“I am living my future in Regent Park”
Located in Toronto’s downtown core – from Gerrard Street East to the north, Parliament Street to the west, Shuter Street to the South and River Street to the east – Regent Park is the site of Canada’s first and largest public housing development. It is situated on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit. Originally a part of Cabbagetown, Regent Park was mostly settled by poor white working-class British immigrants, many of whom were Irish Catholics and Protestants. Following the end of World War 2, the city decided to ‘clear the slums’ and in 1948 Cabbagetown south, now Regent Park, was razed to the ground and rebuilt from scratch. Regent Park became a ‘Garden City’ with abundant pastoral land and walking corridors, however, a lack of open roads and retail spaces disconnected the area from the rest of the city and furthered isolation of its residents.
As Canada’s migration laws expanded to a “points system” in the 1960s, Regent Park became among the few areas that migrants to Toronto could afford to live. Immigrants and newcomers from Asia, the Caribbean, Africa and Central and South America settled in Regent Park. Our oral histories also reveal that a large number of Indigenous families resided in the community during this period.
In 2005, the Regent Park Revitalization Plan was announced as an attempt to address social and economic challenges in the neighbourhood. The Plan would include demolishing and redeveloping the current public housing to include mixed income buildings, in effect doubling the current population, and transforming the landscape of the community over the span of a 20 year redevelopment process. Although there has been a commitment that residents can return after being relocated as part of the development process, in Phase 1 of the process about 56 percent of families did not, and were ultimately displaced to nearby public housing units outside the community.
Regent Park has long been stigmatized as a violent neighbourhood rooted in the perceived disadvantages of living in a lower-income area. At the heart of Regent Park, however, are deep social bonds and complex networks of people across social locations who have been able to shape and realize shared goals to build a community that addresses the challenges they face.
– Namarig Ahmed
LISTEN TO COMMUNITY MEMBERS TALK ABOUT REGENT PARK:
Regent Park Stories
Meet Our Regent Park Storytellers
Click on a storyteller to read their full biography detailing their migration history.