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All Mixed Up: Toronto is the mixed-marriage capital of Canada

How our city is proof that if a post-racial society is possible, it will begin in the bedroom

(Image: Asaf Hanuka)

This fall, my husband and I will mark the 34th anniversary of our Chinese-Jewish marriage. Back in 1976, some folks (OK, my parents) fretted it would never last. “Think of the kids! Neither side will accept them,” my mother warned. It took 14 years—and the birth of our first child—before she quit running in hysterics from her house whenever my husband dropped by. (I’m not kidding.)

Yet in 2010, not only am I still married, with two fairly acceptable sons, I find myself living in the mixed-marriage capital of Canada. Toronto famously blazed the way for same-sex marriage. Today, it turns out to be a Petri dish for innovative people combos. According to the latest Statistics Canada data, nearly twice as many Toronto couples are in mixed marriages, legal and common law, as the rest of Canadians, 7.1 per cent versus 3.9 per cent. That number covers all existing unions, including dusty old ones like mine.

The much more impressive stat is how many young visible minorities are marrying outside their tribes. In what the census bureau calls the Metropolitan Area of Toronto (which includes Pickering and Ajax to the east, Milton and Oakville to the west, and Georgina on the shores of Lake Simcoe to the north), 45 per cent of second-generation immigrants who are married or living common law are doing so with someone of a different race or ethnicity. By the third generation, it spikes to a stunning 68 per cent.

The next time a wedding motorcade honks at you, check out the newlyweds: more often than not, the happy couple will be crossing ethnic boundaries. Until now, Toronto’s diversity has been viewed in terms of silos: a Chinatown here, a Tamil enclave there. But true diversity occurs when we interact—and there’s nothing more interactive than sex.

Our city is so blasé about racial mixing and matching that no one bothered commenting on the ethnicity of Adam Giam­brone’s side dish. Was the secret girlfriend who met him for trysts on his city hall couch Filipino? South American? Who cares? The only time the “R” word was mentioned was in this context: Giambrone exits mayoral race.

Toronto has more couples in mixed unions than anywhere else in the country. Looking at the latest stats, I have to pinch myself.

I was born in Montreal more than half a century ago, and at the time it was Canada’s most cosmopolitan city. How cosmopolitan? Let’s put it this way: I was the one and only vis min in my church choir. At Montreal West High, a public Anglo school, there were just three non-WASPs in my entire grade: a black girl, a Jewish boy and myself. As my graduation prom neared, my mother began pressuring me to go with a nice Chinese boy. Alas, there weren’t any in the vicinity, nice or otherwise.