02 February 12 – 15:08″The Scarborough Curse” – Open Letter to the Editor of Toronto Life Magazine by Triple P
Posted on February 3rd, 2012

Phill Perera Toronto Sri Lankan Students/Alumni Alliance Dear Editor:

“The Scarborough Curse” – Open Letter to the Editor of Toronto Life Magazine by Triple P Dear Editor:

Here is a response to an article titled, “The Scarborough Curse” written by Don Gillmor on Scarborough, Ontario, Canada.

          While surfing the net I came across an article titled, “Scarborough Curse” written by Don Gillmor published few years back on your online magazine www.Torontolife.com (you can find the url link to the article at the very bottom of my e-mail response) the writer I mentioned above covers a story of the tragic stabbing death of Dineshkumar Murugiah, a 16-year-old student at Scarborough’s Winston Churchill.  If you can recall it was a horrific day light murder and memories of that tragedy still linger in the community even after four years but now it has become a very distant memory in the media and with the general public, why? Is it because it happened in Scarborough and not at Davisville Village, Toronto? Was it because the ethnicity of the boy? Or was it the circumstances that led to young Dinesh’s life being taken away from our society? You be the judge.  The death of this young school boy is so sad that no parent should ever go through such encounter.  Dinesh’s life was abruptly ended when he was only 16 years old, lest we forget such incidents the likeliness of it being repeated elsewhere.  In essence this article is a good read if you lived or currently residing in Scarborough, likewise it will still give you an idea about the evolution of GTA as you know Toronto and Scarborough was not build in a day. 

    [Victim Dinesh Kumar from Scarborough had no gang ties & was known as a good boy]

  More and more it is evident that we have embarked on a newer upgraded information age and it seems that most of the new Generation Y wants nothing to do with history, current events, news or to know about their roots and family migration stories because Generation Y has occupied themselves with new technology, living out the life from MTV/BET music videos and always finding shortcuts, I must specify that this does not apply to all but the trend of Generation Y’s majority is visible anywhere you go these days.  After reading this article I thought it was my duty to write up a due response because it is vital to visit the very fabric of those complex migrant journeys, challenges, transitions, cultural shocks, and places of first contact that made us who we are today.  Few will initiate awareness, some will outright shy away from touching territorial social issues but I intend to address and reflect on it to best of my ability.  As for the article and response some may agree and some may not but to spare few minutes of your busy life to capture stories tucked away under the rug is just timeless.  So my question is what are we as a fragmented community doing to address these violent incidents and issues? I would have to argue here that sometimes absolutely nothing, for many of us it just becomes a tabloid item with our morning coffee and a breakfast bagel. Yes, it is very ironic indeed. 

    After reading the latter piece I have to highlight that there are facts and half truths in the, “Toronto Curse” article.  There are sections of the article that we can all relate to and some that is totally exaggerated beyond belief but what I was really amused by was the history of the suburb Scarborough dating back to late 1700’s.  This history I was a bit conscious about as an elementary school boy but not anywhere near the magnitude of the writer.  Let’s now turn our focus back to the article’s main purpose, the writer starts off by explaining a violent murder and attempts to cover the history of Scarborough from its origins as a tiny village to its inception as a township of 3,800 in trying to make a case for his theory “the Scarborough Curse”.  According to Don Gillmor’s view and portrayal of Scarborough’s golden years during the mid 1960’s to early 1970’s, Scarborough saw a population boom which eventually led to the rise of various ethnic gangs (he specifically refers to Afghans, Tamils, Chinese and West Indian gangs) this argument can be questioned to an agonizing extent.  What he fails to realize and critique is as to why such gangs were established in the first place and rationale behind it getting out of control to the levels it did in the 1990’s.  My take on the matter is that it was largely due to racial violent attacks, and slurs against new incoming immigrants during the 1970’s – early 1990’s.  First generation of immigrants had no choice but to protect themselves by creating band of friends or protection groups. With passing of years and decades these community guards shifted its ideas and became organized and turned into violent gangs.  Parallel to the rise of gangs several ethnic communities grew, Hindu Temples, Buddhist Temples, Mosques were built and community shops outlets opened for business, gangs chose ethnically comfortable areas to operate and were often left unchecked till new generation of gangs started creating havoc. Gangs eventually caused their own demise by becoming a menace to society hence the violent killings and attacks within certain communities started which led to law enforcement agencies with no choice but to intervene and clean house using any legal method available at the time.  So who are the real culprits for the rise and labelling of these gangs? I will leave that question unanswered.  

