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Chinese Influence in the Greater Toronto Area

Updated on February 27, 2020
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion celebrate Chinese New Year in Toronto with Dr. Joseph Wong, Founder and Chair of Yee Hong Community Wellness Foundation
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion celebrate Chinese New Year in Toronto with Dr. Joseph Wong, Founder and Chair of Yee Hong Community Wellness Foundation
Square One shopping centre in Mississauga commemorates Chinese New Year with an art installation
Square One shopping centre in Mississauga commemorates Chinese New Year with an art installation
Toronto mayor John Tory participating in the Chinese New Year festivities at Scarborough Town Centre
Toronto mayor John Tory participating in the Chinese New Year festivities at Scarborough Town Centre

According to the Statistics Canada 2016 Census, there are 631,045 ethnic Chinese residents in Greater Toronto, 10.8% of the area's population.

From 1979 through 1999 the Chinese immigrants from Southeast Asia were mostly refugees. Southeast Asia-origin Chinese in Toronto originated from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. Ethnic Chinese also emigrated from the Caribbean, Korea, South Africa, and South America around the same time. The majority of the immigrants from Taiwan settled in Vancouver, to a lesser degree in Toronto.

Between 1993 to 1997 Hong Kong provided the most immigrants to Toronto (48,535 people, or 11% of newcomers). China provided the 3rd largest group (36,735 people). When the influx from Hong Kong declined after 1995, immigration from China rose. Newcomers from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and Vietnam shared aspects of Chinese culture but came from different political systems. †

Peter Li, Professor of Sociology at the University of Saskatchewan explains the migration pattern from Hong Kong and China:

Immigration from Hong Kong and mainland China to Canada in the 1980s and 1990s moved in opposite directions. Hong Kong immigration continued to rise in the late 1980s and peaked at 44,000 immigrants a year in 1994 before declining steadily thereafter, falling to less than 3,000 arrivals a year by 2000. In contrast, immigrants from China began to increase, first modestly after 1989, and then substantially after the mid-1990s, eventually reaching over 40,000 a year in 2001. The imminent return of Hong Kong to China in 1997 and its uncertain political future in the 1990s were often cited as the main reasons for Hong Kong’s large emigration. In reality, the rising volume of Hong Kong emigration in the late 1980s and early 1990s was prompted by the 1989 Tiananmen Square Incident and its aftermath, and the booming economy of the early 1990s that created the wealth and the means for many middle class Chinese to emigrate. At the same time, Canada’s expansion of the Business Immigration Program in the mid-1980s also benefited immigrant entrepreneurs from Hong Kong. Immigration from Hong Kong declined after 1995 as its economic recession deepened. In contrast, the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 did not deter the economic growth of China. Immigration from China rose after 1989 when Canada allowed Chinese students studying in Canada to immigrate, but it was after the mid-1990s that immigration from China expanded due to Canada’s greater emphasis on admitting economic immigrants, and to China’s growing middle class with increasing human capital and financial asset. ¶

It is estimated that the Chinese would likely remain the second largest visible minority group in the Toronto census metropolitan area in 2031. Their numbers could nearly double during the period from 510,000 to 1.1 million, mainly the result of immigration. However, their proportion of Toronto’s population would rise modestly from 10% to about 12%.

So it is no surprise that the growing Chinese presence has made a significant impression on the flourishing metropolis. I highlight only a few examples of their influence.

The Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto (CCC) is a non-profit, non-political organization with an objective to build a Chinese cultural centre for residents of the Greater Toronto area. The centre is part of a multi-purpose community complex located at the southeast corner of Sheppard Avenue East and Progress Avenue in Scarborough.

The Phase I building of the Chinese Cultural Centre of Great Toronto was opened in 1998. This 23,000 square feet facility consists of: a library/resource centre, a reception hall, an art gallery, a number of studios for arts and crafts, conference rooms, and other supportive facilities. The design concepts employed by the architects focused on making the building flexible, inviting, functional and symbolic. Natural light through clerestory skylights is complemented by suspended lantern-like fixtures. Inside finishes, colours and details were inspired by the traditional Chinese fine arts of architecture, gardens, paintings, ceramics and artifacts, and by the five essential elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth. The building design is modern but the connections to traditional Chinese architectural cultures are rich and deep. The Phase II facility of the Chinese Cultural Centre consists of a total of 56,000 square feet of facilities. It includes a 600 seat Performing Arts Theatre and an 8,500 square feet Multi-Purpose Hall. The complete complex of the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto is currently the most comprehensive Chinese cultural centre in North America. The Centre is also one of the most technologically advanced cultural centres in North America.


Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto
Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto


Signs in Chinese and English are often seen in the major retail stores (such as Walmart and Staples) of Scarborough, Markham and Richmond Hill -- suburbs of Toronto.

The major banks have a Chinese version page on their websites:



The Toronto International Dragon Boat Race Festival (TIDBRF), is an annual dragon boat regatta, held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It developed from the Canadian International Dragon Boat Festival held in Vancouver, BC. An associated festival highlights Asian and other culture in Toronto.

Races were originally held at Ontario Place. Currently (as of 2007), races occur in the Main Channel at Centre Island, one of the Toronto Islands. The Main Channel racecourse is 500 m long and six lanes wide.

The Festival, which started in 1989, turned international in 1993. From the humble beginning with only 27 teams participating in the first festival back in the summer of 1989 - in the past several years, it has reached the full capacity in managing the event consisting of 180 teams with over 5,000 athletes participating in the Festival.

The Festival welcomes teams from other provinces across Canada and from the U.S., Europe and Asia.

It combines culture and sports with ethnic group performances and more than 180 teams competing the races. Furthermore, the Festival values social responsibilities and has in the past raised funds for charities such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Breast Cancer Foundation, the SickKids Foundation and participating organizations of the Spirit Challenge Race.

More information


The natural methods of improving health is a growing trend across North America. As a result traditional Chinese medicine is continually growing in acceptance and practice. And the recognition of traditional Chinese medicine as a formal health care profession.

These colleges specializing in traditional Chinese medicine are located in Toronto.

The College of Traditional Chinese Medicine & Pharmacology Canada (CTCMPC) is committed to provide comprehensive, high standard academic formal education and clinical training in all aspects of traditional chinese medicine to students, so that upon graduation, they would become fully prepared and well qualified Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Practitioners to meet the healthcare needs of their clients in their clinical practices, and be assets to their communities.

The curriculums for the various programs are specially designed by the Faculty of Capital University of Medical Science from Beijing for students in Canada and the United States. Graduates, according to their academic achievements, will be awarded diplomas issued by the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine & Pharmacology Canada.


The Toronto School of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TSTCM) is one of Ontario's leading traditional chinese medicine institutions. It is dedicated to providing first-rate training in Chinese acupuncture, herbal medicine and tuina massage. TSTCM offers comprehensive programs ranging from certificate programs for people who have a strong interest in Chinese medicine to professional diploma programs for serious students who plan on building a career around traditional Chinese medicine.


The Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (OCTCM) OCTCM President Ben Wu is the founder of Head Massage


The head office of the International Taoist Tai Chi Society is located in downtown Toronto's Chinatown Every year the International Taoist Tai Chi Awareness Day is celebrated worldwide.

International Taoist Tai Chi Society opened the world's largest tai chi practice hall in Orangeville, Ontario. The 42-hectare complex known as the Quiet Cultivation Centre includes residences for those taking Tai Chi courses and a 72-bed health centre for those with injuries or chronic illnesses.

International Taoist Tai Chi Awareness Day at Toronto City Hall
International Taoist Tai Chi Awareness Day at Toronto City Hall
Quiet Cultivation Centre
Quiet Cultivation Centre


The Toronto Chinese Orchestra is a non-profit organization established in 1993 by a group of Chinese traditional music enthusiasts. It is the largest Chinese orchestra in Ontario and the longest running in Canada. Members include professional and amateur musicians trained in Asia as well as Canada.

Their mission is to promote and develop an appreciation of Chinese orchestral music and culture amongst Canadians. For over 15 years, TCO has continued to be a strong presence in this multicultural community. In addition to performing in many concerts, TCO holds educational workshops in schools, participates in community fundraising events, cultural events, festivals, and celebrations across Ontario


The Toronto Chinese Dance Academy (TCDA) is dedicated to providing the highest quality dance instruction to children, teens and adults in all forms of Chinese dance. Whether you want to enjoy yourself and have fun, or learn about Chinese culture, or aspire to be a professional dancer, TCDA has the right class for you! Established in 1990, TCDA has earned a reputation for teaching excellence, and for providing a supportive and friendly environment, in a professional setting.

