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World class global city: it was a little different

World class global city: it was a little different

saint johns ward2Toronto – St John’s Ward, otherwise known simply as the Ward, is a storied part of Toronto’s Italian Canadian experience. It currently houses a significant section of Toronto’ health Care and Justice sectors. It was not always so. From the late 1880s to the first half of the 20th century it served as transition place for new immigrants to the young country.

The last, undeveloped parcel, tucked away across from the Court House and Osgood Hall, was a paved-over parking lot until just recently. Then, Infrastructure Ontario’s plans for a new Courthouse on the site, and the ensuing excavations prompted new interest in the history of Toronto, as seen from some of the “relics” unearthed. What was truly exciting was the thrust given to some Provincial bureaucracies to tell the story of the peoples who made up the inhabitants of the Queen City, Toronto – at least in St. John’s Ward.

They were Afro Americans fleeing the USA, Chinese (many brought to work on the expanding railway network around Toronto), Russian Jews (most recruited under the Immigration policies of Clifford Sifton), Slavs – Poles, Ukranians – also similarly recruited, and Italians. Their stories are the stuff of heroes. Some tragic: Some fabulously successful. All of them replete with agony, suffering, sacrifice and an undaunted will to overcome adversity.

I went to the press conference held by Infrastructure Ontario, December 82016, invited apparently as an after thought because one of the researchers had found evidence of Italians dating back to 1916 – they of Pasquale Brothers fame – and thought that the Corriere might be interested.

They ignited my attention. The presence of Italian Canadians a few blocks North and West of the excavation was virtually unknown to them. Not their fault. It is an untold story of location of the trials and achievements against oppressive odds in a foreign, sometimes in hospitable land.

Over the next several weeks, the Corriere intends to fill in the vacuum with both photos and narrative. We think it will be an important contribution to the tale of Canada on the occasion of its 150th anniversary in 2017. And a tribute to those whose courage contributed to shaping Canadian values.

(r) Photo Credit: City of Toronto Archives

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