Toronto Through My Lens

Category: People (Page 1 of 3)

desiFEST 2024

Last weekend played host to desiFEST, the annual celebration of South Asian music, art, food and culture, held in Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square. In this, the festival’s 18th year, the entertainment lineup consisted of exclusively Canadian talent. Mayor Olivia Chow was also on hand to address the audience; she was the first-ever Mayor to participate in desiFEST. The festival lasted over 12 hours, wrapping up at 11:00PM that night.

Here’s a bit of what last Saturday afternoon offered:

Dancers

BollyX hosted by Dance with Safa

Games

Music

Maple Masala Band

This homeless guy was feeling the vibes of the Maple Masala Band and decided to do something about it…

Shirjeel Jackson

Food (lots of it…)

If you’d like to learn more about desiFEST, click here.

Jean Lumb Lane

In Chinatown there exists a small lane dedicated to the memory of a remarkable Chinese-Canadian woman named Jean Lumb:

Jean Lumb Lane, off Dundas Street West, near Huron Street

Who Was Jean Lumb?

Since coming to live in Toronto I have heard the name Jean Lumb mentioned but was not aware of her historical importance and influence until doing a bit of research.

Jean Lumb was the first Chinese-Canadian woman, and the first restauranteur, to receive the Order of Canada for her community work. Most notably, she was recognized for her pivotal role in changing Canada’s immigration laws that separated Chinese families, and for her contribution in saving Toronto’s First Chinatown.

Jean Lumb was very active in community work throughout her life. As mentioned earlier, she was instrumental in organizing the campaign to save Toronto’s First Chinatown from complete demolition. She also galvanized the community against further expropriation of remaining portions on Dundas Street West.

Jean was a major force – and the sole woman – in the 1957 Chinese delegation which lobbied the government of John Diefenbaker. They lobbied to repeal explicit racial discrimination from the immigration laws, which contained race-based criteria for admission to Canada.

Early History

Jean Lumb was born in Nanaimo, B.C. in 1919. Her father emigrated to Canada to work as a farm labourer. Jean Lumb left school at age 12 to work and support her family. In 1935, she moved to Toronto and later opened her own grocery store here at the age of 17.

The mother of six children and grandmother of nine grandchildren, Jean Lumb was the co-owner (with husband Doyle Lumb) and director of the Kwong Chow Restaurant in Toronto for 23 years. The restaurant was highly successful and popular with both Chinese and Westerners, with many clientele who were politicians due to its proximity to Toronto’s City Hall.

Jean achieved many “firsts” in Toronto. This included being the:

  • First Chinese woman on the board of governors of the Women’s College Hospital.
  • First Chinese woman on the board of University Settlement House
  • First Chinese restaurateur and first woman to receive the Fran Deck Award for outstanding achievement in Toronto’s restaurant industry
  • First Chinese-Canadian woman to sit on the board of Rotary-Laughlen Centre

She also served as director and honorary advisor of the Yee Hong Chinese Nursing Home for Greater Toronto and the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto, respectively.

Jean Lumb was honoured with around 20 Awards, her first being the Order of Canada in 1976.

This remarkable woman’s legacy continues long after her passing in 2002. The Jean Lumb Foundation awards high school students with Chinese heritage annually for their accomplishments.

You can visit the Jean Lumb plaque in Diversity Garden (southeast corner of Elizabeth Street and Foster Place) near the original site of the Kwong Chow restaurant.

The Jean Lumb Lane was officially opened on November 13, 2019 (below):

Photo: Chinatown BIA

If you’d like to listen to Jean Lumb’s daughter Arlene Chan and Jean Lumb herself, here is an interesting YouTube video:

Toronto Comicon 2024

Toronto Comicon is an annual comic book and pop culture convention held in Toronto at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre since 2001.

When it comes to the worlds of Fantasy, Sci-fi, Cosplay, Roleplay, LARPing, etc., I’m quite out of the loop and couldn’t identify with much of what I saw that day, but it was all quite fascinating nonetheless. I’ve come to the conclusion that people just simply love to dress up no matter the occasion, and this convention gives them a very generous outlet to do just that.

