KUNG HEI FAT CHOY! TORONTO'S CHINESE WISHES YOU PROSPERITY
- Chinese are Toronto's largest immigrant group.
- Across the entire Toronto metropolitan region, almost 600K residents identify as being of Chinese origin, 130,000 in the city and 65,000 in York region.
Toronto's vibrant Chinese community is a fundamental feature of Toronto's cityscape. Walk along Dundas Street West and experience old Chinatown as it has been for several generations. But these days, you also want to experience the breadth of our Chinese community. According to statistics from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, between 1999 and 2009 the largest number of immigrants to Canada came from the People's Republic of China (mainland China).
With these new Canadians came new cultural and food experiences, such as the spicy flavours of the Szechuan province in south western China, traditional dumplings from the north and spicy dishes from western China. In short, Toronto's Chinese restaurants don't just serve the well known HongKong Cantonese fare!
Te story of Toronto's Chinese Community begins in the mid 19th century when many Chinese men found work doing hard labour for the construction of the Trans-Canada railway. With the completion of the railway, Chinese labourers gradually made their way eastward to places like Toronto.
Te community spanned between Wellington, Front and York Streets. Many of the industrious new Canadians set up services that the city needed desperately – laundry facilities. Providing such services was a creative way of responding to a need and making money to support a family. Before long, laundries opened up all along Queen, King and Adelaide Street.
Classes in English were provided at places like the local churches and the downtown YMCA. Te Chinese United Church on Chestnut Street became a primary gathering place for members of the Chinese Community. Along the way, Chinese Torontonians formed numerous associations, benevolent societies, newspapers, credit unions, and various businesses.
Chinese Canadians also set up small restaurants, intended to serve familiar food to the community. By mid-century, Torontonians outside the Chinese community began to come to the restaurants, drawn by the exotic cuisine and affordable prices. Many will remember Lichee Garden Restaurant and Club, that had an enormous, elegant dining room, with capacity to serve as many as 1,500 customers a day. Two others included Kwong Chow, the Golden Dragon and Sai Woo.
When plans for the new City Hall were unveiled in 1955, Toronto's downtown China town was forced to relocate along Dundas Street west of Elizabeth Street, and eventually Spadina Avenue. In 1967, the city proposed that Chinatown should be once again moved to make way for ofce buildings. Te "Save Chinatown Committee" was then established by Jean Lumb and successfully stopped the development from taking place directly in their community.
Born in 1919, Jean is one of Toronto's most beloved community organizers and business woman. She moved to Toronto and opened her own grocery store at the age of 18, eventually founding the Kwong Chow Restaurant, which she ran for 23 years.
As one of the most visible non-European communities in Toronto during the early 20th century, the Chinese helped set the stage for other cultural groups that arrived later. Each year in the city numerous Chinese celebrations take place, including the Chinese New Year, the annual Dragon Ball and LunarFest.