With September coming to an end, we bid farewell to Toronto. However, we would be remiss not to provide you with a quick review of our September 2019 Metropolis of the Month.
Though we usually provide an overview of a city’s history, other times we focus on one aspect of a metropolis to draw out its meaning for residents and its connection to urban history more broadly. We took the latter road in this look at Toronto’s relationship to its indigenous population from the 1787 Treaty of Toronto to incorporation in 1834 to the present day (with a bibliography to boot)!
“No metro area’s suburbs have conformed perfectly to any stereotype and Toronto’s have failed to conform in their own peculiar ways,” writes historian Richard Harris in his review of the city’s history of suburbanization. Amateur builders, waves of immigration, and chance intertwined to create Toronto’s suburban landscape, but as Harris reminds readers, “Contrary to another stereotype, very little of this was planned. Largely by chance, notably as a result of transnational migrations, Toronto has gone its own way.”
One wonders, in the urban dramas of our future, what role will “big tech” play in the story of North American cities? Amazon’s presence in Seattle (spoofed to some extent in Where’d You Go, Bernadette) has caused no small amount of consternation among the city’s inhabitants. In San Francisco, long-time residents bristle at any mention of Google. In Toronto, questions remain about the intentions of Sidewalk Labs, a Google “sister company,” who have proposed to develop the Port Lands, one of the city’s prime waterfront areas. University of Toronto socio-Legal scholar Mariana Valverde and University of British Columbia law professor Alexandra Flynn explore the machinations of Sidewalk Labs’ development of the Port Lands. “Silicon Valley has given us fast and powerful software programs, phones and computers,” they write. “But the ‘smart city’ plan under consideration in Toronto features Silicon Valley in a new and awkward role: as the designer and creator of new public authorities.”
Conserving nature in urban North America has never been easy. Though pristine examples exist in places such as Vancouver’s Stanley Park, such examples are noted exceptions. York University historian Jennifer Bonnell explores the history of “the forking ravines of three major river valleys: from west to east, the Humber, Don, and Rouge River watersheds,” that enable Torontonians to enjoy a taste of nature despite living in Canada’s largest city. Bonnell does so through the figure of Charles Sauriol, an early conservation activist who was “a cottager in the Don Valley from the 1920s to 1960s and an ardent campaigner for the understanding and protection of valley green spaces.” Sauriol contributed to the creation of a large constituency of valley users who value the ravines; whether or not they will defend them will determine if Sauriol’s faith in the public will prevail.
Now in its third season, the CBC Televesion comedy series Kim’s Convenience has demonstrated a bit of staying power. The story of the Kim’s, a Korean-Canadian family of four who own a local Toronto convenience store, provides a new vantage point on the city. The Metropole‘s co-editors, Avigail Oren and Ryan Reft, discuss the show’s first season and what it says about immigration, sexuality, and multiculturalism.