Literature in English, 1998
Causes for immigration:
The Caribbean Diaspora in
The myth of the Caribbean Paradise has traditionally been linked
with another that of the New World as promised
land. For the early European explorers, the Caribbean
was the gateway to the fabled treasures of Central and South America, and,
above all, to "the Great and Golden Citie of Manoa." On this basis,
Paradise and El Dorado are mythic symbols of the
migrant's dream, both for newcomers to the hemisphere and for migrants
within it. (Brown1 p. 2 ) . . .
"The tradition remains a powerful one in our own time. . .
Caribbean immigrants to Canada, therefore, stand at the intersection
of two powerful myths: one reflects the outsider's limited
perception of the Caribbean as idyll, and the other reflects the islanders'
idealistic expectations of Canada. (Brown1 2)
West Indian immigration
Like many groups from the non-white Commonwealth and from the Third
World in general, West Indians were long effectively barred from
Canada unless they fell into a few specific categories. For West
Indians these categories were student and (female) domestic help.
. . .Since the mid-sixties, three factors have changed
the pattern drastically.
West Indian views about Canada Brown2
Canadian immigration laws were reformed in order to base criteria for admission
on individual qualifications rather than on countries of origin.
Great Britain was closing its doors to massive migration from the non-white
Commonwealth; consequently, many West Indians who would normally have migrated
from the Caribbean to Britain have been taking advantage of Canada’s liberalized
Both the steady decline of the British economy and the marked deterioration
of racial relationships there have encouraged a second wave of migration…((Brown2
The familiar anger of Canadians who resent foreign economic domination
always strikes something of a false note among West
Indians whose islands are economically dominated and partially owned
by Canadian corporations, banking and insurance
company, and import-export interests.
The personal themes of exploitation and racial rejection in the lives
of "the domestic servants."
The black nationalist themes
Canada as a mosaic—West Indians have developed an uneasy and
fairly complex relationship with Canada. It is a
promised land of sorts, a haven from Caribbean poverty and neo-colonialism.
But the El Dorado of the north is also fellow
victim of a colonial heritage. Canada's history and international
status would seem to encourage affinities with the Third world, but her
questionalbe role in the Caribbean economy encourages the suspicion that
the fellow colonial has become a member of the global imperial elite.
Black ethnic pride both encourages the solid sense fo a West Indian community
within Canada, and stimulates hostility towards Canada's exclusive whiteness.
The ideal of a Canadian mosaic is particularly attractive to West Indians
who have always had to forster a coherent West Indian regionalism; but
the palpable limitations of Canaidan attitudes towards non-white citizens
encourage the suspicion that the proclaimed ideal is another example of
Canadian hypocrisy. (Brown2 379)
class differences within the community; institutional racism
The differential incorporation of Caribbean people in Canada can be explained
in terms of two major forces that affect the community:
the maintenance of cultural patterns that impede mobility in Canada, such
as some family patterns, relations with education, social and leisure patterns,
racial discrimination. (Frances p. 15)
Stuart Hall's view of differential incorporation of West Indians
By the end of 1950's, the strategy of 'Black assimilation' had already
been cast aside¡K
Next came the strategy of 'acceptance' which meant that Blacks took
on and accepted the role of second-class citizens¡KHall writes that
'what was primarily at issue here was the differential incorporation
of the Black community into the White respectable working class. Its outcome
would have been, not fusion with, but "informal segregation" within,
the culture of a subordinate class. ¡K
Another strategy was to separate West Indians even further from mainstream
society. In order to do this, West Indians had to form an enclave
community, or what Hall calls 'a colony society':
formation of the ghetto 'colony' was defensive and corporate response.
It involved the Black community turning inn upon itself ¡K in the
face of public racism that rapidly developed ¡K through the 1960's.
In another sense, the foundation of colony society meant the growth of
internal cultural cohesiveness and solidarity within the ranks of the Black
Blacks in Canada
[Internal colonial model] Its applicability to the Canadian context
is evident in the growth of a Black underclass in Toronto. ¡KThe
development of a stigmatized underclass or 'colony' further divides the
Caribbean community, the majority of whom are among the 'respectable working
class' and the middle class. (p. 21)
population in Canada (Frances pp. 28-29)
Britain began earlier, included more of the less educated and skilled .
. .Although Canada encourage women to emigrate to fill domestic service
vacancies, the number never reached significant proportions.
UK¡Xsettle in and around London and the Midlands, the industrial
area of the country. They are ghettoized in specific areas of cities. In
Canada¡Kthe pattern of industrial decline, . . . has not happened
to the same extent as in Britain.
