Gentrified: To Be or Not to Be? Examining Kensington Market


Gentrified: To Be or Not to Be? Examining Kensington Market

By: Loki Candelma

I will never forget the first time I visited Kensington Market. It was mid-July, there was not a single cloud in the sky. The sun kissed the city with its gentle heat, a slight breeze buffering the warmth which made it a prime day for iced coffee. Upon entering the neighbourhood, I immediately noticed the distinct crowd, everybody was clad in tattoos, retro clothing, and asymmetrical haircuts- they all looked like me. My friend took me to Rick’s Café, a place I had never heard of previously, where we would sit on the patio, in front of an abandoned car with greenery growing out of every orifice. Once we were done, we would visit The Black Pearl, a tattoo parlour that I had discovered online, and I would later book my first appointment. Before the day was over, we climbed to the very top of the parking garage, where we could see Toronto’s skyline, the city lights twinkling like stars as the sun began to set. I knew this would not be my last visit to this neighbourhood, but I had no idea what the place would end up meaning to me.


Kensington Market: arguably one of Toronto’s most unique, and diverse neighbourhoods. It is situated around the College and Spadina area, with Bathurst and Dundas Street West bordering the west and the south respectively. The market is made up of specialty vintage shops, organic health stores, and restaurants that are ethnically diverse. The abandoned car that was turned into a makeshift garden, the graffiti murals, and pedestrian Sundays, are all facets that give Kensington market its grungy, quirky charm. But is this charm part of a bigger issue?

In recent years there has been a surplus of a certain kind of brand. There was the installation of the cold pressed juice bar, among a plethora of expensive, independent coffee shops. Perhaps it was the specialty vintage shops that started it all. Surely, they attracted the young 20-somethings, donned in mismatching thrifted pieces and covered haphazardly in hand-poked tattoos. Not that I’m trying to distance myself from this crowd, because with my bright blue hair, septum ring, and sweaters my grandparents could have worn, I give off the vibe that I might fancy some kombucha after an art show.  But normally where there is a gathering of hipsters, gentrification is either soon to follow, or already there.

This begs the question, what are the signs of the gentrification of Kensington Market? Is it going to be fully gentrified or is it already? Of course, to every argument there are multiple sides, so this paper will begin by exploring the business, or rather the “trendy” argument.

A common justification of gentrification is for profit. The juice bars, Whole Foods, and frozen yogurt joints all contribute to the erasure of culture and historical significance, all for profit. Some of the store-owners, however, do not see it as gentrification, but rather, a changing of times. One of the co-owners of the popular vintage store, Courage My Love believes that this is simply evolution, and this occurs every so often.


The co-owner of Courage My Love describes it as being trendy, which is certainly a part of the process, however, this does mean that trendiness is separate from gentrification. If something will sell, it will be exploited, even if it is problematic in some sort of aspect. For instance, white models will wear their hair in dreadlocks or boxer braids, and this will be branded as high fashion, whereas black people do this but are discriminated for it. Large corporate brands like Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters will sell culturally appropriating items (shirts with dream catchers, indigenous head dresses, etc) and thus, profiting from racism.


Kensington has a rich history involving immigrants who have set up shop in the area. Different waves of immigrants have moved into the neighbourhood which is why the marketplace has a rich variety of shops. Throughout the years they have cultivated a space for art and community, the foundation of this is from the immigrants who moved into the area to construct this environment. Kensington Market in itself is grungy and eclectic, there is no room for condos or commercial buildings, the community will not allow it. There has been an attempt to build a Wal-Mart in 2014, but this was denied, and they have also denied corporate brands like H&M from advertising in the area because it will ruin the individuality of the neighbourhood. There are also additional by-laws enforced for the neighbourhood that prevents the construction of buildings higher than four storeys. This demonstrates that the community firmly protects the integrity of Kensington, but this does not mean that the neighbourhood is not already gentrified.


The presence of the newly built condo, the frozen yogurt shop, and the cold pressed juice bar are enough to prove my point. These shops are expensive, and attract a lot of customers, which reproduces the desire to build more shops alike in the area. While some of these coffee shops area structured (cleverly, may I add) in a way to appeal to the population in the area with grungy aesthetics and vintage furniture, they are still a part of the gentrification. So, in short, the thinly veiled argument of gentrification actually being about what is ‘trendy’, has little merit considering it is circular, and returns to the process of gentrification.

There is also another facet of Kensington that arguably contributes to gentrification, but has become one of the market place’s defining f actors. And this is the plethora of coffee shops. Many of these shops are independently owned, and run by small families, or even a single person. They are also fair-trade, and ethical in their practices, which is a key selling-point, considering that ethical consumption seems to be popular among customers. While the entirety of Kensington is composed of independent businesses, buying coffee that is ethically made is expensive, and caters to a higher socioeconomic status.


I don’t think I have the authority to condemn the small businesses there, because truthfully, I am just another person- among the other customers with dyed hair and tattoos- who enjoys the artistic neighbourhood. I am not one of the residents, unfortunately, this is not my physical home, as much as I would like to think that it is part of my home, in the metaphorical sense. I try to buy my coffee fair trade because I would much rather have my beverage made from fair wages, than support a capitalist conglomerate. But does this mean that I am contributing towards Kensington’s gentrification? Certain parts of activism have certainly become trendy recently, and technically, in a capitalist society, there is truly no ethical consumption.


In spite of the coffee shops being involved in a grey area, they are also a source of the very artistry that Kensington produces. This includes hosting open-mic nights, and allowing for local bands to play their live music. I go to these places to work- be it art-related, or school-related, I know I am not the only artist who does the same. One of Kensington’s core values is the production and protection of all art forms, hence the brick walls of the neighbourhood replicate canvases.



Kensington Market holds significant value to the community, including myself, and I intend on doing what I can to preserve the grungy neighbourhood because it has cultivated a safe space for me and my friends alike. Many of the people I have met at this place have been the most authentically kind people I have encountered in my life, whether they are fellow civilians or business owners. Especially with recent events in the news (see: The Pepsi commercial with Kendall Jenner, or the Woman’s march), much of activism and social justice is becoming monetized, and trivialized. Many of the people I have encountered in the marketplace have an understanding of intersectionality, or at the very least, are genuinely good people, and this is something that gentrification will destroy, if it continues. Kensington Market is one of Toronto’s treasures, and I hope it continues to combat commercialism and gentrification.