The Toronto Chinese Dance Company (TCDC) thrills audiences with a unique and exciting repertoire that spans Classical, Folk, and Contemporary Chinese dance, characterized by inventive choreography within the traditions. The Company was founded in 1996 by artistic director Yan Lam. The Toronto Life magazine referred to it as ‘one of the best heritage dance company in town’.



The Dundas and Spadina intersection in Toronto was where Chinese ethnic commercial activity occurred during the 1980s. Broadview and Gerrard later became the primary point of ethnic Chinese commercial activity. Ethnic Chinese commercial activity in the Toronto districts of North York and Scarborough became prominent in the 1990s. In the late 1990s the suburbs of Markham and Richmond Hill gained ethnic Chinese commerce.

In Toronto Chinese commercial activity took place in commercial strips dedicated to the ethnic Chinese. Once the commercial activity began moving into suburban municipalities, indoor malls were constructed to house Chinese commercial activity. The Pacific Mall in Markham opened in 1997.

Pacific Mall is the largest indoor Asian mall in North America . It is located in Markham, Ontario, a town in York Region, where much of the population is of Chinese descent. Pacific Mall is a very popular location for Chinese and other Asian shoppers. On statutory holidays, such as Christmas Day, the mall attracts a significant number of non-Asian and/or non-Greater Toronto Area visitors.

Pacific Mall incorporates a traditional Pacific-style market. This Asian shopping centre has over 450 mini-shops selling a large variety of retail goods, as well as specialties such as herbs and ginseng, Asian fashions, flowers, accessories, CDs, DVDs, audio hi-fi, cell phones, prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses, furniture, toys and stationery, and entertainment. It is also a well-known place for computer and car enthusiasts alike. There are a variety of places to buy Asian food and drinks in the mall.

As an official Canadian Tourist Attraction, the mall is exempt from the Retail Business Holiday Act and is open year-round including statutory holidays. Pacific Mall also hosts festivals and celebrations for the community.


First Markham Place is a unique diverse complex which boasts 180 retails stores including 22 sit down restaurants and 24 food court outlets situated in a spacious bright court surrounded by #7 just east of Woodbine Avenue (exit 27 off Highway 404) and west of Warden Avenue, in the Town of Markham.

First Markham Place is one of the first shopping centres to successfully integrate east and west in one complex. This multi-use cultural centre has become an attraction for tourists who are visiting Metropolitan Toronto, York Region and surrounding areas. The shopping complex offers a large variety of services, merchandise, restaurants and entertainment, complemented with distinctive cultural products.

The array of merchandise available at First Markham Place spans two continents with conventional shopping centre merchandise (clothing, shoes, jewellery, flowers, computers, communications and pharmaceutical) and services (shoe repair, hairstyling, opticians, travel agencies), contrasted with Asian specialties of (exotic herbs, rare food products, Asian art and artifacts and Chinese baked goods).

The spacious Promotion/Food-court with over 24 food alternatives to suit your taste, is augmented by 22 restaurants (including a banquet hall) with sit down gourmet dining, serving a large variety of Asian cuisines.

First Markham Place has become an integral part of the community, hosting and supporting many community organizations. First Markham Place has traditionally staged the largest Countdown Show during the Chinese New Year, drawing attendees from throughout and beyond York Region and the Greater Toronto Area.


The Mandarin was founded as a small a-la-carte restaurant in Brampton in 1979. In 1986, the restaurant changed to all-you-can-eat buffet style to accommodate the long line ups of customers waiting to try their much talked about cuisine. They continuously maintained their commitment to customer satisfaction.

Mandarin has grown to over 20 locations across southwestern Ontario. Each location's award-winning buffet has an extensive soup and salad bar, grill tables, a prime rib counter, a sushi corner, and a variety of hot foods showcasing the best in Chinese Canadian fare. An array of desserts and an ice cream sundae bar offer the perfect end to the meal. Take-out and delivery are also available at every location.

The Mandarin Restaurant corporate headquarters, located in Brampton, Ontario, is home to the head office, a warehouse, The Garden Banquet & Convention Centre, and Mandarin Brampton, the corporately owned restaurant.

Mandarin is proud to support the community. Over the years, the company has been recognized for its contributions to various hospitals, educational institutions, and charitable organizations. Mandarin continues to win numerous consumer choice awards, including being named Best Buffet by Toronto Sun readers for over 15 years.


To many Canadians, T & T Supermarket is the embodiment of the taste of Asia. It differs from other supermarkets by featuring many uniquely Asian food products not available in other retail outlets.

