No one who lives in this magnificent city or has even visited it for a spell will be surprised by such a proclamation. For us, multiculturalism is one of the cornerstones of the Toronto brand.
- Entire neighbourhoods are dedicated to distinct and vibrant cultures: We have Greektown, Little Italy, Chinatown, and other spots that proudly embrace original lifestyles.
- We celebrate the famous Toronto diversity in yearly festivals.
- Many of our friends, neighbours, and co-workers were born outside Canada. All of them have a positive and beneficial influence on their adopted home.
That’s just an overview. Let’s take a closer look at some inspiring examples of cultural diversity in Toronto.
With a large population of citizens who originally hail from abroad, many neighbourhoods operate as small communities that welcome newcomers and share local culture with everyone passing through or moving in. This is one of the reasons why new immigrants move to Toronto: They can enjoy beloved customs and traditions with their fellow countrymen while learning more about Canada.
Examples of such communities include:
- Little Jamaica: Located along Eglinton West between Allen Road and Keele Street, Little Jamaica hosts a large number of Jamaican grocery stores, beauty salons, music shops, and other businesses. In 2014, the strip behind the stores on Eglinton’s south side was officially named ‘Reggae Lane’ to acknowledge its heritage and history as a reggae hotspot.
- Little Italy: This lively community, which is built around the intersection at College and Grace Streets, hums with activity, especially on summer weekends. It’s full of espresso bars, trendy restaurants and bars, pool halls, and Italian trattorias, the latter of which are known for their casual, family-style dining and hearty cuisine. Coffee lovers should make a point of visiting Café Diplomatico any time they are in the neighbourhood.
- Greektown: According to its impressive website, this famous Toronto community is the largest Greek neighbourhood in North America. It is located on Danforth Avenue, between Chester Avenue and Dewhurst Boulevard, and features bakeries, cafés, and restaurants offering traditional Greek fare. Greektown is also the site of the annual Taste of the Danforth Festival.
- Chinatown: Toronto’s Chinatown, located along Dundas Street West and Spadina Avenue west of the city centre, is full of shops, restaurants, social activities, and even spas. East Asian markets and shops with exotic fruits and vegetables line the sidewalks and many people visit the area for traditional health treatments.
World-Famous Cultural Festivals
Every year, Toronto hosts dozens of cultural festivals, programs, and celebrations that highlight the city’s diversity and rich ethnic makeup. These colourful events attract tourism and promote unique and fascinating cultural traditions from across the globe.
- Taste of Toronto: In July 2018, the city hosted its second annual Taste of Toronto on the grounds of Fort York. Over 70 food and beverage producers transformed the spacious grounds into a culinary paradise, replete with dishes from top ethnic restaurants.
- Toronto Caribbean Carnival: Every year, thousands of people converge in Toronto to celebrate Caribbean Festival, a three-week extravaganza packed with delicious cuisine, rollicking calypso and reggae music, and gorgeous costumes. For many, Caribbean carnival is a can’t-miss event!
- Salsa In Toronto: This Latin America-themed festival, which takes place every July, takes over St. Clair Street. Musicians, dancers, and restaurateurs wow crowds with traditional performances and food.
- Taste of the Danforth: One of Toronto’s biggest street festivals, Taste of the Danforth is a celebration of Greek culture and cuisine, but it often features performances by different cultures, including Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Azerbaijani, and Egyptian. It’s a spectacle that personifies diversity in Toronto.
Residents From Across the Globe
Why is Toronto so diverse? Look at its people! Nearly 200 dialects and languages are spoken here, and the 2011 census confirmed that 45% of the residents have a mother tongue that is neither English nor French. According to Geos Languages Plus, the 10 most spoken languages in Toronto are:
- English: English is the predominant language in Toronto, but many people who have a different mother tongue speak it fluently, making its popularity indicative of the different cultures that form the city’s population.
- Mandarin: Toronto’s Chinese community is so large that it has two ‘towns’ and one of the largest indoor shopping centers of all the city’s cultural groups. Over 150,000 of them speak Mandarin.
- Cantonese: Nearly 84,000 of Toronto’s Chinese residents speak Cantonese.
- Tamil: The Tamil community is another one that has grown substantially in the past 30 years. There are presently 61,600 Tamil speakers in the city, most of them living in Scarborough, East York, and Etobicoke. One of the most celebrated South Indian restaurants in Toronto is Ceylon Flavour, and Tamil Fest is the biggest Tamil street festival of its kind outside of India.
- Spanish: Toronto is home to thousands of people who speak Spanish, which is not surprising given that it is the official language in nations like Spain, Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela. If you want enjoy a traditional Spanish menu, don’t miss Bar Isabel, owned by ex-Black Hoof chef Grant Van Gameren.
- Tagalog: The Filipino community is one of the fastest-growing in the city at the moment. They make their cultural presence known in the form of top restaurants, like Lamesa and Tinuno, and the Kapisanan Philippine Centre, where visitors can participate in traditional activities!
- Italian: There are over 480,000 people of Italian descent living in Toronto, or 8.3% of the population. Their cultural influence is especially strong in Little Italy.
- Portuguese: Little Portugal is located west of Ossington Avenue and south of College Street. One of the best local restaurants is Enoteca Sociale, and when the young people want to celebrate their heritage, they head down to the McCormick Recreation Centre to play pool and have fun.
- Farsi (Persian): Like the Russian community, Iranian-Canadians don’t congregate in a single neighbourhood but their influence is everywhere. Banu Kabob and Vodka Bar serves upscale versions of authentic Middle Eastern fare and Tirgan, a celebration of Iranian art and culture, takes place in Toronto every year.
- Russian: Located primarily in North York, the Russian community is not as visible as other cultures, but it’s still far from invisible. Moldova on Dufferin south of Steeles makes some of the best traditional borscht, and cakes from Antosha Bakery are so popular that it does citywide delivery.
Toronto is a proverbial melting pot where the majority of nations are represented and overall diversity and acceptance reign. Immigrants come here with the declared intention of becoming Canadian, but they are also encouraged to embrace their cultural differences. Toronto probably wouldn’t be the city it is today without its newcomers, which is something to be celebrated.