Loki is in her fourth year, studying Criminology, Sociology, and Women and Gender Studies at UTM. She has a penchant for social justice, and art (all platforms). When she’s not at school, she’s at work, or she’s volunteering for the school’s Sexual Education Centre. In the very little time that she has for herself, she enjoys seeing her friends over coffee, and finding new places to discover in Toronto.

For more on Kensington Market, check out Prof Z’s Photo Essay, also featured on Peel Urbanscapes.

A Tasty Journey Into Gamjatang: Examining a Dish in GTA’s Koreatown

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A Tasty Journey Into Gamjatang: Examining a Dish in GTA’s Koreatown

Written By Won Ki Lee

Gamjatang is a spicy and hearty traditional Korean soup. It is mainly made from pork bones, potatoes, cabbages, garlic, green onions, and wild sesame seeds amongst other ingredients. Gamjatang is a very comforting dish, as its rich broth is simmered for a long time, allowing the bones to add deep flavour to the broth. The pork bones in gamjatang also provide various vitamins and nutrients. Gamjatang is the perfect Korean soup to warm up one’s soul on any occasion.

The origin of the name gamjatang is controversial to this day.[i] Some argue that this dish is called gamjatang because there is gamja (potato) in the soup, thus gamja (potato) + tang (soup). Others argue that the word gamja actually originates from the name of gamja-bone (pork spine), thus gamja (pork spine) + tang (soup).

Though the origins of gamjatang are somewhat uncertain, it was first developed in the southern Korean province of Jeolla.[ii] This province was known for farming pigs instead of cows, so when they made the soup, they used the bones they had from the pigs and an assortment of vegetables as the main ingredients for the soup. Traditionally, gamjatang was served to the elderly or those who were weak or sick to strengthen their bones.

Gamjatang became particularly well-known in Incheon, when the Incheon harbour first opened. The harbour was a spot where people from different regions of Korea were able to interact and share their regional dishes, gamjatang being one of these dishes. Gamjatang’s high caloric content and cheap price made it an ideal and efficient source of energy for labourers and commoners to enjoy. Today, many gamjatang restaurants can still be found lining the streets of Incheon.

Popularity of Gamjatang in the GTA

The poplarity of gamjatang in the GTA is quite peculiar because in South Korea, gamjatang is not sold in common Korean restaurants; I seldom saw it on the menu in majority of the restaurants I went to. Instead, when I wanted to eat gamjatang, I would have to go to restaurants that specifically sold gamjatang as their specialty dish. For this reason, I wanted to investigate into how gamjatang became such a popular dish in the GTA.

Gamjatang is in fact a popular dish in the GTA. Firstly, most, if not all Korean restaurants in the GTA, serve this dish.[iii] When looking at the menu in Korean restaurants, one thing they have in common is that they all sell gamjatang. Another indicator to gamjatang’s infamous popularity is that many grocery stores sell frozen gamjatang. The Owl of Minerva, a popular Korean restaurant, noticed how popular their gamjatang was in their various locations throughout the GTA and decided to introduce their gamjatang in frozen form to the grocery market scene.

I had a conversation with a server at The Owl of Minerva. While he served me my order of gamjatang, I asked him what other customers usually ordered. According to him, gamjatang was one of the most popular dishes amongst other dishes. I then asked him about The Owl of Minerva’s frozen gamjatang, to which he replied, “I think they started selling frozen food because of the increasing demand they were getting, especially for gamjatang, in the Chinese community”.

Asian grocery stores such as Oceans Fresh Food Market, T&T, PAT, and Btrust sell The Owl of Minerva’s frozen gamjatang. With the Owl of Minerva’s frozen gamjatang, all customers have to do is place their food in the microwave and microwave it for 3 to 5 minutes. This offers customers the convenience of having restaurant style gamjatang stocked in their freezers to consume whenever they want.

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PAT also sells premade fresh gamjatang. Customers can purchase premade gamjatang broth and bundled gamjatang ingredients, such as semi-cooked meat and fresh vegetables, so that they can easily combine the ingredients and cook them in a pot for a few minutes. This also allows people to eat a warm, hearty bowl of gamjatang in the comfort of their own home.

The Perfect Trifecta: Price, Quantity, and Taste

Based on an interview with an international student, Yelp reviews, and my own personal experiences for Korean ethnic restaurants that operate in the GTA, I have identified three emerging themes regarding gamjatang: price, quantity, and taste. I conducted an informal interview with a friend of mine who is an international Chinese student and a big fan of gamjatang. His reasons for enjoying gamjatang reflect the perfect trifecta that gamjatang offers; taste, quantity, and affordability. When I asked him about why he liked gamjatang, he replied that he loved how filling and flavourful gamjatang was for its price. Another thing he enjoys is the varieties of banchan he gets with his gamjatang.


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Many of the top listed Korean restaurants in the GTA had gamjatang listed as their first dish under soups and stews. The reason Gamjatang is listed first is because the menu orders the dishes in terms of price, ranging from lowest to highest. The average order of gamjatang ranges from $6 to $9 per serving, depending on which Korean restaurant one goes to.

This price includes the gamjatang, the bowl of rice, and the various banchan that come with the order. Banchan refers to the various side dishes that come with the main dish, such as kimchi, assorted pickled vegetables, and other vegetable side dishes. One thing to mention is that the banchan can be refilled as many times as the customer wants. Overall, the cost of gamjatang makes it an ideal budget-friendly meal that is full of flavour as well. One yelper writes, “pork bone soup cannot be topped elsewhere. $6.95. Geez.” And many other yelp reviewers consistently mention how cheap gamjatang is.


The picture above is what came with my order of gamjatang. I received four banchan, a bowl of rice, and some barley tea. However, the star of the meal was the gamjatang, and I removed the pork bones and potato from the soup to show just how much I got for $8.99.

