Contributed to hellasfrappe by Ioannis Pavlos Fidanakis
When one thinks of Anti-Greek violence, one does not tend to think of Canada, a country, which has long prided itself as a beacon of tolerance and multiculturalism. However, even in Canada proof of the existence of Anti-Hellenism has conveniently been forgotten by those who attempt to disprove its existence. For four nights during the month of August, 1918, Canadians stormed the Greek area of one of Canada’s greatest cities and proceeded to have one of the largest anti-Greek riots in history.
This often forgotten expression of Anti-Greek sentiment manifested itself into a violent eruption of hate known as the 1918 Anti-Greek riots of Toronto. “According to York history Professor Thomas Gallant, the 1918 anti-Greek riot is one of the darkest and most violent episodes in Toronto’s history” (Yfile). According to Joseph Hall’s article, Hellenic heritage has thrived in Toronto since the 1850s but this year, Euro Cup, Olympics guarantee centre stage, the anti-Greek riot that happened in Toronto was one of the largest in city history:
In August of 1918, one of the largest, if not the largest, riot in Toronto history was an anti-Greek riot…more than 40 Greek businesses were destroyed, the city was put under martial law, troops were brought in and it took days of street fighting to restore order (Hall).
The motivation behind this appalling act of Anti-Hellenism was due to a growing sense of resentment towards the ethnic Greek community by returning Canadian veterans because of the immigrant community’s economic prosperity at a time when Greece had remained neutral in the First World War. These two reasons led to a growing sense of animosity amongst Canadian veterans towards ethnic Greek merchants.
The Greek community became a sort of lightning rod for resentment among returning veterans over issues like their sacrifices and the lack of pensions (Hall).
The riots began with the removal of a returning private from White City Café by ethnic Greek waiters. It is this single act, which leads to the most violent expression of Anti-Hellenism in Canadian history.
“Over the course of three days and nights, August 2 to 5, 1918, mobs of up to 10,000 people, led by war veterans returned from Europe, marched through the city’s main streets waging pitched battles with law enforcement officers and destroying every Greek business they came across” (YFile).
By the end of those 4 days, over 40 ethnic Greek businesses were destroyed, 150 people injured and $100,000 worth of damage committed against the ethnic Greek community, an amount which today would be roughly 1.25-million dollars. Although this incident is not part of a larger series of Anti-Greek events, it does demonstrate a blatantly racist act of hatred towards the ethnic Greek community. This fact alone disproves the theory of skeptics, who dared to say that large scale acts of anti-Greek violence have never been witnessed outside the Balkans.