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Toronto's Mosaic
Regent Park: 1945-1970 | 1971-1990 | 1991-2010

1971-1990: Racial Tensions, Resentment

Game OverGame Over, one of a series on Regent Park by Scott Johnston (cropped). View a larger version.
(Courtesy of Scott Johnston External Site)

The 1970s began with the tenants at Regent Park demanding sorely-needed improvements to their community.

The Regent Park Community News, a community newspaper, was formed in 1972.

The Regent Park Community Improvement Association (RCPIA), decrying the dearth of recreational facilities, successfully pushed for the construction of ice rinks and a baseball diamond by the mid 70s.

With its increasing power, the RPCIA negotiates a deal with the Ontario Housing Corporation (OHC) in which it is given responsibility for managing tenant issues.

However, infighting and concerns the tenant-run management group could turn into a proxy for the OHC led to the breakdown of the deal in 1978.

The OHC resumed the management of the project, and the RPCIA emerges in the late 70s weaker than it was earlier in the decade.

The changing face

The character of the project begins to change as increasing numbers of immigrants - arriving from China, southeast Asia and the Caribbean - take up residence at Regent Park in the 1970s.

The makeup of the families had also changed. By the 1976 census, 42.5 per cent of families in the park were headed by a singled parent. By 1981, that number jumped to over 53 per cent.

Wolfgang DrogeWolfgang Droge was a member of a supremacist group that tried to incite racial violence in Regent Park.
Droege was killed in 2005 (news story)
(CBC Photo)

By the mid-70s, these changing dynamics began to affect the social interactions at the project. In one of the most publicized instances of the conflict that arose from these change occurred in the summer of 1976 over a dispute over the use of a baseball diamond.

In the space of two days in June, two white boys were stabbed in separate incidents by two black boys over the use of the diamond. In what was viewed as a retaliatory action, some white youths vandalized a black family's home. Residents reported an unusually uneasy, tense atmosphere at the time.

The Western Guard, a supremacist group, handed out hate literature and encouraged white residents to fight black residents.

A report prepared by the Toronto board of education seeking to zero in on "cultural and/or racial conflicts in Regent Park" came out in the wake of the skirmishes.

The report placed the blame for the fights largely on socioeconomic factors, bored youth, a lack of recreational facilities, and resentment of Caribbean immigrants by white families who felt they were being squeezed out of the project.

This was somewhat at odds with the media characterizations of the incident, which largely interpreted the skirmishes as racially-based conflicts.

The RPCIA later acknowledged the racial tensions in the project and worked to ease cross-cultural relations.

Struggles with police

Police cruiser in Regent Park (Dwight Friesen/CBC)Police cruiser in Regent Park (Dwight Friesen/CBC)
View a larger version.

It was at the dawn of the 80s that families living in the project began to become increasingly entrench, according to researcher Sean Purdy.

Levels of crime also began to go up in this decade. This prompted an increased police presence in the project, which in turn led to complaints by many in the community of police mistreatment. In 1982, the Regent Park Committee Against Police Harassment was created.

Representatives of Regent Park formally complained in 1983 about the treatment of residents at the hands of police.

A 1985 police watchdog report into police relations with Regent Park recommended closer dialogue with the community, more stringent guidelines for officers and the formation of a Regent Park Police-Community Advisory Committee.

Meet Residents of Regent Park

Tarak Ahmed
Tarak Ahmed
Tarak has a close-up view of challenges for Regent Park youth.
Linta Loganathan
Linta Loganathan
Linta's family first to move in to the new public housing on Sackville Ave.
Charita Edwards
Charita Edwards
Charita wrote a hard-hitting love letter to the old Regent Park.