The Victoria Park Avenue stretch is the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Huron-Wendat, and several Anishinaabe nations. Upon establishment of white settler colonial rule, Victoria Park became an agricultural area. It remained agricultural until the Township of Scarborough acquired large plots of land, particularly at the Victoria Park and Eglinton corridor, for industrial development during World War II. The growth of residential subdivisions and retail plazas followed, and during the post-war era residents remained largely of English and Irish origins until the 1960s. By 1961, however, immigrants from all over Europe began to settle in the neighbourhood. Changes to previously discriminatory Canadian immigration policies also led to more immigration from Asia, the Caribbean, Africa, Central and South America. Today, the majority of the area’s residents are racialized people, with many residents originating from the Philippines, Pakistan, India, China, Sri Lanka, Jamaica, and several African countries. Victoria Village, and the nearby neighbourhoods of Parkwoods, Wexford, Clairlea, Oakridge and Crescent Town have become hubs for immigrant arrival. However, residents do not view ‘Victoria Park’ as a cohesive neighborhood with a single story. Rather, the storytellers from each of these neighborhoods define their communities through the stories, identities, and experiences that coexist within this geography.
1 https://native-land.ca/; https://www.ontario.ca/page/map-ontario-treaties-and-reserves
2 Petrunia, J., & Wang, S. (2019). Golden Mile Secondary Plan Study: Alternatives Report. City of Toronto Planning Division.
3 City of Toronto Social Policy, Analysis & Research. (2018). Neighbourhood Profile: Victoria Village. City of Toronto. Retrieved from https://www.toronto.ca/ext/sdfa/Neighbourhood Profiles/pdf/2016/pdf1/cpa43.pdf
Meet our storytellers
Bala was born in 1976 in Kandy, Sri Lanka. He came to Toronto with his parents in 1987, due to the dangers of the civil war in Sri Lanka. After arriving in Toronto, Bala and his family moved around different neighbourhoods until they settled in Victoria Village. Bala has been a resident of Victoria Village for many years now and is a highly dedicated worker at the Victoria Park Hub where he supports the reception desk, and engages and supports clients who come into the Victoria Park Hub. He is passionate about community engagement and hopes to continue to work to make his community a better place.
Cathy Li grew up in the Xinjiang Province of China. She first visited Canada in 2016 to complete an ESL program. After studying, Cathy went back to China. Soon after that, she found out that she was expecting a child. Cathy and her husband decided to migrate to Toronto in 2017, to give their child a better life. She has lived in the Victoria Village neighbourhood for two years, and has become highly involved in the community. She is a recent graduate of the Community Development program at Centennial College, and hopes to do more work supporting her community in the future.
Esam Jlilati has been passionate about visual arts since childhood and has always aimed to be a painter. However, his father believed that art was reserved only for the rich, not for those who need to make a living. Therefore, he chose engineering as the focus of his formal education and architectural design as his career. When he began studying in Germany, he managed to keep painting parallel to his other career. After his immigration to Canada in 2004, Esam settled in the Victoria Park area. He continues to work in architectural design and continues to create art.
Harriet Sheppard was born in rural Barbados. Upon leaving her island nation she planned to migrate to the United States. However, life took another turn and Harriet settled in Toronto in 1981, eventually becoming a mother of two sons. She has lived in the Teesdale community, a neighborhood located just northeast of Victoria Park and Danforth, for twenty years. Harriet has been a community volunteer and advocate since the late 1990s. Most notably, she has contributed to beautification initiatives in her neighborhood and the establishment of a community garden. Harriet was also part of local activism to bring full-day kindergarten to the children of Crescent Town Public School.
John Yohan was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. His awareness of the political, economic, and social climate of his home country sparked a passion for social and community activism, which motivated him to migrate to Canada alone in 2016 to pursue a degree in community development and social work. Upon arriving in Canada, he was connected with the Arab Community Center of Toronto, where he now works as a project coordinator and youth counsellor. As a result of his personal hardships and upbringing John’s goal is to foster a sense of belonging and community engagement, and to provide more resources for newcomers in Toronto.
Shane was born in the province of Hunan in Southern China. She applied for a visa to come to Canada in 2011, after her sister shared how great her own life was here. Having then put it out of her mind, three years later she received her visa in the mail and decided that it was time to make a change in her life. She migrated to Toronto in 2014 to live with her sister. Shane faced many challenges when she first arrived in Canada, including language barriers and difficulties finding employment, despite her credentials. Nonetheless, she has overcome these hardships and recently graduated from the Social Service Worker program at Centennial College. Shane hopes to become a social worker in the future and support newcomers who may be going through similar challenges to those that she faced.
Syed Tanveer Ahmed was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh in December, 1979. His pursuit of medicine took him to many different parts of the world, from England, where he pursued a specialist degree (MA), to Oman, where he worked in the Ministry of Health in Nizwa Hospital, to his last stop, Canada, where he settled in the winter of 2015. Tanveer remembers 2015 fondly, as a year filled with hope. He had hope for the future for his family, including his wife and two children, hope for his career in the medical field, and excitement about exploring Toronto. Tanveer is currently pursuing his nursing degree at Ryerson University. He hopes to work on a collaborative action plan with the government in regards to long-term care, in order to promote and facilitate facets of the health care system.
Veronica Coxall was born in Grenada in 1956. In her youth, she worked hard to support her mother and her siblings and often had to miss school to do so. When Veronica was a teenager, some of her family friends sent her a plane ticket to come to Canada. She made the decision to immigrate in order to start a new life and continue to support her family back home. Veronica dedicated most of her work to her community while in Canada. She worked as a community representative for her building, she supports the children at her church, and still continues to uplift the youth in her community.
Wolde Yohannes was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in the 1960s. He migrated to Rome in 1984, due to political instability in Ethiopia. After just a year in Italy, Wolde was sponsored to migrate to Montreal, Canada, where he settled before eventually meeting his spouse. He completed two degrees at Concordia University by the early 1990s, before moving to Toronto and settling near Greektown to start a family. He is the father of two children. After living in Toronto for several years, Wolde returned to Ethiopia in the early 2000’s where he worked in the humanitarian sector. Wolde moved back to Toronto in 2012, and has lived in Victoria Park/ Parkwoods neighbourhood ever since.