THE WARD, TORONTO
George E. Carter
The Hon. George E. Carter (b.1921) was born in Toronto to Barbadian immigrants John and Louise Carter. His family lived in The Ward from 1933 to 1936, where Carter went to Hester How Public School and attended events at the British Methodist Episcopal Church, a key site for The Ward’s Black community. Judge Carter went on to receive his BA from Trinity College in 1944, and studied law at Osgoode Hall, becoming one of Canada’s first Black lawyers. In 1979, he became the first Canadian-born Black judge. Judge Carter remembers the Ward as a diverse and resilient community.
David Ackerman (John Ackerman)
David Ackerman’s father, Dr. John Ackerman (1921 – 2008), was one of four children, born into a Jewish family in Toronto. His father, Jacob, worked as a presser in a factory, and his mother, Mindel, ran a small grocery store at Dundas and Elizabeth Streets in The Ward, which the family lived above. Ackerman attended high school at Jarvis Collegiate. He then studied dentistry at the University of Toronto before opening his own dental practice in the Ward. He married his wife, Frances, in 1954 and they had three children together. Dr. Ackerman was a photography enthusiast and left behind a vast photo collection which vividly documents life in The Ward.
Joe, Paul and John Piccininni (Viola DeFransesco Piccininni)
Viola DeFrancesco Piccininni (1922 – 2012) was born in Toronto to first- and second-generation Italian parents. She grew up in The Ward, attending Hester How School on Elizabeth Street and then Central Technical School. In 1950, Viola married Joseph Piccininni, whom she had met at Mount Carmel Church, an Italian community hub in the Ward. They had three children, Joe, Paul, and John. Viola returned to school in the late 1960s, studying education at University of Toronto. She went on to teach at her alma mater, Central Tech. While Viola left The Ward after marriage, she retained lifelong friendships from the neighbourhood.
The Hon. Jean Augustine was born in Grenada in 1937 and immigrated to Canada in 1960 as part of the Caribbean-Canadian Domestic Scheme. She was the first African-Canadian woman to be elected to the Canadian House of Commons and serve in federal cabinet. In 2007, Augustine received the Order of Canada and the Ontario government appointed her as the province’s first Fairness Commissioner to ensure that qualified foreign-trained professionals could be licensed to practice in the province. From her office at Bay and Dundas, located where The Ward once stood, Augustine spent eight years improving opportunities for immigrants to resume their professional careers in Canada.
Charmie Deller was born in 1995 in Port au Prince, Haiti. After moving to Scarborough, she connected with the RISE Movement, an arts organization that hosted many of her first open mic performances. Through music Charmie has shared her experiences with heartbreak, coming out to her family, and facing doubts despite her aspirations. In 2017, she collaborated with producer 10 Digits on “Fool for Love”, which has garnered over 1.6 million views on YouTube. She is currently working on a new EP and performs at venues across downtown Toronto, including Nathan Phillips Square, where The Ward once stood.
Michael Etherington (b.1985) is an Omushkego Cree public speaker and advocate, as well as the Cultural Program Manager at the Native Canadian Cultural Center in Toronto. He grew up both on and off reserves in the northern communities surrounding James Bay, Ontario. Before moving to Toronto, he was encouraged by an elder he met in Nunavut to pursue his potential to be an educator. At the age of 23, Michael began working at the Ontario Indigenous Friendship Centre. Since then he has continued to bring his unique perspective to Indigenous advocacy and community work in downtown Toronto, including within what was once The Ward.
Jim was born in 1928 in the Hoi Ping District of Guangdong. In 1949 he immigrated to Toronto to escape the political upheavals in China. Between working at his father-in-law’s laundry business and studying English, he made frequent visits to The Ward’s Chinatown. With the assistance of loans from Chinese-Canadian organizations located there, Jim went on to start several businesses to support his family. In 1991, Jim received Canada’s Birthday Achievement Award for 30+ years of volunteer service for his work with the Low Kong Brotherhood, the Chinese Community Centre, and the Hoi Ping Association of Ontario. Today he resides in the new Chinatown at Dundas & Spadina.
