1918 Toronto anti-Greek riot
|1918 Toronto anti-Greek riot|
|Location||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Date||2–5 August 1918|
|Target||Greek businesses and population of the city|
|Perpetrators||Canadian veterans and civilians|
The 1918 Toronto anti-Greek riot was a three-day long race riot in Toronto, Ontario, Canada targeting Greek immigrants during August 2–4, 1918. (Some sources indicate the date range August 1–5, to include the event that triggered the violence and the date of the final restoration of the peace.) It was the largest riot in the city's history and one of the largest anti-Greek riots in the world. In the newspapers of the time the events were referred to as the Toronto troubles. The riots were the result of prejudice against new immigrants and the false beliefs that Greeks did not fight in World War I and that they were pro-German.
The riots were triggered by the news about the expulsion of a crippled veteran, Private Claude Cludernay, from the Greek-owned White City Café on Thursday evening, August 1. Cludernay was drunk and belligerent and struck a waiter, who ejected him and called police. Although the event was insignificant it sparked indignation and violence started on Friday, August 2, when crowds of estimated 5,000-20,000 led by World War I army veterans looted and destroyed every Greek business in sight in the city centre, while the overwhelmed police could not prevent this and just stood by and watched. Due to the scope of the violence, the city mayor had to invoke the Riot Act to call in the militia and military police. On Saturday night, the police and militia were engaged in fierce battles in the downtown to quench the violence. In total, an estimated 50,000 on both sides took part in the riot. Over 20 restaurants were attacked, with damages estimated at more than $1,000,000 in modern (as of 2010) values.
After the events, Greek community leaders issued an official statement stating that they support the Allied cause. They stated that those who were naturalized were joining the Canadian army and that there were more than 2,000 Greeks in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.) with many from Toronto, and at least 5 Toronto Greeks had been killed while serving with the C.E.F, and 10 incapacitated. Additionally, at least 135 Toronto Greeks had returned home to join the Greek army against the Central Powers.
Many Greek families abandoned the Yonge Street area after the riots, eventually forming a new Greek neighbourhood further East along Danforth Avenue.
The riots echoed incidents in the United States where Greek immigrants were attacked and displaced by mobs and even the Ku Klux Klan, at a time when Southern Europeans were frequently discriminated against. The Greek diaspora responded with overt demonstrations of patriotism, such as buying large amounts of war bonds during World War II and changing their names to make them more familiar to North American ears.
- Violent August: The 1918 Anti-Greek Riots in Toronto., a Burgeoning Communications Inc. documentary produced, written and directed by John Burry
- Thomas Gallant, George Treheles and Michael Vitopoulos, The 1918 Anti-Greek Riot in Toronto, Thessalonikeans Society of Metro Toronto, 2005, ISBN 0968051537 (a summary Archived 2015-11-29 at the Wayback Machine)
- YFile: York's Daily Bulletin. 1918 anti-Greek riot a dark episode in Toronto’s history. Friday October 22, 2004.
- Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples , p. 624
- Bonikowsky, Laura Neilson. "Toronto Feature: Anti-Greek Riots". thecanadianencyclopedia.com.
- Drimonis, Toula (August 1, 2018). "A century later, a vicious anti-Greek riot in Toronto offers lessons for today". MacLean's. Archived from the original on August 1, 2018. Retrieved August 1, 2018.