It has crime but it also has pride – and people working to overcome its problems. Weston isn’t perfect but in many ways it still offers a slice of small-town life in Toronto.
“Weston is not without is its issues,” writes Diana Stapleton, who nominated it as a great community. “People that don’t live here often ask if I feel safe, and make fun of its reputation for youth violence and gangs.”
But, she says, “I do feel safe in Weston.”
Originally a mill town on the Humber River, it was once home to industry, including a long-closed CCM sports-equipment factory. The old town of Weston was incorporated into the City of York in 1983, then became part of Toronto in 1998. Today the community is leaving its industrial past behind to become a vastly diverse blend of heritage properties, apartment complexes and lots of green space.
“Everybody knows each other,” says Frances Nunziata, a city councillor who lives there. “That’s what I love about it. It’s got that small-town feeling.”
The small-town roots are reflected in Weston’s weekly farmers market, which draws up to 1,000 visitors, and the fact there is still a local Santa Claus parade.
Musician and social activist Raine Maida of Our Lady Peace has fond memories of growing up in the area.
“When you say community, that’s exactly the way I remember it,” he says. “I rode my bike all around that neighbourhood, walked to school. I knew everybody. I had friends on every street around there. It was its own oasis. ... We ruled that whole place.”
Ms. Nunziata says there is a lot of local pride, and families tend to stay put. She says people who grew up here often remain in the neighbourhood and raise their own kids here.
But there are also many new Canadians from such far-off places as Somalia, Vietnam and the Caribbean. And according to Masum Hossain, chair of the Weston Business Improvement Area, something of a rebirth is under way.
He looks ahead, and points out that the train line that one day will link downtown Toronto with the airport will have a stop in Weston, and may bring in hundreds of visitors just to park their cars.
Mr. Hossain has worked in the area for nearly 20 years, and says he meets people from all corners of the world. “It’s a tight-knit, welcoming community.”
David McBride agrees. “It’s not hard to go for a walk with the dog and end up talking to seven or eight people ... within the radius of a block.” He is chair of the local residents association, which is in its second year and, he says, brings together many diverse groups to help make Weston better.
“We sit all at the same table,” he says.