Black Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area

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Black Canadians make up a sizable group within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). The majority of Black Canadians are of Caribbean origin, although the population also consists of African American immigrants and their descendants (including Black Nova Scotians), as well as many African immigrants.[1]


List of census subdivisions in the GTA with Black populations higher than the national average. Source: Canada 2016 Census[2]

  • Ajax (16.7%)
  • Brampton (13.9%)
  • Pickering (10.8%)
  • Toronto (8.9%)
  • Whitby (8%)
  • Mississauga (6.6%)
  • Oshawa (5.5%)
  • Milton (4.8%)

In Toronto, many Blacks settled in St. John's Ward, a district which was located in the city's core.[3][4] Others preferred to live in York Township, on the outskirts of the city. By 1850, there were more than a dozen Black businesses along King Street;[3] the modern-day equivalent is Little Jamaica along Eglinton Avenue, which contains one of the largest concentrations of Black businesses in Canada.[5]

Several neighbourhoods in Toronto, including Jane and Finch, Rexdale, Malvern, Weston, St. James Town, and Lawrence Heights, are popularly associated with Black Canadians, although all are much more racially diverse than is commonly believed. The Toronto suburbs of Brampton and Ajax also have sizable Black populations, which have migrated outward from Toronto over the past decade. (Ajax has the highest percentage of Blacks of any municipality of 5,000 or more in Canada, with 16%.) The Greater Toronto Area is home to a highly educated middle to upper middle class Black population who continue to migrate out of the city limits, into surrounding suburbs.[6]


Media representation of Blacks in Canada has increased significantly in recent years, with television series such as Drop the Beat, Lord Have Mercy! and Da Kink in My Hair focusing principally on Black characters and communities.

The films of Clement Virgo, Sudz Sutherland and Charles Officer have been among the most prominent depictions of Black Canadians on the big screen. Notable films have included Sutherland's Love, Sex and Eating the Bones, Officer's Nurse.Fighter.Boy and Virgo's Rude and Love Come Down.

In literature, the most prominent and famous Toronto-based Black Canadian writers have been George Elliott Clarke, Lawrence Hill and Dionne Brand, although numerous emerging writers have gained attention in the 1990s and 2000s.

Since the late 19th century, Black Canadians have made significant contributions to the culture of sports. In North America's four major professional sports leagues, several Black Canadians from the Toronto area have had successful careers, including Ferguson Jenkins (Baseball Hall of Fame member), Jamaal Magloire, Andrew Wiggins and P. K. Subban have achieved a high level of success. In athletics, Harry Jerome, Ben Johnson, and Donovan Bailey were Canada's most prominent Black sprinters in recent decades; the current generation is led by Andre De Grasse.

The largest and most famous cultural event is the Peeks Toronto Caribbean Carnival (also known as Caribana), an annual festival of Caribbean Canadian culture which typically attracts at least a million participants each year.[7] The festival incorporates the diversities that exist among the Canadians of African and Caribbean descent.

Black Canadians have had a major influence on Canadian music, helping pioneer many genres including Canadian hip hop, Canadian blues, Canadian jazz, R&B, Caribbean music, pop music and classical music.[8] Some Black Canadian musicians have enjoyed mainstream worldwide appeal in various genres, such as Dan Hill, Glenn Lewis, Tamia, Deborah Cox, Melanie Fiona, Kardinal Offishall, Drake, The Weeknd and Tory Lanez.

While African American culture is a significant influence on its Canadian counterpart, many African and Caribbean Canadians reject the suggestion that their own culture is not distinctive.[9] In his first major hit single "BaKardi Slang", rapper Kardinal Offishall performed a lyric about Toronto's distinctive Black Canadian slang:

We don't say 'you know what I'm sayin', T dot says 'ya dun know'
We don't say 'hey that's the breaks', we say 'yo, a so it go'
We don't say 'you get one chance', We say 'you better rip the show'...
Y'all talking about 'cuttin and hittin skins', We talkin bout 'beat dat face'...
You cats is steady saying 'word', My cats is steady yellin 'zeen'...
So when we singin about the girls we singin about the 'gyal dem'
Y'all talkin about 'say that one more time', We talkin about 'yo, come again'
Y'all talkin about 'that nigga's a punk', We talkin about 'that yout's a fosse'...
A shoe is called a 'crep', A big party is a 'fete'
Ya'll takin about 'watch where you goin!', We talkin about 'mind where you step!'

Because the visibility of distinctively Black Canadian cultural output is still a relatively recent phenomenon, academic, critical and sociological analysis of Black Canadian literature, music, television and film tends to focus on the ways in which cultural creators are actively engaging the process of creating a cultural space for themselves which is distinct from both mainstream Canadian culture and African American culture.[9] For example, most of the Black-themed television series which have been produced in Canada to date have been ensemble cast comedy or drama series centred around the creation and/or expansion of a Black-oriented cultural or community institution.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Visible minority groups, 2006 counts, for Canada, provinces and territories". 2010-10-06. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
  2. ^ Census Profile, 2016 Census Statistics Canada. Accessed on November 6, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Underground Railroad Exhibit: Teacher Resources – Backgrounder to UGRR – Lesson Plan One". 2007-04-10. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
  4. ^ "Escaped slaves helped build T.O". Toronto Star. Toronto. 2007-02-11. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
  5. ^ "Little Jamaica Competition is stiff in the shopping area that has sprung up along Eglinton Ave. to cater to the tastes of a growing West Indian community." Ashante Infantry. Toronto Star. 7 August 1995. pg. C.1
  6. ^ g=E&Geo1=CSD&Code1=3521010&Geo2=PR&Code2=35&Data=Count&SearchText=brampton&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=Visible%20minority&Custom= "Community Profiles from the 2006 Census, Statistics Canada – Census Subdivision" Check |url= value (help). 2010-12-07. Retrieved 2011-01-22.
  7. ^ "Little party that grew into Caribbean Carnival celebrates 50th anniversary". Toronto Star, 11 July 2017.
  8. ^ Monique Desroches; Marie-Thérèse Lefebvre. "Black Music". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2010-07-26.
  9. ^ a b c Rinaldo Walcott, Black Like Who?: Writing Black Canada. 2003, Insomniac Press. ISBN 1-894663-40-3.
  • Hill, Daniel G (1992), The Freedom-Seekers, Blacks in Early Canada, Stoddart Publishing Co. Limited, ISBN 0-7737-5558-6