Immigrants flock to Scarborough

Residents say area’s housing, transportation, amenities and community are top factors for the move here

Scarborough has welcomed waves of new immigrants over the past 25 years.

According to the 2006 census, 57 per cent of Scarborough’s population is made up of immigrants. For many, Scarborough has become a steppingstone for those who want to write a new chapter of their lives in Canada.

Rolan Coloma is an immigration expert teaching sociology and equity studies at the University of Toronto. He says affordable housing, accessible transportation, and proximity to schools, stores and places of worship has made Scarborough the “ideal gateway community.”

Sumit Sen, the owner of SEN Immigration agency and a former United Nations aide, says the most attractive feature of Scarborough’s infrastructure is its low-cost housing.

“The abundance of apartment lots is a major reason why immigrants flock to Scarborough,” says Sen. “The area has a lot of rental accommodations that are within the price range of low-income Canadians.”

He explains that basement apartments that cost $700–$800 monthly are a more realistic choice for newcomers who have yet to make a steady income. These rental accommodations make up a third of Scarborough’s housing, according to figures from Statistics Canada’s 2006 census.

Longtime resident Maher Dadoush, 52, arrived in the city 21 years ago from Israel. He says another huge pull for new immigrants is transportation.

“Newcomers come because … the TTC services all of Scarborough,” he explains, mentioning that new immigrants who don’t buy cars right away depend on the TTC.

His wife, Jordanian native Paula Dadoush, agrees.

Now living in Richmond Hill, she says it’s the thing she misses the most.

“I like the TTC and depended on it a lot, as I’m sure many new immigrants did,” she says. “It was easier for me to go shopping, work and even downtown.”

The area’s accessibility to schools, shops, and hospitals, among others — which the TTC greatly contributes to — is why 48-year-old Emil Sese brought his family to Scarborough in February 2006.

A travel agent and superintendent at York University’s Glendon campus, Sese says Scarborough’s proximity to his family’s church and schools convinced him to move.

His daughter MJ’s elementary school and the church are a stone’s throw away from their place, he says.

“The accessibility of our home to my daughter’s school and church is my top priority,” Sese says. “By being here, I feel more comfortable knowing that’s she’s near.”

Born in the Philippines, Sese adds that the vibrant Filipino community in Scarborough is another reason why he chose to live there.

According to him, having predominantly Filipino neighbours creates a really good sense of community, similar to being in his home country.

Similarly, Paula Dadoush immigrated to Scarborough to be closer to someone important: her brother.

“My dad passed away back home, my brother was in this country studying in U of T. My mother, sisters and brother decided to go to Scarborough so that the whole family could be together,” she says.

Coloma describes the tendency of newcomers to move where their families and friends reside as “chain migration.”

“Immigrants tend to follow already longstanding communities that settled in particular places like Scarborough,” he says. “They follow those they have close ties with … and sometimes even sponsor other families and people from townships in their home countries.”

According to the 2006 census, the largest ethnic groups in Scarborough were from China (19 per cent), India (9.5 per cent), Philippines (5.3 per cent) and Sri Lanka (4.5 per cent).

“When you go to a different country, the first thing you do is look for a place where you know someone,” Maher Dadoush explains. “You would go there because you assume that if your family or friends are living there and they’re happy, then it’s probably a good and safe place for you as well.”

Once immigrants establish themselves they start deciding whether the residence really answers their needs, says Maher Dadoush, who, with his wife Paula, recently moved to Richmond Hill.

“We wanted to change our environment since our son Elias has grown up,” says Paula Dadoush. “It’s now time for us to enjoy our adult lives in a quiet area that’s not as busy as Scarborough.”