To attend a Comicon to shoot the costumes has been on my photo radar for a number of years, and it was fun to finally do that this past weekend. The sheer mass of people was almost overwhelming and all 3 floors of the Metro Convention Centre, plus the North Building, were jammed with attendees.

This event had it all, including:

Wardrobe malfunctions…

Miles of comic books…

Masses of people…

Epic battles…

Boardgames…

Memorabilia for sale (lots!)…

And – of course – some great costumes…

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

In a nutshell, St. Patrick’s Day observes the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. The holiday has evolved into a celebration of Irish culture with parades, special foods, music, dancing, drinking (and more drinking, and more drinking) and the wearing of a whole lot of green.

Here’s a few shots of the parade that went down Yonge Street. In true Toronto style it proved to be a fully multi-cultural event:

From The Vaults: Farewell, Jack

This post is based on an event from thirteen years ago, so I guess it qualifies for my so-called From The Vaults series.

A Bit Of Background

Everyone who has a pulse is familiar with the name Jack Layton (July 18, 1950 – August 22, 2011). Jack served as the leader of the NDP from 2003 to 2011 and was leader of the Official Opposition in 2011. Previous to that he sat on Toronto City Council, occasionally holding the title of Acting Mayor or Deputy Mayor of Toronto during his tenure as City Councillor. Jack was also the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Toronto-Danforth riding from 2004 until his death.

Jack rose to prominence in Toronto municipal politics, where he was one of the most prominent left-wing voices on the City and Metropolitan Toronto Councils, championing many progressive causes. In 1991, he ran for Mayor, losing to June Rowlands. Returning to Council, he rose to become head of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. In 2003, he was elected leader of the NDP.

Under Jack Layton’s leadership, support for the NDP increased in each election. The party’s popular vote almost doubled in the 2004 election, which gave the NDP the balance of power in Paul Martin’s minority government.

Jack died on August 22, 2011, after being diagnosed with cancer. He was survived by his wife of 23 years – our current Mayor – Olivia Chow.

Remembering Jack, Nathan Phillips Square

In the week before the funeral, Jack’s body was laid in state at Parliament Hill at the House of Commons foyer in Ottawa, then in repose at Toronto City Hall.

On August 26, 2011 a huge memorial for Jack was held in Nathan Phillips Square, outside Toronto City hall. It is from this memorial that my following pictures originate. It was a low-key but very powerful event; the love and respect for this man was clearly on display everywhere in the Square that evening:

Interment

Jack Layton’s ashes were scattered in three places: Cote St. Charles United Church in Hudson, Quebec where he was raised; on Toronto Island, where he was married; and at the Toronto Necropolis, near where he lived.

Here is Jack’s bronze bust atop a red granite pillar at the Toronto Necropolis:

Leaving A Legacy

For those interested, here is a CBC timeline of Jack Layton’s accomplishments

Halloween on Church Street!

It was another very busy Halloween night on Church Street once again this year. The weather was crisp and quite cool, but there was no rain to speak of. The turnout was massive, having a lot to do I’m sure with events re-energizing after COVID-19.

The mayhem ran from Carlton Street to Gloucester Street, and every inch of the street was packed with people. There were so many inventive and impressive costumes; people’s creativity never ceases to amaze me:

The non-slideshow version is here

Here’s a short video of the scene at Church & Wellesley Streets last night:

Panorama India 2023

Panorama India 2023, with the support of the Consulate General of India, celebrated India’s 76th anniversary of Indian Independence Day on August 20th, 2023 at Nathan Phillips Square.

The Panorama India Parade

The Panorama India event celebrated the vibrant culture, art and heritage of India. The event started with the Grand Parade down Bay Street, across King Street West, up University Avenue, then back to Nathan Phillips Square on Queen Street West. There, Nathan Phillips Square was transformed into a lively place with the sites, sounds, and flavors of India.

These two gentlemen on Queen Street West were preparing for the Panorama India Parade, which was gathering at Nathan Phillips Square
On Queen Street West, arriving back at Nathan Phillips Square

Panorama India Celebrations at Nathan Phillips Square

As the parade wound down the crowd returned to Nathan Phillips Square. There was plenty of food, entertainment and dancing for the rest of the day:

At Nathan Phillips Square
Henna application
Dancers from the Tamil Nadu Cultural Society Of Canada

Toronto Chinatown Festival 2023

On August 19 and 20 the Toronto Chinatown Business Improvement Area hosted its 23rd annual Toronto Chinatown Festival on Spadina Avenue, running from Sullivan Street to College Street.

