Little Jamaica

Coordinates: 43°41′40″N 79°27′19″W / 43.69454°N 79.4553°W / 43.69454; -79.4553
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Little Jamaica
Eglinton Avenue West at Oakwood Avenue, the future site of Oakwood LRT station
Eglinton Avenue West at Oakwood Avenue, the future site of Oakwood LRT station
Location in Toronto
Location in Toronto
Country CAN
Province ON
Established1850 (York Township)
Changed municipality1998 Toronto from York

Little Jamaica, also known as Eglinton West,[1] is an ethnic enclave in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is located along Eglinton Avenue West, from Allen Road to Keele Street, and is part of four neighbourhoods: Silverthorn, Briar Hill–Belgravia, Caledonia–Fairbank, and Oakwood–Vaughan. The commercial main street has been recognized to be of great cultural heritage significance to the city of Toronto, as a distinct ethnic and cultural hub for Afro-Caribbean immigrants for many decades.[2]


Little Jamaica has historically been an immigrant hub. Jamaican and Caribbean immigrants began settling in the area in the late 1950s in response to the West Indian Domestic Scheme.[3] Between the 1970s and 1980s, as the number of Jamaicans migrating to Toronto increased to around 100,000, many settled in the Eglinton West area.[4] This has made Little Jamaica one of the largest expatriate Jamaican communities in the world.[5]

However, the changing demographics of Little Jamaica have been noted by both locals and media.[6] Reports show that between 2006 and 2016, the Black population along Eglinton West has declined 13 per cent, compared to an overall population decrease of five per cent.[7] The area increasingly consists of different immigrant groups including people of Chinese, Italian, Portuguese, Hungarian, and Filipino descent.[6] By 2021, gentrification and redevelopment had been affecting demographics.[8]


There are many Jamaican businesses along this strip. There are also businesses of other Caribbean/West Indian communities, including Trinidadian, Bajan, Grenadian and Guyanese among others. The businesses along Eglinton Avenue West are frequented by many in the Greater Toronto Area's 177,000-plus Jamaican community.[9] The area overlaps the York–Eglinton Business Improvement Area, which stretches from Marlee Avenue in the east to Chamberlain Avenue in the west (just west of Dufferin Street).

The laneway behind storefronts on the south side of Eglinton was officially named "Reggae Lane" in 2014, in honour of its heritage as a hot spot for reggae in the 1970s and 1980s.[10]

A mural found in Toronto's Reggae Lane
Reggae Lane mural

Effects of Line 5 Eglinton construction[edit]

Amid the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown light-rail transit, Little Jamaica has seen decreasing traffic to the area.[11] While it is anticipated that upon completion the line will result in more visitors to the area, many residents and businesses have been affected by the building. Reports suggest 40 to 45 per cent of businesses from Marlee Avenue to Dufferin Street have closed down or relocated since construction began on the transit project.[11] Delays have extended the opening of the crosstown well into 2022.[12]

In addition to the LRT construction, the COVID-19 pandemic has a factor hurting business in the area.[7][8]

Heritage status[edit]

In April 2021, Toronto City Council voted unanimously to designate Little Jamaica as a "heritage conservation district understudy". This allows the city's planning department to study and survey the area in order to preserve it under the Ontario Heritage Act. This would offer some protection from future development in the area from accelerating gentrification and displacing existing businesses and residents that give the area its character.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Jamaican reggae group Black Uhuru released a song about the neighbourhood called “Youth of Eglington” on their 1981 album Red.[4]
  • Elle Canada's September 2019 issue was shot in Little Jamaica, with cover stars Winnie Harlow and Stephan James.[13]
  • Zalika Reid-Benta's award-winning novel, Frying Plantain is set in Little Jamaica.[14]
  • The award-winning documentary, Tallawah Abroad: Remembering Little Jamaica, from writer-director Sharine Taylor, chronicles the history of Little Jamaica.[15]


  1. ^ "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. Aug 7, 1995. pg. C.1
  2. ^ "Little Jamaica & the Eglinton West Neighbourhoods". City of Toronto. 2021-02-17. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  3. ^ Stover, Dani (September 29, 2020). "Little Jamaica in Toronto at risk from transit-based gentrification". BlogTO. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Pemberton, Rollie (November 12, 2020). "Saving Little Jamaica". Hazlitt. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  5. ^ Spurr, Ben (March 26, 2018). "In a city desperate for more transit, for Toronto's Little Jamaica it could be bad news". Toronto Star. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  6. ^ a b Kurek, Dominik (January 12, 2017). "Is Toronto's Little Jamaica still a Jamaican neighbourhood?". Retrieved February 12, 2021.
  7. ^ a b Stober, Eric (February 1, 2021). "Black population displaced and on decline in Little Jamaica, local group reports". Trnto. Retrieved March 20, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c Samuel, Danica (April 8, 2021). "Toronto's Little Jamaica will become heritage conservation district understudy after unanimous city council vote". Toronto Star. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  9. ^ NHS Profile, Toronto, CMA, Ontario, 2011 Statistics Canada. Accessed on January 8, 2014.
  10. ^ Ayukawa, Ryan (April 18, 2015). "Toronto laneway to become reggae hot spot once again". BlogTO. Retrieved March 21, 2021.
  11. ^ a b McLean, Kayla (January 29, 2021). "'There will be no Little Jamaica': Toronto neighbourhood threatened by LRT construction". Global News. Retrieved January 31, 2021.
  12. ^ Artuso, Antonella (February 18, 2020). "Eglinton Crosstown opening delayed 'well into 2022'". Toronto Sun. Retrieved February 14, 2021.
  13. ^ Craft, Vanessa (July 24, 2019). "Winnie Harlow and Stephan James Are Our September 2019 Cover Stars!". Elle Canada. Retrieved March 20, 2021.
  14. ^ Scrivens, Zuri H. (July 2019). "In Little Jamaica: Stories from a changing neighbourhood". Literary Review of Canada. Retrieved February 16, 2021.
  15. ^ Parris, Amanda (September 27, 2019). "Remembering Little Jamaica: This new film pays tribute to a disappearing Toronto neighbourhood". CBC. Retrieved February 14, 2021.

External links[edit]

43°41′40″N 79°27′19″W / 43.69454°N 79.4553°W / 43.69454; -79.4553