An “R” on Your Forehead
Talking about identity, statelessness, citizenship, little Tibet, Tibetan businesses, and culture.
Identity, statelessness, citizenship, little Tibet, Tibetan businesses, and culture.
“Not being able to receive your citizenship or status card right away and not being able to identify where you belong- they’re both common within immigrant groups, such as Tibetan communities. The feeling once you receive any documentation that approves your status is quite hard to articulate. But it’s rewarding, to say the least, for you and your family. That feeling of belonging and inclusion. There is a common Tibetan phrase that runs through generations. It translates as ‘You have a big R on your forehead. You’re a refugee, wherever you go.’ So, receiving this recognition and acceptance allows you to become a part of a bigger community but your identification as a refugee doesn’t automatically cease to exist. Being a refugee and a citizen is not mutually exclusive. That’s why I identify as a Tibetan-Canadian.”
— Tenzin Wangmo
Parkdale, fondly known as Little Tibet, is home to the thousands of Tibetans, making it the largest Tibetan Canadian community in North America. After being displaced due to the Chinese government’s occupation of Tibet, the first wave of Tibetans immigrated to Canada in the 1960s. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s when newer Tibetan immigrants began settling in Parkdale.
Tenzin Wangmo (Tenwang) settled in Parkdale in 2001 after immigrating from Dharamsala, India at the age of 3 with her brother and mother. She attended Queen Victoria Public School and lived on Maynard Avenue. Tenwang fondly remembers attending Tibetan language and dance classes in a rented space behind the No Frills at the intersection of King Street and Jameson Avenue.
Today, Parkdale boasts numerous Tibetan businesses, organizations and events. Tenwang remarks, “Creating these types of spaces allows others to understand our community. Now, Parkdale is termed as Little Tibet. Before, it was just an area with a few Tibetan immigrants with a few restaurants. Now it’s a thriving community”.