Indigenous

An Indigenous business district might be coming to downtown Toronto

Project will likely take years to develop, Coun. Wong-Tam says

Toronto city hall zamboni

This spring, Indigenous flags will be raised at Toronto City Hall. The city is also planning to develop an Indigenous business district. (John Rieti/CBC)

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Downtown Toronto might soon have an Indigenous business district on the corner of Dundas and Jarvis Streets.

The initiative is being launched by Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam and is supported by Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. Wong-Tam is also working with the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business. 

Wong-Tam, who is Chinese-Canadian, says the fact that Toronto has two Chinatowns but no Indigenous district is a concern.

"There really isn't an area that's geographically designed that they can point to and say, that's a reflection of my culture and history," she said.

"Which is kind of ironic when you think of how long First Nation people have been in Canada."

The city has secured a building on the corner of Jarvis and Dundas, and the hope is that it will house Indigenous businesses.

The project is still in the early stages, and will likely takes years to develop, said Wong-Tam, who added that building a community can't happen overnight.

For Wong-Tam, the interest in developing an Indigenous business district came out of reading the Truth and Reconciliation Commission final report.

"It dawned on me that much of it was speaking specifically to federal governments, provincial governments, territories and even school boards. But not much was speaking to actions that cities can take," said Wong-Tam.

"And yet we know that the urbanization of Indigenous people is on the rise, and it's the fastest growing [population in Canada]."

In addition to developing an Indigenous business district, Toronto has other plans to further shine a light on the Indigenous urban population of the city.

Official proceedings at city hall are now opened by recognizing the Indigenous territory the city is on. Wong-Tam says that other cities have been doing this for years, so it was about time Toronto adopted the practice.

And this spring, the city plans to raise Indigenous flags at Nathan Phillips Square outside city hall to fly alongside the Canadian flag.

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