ETHNIC RESIDENTIAL SEGREGATION: THE SOLIDARITY OF THE GROUP
The urban metropolis and its function in society cannot be understood without studying its composition as a city of immigrants, their newcomer families and friends and the ties that bind them. By overlooking the ethnic culture and networks of the city's immigrants, the study of the urban centre is at best a futile effort.
Ethnic tendencies and particularly ethnic residential segregation, are areas of examination than cannot be neglected if we are to understand the individual and group experiences that ultimately influence urban growth. It is therefore important to carefully explore these areas so that insight into the underpinnings of the urban metropolis is achieved.
Looking at Canadian urban centres from 1850-1920, specifically the city of Toronto, I will examine the issue of ethnic residential segregation and its significance to the urban centre. I will attempt to prove that this phenomenon is a consequence of ethnic concentration in particular industries resulting from ethnic networks and socio-economic inequalities present within society. Furthermore, the existence of these vibrant yet segregated ethnic communities does not imply that assimilation is failing to occur. Consequently, standard assimilation frameworks, which assume that proximity to the majority group increases with socio-economic gains, must be re-evaluated.
Urban and historical geographers have become increasingly interested in studying residential segregation through the context of changes in the industrial workplace (Scott, 1986). A number of industries like clothing, textile, iron and steel have employed large proportions of immigrant workers (Leiberson, 1933). Toronto is no exception.
Early immigrant settlers came to North America in search of a 'better' life and increased economic opportunities (Lindstrom-Best, 1979) and Toronto's economic ambience appealed to them.
1850's Toronto saw increased prosperity with expanding enterprises, jobs and especially railway building. By the 1860's, when this first rail construction boom had faded, the city blossomed into a regionally dominant railway centre with track access throughout the province, into adjoining Montreal, Detroit and New York. More importantly though, steam and iron transport expansion unravelled the way for industrialization (Harney, 1985). Toronto's harbourfront thrived with rail traffic, entailing machine and engine works, coal-yards, moulding and forging plants and steam-driven factories (Globe, 1866). The new gas works, the Grand Trunk Railway workshops, the Toronto Rolling Mills, and the Gooderham and Worts distillery exemplified this flourishing industrialization. Moreover, other processing operations, such as wood or hardware manufactories, tanneries and meat-packing houses accompanied industrial growth. All in all, by the 1860's, working opportunities in the city could readily urge on its settlement, which consequently began to accelerate rapidly (Harney, 1985).
In light of these increased working opportunities distinct Torontonian neighbourhoods developed. St. John's Ward bounded by Henderson, Yonge, Front and University and the Italian neighbourhoods bounded by Henderson, Manning, Dundas and Ossington are just two of the distinct communities that resulted.
By the 1900's, the 'Ward' as it was popularly know, primarily consisted of East Europeans of Jewish descent. They initially settled in the Ward because they had little choice. Upon their arrival, they were in immediate need of cheap accommodation near steady employment (Harney, 1985). St. John's Ward, adjacent to the commercial centre of the city, provided them this opportunity. They had relatively few skills and no credit although their affinity for the garment industry proved valuable (Speisman, 1979). Suffice it is to say, the Ward was in close proximity to this industry.
During the early twentieth century, the notable clothing firms, the Lowndes Co., Johnson Brothers and others were located on Front Street, Wellington Street, Church and Bay. By 1910, the T. Eaton company had erected an enormous manufacturing firm bounded by Bay, Albert, Louisa and James. This company would eventually grow to be the largest sole employer of Jews in the Ward (Harney, 1985).
Factory employees elected to reside near their places of employment (Harney, 1985). Working long hours, they wished to minimize travelling time thus choosing to live close to the companies that employed them. In addition, as proximity to major clothing firms increased, so too did employment opportunities. The Ward, similar to many other areas throughout North America, thus evolved into an immigrant haven adjacent to the central business district. Despite the fact that not all Jews made their livelihoods in clothing factories, it was the factories' presence and proximity to affordable housing that attracted Jewish immigrants to the area (Rischin, 1964) and created a vibrant ethnic neighbourhood.
