wear new clothes and shoes. It is believed what happens on New Year’s Day will repeat itself throughout the year. Special foods, tarts, and cakes symbolizing luck and fortune are prepared. The words “always full” are attached to the rice bin in hopes there will never be a shortage of rice. Houses are decorated with poems written on red paper—the colour that symbolizes wealth and prosperity—and no one sweeps the floor during the first day of the holiday for fear of sweeping away wealth. Chinese anticipate that long holidays and large family gatherings may result in heated discussions. The third day of the New Year is designated as one of argument—it is not customary to go visiting on this day. The seventh day of the New Year (corresponding to the day of creation) is the birthday for mankind.
THE FESTIVAL OF CH’ING MING, in March or April, 106 days after the winter solstice, is an occasion to visit family graves and pay respect. The Chinese allot special days to remember the dead.
THE DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL, held annually by the Toronto Chinese Business Association of Greater Toronto, is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth moon, and is commemorated by a boat race made up of 12 distinctive dragon boats fuelled by the power of more than a dozen rowers. Toronto Harbour plays host to the event in May or June each year. The festival honours Wut Yuen, a virtuous statesman who, it is believed, showed his disapproval of a corrupt government in 295 B.C., by drowning himself. His friends were unsuccessful in finding his body, but prepared rice wrapped in leaves and dropped it in the river to provide nourishment for Wut Yuen’s spirit. In Toronto, the day is celebrated by eating joong (rice wrapped in bamboo leaves), which is sold in bakeries and food shops during the season.
ALL SOULS DAY, in July or August, on the 15th day of the Seventh Moon, is a day for compassion for those spirits who have no descendants or resting place.
MID-AUTUMN MOON FESTIVAL is held in August or September on the day the moon is at its fullest and brightest. Moon cakes symbolizing good luck are plentiful in Chinatown during this mid-autumn celebration. Similar to Thanksgiving, it is marked by outside dances, poetry readings, hymns, and prayers for a bountiful harvest.
THE FESTIVAL OF THE TOMBS, held in September or October, honours deceased ancestors.
THE FESTIVAL OF THE WINTER SOLSTICE occurs on the longest night of the year.
LION DANCE FESTIVAL is a traditional Chinese Festival, and is also one of Toronto’s most spectacular celebrations. The festival promoting Asian arts and culture, inaugurated in 1997, is organized annually by Scadding Court Community Centre. The Lion Dance is said to evoke good fortune and benevolent spirit. The year 2006 Lion Dance Festival from June 2–9th was celebrated with the Lion Dance Film Festival, “Visit of the Lion” Show, Family Day Festival, Friday Night at the ROM, Children’s Cross-cultural Adventure and International Drumming Festival. Lion Dance is also performed during Chinese New Year celebration. Lion Dance Festival, (hotline 416-338-Lion (5466), www.liondancefest.com)
THE KITCHEN GOD FESTIVAL, the preparatory festival for the New Year, occurs during the last days of the Twelfth Moon in December. One week before the New Year, the Kitchen God ascends to heaven to report on the behaviour of the household. Special foods are prepared in the hope that he will give a favourable report and offer his generosity and goodness in the New Year.
NATIONAL DAY OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA, October 1st. Toronto’s Chinese Community traditionally celebrates this day by holding a big banquet or parade in Chinatown and on important anniversary occasions, having a People’s Republic of China flag-raising ceremony at the Ontario Legislature.
CHINESE CANADIAN POST, (Tel. 416-599-8633, Fax 416-288-0259, 746 Warden Ave Unit 18). Editor: David Lim.
PEOPLE’S DAILY OVERSEAS EDITION, (Tel. 416-599-8633, 72 Huron St., B/F).
A1, CHIN 1540 AM, (Tel. 416-531-9991, 622 College St). Monday to Friday, 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Sunday, 12:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. Host: Catherine Miu.
CHINESE RADIO PROGRAM, CHIN 100.7 FM, (Tel. 416-531-9991, 622 College St, 2nd floor, Rm 205). Monday to Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Host: Catherine Miu.
CHINESE GOSPEL BROADCASTING CENTRE OF CANADA, (Tel. 416-466-4303, 4421 Sheppard Ave. E).
MANDARIN PROGRAMMING, CFMT Channel 47, Cable 4, (Tel. 416-260-3620, ext. 467; Fax 416-260-3621), Sunday 11:00 to 12:00 p.m., 545 Lakeshore Blvd. W)
CANADIAN CHINESE BROADCASTING CORPORATION, (Tel. 416-759-9502, 700 Gordon Baker Rd).
CHANNEL 47, (Tel. 416-260-0047, Fax 416-260-3621, 545 Lakeshore Blvd. W).