This year the Festival’s theme was Flaming Phoenix: Rebirth & Uprising, signifying the rebirth of our city after COVID-19. In Chinese mythology, the Phoenix is an immortal bird whose rare appearance is said to be an omen foretelling harmony at the ascent to the throne of a new emperor – the same might be applied to our city as we try to put COVID behind us.

Falun Dafa Parade

Making my way up Spadina Avenue to the Festival, I encountered a parade from the Falun Dafa practitioners. They were supporting the 417 million Chinese people who have withdrawn from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its youth organizations. The parade began at Clarence Park and wound through the streets of Chinatown. As far as I know, this parade was not connected with the Chinatown Festival in any way.

Toronto Chinatown Festival

Moving further north up Spadina Avenue I found the actual Festival. This year’s Festival seemed really scaled back to me and there didn’t seem to be that much of interest to photograph; regardless I found:

Lots of street food…

Plenty of jewellery and clothing vendors…

Magicians…

Singers…

And various street stuff…

Moving out of the Festival area and further down Spadina Avenue, I encountered Saturday afternoon market shoppers:

And that was about it!

Festival of South Asia 2023

This past weekend saw the two-day Festival of South Asia take over Gerrard Street East from Glenside Avenue to Coxwell Avenue.

The main focus of the Festival of South Asia is to celebrate the diversity of South Asian culture. The festival is now in its 21st year, and is one of the largest festivals of its kind in North America. It’s a multi-cultural experience of tastes, sounds and sights of South Asia.

Throughout the day there were stage performances, a kids zone, an arts and culture market, participatory workshops and activities, and roaming entertainers along Gerrard Street. Unfortunately the sun was particularly cruel last Sunday so I didn’t stay quite as long as I would have liked.

Dance exhibition
Food stalls
Vendors
Colourful clothes for sale in the market
Marketplace
Pakora, Samosas and more
Some of the Kids Zone
Jewellery Vendor
Dance exhibition
Dance exhibition
Mural on Gerrard Street East
Henna application
Food truck
Grilled food on Gerrard Street East

Festival of India 2023

The 51st annual Festival of India (also known as Ratha-Yatra) took place this past weekend in Toronto. The very first Festival of India in Toronto launched in 1972, and has been growing steadily every year.

This year’s Festival of India parade ran down Yonge Street to Queens Quay West. Three giant floats (called Chariots) were hand-pulled by thousands of attendees and spectators, and there was much singing, chanting, drumming and dancing in the streets. Everyone was encouraged to participate. The parade attendance and spectator involvement this year was massive, due I’m sure to the public returning en masse to events post-COVID.

What is the Festival of India all about?

To answer that question, I’ll refer to a bit of explanatory text from the Festival of India’s website:

The parade down Yonge Street echoes an annual procession that has occurred for centuries in the ancient city of Puri, India. There, three mammoth chariots, known as rathas are taken on a jubilant procession, called a yatra. Hence, the Festival is also known as Ratha-Yatra or “chariot procession”. In Puri, this age-old Ratha-Yatra procession continues to attract over a million people every year!

Seated on each float (chariot) are beautifully bedecked Deities of Jagannatha (another name for Krishna or God), Baladeva (Krishna’s brother), and Subhadra (Krishna’s sister). The procession itself symbolizes the pulling of the Lord into our hearts and this is done with great pomp and grandeur.

In the late 1960s, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the worldwide Hare Krishna Society (ISKCON), inaugurated the North American and international versions of this ancient Indian festival. With roots steeped in spiritual traditions, the festival is now celebrated in every major city around the world, including London, Paris, Sydney, and New York.

The Toronto Festival of India Parade 2023

The chariots roll down Yonge Street surrounded by the crowd
Trumpeting on a conch shell
Dancing down Yonge Street
People, people, and more people
Yonge Street was very congested

If you would like to view my 2017 album of the Festival of India, which includes the post-parade activities, click here. That year the event was much less crowded and had a more subdued vibe to it.

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