Gamjatang is a Korean meal that has a large quantity per each serving. An order of gamjatang consists of a large stone bowl filled to the brim with hot soup, plenty of pork bones with tender meat, and a large piece of potato amongst other veggies. When ordering gamjatang, one also gets a bowl of rice on the side and various banchan that can be refilled to accompany their meal. One Yelper specifically mentioned, “the gamjatang portion was generous with lots of veggies heaped on top.” He also mentioned how he received six types of banchan on top of a bowl of rice and gamjatang, stating that they were “all fresh and tasty”.

When I ordered gamjatang at The Owl of Minerva, my meal came with four types of banchan. The first banchan I got was kimchi, a spicy pickled cabbage side dish, which is a standard banchan at all Korean restaurants. The second banchan I got was bean sprouts seasoned with sesame oil. The third banchan was pickled cucumbers. The last banchan was kkakdugi, pickled cubed radish. Considering the price of one order of gamjatang, this is a huge portion of food.


Gamjatang is a very flavourful Korean soup. The pork bones are simmered for hours to develop a rich, deeply flavoured broth. Once the broth is ready, the chefs add the other ingredients and cook the soup until the potatoes are cooked through and the meat is fall-of-the-bone tender. Many Yelpers commented on how flavourful and well spiced the soup was. One Yelper claimed, “I had the pork bone soup extra spicy. The spice level was perfect”. Another Yelper was worried about the spice since she thought Korean food was spicy, but she found the gamjatang to be “filling, mild, and great to eat when it’s cold outside”. The banchan I had with my meal also tasted fresh. In particular, the pickled cucumber was sweet, tangy, and crunchy at the same time and the kkakdugi was tart and refreshing. Also, the sticky rice paired well with the banchan and gamjatang and absorbed their flavours well.

One thing worth noting is that many Yelpers mentioned that they tried gamjatang due to peer influences. Some ordered it because their friends ordered it, while others ordered it because they saw other diners ordering it. One Yelper said that she went to a Korean restaurant with a group of friends and that they all “ordered gamjatang because it seemed popular with other people”. Another Yelper said they tried gamjatang because “they heard good reviews from their friend”. It seems that more and more people from different ethnicities are enjoying gamjatang because they know someone who enjoys gamjatang and has recommended it to them.

Ending the Tasty Journey of Gamjatang

Overall, gamjatang is a hearty Korean soup that is enjoyed by people from all walks of life, regardless or age, class, or ethnicity. Despite gamjatang’s humble beginnings, where it was traditionally served to commoners and labourers due to how cheap and easy it was to make, its flavours allowed it to gain popularity and spread to different regions throughout Korea and the world. Particularly in the GTA, gamjatang has become a best seller in many Korean restaurants and its success can be attributed to its price, quantity, and taste. Gamjatang is so fulfilling and flavourful that it leaves people craving more, resulting in many Asian grocery stores selling frozen and fresh gamjatang for people to enjoy anytime they want.

Won Ki Lee is an international student who flew over from South Korea and who is a passionate social science student at UTM.





Mississauga’s 50th Anniversary


Mississauga’s 50th Anniversary

Written by R. E. 

It is no surprise that Mississauga has changed greatly over time, specifically in the past recent decades where the city has undergone rapid expansions in infrastructure, transportation, and an increase in population. This year, 2017, Mississauga celebrates its 50th anniversary. Looking back at the history of the city it has come a long way from its establishment in 1967 [2]. During this time it was merely considered a town covered with “farmland and apple trees” as Ms. Hendrix recalls it, moving to Mississauga in 1970 [3]. However, today based on the most recent Census, Mississauga is home to approximately 721,559 people, it’s the sixth largest city in Canada, and it holds a corporate status and a local government [5]. The city now flourishes with skyscraper condominiums, runs a multifaceted public transportation system, is home to multiple recreational parks and community centers, a civic center, an art gallery, a central library, an award winning public square, and not to mention home to the second largest shopping mall in all of Canada located in the heart of the city [6].

But how did Square One Shopping Centre become the center of attention in a city that spreads for miles? This is the question I aim to answer as I explore in this paper how Mississauga’s central core became and continues to become gentrified, straying far from the imagined persona of a bland suburb and towards a thriving multifaceted city.

The first step to help satisfy my curiosity was to find reliable articles that illustrated Mississauga’s history, specifically before the building of Square One shopping mall. What I quickly discovered was that during the early years of Mississauga many people were convinced that Cooksville, located on Hurontario and Dundas, would develop into Mississauga’s core [1]. Originally named Harrisville, Cooksville was re-named after Jacob Cook in 1836 a businessman who had established an Inn on the land [2]. The town grew vastly as it became a centre of commercial activity and home to the first ever City Hall, an administrative centre for the surrounding townships [2]. This resulted in the communities’ belief that Cooksville would become the permanent core of Mississauga [2]. Which may have been true if it was not for the 1852 fire that destroyed a large part of Cooksville including the City Hall, nonetheless Cooksville was rebounded as a centre for civic, industrial, commercial, and education interests in the Toronto Township [2]. The destruction of it’s core amenities gave room for a new core to establish, and so years later when Bruce McLaughlin got a hold of this opportunity he ran with it, and this is where Square One surfaces [1].


Square One’s journey begins with Bruce McLaughlin in 1969, a visionary who owned a vast amount of land on the intersection of Burnhamthorpe Rd and Hurontario St, the land Square One Mall is now standing on [1]. From a 2017 perspective building Square One Mall in the location it stands today was a successful venture, but for anyone living in the 1970’s the location of the mall was quit random, this area of Mississauga wasn’t built yet and consisted of a vast amount of “farmland and apple trees” [3].

3Recognizing this fact I was intrigued, I wanted to understand the reason behind the decision to build such a big mall in an area full of family farms and trees. Thus I dug a little deeper into Bruce McLaughlin’s history and what I found was an explanation from Ron Duguette, a long-time employee of McLaughin, who described him as a forward thinker, that was constantly looking deep into the future [4]. As Duguette explains McLaughin “had the foresight to see that there would be major growth west of Toronto, mainly because of the airport” predicting this he took advantage of the potential rewards of building what is now the second largest mall in Canada [1][4]. Consequently McLaughlin’s bold move of building a giant mall in the middle of farmland resulted in Mississauga’s official transformation in 1974 from a Town to a recognized City [1].