FAIRCHILD RADIO, (AM 1430 & FM 88.9), (Tel. 905-889-1430, 135 East Beaver Creek Rd., Unit 788, Richmond Hill).
MING PAO DAILY NEWS, (Tel. 416-321-0088, Fax 416-321-3499, 1355 Huntingwood Dr). Executive Director: Ka Ming Liu.
SING TAO DAILY, (Tel. 416-596-8140, Fax 416-599-6688, 417 Dundas St. W. The largest Chinese daily). Contact: Peter Lee.
THE EPOCH TIMES, (Tel. 416-298-1933, Fax 416-298-1299, www.epochtimes.com, en.epochtimes.com, 201 Consumers Rd, Suite 103), President: Cindy Gu.
WORLD JOURNAL DAILY, (Tel. 416-778-0888, 415 Eastern Ave), Contact: May Liu.
CHINESE CANADIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL, (Tel. 416-977-9871, Fax 416-977-1630, 302 Spadina Ave., Suite 507). Executive Director: Victor Wont, President: Colleen Hua.
CHINESE CANADIAN NATIONAL COUNCIL (TORONTO) CHAPTER, (Tel. 416-596-0833, Fax 416-596-7248, 302 Spadina Ave., Suite 507). President: Philip Tsui.
THE FEDERATION OF CHINESE CANADIAN ORGANIZATIONS (Tel. 416-443-8600, Fax 416-443-8688, 1315 Lawrence Ave., Suite 506). President: Mr. Ping Tan.
THE FEDERATION OF CHINESE CANADIAN PROFESSIONALS (ONTARIO), (Tel. 905-890-3235, 55 Glenn Hawthorne Blvd, Mississauga). President: Elliot Tse.
TORONTO CHINESE BUSINESS ASSOCIATION, (Tel. 416-595-0313, Fax 416-595-7334, 1220 Ellesmere Rd, Suite 13). President: Ralph Heu.
CANADIAN CHINESE GENERAL CHAMBER OF INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE, (Tel. 416-502-9199, Fax 416-502-1566, 200 Consumers Rd, Suite 402). Chair: Shu Xin
Family and clan organizations offer assistance and provide welfare to members. Chinese regional associations hold picnics and functions throughout the year. There are a number of martial arts groups and Tai Chi societies in the city.
CECIL COMMUNITY CENTRE, (Tel. 416-292-7510, Fax 416-292-9120, 3850 Finch Ave. E., Rm 403). Centre for information and community service.
GANG WU LAW FIRM, (Tel. 416-225-4901, Fax 416-225-9535, 5799 Yonge St., Suite 409). Contact: Gang Wu.
CHINESE COMMUNITY CENTRE OF ONTARIO INC., (Tel. 416-603-1917, 84 Augusta Ave). (Formerly the Chinese Benevolent Association.)
CHINESE FREEMASONS, (Tel. 416-977-2467, 436 Dundas St. W., 3rd Floor). The oldest Chinese fraternal organization, established in 1905.
Dragon boat races are a popular attraction for the whole community. Toronto’s are hosted by Centre Island every summer.
CHINESE KUNG-FU INSTITUTE OF CANADA, (Tel. 416-321-6222 or Fax 416-321-9355, 70 Silver Star Blvd., Unit 107). President: Jimmy Chan.
CARE FIRST SENIORS COMMUNITY SERVICES ASSOCIATION, (Tel. 416-585-2013, 479 Dundas St W).
CHINESE TRANSLATION & INFORMATION SERVICE, (Tel. 416-598-2022, 58 Cecil St).
METRO TORONTO CHINESE GOLDEN AGE SOCIETY, (Tel. 416-598-3562, 58 Cecil St).
ONTARIO CHINESE RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION, (Tel. 416-340-7850, 260 Spadina Ave., Suite 305).
ONTARIO SOCIETY FOR CHINESE EDUCATION, (Tel. 416-512-7315, Fax 416-229-2033, www.osce.ca, 11 Steeles Ave. E). Contact: Warren Ko, Vice President.
SHIP TOY YEN SOCIETY, (Tel. 416-593-6518, 108 Beverly St). Performs ancient Chinese sword and spear dancing.
TAOIST TAI CHI SOCIETY OF CANADA, (Tel. 416-656-2110, www.toronto.taoist-tai-chi.org, 1376 Bathurst St).
TORONTO CHINESE COMMUNITY SERVICES ASSOCIATION, (Tel. 416-977-4026, 134 D’Arcy St).
