Reviewed by Stephanie Bangarth (Department of History, University of Guelph)
Published on H-Canada (October, 2004)
A recent analysis of the 2001 census data conducted by Statistics Canada has revealed that the concentration of immigrants in Canada's metropolitan areas places significant pressure on public transit, education, and housing. In particular, the city of Toronto nets more than four of every ten immigrants as new and permanent residents. The implications that such immigration has on the provision of public services and housing in Canada's urban centers has led to calls by some "big-city" mayors, such as Toronto's mayor David Miller, to ask the federal government for a "New Deal" for cities. It even became an issue in the most recent federal election.
Readers looking to know more about how immigration affects urban centers should explore The World in a City, a collection of nine essays and an epilogue edited by Paul Anisef and Michael Lanphier. The World in a City seeks to understand the challenges facing an increasingly racially and ethnically pluralist Toronto since 1970. It examines the impact that immigration has had on the city and how such a racially and ethnically diverse population is and has been served in such areas as housing, education, health, economics and community life. In so doing, the volume links these diverse themes by employing a theoretical framework focussing on social exclusion and inclusion. The nature of the theoretical framework and its historiography are concisely explained in the introduction to the volume. All of the chapters combine to highlight the particular challenges facing newcomers to the city of Toronto and, in turn, provide a convincing case that if immigrants are provided with an equality of opportunity, the city would reap social and economic benefits.
The World in a City contains submissions from a variety of academic disciplines including history, sociology, geography, political science and education. The volume also includes a photographic essay by Gabriele Scardellato (chapter 7) aimed at illustrating the changing and growing diversity of the Greater Toronto area. Unlike many edited volumes that do not have a discernible or consistent theme, The World in a City works as an excellent "introductory overview" of issues of resettlement and integration as they affect Toronto (p. 11). With few exceptions, the editors managed to maintain the integrity of their organizing principle which was derived from "specific domain areas" (p. 12)--economy, housing and neighborhoods, education, health, and community--as developed by the Joint Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement (CERIS), a research institute based at York University in Toronto. Each of the chapters addresses one of the above-noted themes.
The World in a City opens with an historical overview, written by the noted historian of immigration and ethnicity in Canada, Harold Troper, concerning post-1945 immigration to Toronto. This chapter should be of particular interest to Canadianists looking to furnish undergraduates with a concise review of the historical effects of immigration policy on immigration and settlement patterns in Canada's largest city, offering occasional comparisons with Montreal and Winnipeg. This chapter is also notable for its focus on the agency of various immigrant groups in their successful attempts to push for changes to the historically repressive aspects of immigration policy.
Other noteworthy and timely essays (in terms of current debate on affordable housing and health care costs) include chapter 3, "Towards a Comfortable Neighbourhood and Appropriate Housing: Immigrant Experiences in Toronto" by Robert A. Murdie and Carlos Teixeira, and chapter 6, "Diversity and Immigrant Health" by Samuel Noh and Violet Kaspar. Murdie and Teixeira nicely complement Troper's essay as they examine immigrant settlement patterns, which have occurred in Toronto since 1945, and whether immigrants have been successful at obtaining appropriate housing in Toronto. This chapter is also notable for its attention to the post-1970s trend of immigrants to avoid formerly traditional downtown reception areas for the suburbs, a phenomenon that the authors note is both by choice and by constraint. Another strong aspect of this chapter are the sections which suggest avenues for further research. They note that "surprisingly little is known about the formation of ethnic neighbourhoods in Toronto and the ways in which these neighbourhoods change over time" (p. 184), and wonder whether ethnic enclaves will continue to exist or cease to be in the face of a "more assimilative social geography" (p. 185). Perhaps a study akin to Kay Anderson's excellent book, Vancouver's Chinatown should be undertaken for the city of Toronto, for example? Not surprisingly, they have omitted some groups in their broad and necessarily brief overview of the historical settlement waves in Toronto. Most notably, Murdie and Teixeira are silent on the South Asian settlement in the Gerrard St. E. area, and the post-1970s shift of South Asian migration to Etobicoke. A study of this group would have provided an additional and pertinent example of post-1945 and post-1970s settlement patterns. Additionally, by neglecting to mention the presence of blacks in the St. John's Ward area of Toronto during much of the nineteenth century (although this is, admittedly, outside the time period studied), the authors give the impression that immigrants from the Caribbean who arrived in the 1950s-1970s represented the first blacks in the city.