For McLaughlin Square One was just the beginning, remember the tragic fire in Cooksville that resulted with the destruction of the Town Hall? Well McLaughin sure did and he saw this as the perfect opportunity to expand Mississauga’s new core [1]. He encouraged the city to relocate the construction of a new City Hall next to Square One, and in order to guarantee compliance with his plans he provided the land to build it on for free [1]. Making Square One the initial change that began a domino effect of rapid development within Mississauga, while the new City Hall guaranteed the area to stay the central core of the City [1].

Today in 2017 Square One and the area around it continues to undergo expansion, and as the population grows and more skyscraper condominiums are built the more the City has McLaughin and his extremely forward thinking to thank. You see McLaughin wanted Mississauga to become a functional multifaceted city and in order to achieve this in the long run the services and utilities for the city were all construction underground, beneath the square one region [1]. This strategic design made it possible for the current high-rise and high-density buildings to have been able to build without any functional issues, and it makes it possible for further expansion [1]. The Absolute Condominiums that were introduced in 2006 known by most as the Monroe Towers became iconic to Mississauga’s image, creating a worldwide-recognized skyline, which helped to attract more projects to the city skyline such as the upcoming M-City condominiums that are under construction today [1][11]. McLaughin and his teams forward thinking defiantly gave Mississauga the ability to build quickly and with ease, however the great city centre that we see today also has the work of Harold Shipp to thank for. Shipp was a developer who led the team that built the Mississauga Executive Centre back in 1990, which promoted office structures and attracted more businesses to the city centre [1][12].


Macro and micro level changes within Canadian societies also contributed to the extensive success of the city and the gentrified expansion of its core. Mississauga’s economic movement away from agriculture work towards business ventures and service work changed the demographic of the population while also increasing the population dramatically [6]. The city’s schools, parks, and facilities such as the YMCA, the Central Library, Mississauga Valley Community Centre, the Living Arts Center, and Celebration Square has attracted middle class and upper-middle class families to the core [6]. With the popularity of condo living on the rise combined with the continues trend of people moving out on their own, the population of the core has expanded drastically as condos are being sold out instantly on the market [11][6]. The more the core becomes gentrified the more middle and middle-upper class populations cohabitate the houses and condos that are of walking distance from Square One, and the more the lower class are pushed outward.

As the core gentrified, government housing bloomed in Cooksville a place once dubbed the core of the city now become a hub for cheap apartments, authentic food stops, and competitively priced nail salons and barber shops [2][6]. Referred to by members of the community as 5n10, due to the point of intersect between Dundas St known as Highway 5 and Hurontario St known as Highway 10, Cooksville area is described by the twitter community as a place you go for cheap services but not a place you venture in alone at night [6]. One twitter user finds entertainment in the crimes in the neighbourhood tweeting, “Seeing people get arrested gets me so AMPED #5n10”, while other users mention some of the cheap services you get in the area, “I have to go to the hair store so I might as well get my eyebrows done #5n10” and, “Thank god for laundry service / a dollar s pound / nothing wrong with that #time #saving #sauga #5n10” [7]. These are some of the common dialogues you hear around the city in reference to Cooksville aka 5n10, and though it’s location is not far from the central core where Square One stands, it differs tremendously in terms of class demographic, and businesses.


From my personal experience moving away from the borderline of Etobicoke and to the Mississauga Valley area between Square One and 5n10, I recognize the core for its reliable bus system. However I remember a time where the buses were not as reliable or convenient as they are now, and from my interview with Ms. Hendrix who had moved to Mississauga in 1970 she recalls an almost non-existing bus system, “their was only one likkle white bus it was so small, and if you missed it, it’s hours before you get another one, transportation was bad” [3]. Ms. Hendrix experience compared to my experience with transportation in the city really captures the transformation of Mississauga’s bus system, as it grows it also advances. In recent years Mississauga has invested a lot in revamping their transit system Miway, they have increased bus routes and stops, introduced express buses, built bigger buses with more interior convince such as electrical plugs and reading lights, making every trip more comfortable no matter how short the ride might be [8]. The frequency and accuracy of bus times have also improved, the introduction of the Miway App lets you access information more quickly and conveniently in regards to locations of stops and bus times [8]. Not to mention the building of the Mississauga Transitway in 2013, a highway built exclusively for express and GO buses making trips faster and more convenient [8]. In the spring of 2016 Ontario also invested $6.5 million for Metrolinx to build a new station building separate from the Square One Terminal that makes it easier for Go Bus riders to buy tickets [10]. Overall it is clear that transportation is a key feature for gentrifying a city, as it functions to connect neighborhoods while also reducing traffic. As Mississauga grows the city and the province of Ontario recognizes the necessity of a proper transit system that must function to accommodate the growing dense core.


Mississauga’s core is not only continuously building, but it also is constantly reviving the long-standing amenities and attractions that already exist. In the recent decade we have seen the reconstruction of the Central Library, continuous features being added on to the Civic Centre and Celebration Square which was built quit recently in 2011, the introduction of Mississauga Transitway in 2013, and the revamping of Square One bus terminal, followed by the remodeling and the additional features added to the entire shopping mall [8][9].



In the Square One region everywhere you look there are signs of gentrifying development, and as the city continues to build and rebuild it strays further away from the bland suburban town it started out as, appealing to creative thinkers, an upper class, and young professionals.

R. E. was born in Egypt, raised in California, and settled down in Mississauga at the age of 10. She is an open-minded student who loves to meet new people and learn about different cultures.

For more information on Cooksville, see Mahek’s Neighbourhoods Essay which is also featured on Peel Urbanscapes. 