Shopping at T & T is like taking a journey through parts of Asia where one finds fresh mangoes from the Philippines, crispy snacks from Japan, sauces from Hong Kong, noodles from Taiwan, spices from Thailand and a variety of flavours from China and other Asian countries.

A favourite stop among shoppers at T & T is the seafood department where fresh fish, shrimps and crabs swim in large holding tanks waiting to be chosen by discerning customers. Other exciting finds include the giant elephant clam (Geoduck) with its long trunk, lobster and Alaskan king crab, all gleaming and delectable.

In addition to the many departments found in a regular supermarket, T & T distinguishes itself by having an in-house bakery, an Asian deli, a Sushi and a Chinese BBQ department.

It is now Canada's largest Asian supermarket chain. It has eight stores in Greater Vancouver, four stores in Alberta (two in Calgary and two in Edmonton) and six stores in Greater Toronto, making a total of 18 stores in the chain.

The country's largest food retailer Loblaw Companies (headquartered in Brampton, Ontario) purchased T & T in July 2009.


The Mississauga Chinese Centre is one of the North America's most remarkable tourist and architectural locations. The Centre affords a unique glimpse into the fascinating early history of China. It holds attractions for visitors with the replica of Nine Dragon Wall, Soo Chow Garden pavilion, stone sculptures and fortress at the Great Wall. Some of them are the only one outside Asia. Located at the heart of City of Mississauga, the Centre has a building area of over 100,000 Sq. Ft., situated on a site of 10 acres.


Pacific Mall
Pacific Mall
The Mandarin, Brampton
The Mandarin, Brampton
inside The Mandarin, Brampton
inside The Mandarin, Brampton
The Dragon Wall is used in the Monarchy's Family as a barrier in their gardens. Only the Emperor may have nine dragons on wall. This one in the Mississauga Chinese Centre is the only one outside Asia.
The Dragon Wall is used in the Monarchy's Family as a barrier in their gardens. Only the Emperor may have nine dragons on wall. This one in the Mississauga Chinese Centre is the only one outside Asia.

The Canada China Chamber of Commerce was established in Toronto in 2012. The members are mainly from the sectors of finance, ICT, transportation, import & export, energy, resources, minerals, pharmacy, health food, real estate, equipment and machinery. The mandate of CCCC is to assist and represent its members through member services and advocacy; to facilitate, promote and strengthen economic ties and trade between China and Canada through increased business development and exchanges among individual enterprises.


2013 Canada-China Business Cooperation Forum, December 5, 2013
2013 Canada-China Business Cooperation Forum, December 5, 2013


King Square Shopping Centre located at Woodbine Avenue in Markham is currently the second-largest Asian-theme shopping centre in Canada. The retail component to the project is ‘phase one’ of what will eventually become a ‘complete community’ that will include offices and residential buildings as well as a community centre, medical offices and a significant park component.

According to King Square's website the mall isn't the only thing upcoming: a hotel and condos under the same name are in the "coming soon" phase.

"We contribute to the urban infrastructure in the form of graceful avenues and handsome streetscapes with a large-scale, total 11.5 acre of complex mixed-uses of parking structures, retail, commercial, restaurants, residential apartment/condos and hotel."


Digital illustrations of King Square


The most apparent impact of the Chinese in Toronto is their demand for homes and investment properties.

read more

Toronto ‘among world’s safest property markets’, say Chinese

Toronto agents go online to reach Chinese buyers

Offshore bids price Canadians out of housing market

Which GTA homes Chinese investors are buying

a popular real estate brokerage in Toronto
a popular real estate brokerage in Toronto


† Local Chinese History at the City of Toronto Archives

¶ “The rise and fall of Chinese immigration to Canada: Newcomers from Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China and Mainland China, 1980-2000.” Li, Peter S.

History of Chinese immigration to Canada

Chinese Canadians in Ontario


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    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Love going to Chinatown. It makes you feel you are in Hong Kong or Singapore.

    • profile image

      William Chen 

      3 years ago from Sydney

      Thanks for the great article, we are seeing more and more Chinese now in Sydney, Australia, and it is interesting to see how it is across the ocean!

    • Tranquilheart profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Canada

      Hi Melinda, please visit. Early fall is very nice here, it's my fave time of year. If you like humid then summer it is.


    • msorensson profile image


      9 years ago

      I had no idea...very informative hub.

      Wow..I would love to go and visit that Taoist Center the next time I am in Toronto. Summer of course.

      Thanks so much!!


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