The landscape of Parkdale is largely shaped by the various waves of newcomers who end up making Parkdale their home, either temporarily or permanently, upon arriving in Canada.
An extremely dense neighbourhood, there are significant Tibetan, Filipino, Polish, and Southeast Asian populations among other newcomer communities in the neighborhood. Many of the social services, community organizations, and local businesses within the community were built specifically to serve the needs of those who live in Parkdale.
Listen to community members talk about Parkdale
Meet our storytellers
Bersabel Eyob was born in Eritrea in 2000 and immigrated to Canada in 2015. En route from Eritrea, she stopped in Ethiopia before arriving in Parkdale, where she has lived since then. Bersabel recently graduated from Parkdale Collegiate Institute and is currently attending Ryerson University for Business Management. When asked about her goals for the future, Bersabel states that she is interested in entrepreneurship. Outside of her studies, Bersabel is active within the Parkdale community, most notably at West Neighborhood House, where she is involved with a number of programs such as the Silk Screening, Business and Running Clubs. Bersabel’s favourite thing about Parkdale is how multicultural it is.
Garab Dorjee Serdok has the owned of Tibet Kitchen, a restaurant in Parkdale, since 2012. He is ethnically Tibetan but was born, raised and lived in Nepal before moving to Canada in 2008. Garab settled in Parkdale but now owns a house in a more affordable neighbourhood. He has many loyal customers that petitioned against a steep rent increase imposed on Tibet Kitchen.
Garab lives with his wife, 2 kids and his mother. Garab is very involved with the community. He helped start up the first Momo Madness (now Momo Crawl), a fundraising event in collaboration with Students for a Free Tibet Canada.
Heather Evelyn is a library technician at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD U) and has lived in Parkdale for over 20 years. Heather’s family left Jamaica when she was 2 years old, and her family lived in the Bronx before immigrating to Canada in 1965. Her family settled in Victoria Park, then moved to Eglington and Mount Pleasant before finally moving to Agincourt, Scarborough. When Heather was a student at OCAD, she lived in Parkdale for a few years before moving out of the neighborhood. In the 90s, Heather moved into her current home, a 3 bedroom apartment in North Parkdale.
Kathi Silke is a third generation Japanese Canadian born in Fort William (now Thunder Bay), Ontario. She worked as a guidance counsellor at Parkdale Collegiate Institute for 18 years before retiring in 2013. At PCI, she was the Guidance Department Head and lead several extracurriculars such as Key Club, mentorship programs, and advocacy for the Roma student community in Parkdale. Despite retiring, Kathi holds Parkdale close to her heart and remains involved with the neighborhood. Currently, her passion project is the Kiwanis Key Club of Casa Loma and her involvement with the West Neighbourhood House where she supports the silk screening and the art program.
Nerupa Somasale is a 23 year old multi-disciplinary artist and student at Ryerson University. Raised in Parkdale but recently displaced from her childhood home, she currently lives in Kensington Market. Nerupa’s mother and father immigrated to Canada in the 1980s, from the Philippines and India respectively. One day after they moved into an apartment on West Lodge Avenue in Parkdale, Nerupa was born. Having graduated from Parkdale Collegiate Institute, Nerupa is currently completing her studies at Ryerson in history and curatorial studies. Mainly a theatre and performance art based artist, she’s recently been driven to explore film as a tool, to create a documentary that focuses on how gentrification has impacted the community of Parkdale.
Born in Trinidad in the West Indies, Rita Cox arrived in Canada when she was 22 to work as a children’s librarian with the Toronto Public Library. Storytelling and libraries have been an integral part of her life since childhood. Before moving to Toronto, she worked at the New York Public Library. Rita was the head of the Parkdale Public Library for 24 years, where she brought diverse communities together, establishing literacy and reading programs. Rita’s legacy can be seen in local organizations she founded, including the Parkdale Intercultural Association (PIA) and Parkdale Project Read. The City of Toronto named a park at Dufferin and King in her honour.
Tenzin Wangmo (Tenwang) was born in Dharamsala, India to Tibetan refugees. In 2001, she immigrated with her family to Canada as a 3-year old. They settled in Parkdale before moving to Etobicoke in 2005. Tenwang fondly remembers the space that Parkdale provides for Tibetan Canadians to express and practice their culture. She is passionate about giving back to the community and organizes social events in Parkdale such as outdoor trips for elders to help combat the isolation. Her online clothing store, nineteen59, has grown into a worldwide platform for the Tibetan diaspora to collaborate on designing a new collection as well as providing professional development for youth.
Bernard Farrol was born on August 13, 1932, in the municipality of Janiuay, Iloilo, Philippines. He is an 87-year-old Filipino business owner who has lived in Parkdale for a few decades. Before moving to Parkdale, he worked as a nurse at Toronto Western Hospital. Bernard saw that the Filipino community was underserved and opened a store. Eventually, he quit his job and moved his store to Parkdale. He currently lives with his wife in a small space where his store is located. They sell Filipino goods in their store and also do special orders for some Filipino cuisine.
Born in Bombay, India, Nash Paul de Souza immigrated to Canada to be with his wife when he was 36 years old. Raised in a Catholic household, his parents were heavily influenced by North American culture and grew up speaking English. Nash studied in Goa, and worked as a graphic designer, web designer, and creative director. Nash met his future wife while working in Bombay. It took almost 2 years for the visa process but soon after, Nash was able to immigrate to Canada and quickly settled into Parkdale. He currently runs Making Room and is also a yoga teacher on the side.
Zsuzsanna Ujvari was born in Miskolc, Hungary and immigrated to Canada in 2012 as a refugee. She lived in shelters until she was paired with a Hungarian family to settle with. She started her life in Canada from scratch, first working as a cleaning lady, quickly realizing it was not what she wanted to do. She then worked at a flower shop and the experience has taught her how to converse in English. She refers to it as “a free ESL school.” Zsuzsanna is a settlement worker for Hungarians at West Neighbourhood House and works at a shelter. Most of her family remains in Hungary, while her son lives in England.