  1. Square One Life Website. URL: (accessed March 30, 2017)
  1. Heritage Mississauga, History of Mississauga PDF. URL: (accessed April 1, 2017)
  1. Personal Interview with Ms. Hendrix Transcript:
  1. Stewart, John. 2012. “Bruce McLaughlin: The Man Who Built Square One.” Mississauga News. URL: (accessed April 1, 2017)
  1. Statistics Canada. 2016. “Census Profile, 2016 Census” URL: (accessed April 1, 2017)
  1. Official Mississauga Website. URL: (accessed March 30, 2017)
  1. Twitter search engine 5n10 hashtag. URL: (accessed April 2, 2017)
  1. Official Mississauga Website, Miway Transit Page. URL:
  1. Morrow, Adrian. 2011.“Mississauga Opens Celebration Square to ‘Develop a Citywide Spirit’” The Globe and Mail. URL: (accessed March 26, 2017)
  1. Ministry of Transportation. 2016. “Improvements Completed at Square One Bus Terminal” The News Room. URL: / (accessed March 30, 2017)
  1. M-City Information. URL: (accessed March 30, 2017)
  1. Mississauga Executive Centre Brochure PDF. URL: (accessed April 3, 2017)
  1. Duguette, Ron. 2016. “When The Mississauga City Centre Was Built” insauga History. URL: (accessed March 26, 2017)
  1. Duguette, Ron. 2015. “Aerial Shots of Mississauga From The Early 1970’s” insauga History. URL: (accessed March 26, 2017)
  1. Duguette, Ron. 2016. “A Look Back at Square One 40 Years Ago” insauga History. URL: (accessed March 26, 2017)
  1. Google Map Dundas and Hurontario Photo URL:,-79.6153721,3a,35.3y,67.61h,91.69t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sok23Nltta51-75dgBzYBDQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1 (accessed April 4, 2017)
  1. Mississauga Civic Centre Photo URL: (accessed April 4, 2017)
  1. Square One Expansions and Revitalization Photo URL: (accessed April 4, 2017)


Why Do We Call Brampton “Browntown”?


Why Do We Call Brampton “Browntown”?

Written by Malgosia Wenderski

Growing up in Brampton, the term “Browntown” has become very popular. People of all ages and all ethnicities have used this term. Now, other labels of the city have been created, such as Bramladesh, Bramestan, Bramptladesh, Little India, Bollywood North, Singh City and Singhdale. This has led to preconceived notions that Brampton is dominated by a South Asian population, that it resembles cities in South Asia, that it is home to South Asian stereotypes[i], and that it smells of South Asian dishes, particularly curry[ii]. People have: posted forums questioning this term, written essays about Brampton as “Browntown,” and people from the outskirts of the Great Toronto Area and beyond know of “Browntown” (my past University lecturer from America had even noticed it).  Many find the word comedic and all in good fun, however the consequences are profound. Using “Browntown” supports negative preconceptions of Brampton and South Asian citizens. It has also facilitated “White Flight,” in which White Brampton citizens move to other cities overwhelmed with the changing demographics in Brampton. We see that it has evolved to a very legitimated word that has many attached meanings and consequences to it. This motivated me to write the paper you are reading right now. I want to explore what “Brownstown” exactly means. Why do people from Brampton use labels like “Bramladesh” and “Browntown” to refer to their city? What are the experiences that led to this profound trend?

One possibility is that a higher concentration of South Asian citizens have led to calling their city a “Browntown.” According to a Brampton National Household Survey on Immigration and Ethnic Origin (2013), we see an increase in immigration from South Asian countries. From 2006-2011, 52.49% of the total proportion of immigrants were Indian. Visible minority population statistics demonstrated that in 2011, South Asians consisted of 38.41% of the population, an 18.91% increase since 2001. In comparison, White citizens of Brampton composed of 33.58% of the population in 2011, which decreased since 2001 by 25.22%. Therefore, an increase in South Asian people in Brampton due to immigration may have been a prominent factor in the belief that Brampton is “full of Indians”, calling it “Browntown.”

The large presence and symbols of South Asian culture has also played a role in dubbing Brampton as “Browntown”. According to, a marker of being from Brampton includes seeing “more people wearing turbans than baseball caps.”[iii] The practice of Sikhism, according to the National Household Survey (2013) is the second most practiced religion in Brampton (first is Catholicism). Third is Hinduism. We do see a growth in South Asian modes of worship, demonstrated by Gurdwaras and Hindu temples scattered across Brampton.


South Asian symbolism also transcends to cuisine as many South Asian restaurants and bakeries have gradually opened (and are prospering) in Brampton. This explains @Brampton_Stats’s tweet, “you know you’re in Brampton when you see a squirrel running around with roti in its mouth.”[iv] Many plazas in Brampton host Indian and Punjabi bazaars, stores with mannequins in adorned saris, and furniture stores and jewelers owned by South Asian people.


In the summer, I can recall groups of women wearing traditional saris, and/or salwar kamiz, walking along cemented sidewalks and chatting with one another. Men in colorful dhotis, or kurtas with pajamas meet in parks and relax on picnic tables or benches. Bhangra music (affiliated with Punjabi culture) would echo from vehicles with all windows down. In November, grand fireworks set off for the celebration of Diwali. Because of the vibrancy of South Asian culture, people may call Brampton “Singh City” or other terms because all these symbols of South Asian culture combine to give us this experience of living in a city in South Asia.

In addition to seeing culture of South Asia becoming prominent in Brampton with increases in the demographic, “Browntown” is also used because of resistance; there is a portion of Brampton that does not welcome this change. One theme is that people claim to feel estranged living in Brampton because they feel unfamiliar to it’s current landscapes and people: “seriously, I hate living here in Brampton and feel like I don’t live in Canada at all, feels more like India. Everytime I drive to and from work, all I see on the streets are ladies on their gowns and guys on their pajamas and torbans!”.[v] (I did not edit the grammar of any quotes to display them in their originality). Many express annoyance that Brampton celebrates multiculturalism and diversity, “where is the multiculturism in this country? its like cities are divided into small nations,” arguing that it is just the South Asian culture that has integrated its culture mainly. Another factor of “Browntown” is that South Asians are now becoming a primary interest group as immigrants and are given special treatment by federal and provincial agendas: “the left wants the votes so they bring in a punch of immigrants who will work for pennies while there sick family members come from India are eating up our healthcare.”