THE CROSS-CULTURAL COMMUNITY SERVICES ASSOCIATION, (Tel. 416-977-4026, Fax 416-351-0510, www.tccca.on.ca, 310 Spadina Ave, 3/F, Suite 301). Executive Director: Eliot Yip.
WOODGREEN COMMUNITY CENTRE CHINESE SERVICES, (Tel. 416-469-5211, 835 Queen St. E). Community Services in Chinese:
ASIAN COMMUNITY AIDS SERVICES, (Tel. 416-963-4300, 33 Isabella St., Suite 107).
CECIL COMMUNITY CENTRE, (Tel. 416-392-1090, 58 Cecil St).
CHINESE FAMILY LIFE SERVICES OF METRO TORONTO, (Tel. 416-979-8299, 3330 Midland Ave, Suite 229).
CHINESE INFORMATION AND COMMUNITY SERVICES, (Tel. 416-292-7510, 3850 Finch Ave. E., Suite 403).
EASTVIEW NEIGHBOURHOOD COMMUNITY CENTRE, (Tel. 416-392-1750, 86 Blake St).
CHINESE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE IN MARKHAM, (Tel. 905-946-1137, Fax 905-946-9618, 4350 Steeles Ave. E., 2nd floor, Unit 207 (Market Village).
HONG FOOK MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION, (Fax 416-595-1103, 260 Spadina Ave., Suite 408).
IMMIGRANT WOMEN’S HEALTH CENTRE, (Tel. 416-323-9986, 489 College St., Suite 200).
TORONTO COMMUNITY EMPLOYMENT SERVICES, (Tel. 416-488-0084, 2221 Yonge St., Suite 403).
METRO TORONTO CHINESE & SOUTHEAST ASIAN LEGAL CLINIC, (Tel. 416-971-9674, 180 Dundas St. W., Suite 1701).
MON SHEONG HOME FOR THE AGED, (Tel. 416-977-3762, 36 D’Arcy St).
MT. SINAI HOSPITAL (CHINESE OUTREACH PROGRAM), (Tel. 416-586-5206, Fax 416-586-5211, 600 University Ave., Rm 303).
RIVERDALE IMMIGRANT WOMAN’S CENTRE, (Tel. 416-465-6021, 1326 Gerrard St. E).
SCADDING COURT COMMUNITY CENTRE, (Tel. 416-392-0335, 707 Dundas St. W).
SUPPORT AND ENHANCE ACCESS SERVICE CENTRE, (Tel. 416-362-1375, 603 Whiteside Place).
ST. CHRISTOPHER HOUSE, (Tel. 416-532-4828, 248 Ossington Ave).
ST. STEPHEN’S COMMUNITY HOUSE, (Tel. 416-925-2103, 91 Bellevue Ave).
TORONTO CHINESE COMMUNITY SERVICES ASSOCIATION, (Tel. 416-977-4026, 310 Spadina Ave., Suite 301).
YEE HONG CENTRE FOR GERIATRIC CARE, (Tel. 416-321-6333, Fax 416-321-6313, 2311 McNicoll Ave).
WOODGREEN COMMUNITY CENTRE OF TORONTO, (Tel. 416-605-6000, 815 Danforth Ave, Suite 402).
Tony Luk President of Canada-China Association for the Promotion of International Trade.
Shiu King Kong Ph.D. President of the Sino-Canadian Cultural Exchange Association and honourary president and executive director of Global Union of Hakka and Tsung Tsin Associations of Hong Kong.
WORLD UNITED FORMOSANS FOR INDEPENDENCE CANADA HEADQUARTERS, (Tel. 416-512-7771, 35 Santa Barbara Rd).
VOLUNTEER CENTRE FOR THE CITY OF TORONTO, (Tel. 416-961-6888, 344 Bloor St. W., Suite 207; Tel. 416-439-1919, 525 Markham Rd).
UNIVERSITY SETTLEMENT RECREATION CENTRE, (Tel. 416-598-3444, 23 Grange Rd). Executive Director: Ms. Cassandra Wong.
CHINESE CULTURAL CENTRE OF GREATER TORONTO (CCC), (Tel. 416-292-9293, Fax 416-292-9215, www.cccgt.org, 5183 Sheppard Ave. E). President: Mr. Ming Tat Chung.
Consulates, Trade Commissions and Tourist Bureaus
CONSULATE GENERAL OF THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA, (Tel. 416-964-7260, 240 St. George St). Consul General: Mr. Chen Ligang.
CHINESE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, (Tel. 905-946-1272, 4350 Steeles Ave. E).
HONG KONG ECONOMIC & TRADE OFFICE, (Tel. 416-924-5544, Fax 416-924-3599, 174 St. George St). Manager: Daniel Kwong.