Growing up together

As Scarborough grew bigger and became more diverse, so did UTSC

Elaine Smith
image of a group of students

Back in the early 1960s, Scarborough was mostly farmland and UTSC was little more than an idea. Not any more.

Today, immigrants from a vast number of countries make up the largest proportion of the 626,000 people who call this area home, and English is the mother tongue of less than half its residents. Scarborough is growing faster than the City of Toronto as a whole, and many of its newest residents are recent immigrants to Canada.

This diversity is reflected on the UTSC campus, where 79 countries were represented within 2013’s first- year class. Many of these students hail from Scarborough itself: 72.4 per cent of that class resides in the Greater Toronto Area.

Such diversity hasn’t always been the norm, either for Scarborough or for UTSC. “Canada has always been a nation of immigrants, but before the 1960s and 1970s, the immigrants were basically European and government policy was oriented against non-white immigrants,” says Michael Krashinsky, a UTSC professor of political science and Scarborough resident for 40 years.

Government restrictions began loosening in the 1950s, and Canada’s mix of immigrants began to change accordingly. Chinese immigrants were the first to come to Scarborough, where many still reside. People from other Asian and South Asian countries followed.

As Toronto grew, Scarborough’s pastoral landscape became more suburban, with areas of high density, too.

“At the end of the Second World War, Scarborough was almost entirely rural,” says Geography Professor Andre Sorensen, who chairs UTSC’s Department of Human Geography. “But there was rapid development in the ’60s. It was built out and the land was developed by the ’80s.”

The UTSC campus grew and changed along with its surroundings. Scarborough College’s campus opened in January 1966 with a student population of only 500. By 2001, UTSC had 4,500 students; in 2013, the student population had expanded to 10,800.

“There was parallel development,” said Sorensen. “Each is in middle age now. The campus and community are still developing traditions and deeper roots.”

New traditions are emerging rapidly. For example, the second annual Scarborough Film Festival, sponsored in part by UTSC, showcased films from more than 20 countries in June. Scarborough’s diversity is also proudly on display at the Taste of Lawrence, a three-day food and cultural festival. At UTSC, new traditions such as ArtSide Out, an annual multi-disciplinary arts festival entering its seventh year, are joining older traditions, such as the annual Watts lecture, to shape the campus’s identity.