Focusing on White citizens of Brampton, I want to point attention to a YouTube video called “Brampton Racist Girl”[vi] that you may have watched. In this video we see how racially charged the use of “Browntown” and “Bramladesh” is. The girl in the video expressed disdain for South Asian people because her high school consisted mainly of South Asians, and concieved of them as terrorists, dangerous, smell bad of curry, and are dominating Brampton. Online discussions on Brampton also mirror her thoughts, and become very controversial as comments lead to racial fights. People clearly express discomfort and annoyance that South Asian culture has become so pervasive. One argument is that White people are no longer the dominant group, but a minority. We see this in Kyla Pawis statement: “I am tired of you taking over my city,” emphasizing White ownership of Brampton with disapproval of it’s changes. “Browntown” therefore represents Brampton as no longer being a white city, but a Brown one. This turns into another common opinion: White people feel as if they have become the second class citizen: “the fact is that canada accepts and lets in anyone but whites. to me its like a shame. it hates its own kind and only lets in bad people insted of smart and educated. thats why whites are becoming the minority in canada fast.”[vii] Another theme is that people feel they have lost benefits, opportunities for jobs, while simultaneously purporting that South Asians abuse “benefits, welfare and lax immigration policies.”[viii] Therefore they contend there is a economic inequality in which they  experience income loss. Also there is frustration that South Asians are non-conforming or assimilating to Canadian culture. In a fight deciding what issues South Asians are creating for Brampton, one states “it’s about them coming here and living by our laws and traditions. Our traditions like saying Merry Christmas or saying the Lords prayers, RCMP unifoms etc, are all being changed for them. BS.” [ix] There is anger and resentment for Canada accommodating South Asian immigrants, without taking care of the White citizens who have lived in Brampton for a long time. This indicates a dislike of South Asian culture and how it is changing Canadian policy, and reducing Christian and Canadian traditions. Not being able to see other White people as often as they do see South Asians is another area of concern. This may reflect losing the feeling of community, and the lack of desire to include South Asians into this community. A less mentioned comment, White people express that they are discriminated against by South Asian people: “I can’t help but notice a trend of being treated with so much rudeness, and passive aggressive attitude that border Trump level racism, the looks I get making me feel as if I somehow have done some sort of unforgivable deed to their people, that I feel I am being silently discriminated.”[x] Another important component of “Browntown” is founded on many stereotypes and generalisations about South Asians through the lens of White people. Persisting are the comments on smells of cuisine and body hygiene: “You dhotis don’t know anything, except how to smell up the world with curry powder!!!” Many comment on the lack of proficiency in English through thick accents and poor communication. High density within homes is a stereotype that is mentioned often: “Its like 20 people live in a house, one family has 12 cars parked everywhere”[xi]. Emerges from all these thoughts is the archetype of South Asian males, named as “Jafar” in the urban dictionary that also associates Middle Eastern men to the definition.


All these negative characteristics are emphasized to represent a South Asian males and culture. Not only is it demeaning, it portrays South Asians in a stigmatizing and subordinating manner. All of these generalizations combine to purport that the sole presence of South Asians is degrading Brampton, creating it a “Browntown”: “East Indians are ruining everything everywhere you go.”[xii] And this deterioration is emphasized by comparing old Brampton and new Brampton: “Brampton was a small, pleasant town in the 60s. Today it has morphed into a giant, crime ridden slum. Wannabbee gangsters and restrictive hiring practices (Asians only) keep any decent people from moving to Brampton and keep a high level of them moving out.”[xiii] Media outlets are scolded for poor journalism because they do not explicitly blame South Asians for economic issues at the moment, “the Guardian kind of downplays the issues of immigration, race and poverty because Canadians like to pretend problems like ghettoization only exist in other countries,” with strong beliefs that job opportunities and wage gaps are caused only by South Asian immigrants.[xiv] This discussion of White people admonishing South Asians in Brampton is not only limited to the GTA: “same here in sault ste marie….we are stuck with a bunch of west hindies who are stealing all [our] jobs.”[xv]

It is clear that a portion of White citizens of Brampton (not specifying any percentage because that is yet to be researched) apply “Browntown” because they possess disdain for this demographic, and it is discrimination and prejudice directed towards South Asians as a group. Ergo, its racism. Evident is how a group of White Bramptonians dislike Brampton’s evolving identity and the integration of South Asian culture because they desire for a White Brampton. Reinforcing terms like “Browntown,” with all its stereotypes and racist undertones, Bramptonians mark the distinctions and segregate the notions of “Browntown” (as influenced by South Asians) and Brampton (influenced by White citizens and policy makers). It is also explicit in their goal to maintain a white national identity of Brampton among the White community, and to resist and oppose changes that will diminish it (immigration and integration). However, many have already reacted to this change; white flight. Housing has become a major topic for preventing White (or other ethnicities) people to enter Brampton. As people look to forums to understand advantages and disadvantages in this city, they see stern messages of warnings: “ask yourself if you would truly be comfortable living amongst a large South Asian population? Same goes for an East Asian population in Markham or Richmond Hill. White flight is a very real phenomenon and buying a home is the biggest investment you will ever make so make sure you will truly be happy and comfortable where you live.” This highlights that conditions (or the ethnicity of South Asia that they interact with often) are so unbearable they moved away. It also plainly says that White house hunters will not be happy in Brampton, because it has turned into a “Browntown”.


Starkly contrasting racism behind “Brown-town” is the pride people have in being able to call a city in Ontario “Browntown”. “Browntown” is celebrated because it represents the assimilation and success of South Asian Bramptonians as they yell to the skies, “brown ppl run shit in b-town! bombest shit ever…. if ya’ll don’t like it don’t move here then!”[xvi] In Brampton, youth (not only restricted to South Asians) are able to learn about South Asian culture and become exposed to diversity as high school talent shows feature authentic dancing numbers.[xvii]


And an addition to that, most definitely is the cuisine and henna appreciated by people across all ethnicities. A yelp user proclaimed “If I’ve said it once, I’ve said a thousand times. Brampton should be called ‘Browntown’. As a fellow Indian,” he emphasizes, “coming here to visit relatives is like living in India with a developed infrastructure. With a large, overwhelmingly South Asian contingent, the number and quality of Indian restaurants makes this city one of the best to get this kind of food.”[xviii] Many South Asians express overjoy that they are no longer a minority. Brampton’s own Russel Peters described his negative experiences while living in the Brampton decades before as a minority: “I was only 5 at the time and was called a ‘Paki’ when I’d be riding my bike on the street… It was the first time that someone told me that I was ‘different.’ It really sucked.”[xix] Fast forwarding to the present, there is relief and happiness behind being a part of a large community that allows a sense of belonging without experiencing explicit racism. Noreen Ahmed-Ullah in her wonderful essay described this relief in saying “I don’t need to worry about someone judging me by my hijab or hurling racist comments. I don’t have to worry about the patronizing tone of a white person in a mall parking lot, talking down at me like I don’t speak English about some asinine rule. The brown people who live here love Brampton.”[xx]