Similar ethnic neighbourhood appeared as divergent immigrant occupational skills emerged. The first Finnish inhabitant of Toronto, a tailor named James Lindala, ventured to the city upon hearing of the high demand for skilled tailors (Lindstrom-Best, 1979). Settling in the south-central part of Toronto, near the railroad and tailoring shops on King, Lindala resided as close to prospective employment as feasible (Lindstrom-Best, 1979). Other Finnish tailors soon followed the pattern established by the Finn, also settling near the tailoring shops on King, in search of prospective work.
By 1901, distinct Finnish housing patterns were clearly established. All Finns in the area clustered by Lindala, in the south-central part of the city, a region bounded by Queen, King, Peter and York. All Finnish men were tailors and all resided as close to their place of work as possible.
It is evident than that immigrant concentration in particular occupations directly impacts the spatial location and segregation of various ethnic groups, as is demonstrated in the Jewish and Finnish communities of Toronto. Furthermore, ethnic residential segregation prior to 1930 (when transportation was not easily and economically accessible) cannot be attributed to a lack of assimilation. It resulted as a necessary component of life, determined by divergent occupational skills.
However, divergent occupational skills are not the only determinants of residential segregation. As established, most immigrants lived in ethnic enclaves near their place of work thus ethnic networks prevalent in employment and elsewhere must be examined. The contributions of these networks to the formation of ethnic neighbourhoods are essential to our understanding of the spatial organization of the metropolis.
MacDonald and MacDonald (1964) note that 'chain migration' is instrumental in solidifying spatial patterns established by early immigrants. They define this as a process whereby prospective immigrants learn of opportunities in the receiving community and have initial lodging and employment arranged by means of primary social relationships with migrants who precede them. Elaborating, they say this type of migration frequently results in the creation of ethnic neighbourhoods and the transplantation of entire kin networks in the area of destination.
This process was evident in the case of the Finnish immigrants who settled in Toronto. Kinship, letters and word of mouth played the most prominent role in the recruitment of these immigrants (Lindstrom-Best, 1979). The first nineteen Finnish settlers recruited through ethnic networks were profoundly important in determining the spatial pattern and composition of the Finnish population. They were one another's friends or relatives and the men were all tailors (Lindstrom-Best, 1979). Consequently, they settled near each other and near their place of work. Conversely, work and locale intertwined in terms of social structure and in space through residential segregation.
Hawley (1944) believes this segregation is an indicator of a lack of assimilation into the dominant society. "Redistribution," he says "of a minority group in the same territorial pattern as that of the majority group results in…an assimilation of the subjugated group in to the social structure." He goes on to assert that a lack of language and occupational skills leaves the immigrant without alternative employment possibilities, hence indicating failure to assimilate with the majority. Though his beliefs do put forth a model of assimilation, they are not adequately founded.
Ethnic neighbourhoods and networks within these neighbourhoods can actually help an individual integrate themselves into the dominant culture. The lack of familiarity with English and with the occupational structure of the receiving society are not handicaps to the immigrant who finds a place in an ethnic neighbourhood or ethnic business. This is because networks and resources present within the community help to assist the new immigrant, by actually facilitating incorporation into the larger society. They provide the initial resources required to surmount the obstacles and barriers to participation in society's institutions (Breton & Isajiw & Kalbach & Reitz, 1990).
The Ward's Mutual Benefit Society is a prime example of one such resource. In a system in which public welfare was all but inconceivable, both on the part of the government and on the part of the possible recipient, the immigrant needed all the help he could get. The Mutual Benefit Society was one answer to this problem for the ethnic Jews of Toronto. The establishment served to facilitate Jewish immigrants with difficult times following their arrival, and to assist them in transporting other family members to the city from the old country (Harney, 1985). Thus at the level of the individual, ethnic networks and resources are the structural links between destination and origin which mediate the migrant's integration into a new society (Locher, 1979). They contribute to the creation of an ethnic neighbourhood where immigrants of the same cultural background assist one another with incorporation in the new society. Though the integration may be slow or tedious, perhaps even generations long, it is a clear indication of incorporation into society and not a lack of assimilation as Hawley (1944) suggests.
