Is Scarborough a cultural wasteland? Insiders weigh in

Look behind the facades of those dilapidated high-rises, aging strip malls and grey underpasses, and you might just find a lively discussion about a poem or a graffiti mural celebrating childhood memories of community.

I’m excited for you to read my first article inspired by the top-voted topic in our community poll: dispelling the stereotype of Scarborough as a cultural wasteland.

Look behind the facades of those dilapidated high-rises, aging strip malls and grey underpasses, and you might just find a lively discussion about a poem or a graffiti mural celebrating childhood memories of community.

Not all of my conversations with local artists from various disciplines — including literature, spoken word and visual arts — made it into the article, but rest assured I’ll surface their stories in upcoming editions of this newsletter. For now, I’ll share a quote from Adrian De Leon who recently released his debut book of poetry. Titled Rouge, the book was inspired by his experiences with public transit in Scarborough.

During our interview, Adrian described why fellow local writer Catherine Hernandez’s book, Scarborough, resonated with him. “Happy Chicken was [Scarborough-based fried chicken chain] Chick-N-Joy,” he said, commenting on one of the fictional eateries featured in Catherine’s book. “And the Filipina ladies there have my heart forever. Because that’s where I’d sneak off after school or at lunch time. Because school was across the street. That struck a different intimacy than, for example, Brother [by David Chariandy].”

Please let me know what you think of my article, which comes out soon — I welcome all feedback and suggestions. Finally, many of you have written to me about participating in our upcoming Story Circle. My colleague Anita Li and I are overwhelmed by the support this community is showing us, so thanks for your support! We’ll soon announce more details about the Story Circle — specifically regarding date, location and how you can participate — in our Facebook group and my next newsletter. Stay tuned.


Elizabeth Buller at the Scarborough and Rouge Hospital’s 2018 Teddy Bear Clinic, an interactive event that features stations where staff and volunteers show children, through medical play, the different kinds of activities and procedures that happen at the hospital.

As president and CEO of the Scarborough and Rouge Hospital, soon to be the Scarborough Health Network, Elizabeth Buller is intimately aware of the health challenges facing this community. She says a lack of investment in Scarborough’s healthcare infrastructure is failing to address the needs of residents. “[There hasn’t been] the capital support to build into our health sector,” she tells me. “There’s been a lot of investment on the west side, and a real lack of investment in the east side of Toronto.”

Elizabeth believes Scarborough could be a shining example of the quality of life that Canada can offer. “If you want to see the future of Canada, this is it. It’s the Canada [that] Canada wants to become. It’s very exciting, with lots of growth and a truly resilient community,” she says. “With so much diversity, and multicultural communities here, it tends to generate a lot more engagement. People here are proud of Scarborough, and advocate for its needs.”

Let’s meet up

  • Nov. 17. As the temperature dips lower and lower, many people are turning to comfort food, like chili. If you think you have the best chili recipe, join the Chili Challenge. This culinary contest will be followed by trivia — and it’s all for a good cause. 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Community of Christ’s Scarborough Congregation.

  • Nov. 19. As a special presentation during their weekly open mic, youth-led artist group R.I.S.E. Edutainment will screen Within, a film that showcases Scarborough stories and experiences through the voices of its residents. Anita Li, The Discourse’s director of communities, and I will be at this event, so come say hi! 7:30 p.m. at Burrows Hall Community Centre.

  • Nov. 22. The Scarborough Health Network is officially launching. Scarborough and Rouge Hospital, which consists of three hospital sites — Birchmount, General and Centenary — present their new look at this free public event. 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Lee Family Auditorium.

Real talk

A few newsletters ago, I asked you to send me examples of some of the worst stereotypes you’ve heard about Scarborough. Subscriber Carol (who does not want her last name revealed) sent me the following email in response:

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I posed the same question to our Facebook group, and received this response:


I’m still working on debunking more Scarborough stereotypes, especially those about how the suburb is crime-ridden, so tell me which myths you’d like me to tackle by replying to this email.[end]



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