Introduction

Negresses Selling Mayflowers in the Marketplace (engraving by W.O. Carlisle, courtesy Nova Scotia Museum of Cultural History)
Image: Black citizens of early Canada had to find their economic niches in the dominant white communities of the cities. Some Black women in Halifax made their living by selling flowers in the public market, as seen in the 1872 engraving "Negresses Selling Mayflowers in the Marketplace" (engraving by W.O. Carlisle, courtesy History Collection, Nova Scotia Museum).

The Black presence in Canada is primarily an urban phenomenon. The overwhelming majority of Black Canadians live in metropolitan areas such as Toronto and Montréal. Since geographically, according to the 2001 census, some 62% of Blacks live in Ontario and 23% in Quebec, we would expect this high concentration in Toronto and Montréal. Almost 47% of all Black Canadians live in Toronto and 21% in Montréal. This overrepresentation in Toronto and Montréal is a result of historical factors and of the obvious proximity to Black nations in Africa and the Caribbean. (Ottawa-Gatineau and Halifax also have sizeable proportions of Blacks, while the proportions decline in other urban centres.)

The spatial distribution of the Black population in Canada differs markedly from that in the United States, where Blacks are clearly the most segregated group. In Canada Blacks are among the least segregated groups, despite identifiable Black enclaves in Toronto and Montréal. Studies show that Canadian Blacks are much more likely to be spread among the neighborhoods of Toronto and Montréal than other visible minorities, even more than some non-visible minorities, such as Greeks and Portuguese.

The reason that Blacks tend to cluster in suburban areas has to do not only with traditional factors such as networking and migration, but also to the distinctive distribution of public housing and low rent in suburban areas.

Rosemary Sadlier


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