Adhela Akoojee (b. 1967) and her husband, Salah Abderrahman, own a small take-out restaurant offering “healthy, halal, and homemade food” in the heart of what was once The Ward. The restaurant, which is called Somethin’ 2 Talk About, is housed in a heritage building from 1858. In 1980, Adhela and her family arrived in Toronto after fleeing South Africa’s apartheid. She met Salah through her mother, who owned a South African restaurant in Toronto where he used to eat, and they have three children together. Adhela has many long-time customers, who she knows by name, but her lease expires next year and the restaurant may have to relocate.
Ariene Chan (Jean Lumb)
Arlene Chan’s mother, Jean Lumb (1919 – 2002) was raised in Nanaimo, BC in a tight-knit Chinese family. She moved to Toronto to work at age 16 and owned a grocery store by age 18. In 1939, Jean married Doyle Lumb. They had six children and in 1959, they opened Kwong Chow, a popular Chinese-Canadian restaurant in Old Chinatown, in The Ward. Jean Lumb was active in the Chinese community and beyond. In 1965, after two-thirds of Toronto’s first Chinatown had been demolished to make way for New City Hall, she led the Save Chinatown committee to prevent further demolition. She also played a crucial role in changing anti-Chinese immigration laws that prevented family reunification. For this work, she became the first Chinese-Canadian woman to receive the Order of Canada.
Beverley Salmon was born in Toronto to Herbert Bell, of Jamaica, and Violet Bryan, a fifth generation Canadian. Her grandfather, a tinsmith, helped to build Old City Hall’s roof. Beverley trained and worked as a Registered Nurse before marrying the late Dr. J Douglas Salmon. They had four children together. Already an activist, she entered municipal politics in 1985 and became the first woman of colour to be elected municipally in Toronto. Beverley chaired Race Relations committees locally and nationally. As Vice-chair of TTC and Chair of Gray Coach, she participated in countless meetings at Toronto City Hall, located in what was once The Ward. Beverley continues to be involved politically, presenting briefs on law enforcement issues affecting Indigenous and Black communities. A respected anti-racism activist, she received the Order of Ontario in 2017.
Evelyn Calugay is well-known in the Côte-des-Neiges Filipino community as an activist, organizer, and full-time volunteer at PINAY, a grassroots organization for Filipina migrants and immigrants. Over the last 20 years, Evelyn has supported many PINAY members, who have come to Montreal through immigration programs such as the former Live-in Caregiver Program, in fighting for their rights as domestic workers, migrants and women. Evelyn immigrated to Montreal as a nurse in 1975, eventually bringing her three sons and husband to Canada as well. She often refers to aspects of her own immigration experiences – both the good and the bad – to guide her work with PINAY. In 2014, she was awarded a Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of her community work with PINAY in Côte-des-Neiges.
Since 1989, Kathy Roach has been a community worker at the Côte-des-Neiges CLSC, where she runs leadership training, parenting groups, life skills and other programs for children, youth and adults. Raised in Canada by immigrant parents from Barbados and Montserrat, Kathy has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a master’s degree in Child Study from Concordia University. Kathy first became involved in Côte-des-Neiges because she wanted to teach figure skating to the Black community. Her commitment to working with young people in the neighbourhood was solidified by the 1991 death of a friend, who was gunned down on Vezina Street. Kathy feels blessed to have seen the neighbourhood change over the years and notes that it is much more multicultural than it once was.