    In retro respect I must state that the article is very biased in its reference and research on gangs and the current realities of Scarborough, as it does a very poor job concluding on a positive note.  Do keep in mind that this article was published in 2007 so lot has changed in Scarborough since than, for example property value is so high that real estate agents are canvassing current owners to list their homes on the market for sale, many young professionals are moving in, businesses are booming with life, there are many affluent areas with majority of the dwellings being upper middle class families.  During the last couple of decades gangs have all but moved out of town for good due to heavy Toronto Police raids/enforcement.  There may be small pockets of menace around Scarborough that still  has traces of former community gang culture embodied through the younger generation but it is at a very minimal level or almost invisible to the naked eye until media blows it out of proportion.  However my heart cries out when ever I do hear of a shooting or a killing in Scarborough or matter fact just about anywhere and to know that an innocent young or mature life has gone in vein, yes it still does happen here from time to time, just recently a local rapper named, Anthony Spencer was shot to death while he was recording his album with a group of friends at Brimley and Lawrence (central part of Scarborough) this was followed by another day light shooting death of Chris Thompson, inside the barber shop, “Cut Creator” at Malvern Town Centre strip mall where he worked (well known east end part of Scarborough) Both these cases remain unsolved but my prediction is that more shootings will follow or be linked to these murders, the aftermath of shootings has always been the general trend. Were both murders connected? I don’t got a clue but I get very emotional whenever I do hear of such incidents as I see no color but just human.  As for the writer to judge Scarborough as a curse and compare it to Bronx or Compton is outrageous and an understatement, you tell me which suburb or metropolitan city in Canada or anywhere in the world is really free of crime and murder?   

    Look at it from a primary source perspective through an individual who have gone through many life experiences here, “yes this is the little hamlet where I grew up, oh boy growing up in Scarborough wasn’t an easy one specially if you went to high school in the 90’s, as a kid I have been exposed to brutal racial attacks now unheard of, and I have firsthand seen or heard of gang violence but always avoided it without being a subject of it”.  Maybe it was my family upbringing that kept me away from negative influences? Or maybe I just chose not to be part of it? Whatever it was it helped me to become who I am at present. Growing up here does have inevitable surprises and I had my share of it, which I will not disclose now and will save it for another day.  On a positive note growing up in the mid 1990’s and 2000’s in Scarborough was a memorable experience mainly because at that time we had our own mayor called Barbara Hall, we had our own garbage collection, we were opposed to the idea of Mega City which was to amalgamate our unique town with Toronto and we always, I mean we always took pride in great actors like Jim Carey, Mike Myers and pioneer reggae artists like Snow for having their roots in Scarborough.  [Click here to see full list of celebrities from Scarborough]

