Category Archives: Urban History

Saving Chinatown, 1971 to 2021

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Daniel Ross 2021 has been a difficult year for Chinatowns across Canada. In mid-April, a coalition of community leaders from six cities released a statement calling on the federal government to make it a “national priority” to support Chinatowns struggling with the fallout of the COVID-19 lockdown and a new spike in anti-Asian racism. In both Montreal and Toronto, local… Read more »

Food First, Then Archives: Precarity and Community Memory

This post by Lilian Radovac and Simon Vickers is part of the “(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19” series. Read the rest of the series here. Alternative Toronto is a DIY digital archive and exhibition space that documents the history of alternative communities in the Greater Toronto Area from 1980 to 1999. As archive director and volunteer coordinator for Alternative… Read more »

The Real Estate State and Housing Insecurity: An Interview with Samuel Stein

Max Mishler’s interview with with Samuel Stein, author of the book Capital City: Gentrification and the Real Estate State (Verso, 2019), is part of the “(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19” series. Read the rest of the series, including a post contextualizing this interview, here. Max Mishler: Hi Sam. Thanks so much for taking the time to think with us… Read more »

The Real Estate State and Housing Insecurity in the Time of Covid-19

This post by Max Mishler is part of the “(In)Security in the Time of COVID-19” series. Read the rest of the series here. Toronto, ON, is the beating heart of Canadian finance capitalism. Global investment banks, mining companies, and consultancy firms dominate the downtown corridor and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The city is also home to several professional sports… Read more »

Canada’s First Gay Bathhouse Raid: Windsor, 1964

Walter T. Cassidy February 2021 marks the fortieth anniversary of one of the largest gay rights protests in Canadian history. On February 5, 1981, over 150 Toronto police officers raided four local bathhouses, known as gathering places for members of the gay community. Almost three hundred men were arrested that night, sparking a series of highly publicized rallies and mass… Read more »

Sewell and the Septics: The Government Commission that Tried to Give Community Planning Back to Communities

David M. K. Sheinin In early December 2020, former Toronto mayor and federal Progressive Conservative cabinet minister David Crombie resigned as chair of the Ontario Greenbelt Council. Created in 2005, the Council advises the provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs on maintaining the Southern Ontario Greenbelt. As the COVID-19 second wave loomed large, Crombie’s announcement won little media play. But the… Read more »

Did you hear the One about the Cardinal, the Rabbi, and the Minister? Spiritual Leaders and Big Social Problems in 1970s Toronto

David M. K. Sheinin People sometimes do a double take when they learn that longtime Toronto city councilor Joe Mihevc holds a doctorate in theology. “How did you go from theology to politics?” they ask in mock opprobrium for the latter. Mihevc smiles: “It was easy to make the jump.” Though most active in post-1990 Toronto, Mihevc is a holdover… Read more »

A History of the Toronto Public Library in Four Buildings

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Emily Macrae As public buildings closed their doors in March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, public libraries across Canada pivoted to strengthen connections with communities online, offering virtual story times and lending out wi-fi hotspots in addition to adapting ongoing work ranging from providing reading recommendations to supporting Indigenous language revitalization. Toronto Public Library was no exception. In April,… Read more »

Race Relations, Psychological Testing, and Resistance to Change: The Toronto Police, 1970s-1980s

David M. K. Sheinin As a city changes, as tensions grow between the police and the communities they serve, how can we know if a candidate has what it takes to lead a major police force? Is it possible to predict success (or failure)? Those questions are at the core of a debate that has raged for decades on whether… Read more »

That Other Time the Toronto Police Tried to Solve the Race Problem: The Ethnic Relations Unit, 1970s-1980s

David M. K. Sheinin In the early 1970s, to gain insights into the Italian immigrant community in Toronto, the police set up an Ethnic Relations Unit. In 1975 the unit created a “Black Section” followed by Jewish, Southeast Asian, and other sections. The experiment in building bridges to ethnic communities failed because this solution to growing police-community tensions reinforced rather… Read more »