Marsha Zhang immigrated to Canada from China with her family in 2011. Community well-being and respect are principles of Marsha’s Chinese culture that she has brought with her to Canada and crucial to her philosophy of integration. She likes to talk with her neighbours, especially seniors, who, she feels, deserve extra respect and support. Since her arrival in Montreal, Marsha has touched the lives of many people both in and outside of Côte-des-Neiges, as a mother, student, volunteer, worker, and neighbour. As a former social services professional in China, she will be attending McGill University next year to complete a degree in social work. Marsha believes that ethnic groups in Côte-des-Neiges primarily stick to themselves because of language barriers.
Meryem Saci is a Montreal singer-songwriter and hip-hop artist known for her work with the band Nomadic Massive. Meryem came to Montreal from Algeria as a refugee when she was thirteen, during Algeria’s civil war. She lived one year in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve on her arrival and then moved to Côte-des-Neiges and lived there for eight years. Côte-des-Neiges is where Meryem was able to grow musically because of the strong hip hop influence in the neighborhood.
Mags Mbow is a visual artist and the co-founder of Strange Froots, a trio of singer-songwriters, musicians and beatmakers. The child of a Senegalese Father and Ghanaian Mother, Mags moved to Montreal from the United States in 2010 and first stayed at the Grey Nuns downtown residence. She moved to Côte-des-Neiges in 2011, when her sister offered her an apartment in the neighbourhood, and hasn’t left since. Mags is proud to be affiliated with No Bad Sound Studio and the Maison des Jeunes Côtes-des-Neiges, who she credits with helping her find new ways to embrace her culture. While Mags notes that cultural groups don’t necessarily mix in Côte-des-Neiges, she feels that there is an “unspoken unity” between residents.
June Best has been the Senior’s Program Facilitator at the Côte-des-Neiges Black Community Association since 1983. She grew up in Bridgetown Barbados and came to Canada in 1963, settling immediately in the Côte-des-Neiges area, where she has lived ever since. Ms. Best raised her three sons in the neighbourhood and has always seen it as a friendly and convenient area, with lots of buses, people and shops. She has fond memories of when the Metro opened in 1967, linking the neighbourhood to downtown. Ms. Best notes that Côte-des-Neiges has a smaller Black community than it once did, as people have moved out to the West Island, South Shore and other areas. She remains committed to watching out for Black kids in the neighbourhood and supporting them in whatever ways she can.
Arnold Bennett has been actively defending tenants’ rights for over three decades. Since creating the Housing Hotline in 1981, Arnold has dedicated himself to educating, advocating and organizing citizens on their rights as tenants. Over the years, he has been involved in some of the most notorious housing rights cases in Côte-des-Neiges – which according to Arnold – is a neighbourhood that has a lot of work to do when it comes to maintaining buildings and properties so that individuals and families can live in decent conditions.
Viviana Medina is a community organizer with the Immigrant Workers Centre (IWC) in Côte-des-Neiges. Her work focuses on the issues facing placement agency workers, temporary foreign workers, and immigrant women in Canada. A former placement agency employee herself, Viviana’s work is connected to her own personal experiences as a Mexican immigrant and mother, who had to navigate the challenges of entering the workforce as a newcomer to Montreal while also being a single parent. Since joining the IWC, Viviana has been a co-founder of ATTAP (Association des Travailleurs/euses Temporaires d’Agences de Placement), the first association for temporary placement agency workers in Quebec, as well as a community leader for the Fight for 15 Campaign, which advocates for the raise of the minimum wage to $15 per hour in Quebec.
Jayson Palolan is an artist, activist and member of Anakbayan (Filipino youth group) and a co-founding member of the Filipino Indigenous Peoples Organization of Quebec (FIPOQ). In 2012, he immigrated to Montreal from Baguio City in the Philippines. Proud of his Indigenous culture and traditions, Jayson performs dances and music from the Cordillera, an Indigenous group originally from the mountainous, northern region of the Philippines. His skills as an artist and musician help him to raise awareness on the issues facing Indigenous people in the Philippines, such as mining, as well as the Filipino community here in Canada. He is currently studying to become a nursing assistant, after having completed his studies in French in Montreal.