Chapter 6, "Diversity and Immigrant Health" by Noh and Kaspar addresses the popular views that immigrants require more from health care than non-immigrants. They also discuss what they term the "healthy immigrant effect" (hie), namely, based on the available data, immigrants are less likely to have long-term health conditions or disabilities, had fewer sick days and less absenteeism, despite such life strains as unemployment and poverty. However, Noh and Kaspar stress that conclusions drawn on the "hie" are still highly generalized and that the "hie" does not last long due to changing ways of life especially in the post-migration phase. Contrary to popular belief, it is not inadequate screening that lets in unhealthy immigrants; rather, the stress of resettlement may lower the immunological defenses of immigrants. As such, according to the authors, Toronto does not appear to help healthy immigrants remain healthy. Unfortunately, the conclusions drawn do not support this latter claim. Noh and Kaspar, rather, point to aspects of the Canadian health care system, in general, in their assertions that the system in practical respects does not provide fair and equal access and service to all and that the system refuses to allow foreign-trained doctors to practice medicine in Canada.
While the authors of the different chapters in The World in a City generally manage to keep Toronto at the center of their inquiries and conclusions, one chapter falls short. In chapter 2, "Immigrants in the Greater Toronto Area: A Sociodemographic Overview," Clifford Jansen and Lawrence Lam demonstrate the effects of Canada's immigration policy operating in a reactionary fashion to constantly changing global circumstances. This chapter provides a good review of the 2002 Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and nicely details the increasing diversity of Toronto's immigrant population using census data. Their conclusions, however, tend to draw broad inferences, focusing on national concerns as opposed to those of Toronto, straying from the Toronto-centered theme. More attentive editing would have eliminated the largely repetitive (from chapter 1) overview of Canadian immigration policy from 1945 to 1971.
The inclusion of Gabrielle Scardellato's photographic essay as chapter 7 was a wonderful idea. It shows the changing ethnic landscape of the city in a chronological fashion. It also manages to adhere to the CERIS specific domain areas by presenting photographs that illustrate immigrant education, business ventures, and community life. Some of the more recent photographs were taken by Scardellato, with others from collections of the Multicultural History Society of Ontario (MHSO) and the City of Toronto Archives. Scardellato also includes photos depicting social exclusion. A photograph taken in 1938 of two young women in bathing suits holding up an anti-Semitic sign reminds the reader that Toronto did not always welcome diversity (p. 362).
In sum, The World in a City is a welcome addition to our evolving understanding of how immigration and diversity affects urban environments. It is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary, providing a methodological and chronological update to Robert Harney's Gathering Place: Peoples and Neighbourhoods of Toronto. The World in a City intelligently articulates how this metropolis does not provide a level "playing field" for newly arrived immigrants, and that significant barriers exist to prevent those who need help the most from accessing it. As the federal government continues to delay action on a "New Deal" for cities, in particular for Toronto, the problems and "log-jam" carry on.
. Nicholas Keung, "Immigrants Put Strain on City Services," Toronto Star, August 19, 2004, p. A14.
. Kay Anderson, Vancouver's Chinatown: Racial Discourse in Canada, 1875-1980 (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1991).
. See, for example, Fred Armstrong, "The Toronto Directories and the Negro Community in the Late 1840s," Ontario History, 61 (1969): pp. 111-119; and Karolyn Smardz Frost, "At Home in the Promised Land: African American Immigrants in Toronto's St. John's Ward," Canadian Historical Association Conference paper, University of Toronto, May 29, 2002.
. Robert Harney, ed., Gathering Place: Peoples and Neighbourhoods of Toronto (Toronto: Multicultural History Society of Ontario, 1985).
If there is additional discussion of this review, you may access it through the network, at: https://networks.h-net.org/h-canada.
Stephanie Bangarth. Review of Anisef, Paul; Lanphier, Michael, eds., The World in a City.
H-Canada, H-Net Reviews.
Copyright © 2004 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at email@example.com.