As a result we see the South Asian community in Brampton becoming very close and confident in speaking up against ostracism. A South Asian user in a forum defended herself and her community – one of many occasions – claiming “what you think does not affect us. Canada is an immigration country, not a white country. Sooner you accept that, better for you. Also, Canada’s a ‘salad bowl’ in comparison to the U.S. ‘melting pot’. It’s just as much ours as it is yours – legally. We don’t ‘need’ to adapt to White Canadian ways – our Indian Canadian ways work for us, yours work for you, leave us alone.”[xxi] This social cohesion and pride is visible in South Asians interact with one another. Often at transitways, outside All-South Asian plazas, by Sheridan college, in Tim Horton’s, or in restaurants I see groups of South Asian together, laughing and conversing with each other. Resistance to “Browntown” may be felt, but regardless, they have South Asian neighbours, family and friends to emotionally and socially support them. They can depend on me too, and the many people of all ethnicities that openly welcome “Browntown” in all its glory, with pride of our home city!








Image: Lopon Picnic Eldorado Park August 20120









[xiv] &








Malgosia Wenderski studies psychology and sociology at the University at Toronto. She is the founder and host of the Collegiate Talkshow, and passionate about social psychology, inequality, and mental health.

Deconstructing the Myth of Dangerousness on 10 and 5


Map of Cooksville: Red arrow showing Hurontario St. (10) and Dundas St. (5)[1]
Deconstructing the Myth of Dangerousness on 10 and 5

Written By Mahek Basar

When I was thirteen, my friend Ananya came over to my new place from school. We decided to go out and get an Iced Cap from Tim Horton’s that was only five minutes away. On our way, her 20-year-old brother called her. She rolled her eyes as she listened to her brother on her flip phone.

“I don’t believe him”, frustrated, Ananya shoved her green phone in her Jansport backpack. “He ordered me to leave at once because apparently, this place is dangerous”.

“Why, what happened?”

“I don’t know. Some guy got shot in the Timmies parking lot or something. Whatever, I don’t care.”

This was the first time I found out my new home was in a dangerous neighbourhood. Over the next few months, Ananya’s visits to my house became infrequent. Or only occurred in daylight. Soon, my friends stopped visiting my house altogether, as their parents insisted I come to their Square One homes instead. I could not understand how Cooksville was dangerous for my friends to merely visit when my family was living in it.

The Tim Horton’s on Dundas St. & Confederation Pkwy, thar Ananya and I visited[2]

Intrigued, I decided to research the perception of my neighbourhood. While surfing digital real estate platforms like Village Guru, I realized Cooksville was often referred to as “affordable” and dense (2017). I am certainly not fluent in the housing market lingo, but affordable is a nicer term for cheap, as cozy is for small. Also, a popular website visited frequently by Mississauga residents and visitors alike,, ranks Cooksville as the top “rough” neighbourhood of Mississauga (2017). I also came across, a website where lay people compare cities in terms of costs of living, pollution and crime rate. Interestingly, many recent commentators described Cooksville as Mississauga’s ghetto. Anonymous users also claimed that the crime rate in Cooksville has increased significantly, with recent shootings and frequent drug deals, that are swept under the rug. These users also warned other not to visit Cooksville at night, and then complain about getting robbed. With its sketchy parlors, diverse and dense population, Cooksville seems to have earned a spicy reputation for itself among its Mississaugians. As someone who has resided in Cooksville for over seven years, I found these accusations quite exaggerated, which is why I decided to dig deeper into the character of my neighbourhood through this article.

History of Cooksville

Mississauga and youth are often synonymous terms since Mississauga is a relatively new establishment compared to its ancient neighbour, Toronto. However, unlike the rest of Mississauga, Cooksville was an up-and-running community way back in the Victorian Era. Daniel Harris, an American settler came to present day Hurontario and Dundas in 1800, such that the intersection was initially named ‘Harrisville” after him. Some 20 years later, however, a pioneer, Jacob Cook, set his eyes on Harrisville when he realized how fruitful Harrisville’s location was to his endeavours. Cook delivered mail between York and Niagara, and soon his entrepreneur spirit awakened. He established coach services to major cities around Ontario, like London, Kingston, Hamilton along with York and Niagara. Thus, Harrisville became travelers’ crossroads, and was renamed after its most influential resident, Cook, to Cooksville. This presented the ambitious Cook with another business opportunity. As weary travellers needed a place to relax, get a drink, or even spend the night before continuing their journeys, Cook built them a tavern in the heart of his burgeoning community.

Cooksville House Hotel, c 1900[3]
However, if you visit Cooksville today, you will see no taverns. All remnants and memories of Cook’s community were either destroyed by a fire in the mid-19th century, or demolished through gentrification over the years. After the birth of Mississauga, Cooksville was chosen as the new city’s capital of politics. It housed several municipal offices, along with the central library branch and two school board offices. Five decades later, Cooksville is no longer its city’s centre of politics as that dominion has been taken over by its polished neighbour: Square One.

Town Hall, Toronto Township, c 1900[4]
The neighbourhood of Cooksville has survived fires, served as the headquarters for Cook’s empire, hosted political activities for decades, in addition to housing Canada’s first winery in the 1860s. Yet, today the words most often associated with Cooksville are crime, ghetto, or dangerous. While Cooksville may not resemble any aspects of its heritage, its current character is still misunderstood. To determine just how dangerous or ghetto this historical neighbourhood really is, I conducted a few interviews with its residents.

 People of Cooksville

I addressed some version of the following question to my interviewees: “Do you think this area is dangerous?”

Rauf, the father

I first spoke with Rauf, a Pakistani man in his mid-thirties who recently moved out of Cooksville.  After taking a moment to think about his answer, Rauf finally said, “I mean in the past few months before I left in summer of last year, I definitely felt a rise in criminal activity and police surveillance, so I thought okay this place is no longer safe for my family and that’s why I moved. Even my wife used to see these things”.

“You’ve seen a lot of police presence?” I probed him further.