Magda Popeanu is a City Councilwoman, engaged citizen, and a resident of Côte-des-Neiges. An electrical engineer by training in her home country of Romania, Magda immigrated to Canada following the political revolution in Romania in the early 1990s. After moving to Montreal Magda became increasingly involved in local politics, eventually becoming the president of Projet Montreal and an elected official representing the borough of Côte-des-Neiges. She is proud to call this neighborhood her home, and wants to dedicate her political work to improving the quality of life for all its residents, whom she calls her neighbors. While newcomers are drawn to Côte-des-Neiges because it is cheap to live in, Magda calls the quality of housing “deplorable” and believes that the City needs to take responsibility to improve it.
Brian Smith holds a degree in Business and Sociology from Boston University and is currently the Vice-President of the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education. He has been an educator, mentor, and leader for youth in Côte-des-Neiges since the 1990’s. Over the years Brian has worked with the Jamaica Association of Montreal Inc. The Jamaican Canadian Community Women’s League and Carrefour jeunesse-emploi de Côte-des-Neiges, as well as founded Monnaie Money, an annual project that educates youth on financial literacy. He has seen Côte-des-Neiges grow and change over the years, but the neighbourhood has remained at the heart of both his work and in his personal life. Brian also stays engaged with the community in Côte-des-Neiges as a radio-host and event promoter. He emphasizes that Côte-des-Neiges is full of talent and opportunities and needs to be recognized as such.
Elder Larry Grant
Elder Larry Grant is of both Musqueam and Chinese descent. While growing up, he lived in multiple locations in Chinatown, including right on the boundary of Strathcona at Gore Street. He has fond memories of his years attending Lord Strathcona Elementary School and spent much of his time engaged in the programming offered by the community, including softball, soccer and the school’s dance club. Larry’s parents were forced by the Indian Act to live apart and, as a result, he grew up splitting his time between Chinatown and Musqueam. While he felt more identified with his Musqueam roots as child, and had to navigate his way around the Chinatown and Strathcona areas as a teenager to avoid racist violence, Elder Grant is grateful for Strathcona’s diversity and believes that it significantly influenced his values and worldview.
Born in Strathcona in 1931, Lorenzo “Larry” Crema lived in the neighbourhood until he got married at the age of thirty. Larry’s parents immigrated from the Northern region of Italy, which they referred to as Veneto. Larry fondly recalls the intimate, close-knit atmosphere of Strathcona, noting that “everyone knew each other.” He attended Strathcona Elementary School, where he had friends from diverse cultural backgrounds. Larry was also actively involved with the sports scene in Strathcona, playing on many teams. From his perspective, participating in sports was a wonderful way to bridge gaps within the community and ease racial tensions.
Harvey Eng has always been what he proudly calls a “Strath kid”. Growing up in the area, he attended Strathcona Elementary School. Harvey fondly recalls being present on the first day that Strathcona Community Centre (SCC) opened its doors to service the neighbourhood. He spent the majority of his time as a child and youth in SCC’s programs and was part of the first cohort of SCC’s now 45 year-old basketball program. This grounded his passion for recreational program work in Vancouver. After working in other community centres in Vancouver, Harvey came full circle when he returned to SCC as the centre’s Recreation Supervisor in 2011. Harvey recently retired from his position with SCC but his commitment to the community extends well beyond the centre’s walls.
Miki Maeba is a retired Japanese Canadian school teacher who lived and taught in Strathcona for many years. She was born in the neighbourhood, on Alexander Street, and lived there until 1942, when her family and other Japanese Canadians were forcibly removed from the area and interned in Ontario. Mrs. Maeba later returned to Strathcona to raise her own family, drawn back by the neighbourhood’s diversity and strong Asian cultural presence. Mrs. Maeba now lives on the Sunshine Coast but visits Strathcona often, as her son continues to live in their family home. The places in Strathcona that she feels most connected to are the Elementary School, the Union Street Market and the Japanese Language School.
