Much as been in the news about Malvern as a neighbourhood plagued by violence and gangs. Despite the stigma being attached, courtesy of the media, the story of this Scarborough neighbourhood is a distinct one. It has retained its rural roots by preserving mature trees, ravine woodlots and parklands. One unique aspect of this neighbourhood is that, out of all the neighbourhoods in Toronto, it is by far one of the most multiculturally diverse. There are well over 60 different cultures represented in Malvern, with the most dominant ethnic groups being Black Canadians (mostly Jamaican, Guyanese, and Trinidadian), Chinese and Indo-Canadians (mostly Sri Lankan Tamil, Indian, Pakistani, and Caribbean). There are also a sizable number of Filipinos, many of whom speak Tagalog, and some speak Boholano. It also has the highest concentration of young people in Canada. This neighbourhood truly represents our city’s cultural mosaic and showcases to the world, how a community can come together and improve their surroundings .
The history of Malvern began in 1856, when the Malvern Post Office was opened in David Brown’s general store, which stood at the south-east corner of Finch Avenue and Markham Road. This post office was named after a resort town in England. A year after the post office was opened, Senator David Reesor, formerly of Markham Village, began selling “Village Lots” in Malvern. Reesor trumpeted Malvern as the future “Capital of Scarborough,” anticipating that the Grand Trunk Railway would extend a branch line through here. Unfortunately, when the Grand Trunk Railway began service to this area in 1871, it bypassed Malvern in favour of the neighbouring village of Agincourt.
While Malvern never did become a prosperous railway centre, it flourished as a farming community for over one hundred years. In the late 1950s, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation expropriated Malvern’s farms to build a “model community” of affordable homes. The first residents of this modern day Malvern community moved into their homes in 1972.
The former S.S.#3 Schoolhouse, serving the Malvern area, built in 1872 stood on one acre of land purchased from George Pearson, is still standing today at 5810 Finch Avenue, and is now a private school named Whitefield Christian Academy.
the negative stigma
Malvern has long held the title of one of the “ghettos” of Toronto because of its low-income housing and diverse population, and the title was further highlighted in 2003 by the media when the community was afflicted by gun violence. In spite of this reputation, conditions in the community have been improving following Project Impact. Hundreds of officers from the GTA cracked down on known associates of the “Malvern Crew” street gang in early morning raids across the city on May 12, 2004. During the raids, 71 warrants were executed resulting in the arrest of 65 people. Later raids, and the implementation of Project Pathfinder would result in arrests of the Malvern Crew’s rival gang, the “Galloway Boys”, in West Hill.
Other important factors that have contributed to the improvement of living conditions in the community include the major renovation of the Malvern Branch of the Toronto Public Library, the construction of new housing developments in the neighbourhood, the opening of a new park in 2004, and the opening of the Nike Malvern Sports Complex in 2006. The Toronto Zoo, the Rouge River, and the Rouge Valley Park are also located in Malvern, as was Mammoth Hall, a wooden structure that was once a municipal office, meeting hall and curling rink. Also, the Malvern Community Coalition serves as an active incorporated, non-profit, grassroots community organization which exists to promote and enhance the Malvern community by engaging, empowering, and connecting community, organizations and institutions.
The Malvern Community Coalition:
The Malvern Community Coalition was started in May 2003 following concern about incidents of youth violence in the neighbourhood. The purpose of this Malvern Initiative was to establish a partnership of community members, organizations, companies and leaders to address the issues of youth violence through:
- Understanding the nature and problems of youth violence
- Devising and agreeing to a strategy of proactive and preventative measures
- Committing to actively participating in the implementation of solutions
Participants in the initiative quickly concluded that youth violence was a complex matter that was a symptom of other social and economic issues and that a research study initiated by Vera Taylor, then principal of Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute and working with Blessed Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School and Malvern Family Resource Centre had been conducted in 1996. A copy of the research findings, “Working Together for Malvern”, was tracked down, dusted off and reviewed. As well, over the years a number of community organizations had started up, accomplished excellent work in the community but had not survived.
In March 2004, the Malvern Community Coalition was formed. It evolved out of the Malvern Initiative and recognizes and builds on the work of previous organizations such as the Malvern Community Network.