When we got down to writing about this week’s featured neighbourhood, Rexdale, we were curious to see what people knew or had to say about this part of our city. This is what a few had to say:
“A ghetto part of Toronto.”
“The Canadain HOOD, one of the most feared placez in Canada due to high drug, violence, and gang rates. Birth placez of famous rappers jelleestone and DR.CHRONIC aka mc hash. Also known as REX, located in toronto, etobico. dun go der…”
One site event went on to say,
“Rexdale’s population of approximately 130,000 include 28,000 South Asian, 22,000 people of African Origin (Caribbean, South American, African) and pockets of Croatians, Italians and Assyrians.Rexdale suffered from a crisis of youth gang crimes and homicides in the late 90’s and early 2000’s as well as recently in 2005. Rexdale has been given a reputation as a dangerous neighbourhood (in some parts), due to the high crime rate. Rexdale’s most notorious parts are that of the metro housing areas with high gang activity. Rexdale’s unemployment rate is 3 times the city average at 18%. This part of the city has experienced a massive exodus of people moving into the Western Suburbs of Brampton and Mississauga for better oppertunity and safer conditions for their families.”
This is the reality of some areas of Rexdale; there is no denying that. There is no denying the violence, drugs and gangs that run the streets of this neighbourhood. But we are not here to talk about the negatives, instead we would like to point out that people like Carlo Colaiacovo (professional hockey player), Ghetto Concept (hip hop duo), K’naan, (hip hop musician), Bruce McDonald (Canadian film and television director), Joanne Morra (professional soccer player), P. K. Subban (professional hockey player) and Rheostatics (rock band) are all from Rexdale.
Bet a lot of you never knew that? Here is the other side of this sometimes demonized part of our city.
Rexdale is a neighbourhood located in the north-west corner of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Rexdale-Thistletown is now referred to most often as Rexdale, also known as Etobicoke North. Etobicoke was formerly the City of Etobicoke, which merged with five other municipalities and a regional government to form the new City of Toronto in 1998.
Rexdale was named after Rex Heslop and his wife Delma, the area’s first residential real estate developers who built the original suburb north of Highway 401 and east of Kipling Avenue. Rexdale evolved into a suburb of Toronto starting in the late 1950s by Reverend Heslop, and named after his dog Rex. While representing many ethnicities in the early days of its evolution from small towns, farmland and golf courses into an urban community, Rexdale started with a large English and Scottish population, which reflected the overall demographics of Toronto at that time. Rexdale was still farmland in the 1950’s when developer Rex Heslop began the land assembly that led to the building of this neighbourhood. Heslop predicted that the completion of Highway 401 and the creation of jobs at the nearby Toronto International Airport would bring a strong demand for houses in Rexdale. Heslop’s prediction proved to be correct as the Rexdale subdivision was sold out in a relatively short period of time between the mid 1950’s and the early 1960’s. The former Township of Etobicoke granted certain concessions to Heslop on the condition that he also develop the farmland around what is now Rexdale Boulevard. Etobicoke wanted this land changed from rural to industrial use to help ease the rising residential tax rate in the Township. Heslop was more than willing to accommodate Etobicoke’s demands, realizing that more industry meant more jobs and therefore more buyers for his Rexdale homes. Upon its completion, the Rexdale industrial area would become one of the city’s largest industrial corridors.
Today Rexdale is one of the most ethnically diverse neighbourhoods in the city of Toronto, with a large number of Indian and Punjabi residents. There was once a large number of Italian residents, however most have moved north to Vaughan.
Rexdale is home to the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Humber College, University of Guelph-Humber, Woodbine Race Track, Gaming Den and Ultima Casino, the Woodbine Centre and Albion Mall.
urbanNOISE was inspired by the successful PROPS program that brought Arts Etobicoke and Expect Theatre together. Over an eight-month period in 2003, they worked directly with high-risk youth in Jamestown. Together with 50 youth, they created the ground-breaking multi-disciplinary theatrical production, “Fillin’ The Blank”, performed at North Albion C.I., which reflected life in the troubled neighbourhood.
urbanNOISE is a leading example of how arts based programs are a powerful vehicle for change, a tool for leadership and a positive source of community engagement.
Mayor David Miller has applauded urbanNOISE for its efforts in “changing the perception of Rexdale – as the home of the gun, gangs and drug-related crime – to a new home featuring the beauty, artistic talent and inventiveness of its youth.
urbanNOISE is an annual urban arts festival created to unite communities against violence. Launched in 2006 and now entering its fourth year, the project includes a FREE Youth Training Program and Festival that promotes leadership, unity and social change in the culturally diverse communities of Rexdale/Jamestown.
A joint venture between Expect Theatre and Arts Etobicoke, urbanNOISE creates a platform for youth to speak out against violence in their communities. The Training Program provides an opportunity to participate in intensive workshops facilitated by top industry professionals. These workshops encourage youth to identify and examine the issues that directly affect them in a supportive environment through various artistic mediums. It also solicits the attention of the general public to take notice of the neighbourhoods that are suffering from racial tension, poverty, gender inequality and lack of resources – all of which can become a potential source for violence. The urbanNOISE Festival is the culmination of the months invested in the workshops by the students and the resident artists. It is an opportunity for participants to showcase their work and share the stage with guest performers such as JUNO Award winner Jully Black, Drake, Jellestone and Dora Award winner: d’bi young.