Born in San Francisco, California, Randy Clark moved to Vancouver with his mother and four siblings in 1965, when he was twelve. His family roots in BC reach back to 1858 when the first group of black settlers (from Missouri via California) arrived in Victoria / Salt Spring Island, BC. Randy fondly recalls spending time working at his grandmother’s restaurant, the renowned Vie’s Chicken and Steakhouse, located for over 30 years on Union Street in Hogan’s Alley. He describes Vie’s as a popular, bustling and dynamic restaurant, where people from all different walks of life came to enjoy good food. Randy also fondly remembers the presence of his grandmother and mother, noting their influence on customers who frequented the restaurant. Randy notes that while developmental pressures resulted in the physical deterioration of Hogan’s Alley, it remained a place where people were as friendly and giving as ever. A seasoned educator (retired) of the Vancouver school system, Randy continues to advocate for more in depth public understanding of Hogan’s Alley through his involvement in the Hogan’s Alley Working Group and other initiatives.
Born and raised in Strathcona, Jo-Anne Lee initially became involved with the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association (SPOTA) as a high school student, when her family members and neighbours began to organize to keep their homes from being redeveloped by the city. As a young, educated, Chinese-Canadian woman, Jo-Anne and her contemporaries found ways to address the needs of their community by using the skills and tools available to them. SPOTA was arguably the beginning of the physical manifestation of Strathcona’s fighting spirit, rooted in community organizing. They were an engaged citizen group, committed both to supporting each other and taking action to voice their concerns.
Melody Ma is a young Chinese-Canadian who grew up in Strathcona. Melody went to Strathcona Elementary School, attended the local Chinese school, and was even involved with the Chinese Dance Troupe. Despite the negative stereotypes that others had of Strathcona, Melody looks back fondly on her childhood in the neighbourhood, and notes how all she saw as a kid was “warmth and love”. It was only recently that Melody began to learn about Strathcona’s history. Her involvement in the #SaveChinatownYVR campaign has helped her understand how she and other Strathcona residents have benefitted from past organizing by community leaders like Shirley Chan, Joe Wai and the Strathcona Property Owners and Tenants Association (SPOTA).
Louis Lapprend has lived in Strathcona since 2013. Prior to living in Vancouver, Louis resided in France. He compares his experiences living in Paris, which had a “big city feeling, where everyone was vertically stacked” to living in Strathcona, which feels more like living in a tight knit “village.” When Louis first moved into the neighbourhood, he actively sought out opportunities to get involved in his community, both in Strathcona and Chinatown. Upon noticing the rapid changes that were happening in Chinatown, Louis felt compelled to contribute to efforts to protect the neighbourhood. Drawing on his knowledge of web development, Louis developed the idea for Chinatown Today, an online platform where users could learn more about Chinatown and its past, present and future. Outside of his work, Louis enjoys playing basketball in the neighbourhood, and can be found biking around Strathcona, going to and from different places with his young children.
Savannah Walling serves as the Artistic Director for the Vancouver Moving Theatre, co-founded with her husband Terry Hunter in 1983. They are committed to sharing stories and giving voice to communities of the Downtown Eastside and beyond through arts-based performances, creating shared experiences that bridge diverse cultural traditions and social groups and generate legacies for the future. She and her husband moved into the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood before settling into Strathcona’s Mau Dan Co-op in 1985 where they raised their son, Montana Blu. They have lived in the neighbourhood ever since. Savannah is a strong proponent for the arts, and over the years has collaborated with Strathcona Community Centre, the Ukrainian Hall, the Russian Hall and other Strathcona based community facilities to produce plays and arts programming such as the Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival. Savannah shares with us the inspiration and care she has experienced from various Strathcona groups and the larger Downtown Eastside neighbourhood that have culminated in her passion for arts programming that serves its community.