“Yeah, I have seen them in uniforms as well as in regular clothes. I used to go out for a smoke in the evening and I would see the cruisers pull up. They usually came to that white family with legit warrants. I think they are involved in drugs”.

“What kind of drugs?”

“I don’t know. I mean I have never seen any drugs around. I just think it may have been drugs.”

My mother joined in on the conversation as well, and informed me that, “[Police] once came for that Pakistani guy too. You know the one with the bad temper? I don’t know what it was for though”.

“Yes, and you know that Guyanese guy that was murdered last year?” Rauf reminded me of an incident I had no recollection of, “his friends hosted a memorial for him across the street. Don’t you remember that day when it was very crowded? He was involved with drugs too I think.”

Rauf, after witnessing the rise in criminal activity in Cooksville, decided to move into the suburbs of Oshawa. He was afraid of the negative influence living in Cooksville would have on his young boys. “There are a lot of shady people living here, you know?” He once told me, when encouraging us to move out as well. “Guyanese, blacks, Arabs and those trouble-making bachelor Pakistani boys”.

After interviewing Rauf, I realized he had no concrete evidence against Cooksville. Most of the “criminal activities” he recalled were drenched with rumors and stereotypes. He witnessed police arriving to someone’s house and assumed it was for drugs. He insisted the Cooksville was being populated by “shady” people, who were in essence young, coloured men. The association of young, coloured men with crime is no new phenomenon. And while there are many coloured men living in Cooksvile, most of them are living with their families. Cooksville with its affordable rent rates, and proximity to banks, ethnic grocery stores, Square One and GO station allows car-less newcomers to conveniently carry out day to day activities in a foreign land.

Karim, the butcher

One day, as I was buying meat from my local butcher, I asked him whether he felt there was too much police presence in our neighbourhood.

“They came the other day, looking for Rauf”, he told me in his thick Afghani accent.

“Rauf?” I was surprised to hear police would be interrogating the gentle father of three.

“Not him. The other one,” he pointed with his thumb to the left, his hand covered in chicken blood. “He beat up his boss, you know? The man wouldn’t pay him, so he lost it.”

Hamid, the teenager

The next day, I ran into my seventeen-year neighbour while coming home from school, and decided to gather his perception of our neighbourhood.

“How dangerous would you say this place is?”

“In what sense?” Hamid, the skinny Arab boy, countered. He was wearing faded jeans and a hoodie, and he was leaning back on the wall to an Indian takeout, while taking a drag on his cigarette.

“Like crimes, drugs, stuff like that…”

“I dunno. I mean, the other night I was smoking at the back, right. And this one white boy came up to me. I guess he was a boy or a man, kind of a fatty. He asked me for a cig, and I gave him one. Pretty common stuff, right? Then he went on and offered me weed but I told him I wasn’t into that shit. So, he walked away. I think those guys are his customers. The ones that come out in the evening and make the whole place smell like weeds.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s about all the drugs I seen.”

Victor, the policeman

Also, last year, I had an opportunity to speak with a police officer about Cooksville during a previous research study.

“Oh, yes 10 and 5,” the Russian constable’s eyes flashed with recognition when I told him where I was from, “you know, that area is very notorious.’”

“I know, you guys are always dropping by.”

“Yeah, too many people jaywalk on that intersection”.  Jaywalkers? Crossing the road without a regard for traffic was the most notorious criminal activity that 10 and 5 was known for in the cops’ world? To say I was surprised would be an understatement. I had grown up with outsiders explaining to me just how dangerous and unsuitable Cooksville was. Surely, a police officer would be better aware of its situation. Maybe he was more aware of the situation, and didn’t find Cooksville particularly alarming. As a police officer, the constable was well aware of the worst things that could happen in a neighbourhood, and maybe they weren’t happening in Cooksville.

While I have encountered police presence in Cooksville on a regular basis, it has mostly been for road accidents, or for individual actions. For instance, they showed up to inquire about Rauf after he assaulted his employer. Or when they came asking around for a man who had gone into hiding after his work permit expired.


Cooksville may be a little more dangerous or edgy or have more character with its rich history and commercial setting, compared to other neighborhoods in Mississauga, but it is by no means the Jane and Finch of Toronto or E Eh Crump Blvd of Memphis, Tennessee. Thus, I think the dangerousness of Cooksville really depends on the identity of the individual. To middle-class parents of my friends, and the father of young children Rauf, Cooksville may seem like an unsuitable environment. But to a butcher, Cooksville may serve as the optimum location for his halal meat shop, as the neighbourhood is mostly populated by south Asians and Arabs. To Ward 7 Councillor, Nando Iannicca, the Cooksville Creek with its colourful eloquence seems like the perfect location to build Cooksville’s own Central Park, which will contribute to its prosperous legacy.

Cooksville Central Park, proposed by Nando Iannicca[5]
As for me, Cooksville is my home. It is by far the most interesting neighbourhood in Mississauga. At any point in its rich history, Cooksville has always displayed fascinated character that doesn’t go unnoticed. It was the host to Cook’s entrepreneurial empire. It was the centre for the politics of Toronto Township. It was the downtown of Mississauga. Today, it is a diverse, colourful neighbourhood that celebrates many cultures from around the world. Host to some of the finest and authentic Pakistani restaurants, like Bar B Q Tonite; the Chinese super store, Perfect Supermarket; the Indian takeout, Eastern Foods; as well as smattering of fast food restaurants like Popeyes, McDonald’s, Subway, KFC, and Pizza Pizza, Cooksville has something to offer for everyone. Whether you are a busy housewife looking for affordable groceries, a new immigrant needing settling services, an international student from Asian or Caribbean’s missing the taste of home, or seeking transportation to Square One, Toronto, Hamilton or Oakville, Cooksville is at your service.

Present Day Cooksville[6]
Present Day Cooksville

[1] Google Maps

[2] Google Maps




[6] Google Maps

Mahek Basar is undergraduate student at University of Toronto, majoring in sociology and molecular biology. She would like to study and practice medicine through a sociological lens by providing health care to underprivileged populations.

She is the founder of EOFP-Educate Orphaned Females of Pakistan, a non-for-profit, charitable organization which seeks to provide underprivileged, orphaned girls in the rural areas of Pakistan with school supplies.