Evidently than the concentration of immigrants in a particular neighbourhood, results from the availability of housing, work and ethnic networks, which facilitate this initial settlement and occupational adjustment. However, these are not the only factors contributing to the creation of neighbourhoods and ethnic residential segregation. For some groups, their patterns of segregation may to some extent suggest a lack of social acceptance by the larger society (Breton & Isajiw & Kalbach & Reitz, 1990). Examination of this entails an understanding of Toronto's population composition.
Historically Toronto's British have enjoyed undisputed numerical, political, economic and social dominance (Kalbach, 1980). As anxiety increased over the years concerning the 'quality' of immigrants settling in Canada, increasing numbers of restrictions were placed on those particular ethnic groups which were thought not to be of the best quality. The preference was for immigrants of British origins, northern and western Europeans, and those born in the United States because they could identify with Canada's British heritage and more adequately handle the harshness of the northern climate. Immigrants from central, eastern, and southern European countries, the Middle East, Asia and other non-European countries have encountered numerous restrictions associated with the extent to which their language, customs and appearance differed from the Anglo-Saxon standard (Kalbach, 1980). These restrictions alone indicate the presence of discrimination and a hierarchy of ethnic preferences although the discrimination does not end here.
Incorporation of a minority group into a majority involves two sets of processes: one on the side of members of ethnic groups and another on the part of individuals and institutions of the greater society (Gordon, 1964) These two groups must work together to entail integration and to promote assimilation. Unfortunately this has not been the case.
Toronto's Anglo-Saxon majority did not help much in making foreigners feel at home. In fact they blatantly discriminated against them and this perpetuated ethnic residential segregation. Evidence of this discrimination, quite readily found in Toronto's daily newspaper The Globe (1918) read:
"PASSENGERS PROTEST AGAINST FOREIGNERS
Passengers on the Toronto Suburban car…
last evening, showed their displeasure at
having to travel into the city with 50 foreigners,
who were in charge of three county constables.
Women in the car protested to the
constables, who could do nothing having
instructions to escort the men from a Weston
plant to their homes in the city.
This was the first time that the foreigners
have used the radial. Until yesterday they came
into the city by the steam railway. (Globe, 1918)"
Clearly demonstrating the majority's intolerance of immigrants, this article displays their prejudice. It is evident that the 'foreigners' were, for the first time, allowed access to the radial on that particular date in 1918. The fact that they were not provided access to all of society's amenities until that point in time plainly implicates discrimination.
Furthermore, their restricted access to transportation indicates an obstruction of assimilation and reinforcement of ethnic residential segregation. As a result of these restrictions, immigrants had no choice but to live as close to their workplace as possible, spatially segregated from the majority population.
Discrimination in the workplace was also an issue. Although most immigrants lacked the occupational skills necessary for upward mobility the few who did possess superior skills were denied access to many sectors of the workforce (Harney, 1985). All foreigners knew, for example, that there was no work for them in government agencies. By way of illustration, Toronto's Hydro Commission employed only workers of British origin under the pretext that well-spoken English was an exclusive requirement (Harney, 1985) Similarly, this workforce discrimination was indicative of a failure of the majority to accept the minority, resulting in an impeded assimilation process. Ethnic residential segregation was also reinforced as immigrants continued working in the factories and shops that surrounded them and did not place such restrictions upon them.
Assimilation frameworks must subsequently be re-evaluated. Spatial segregation, to some degree, may indicate a lack of assimilation. However, it may be the majority who cannot find it within themselves to accept others. As an urban space divided into many sections, Toronto spoke to each immigrant group in a distinct manner. Since their established and refined British neighbours saw the city differently, they misunderstood the newcomers' behaviour (Harvey, 1985). Subsequently, the majority and not the minority group impeded the process of assimilation.
In its entirety ethnic residential segregation can be linked to many factors, which have not been discussed within the context of this paper. However, my main purpose was to illuminate the role of ethnic divisions of labour in creating housing patterns, ethnic networks in solidifying these patterns and, discrimination in perpetuating spatially segregated neighbourhoods.
We must also keep in mind that assimilation is not always a natural procedure and thus cannot adequately explain the process of ethnic segregation. It is necessary to look beyond models that accentuate ideal methods of dispersal because we do not live in an ideal world.
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