Diffeernt Kinds of Racism
|The analysis of the data gathered on and about Caribbean people in
Canada suggested that the group as a whole was not structurally or culturally
integrated into Canadian society. The concept of differential incorporation¡Xwhich
is defined in this context as the inability to access fully the economic,
social, and cultural rewards of this society¡Xwas used to described
this position. The major barrier preventing incorporation is racial discrimination,
Examples of Racism¡KRacism¡K[individual racism]
They also encounter institutional racism in which the policies and
practices of an organization are not attuned to their needs and interests,
with the result that the migrants do not derive benefits equal to that
of other Canadians. Disregard for their African and Caribbean heritage
in the curriculum of schoool and postsecondary institutions is an example.
Perhaps the type of racism most frequently encountered is the everyday
variety in which subtle messages and cues signal the dislike or lack of
welcome to a migrant of colour. The most overwhelming form is the constant
exposure to media and advertising images, the subtle formr of language
and other symbols in which a White, Eurocentric set of values finds expression.
[undercounting] A better estimate is that there are approximately
455,000 persons of Caribbean birth in the country .
As of the 1986 census, 135,055 Caribbean-born persons lived in the Toronto
1991¡X74 percent in Ontario, 9.1 per cent in Quebec, 15.9 per
cent in other provinces.
Ontario¡Xparticularly the 'Golden Horseshoe' area comprising
London, Toronto, and Kingston¡Xcontains the largest numbers.
Two major areas of concentration are metropolitan Toronto and
the areas surrounding it, particularly Missisauga and Brampton.
In Toronto itself, Caribbean migrants are increasingly residentially concentrated.
The Vaughan Road, Bathurst, and Bloor areas are almostly entirely
populated by people of Caribbean origin, and while the Jane-Finch area
is ethnically mixed, most of its residents are of Caribbean origin. The
city of Scarborough also has a large contingent of Caribbean people.
Features of immigration
(Frances p. 30)
the relationship breakdown
relatively 'late' age of arrival of children into Canadian schools.
The pattern of women immigrating alone.
Marriage and relationship breakdown (Frances
Close to 90 per cent of our total sample of migrants, . .. , end in
separation and/or divorce. These breakdowns seem to occur within approximately
the first three years of migration. ¡KA common pattern during
the 60's was for women to migrate first, often under the government domestic
labour scheme, and once settled, to send for both children and partner.
Perhaps one of the most basic relates to the ways in which male-female
relationships are formed within Caribbean society, in which the bonds between
men and women tend to lack emotional depth. The concept of westernized
romantic love is, to some extent, missing in societies such as this in
which instrumentality rather than affection appears to be the primary
motivation in forming relationships, at least to the point of sharing a
common household. ¡KMen want sexual gratification and attention
to their food, laundry, and other domestic needs. ¡K A woman, on
the other hand, is primarily motivated by the need to find a man who can
offer economic support to her, her children, and possbly other relatives.
the stresses of the migration experience
the lack of emotional bond
Traditional culturally defined gender relations
change with the migration experience, and the primary change is the enhanced
role of women as they become financially independent of their husbands
and often become the most important support of the family unit. (Frances
financial problems¡X Jobs for women as domestics and babysitters
are almost always available despite downtrends in the general economy.
Access to employment for men is somewhat more difficult. (Frances
residential concentration: Two of these residential zones are around
Egliinton and Vaughen Road and Bathurst and Bloor area. As these zones
became crowded, peole began moving into certain sections of Scarborough.
As the community became larger and more established, West Indians began
moving to the outlying areas of Missisauga and Brampton.(Frances.
The Jane and Finch area in which a substantial number of people on welfare,
mother's allowance, and other forms of subsistence live. These area have
also been identified as high-crime zones, especially for the distribution
Even poor districts provide that sense of security and togetherness
that people cliam makes them feel more comfortable. However, it can also
be argued that MTHA's [Metropolitan Toronto Housing Association] apparently
deliberate policy of putting Black people together into the same housing
units exacerbates the potential for urban social disorder. Examination
of MTHA's allocation policy shows that of over eighty housing projects,
Blacks are over-represented in eight projects, creating housing zones in
which Caribbean-origin people predominate. [choice] Thus methods of housing
allocation leading to concentrations of poor Blacks reinforces the differential
incorporation of this segment of the community into mainstream society.
[none can be described as a ghetto in the sense of the large-scale ghettos
characteristic of American cities.]
closing the class gap as a survival strategy
culture: art, music, literature and theatre¡@
house party has become more than a vehicle
for fun; parties are now given primarily for financial gain and occasionally
become the venues for illegal activity(Frances 273).
The Caribbean Diaspora in Toronto: Learning to Live with Racism.
Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1994.
1. Brown, Lloyd W. .
El Dorado and Paradise: Canada and the Caribbean in Austin Clarke’s Fiction.
Parkersburg, Iowa: Caribbean Books, 1989.
2. Brown, Lloyd W. "West
Indian Writers and the Canadian Mosaic.” World Literature Written
in English 21.2(1982): 374-85.