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Tamil Co-operative Homes as seen from Lansdowne Avenue, February 26, 2017. Image by Michael Monastyrskyj, via Flickr.

St. James Town looking south-east to Wellesley and Rose, between 1972 to 1986. Courtesy of the City of Toronto Archives.

1417-1419 Gerrard East, 1975 to 1988, Courtesy of the City of Toronto Archives.

  • Tamil Co-op Homes

    A New Community Hub

    For these new arrivals, a hub was needed where they could go to find help in their search for accommodation, work, and education. Areas like St. James Town had large Tamil populations due to cheap housing, but lacked the services to help Tamils acclimatize to their new homes. Several community organizations popped up in the Tamil community, including the Society for the Aid of Ceylon Minorities (SACEM). SACEM successfully approached the federal and provincial governments with a proposal for a 10 million dollar, 129-unit housing co-op at 20 Wade Avenue, in the Bloordale area.

    Tamil Co-Operative Homes, Inc. (or more informally, the “Tamil Co-op Homes”) was subsidized by both levels of government, and became one of the major co-operative housing projects in the city. Before the space even opened, it had waiting list of about 100 people. 80% of the occupancy was reserved for Tamils in the city, with priority placed on seniors, widows, and those in need. One apartment was held as emergency short-term housing for new refugee claimants.

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  • Tamil Co-op Homes

    Living Together

    At Tamil Co-op Homes, refugees were able to build new lives while living and working amongst already-settled Tamils. The building was run by a volunteer co-op committee that provided advice to new arrivals on work, school, and government assistance. The complex provided English and French classes on site as well as a community hall for weddings and other cultural events.

    While areas like Little India were popular amongst all South Asians in the city, the Tamil Co-op Homes was one of the first places in the city that was solely for Tamils. Beyond its benefits in helping Tamils navigate new lives in Toronto, it also served to alleviate loneliness and build community by connecting refugees with other Tamil-speaking residents. It remains an important fixture in the Tamil community today.

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