I’ve been thinking a lot about negative stereotypes lately. At best, you can laugh them off or maybe roll your eyes. But oftentimes, stereotypes hurt. They can even become the basis of deep-seated prejudice against a person or an entire community.
As I’ve mentioned before, when I moved to Toronto from New Delhi in 1998, I quickly discovered Scarborough as a place where I could connect with the sights and sounds I’d left behind. But I also heard nicknames for the community — “Scarlem” and “Scarberia” — that Scarborough natives I met while studying at University of Toronto’s St. George campus would use. They’d say them in a self-deprecating manner, as if the neighbourhoods in which they grew up were the butt of some long-standing joke, but I could hear the hollowness in their laughs.
I’m reminded of those empty laughs this week, as I’ve been diving deeper into the many diverse communities that make up Scarborough, all in the hopes of trying to unpack some of the stereotypes you’re sick and tired of hearing — whether it’s the way many media outlets don’t use specific street intersections when reporting on a crime, making it sound as if all of Scarborough is rife with criminal activity, or the way in which the suburb is thought of as a concrete jungle, ignoring the swathes of green spaces that dot Scarborough’s landscape.
I’d love your help in unpacking these stereotypes. Based on all the fantastic food suggestions I’ve gotten from members of our Scarborough Discourse Facebook group, I’m thinking of tackling the suburb’s reputation as a global foodie hotspot. I’m also keen to spotlight the overlooked — but vibrant — arts and culture scene here, especially since it was the third top-voted topic in our community vote. Then, of course, there’s the perennial issue of transit accessibility, which was our second top-voted topic.
So, here’s my question to you: Which Scarborough stereotypes do you think I should address first? Send me your suggestions via email. I look forward to hearing from you.
After reading about an American initiative called Coffee With A Cop, Const. Mark McCabe started a Scarborough chapter of the program, as part of his duties as a police officer with the Toronto Police Services’ 41 Division.
“When people see us, they see the uniform first. Many times, people interact with us in a crisis situation, and don’t know how to approach us on the street,” he told me at an Oct. 26 event held at a Tim Hortons near Kennedy Road and Eglinton Avenue. “We wanted to show people we are human, too. We also buy groceries, and stand in line for a cup of coffee.”
McCabe immigrated to Canada from Ireland more than two decades ago, and lived in several Scarborough neighbourhoods, including Milliken, Bendale and North Agincourt, for most of that time. He recently moved to York region, but continues to be actively involved in the community.
Due to Coffee With A Cop’s success in Scarborough, the program has been introduced in five other Toronto police divisions, as well as to police services in Regina, Saskatoon and Calgary. Police services in Peel, Hamilton and York have also expressed their interest in the program, according to McCabe. “[Coffee With A Cop] is a great chance for people to come and just have a chat. There’s no agenda, no notes. Just a conversation,” he said.
Let’s meet up
- Nov 3. MAP Family Saturday. Malvern and Morningside branches, Toronto Public Library. Young dinosaur fans can enjoy a visit by Royal Ontario Museum paleontologists and make a dino craft at Malvern Library. Meanwhile, at Morningside Library, adults and kids can learn how to weave cloth and make a woven bookmark, courtesy of the Textile Museum of Canada. Both programs run from 2 to 3 p.m.
- Nov 7. Free meditation classes. Scarborough Village Recreation Centre. Longtime Scarborough resident Andrew Tyas has been meditating for more than 20 years. A school teacher by profession, Andrew has always been interested in group meditation because he says it’s less distracting than practicing solo at home. All are welcome to join the free weekly class, which takes place from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. For more info, contact Andrew at 416-266-8737.
- Until Nov. 30. Love Lives in Scarborough. Bluffs Gallery at Scarborough Arts. This exhibition focuses on the experiences of members of Scarborough’s LGBTQ+ community. By showcasing portraits produced by the LoveisLoveisLove project, founded by Toronto photographer Adam Zivo, it draws attention to the challenges facing those in the queer community who live outside of Toronto’s downtown core.
When I told Const. McCabe about our Scarborough Discourse Facebook group, he wondered aloud whether he could join, saying it’d be a good way for him to share important community updates from 41 Division. But McCabe also understood that some members might be concerned about a police officer joining our closed Facebook group. When I floated the idea by our members, there were two main views:
Other members of the community also chimed in with their concerns, especially in light of the fractured relationship between the police and some marginalized communities in Toronto. One person suggested a compromise that many group members supported:
I’ve informed McCabe about our Facebook group’s decision, and will share relevant information regarding community-outreach activities from 41 Division and other Scarborough-based police divisions in the group and future newsletters.