‘Paki go home’: The story of racism in the Gerrard India Bazaar
Keywords:bazaar, racism, south asian, food, toronto, Gerrard
For South Asian Canadians who migrated to Toronto in the 1970s, the only place for them to purchase and consume South Asian foodstuffs would have been in the area referred to as ‘Little India’, which later developed into what is referred to today as the Gerrard India Bazaar (GIB). Little India is located on Gerrard Street, encompassing the nine blocks from Greenwood Avenue to Coxwell Avenue. The very first South Asian entrepreneur in Gerrard Street was Gian Naaz, who rented the defunct Eastwood Theatre in 1972 and began showing films in Hindi and other South Asian languages. Naaz’s success inspired and attracted other South Asian entrepreneurs, some of whom opened restaurants and grocery stores. These early South Asian businesses on Gerrard Street combatted racism and racial stereotyping and the GIB was a microcosm of the violences South Asians experienced all across Toronto in the 1970s and 80s. As such, this paper tells the story of how South Asians, both them and their businesses, persevered and helped develop the GIB as an ethnic enclave because it allowed South Asians to affirm notions of home and belonging in Canada, all without ever having a distinct residential identity.
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