   I will never forget those long cold winters, brief hot summers, countless baseball games and bike rides sessions with childhood friends around my old crumbling elementary school concrete play yard.  As a 12 year old riding the rocket light rail train with my little brother to go to SAAS youth group classes on Fridays or just sneaking out to go to Scarborough Town Center to watch two dollar movies bring back lot of fun filled childhood memories.  What I recall the most was that special train ride that gave me the hope of becoming a teenager which I kind of always associated with the graffiti scenery I saw on the walls along the Scarborough RT line.   Some were done by gang taggers but majority of graffiti were works of art done by creative artists from a bygone era.  However the media and the general public always associated it with gangs when in reality this was not the case, many colorful graffiti murals like the 3 Smurfs that represented the artistic graffiti pride of Scarborough has been long gone without any traces completely wiped out and painted over.  Similar legendary murals are currently on the endangered list.  Please keep in mind that in no way am I advocating vandalism here, all I am saying that it is significant to preserve history and stories of our struggles in the Borough regardless of the form it represents.  PA system comes on in the train, and an announcement is made, “now arriving at Scarborough Town Centre” and, “Yay I am at town center”, seeing the presence of older youth with Honda Civics, Preludes with their heavy mush up (Reggae) music driving around in circles looking to contact ladies wearing their extra large colourful baggy Exco, South Pole, Exhaust Jeans with Bob Marley hanging belts, supporting Blue Jays jackets and sport sweaters, along with matching White Sox baseball caps or fully gelled out hair styles with low fade cuts, equipped with Fila, Adidas and Nike “kicks” (running shoes) with one sock being pulled up to cover one leg of the jeans use to scare the living daylights out of me as a kid, but growing up with all that on a day to day basis I found the Scarborough sub culture to be really fascinating, even to this date I envy that mind-boggling aspect of it.  Why I envy it? Because it gives a glimpse of challenges we all faced, a unique story, our Scarborough story, the sub culture highlights the journey of immigrant youth who were first in culture shock and shifted their transition in being accustomed to settling in their new western habitat or so they thought at the time.  Why majority of the Scarborough youth chose certain cultural aspects and particular genre of music with all other choices available is a very interesting highlight.  I guess I am trying to venture into uncharted territory that I will refrain from doing so today.

     When many original Scarbarians moved out in search of newly built upgraded homes out west to Mississauga, East to Ajax and north to Markham, diehard Scarbarians stayed put and held down the fort.  Now the former residents want back in but they are soon realizing that an average comfortable home in a reputed neighborhood in Scarborough is listed well above the $ 550,000 – $ 600,000 CDN dollar mark.  In the 1970’s the original architecture of civic/town center visioned to have a downtown core around Borough drive but only to see it fail due to poor planning and business rivalries, however now his dream has become a natural reality and the area is kicking with so much energy and spirit, just go take look around Borough drive on any given day. I love this little suburb that was named after the English town of, “Scarborough, North Yorkshire in 1796 by Elizabeth Simcoe, who was inspired by the Scarborough Bluffs which reminded her of white cliffs near her home” [Wikipedia] regardless of all its so called nicknames, media bias and the ridiculous stereotypes associated with it I wouldn’t trade my little suburb for the world. I am proud to be part of its vibrant history and future.  You see my friend for many who call Scarborough home it is not just another town or a low keyed suburb of Greater Toronto Area [GTA] Scarborough breaths life and it will continue on for many generations to come, it has its own distinct people, character, sub culture and most importantly these factors has made Scarborough take its current natural shape that no writer or foreigner can ever analyze, criticize or matter of fact will be able to comprehend because you see” Scarborough was not build in a day as it was built by hardworking generations of immigrants like our parents”.  Taking all my points into consideration I conclude that the title of the article is way off and it shouldn’t read, “Scarborough Curse” it should read Scarborough blessing and we all are blessed to call it our home and I will defend its name and reputation on any give day.  “Viva Scarborough”.

     “So who am I? & why did I write this lengthy response? To start off people call me, “Triple P”

This is for obvious reasons & I wrote the following response to put stereotypes in its place so everyone can visit the current new realties of our suburb we call home, because I am Scarbarian”

Good life to you for taking the time to read my response. Please visit the below original article link: 

http://www.torontolife.com/features/scarborough-curse/

RESPONSE ARTICLE Written By:

PHILL PERERA [[email protected]] “”…” Jan 27 2012

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