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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

'At home' in Little Tibet

May 16, 2008

In numbers of about 1,700 and growing, Parkdale Tibetans find comfort
in their burgeoning community and the culture they're preserving
Paola Loriggio, Staff Reporter
Toronto Star (Canada)
May 15, 2008
Paola Loriggio, Staff Reporter

Walk down the streets of west Parkdale, and you'll likely catch a
conversation or two in Tibetan.

The neighbourhood -- bound by Queen St. W. to the north, the Gardiner
Expressway to the west and south, and Atlantic Ave. to the east -- is
rapidly becoming Little Tibet, with Tibetan shops and restaurants
catering to a booming immigrant population.

In the last decade, more than 3,000 Tibetans have moved to Toronto,
making it the largest Tibetan community in North America, according
to the Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontario. Of those, roughly
1,700 settled in Parkdale, which had no Tibetan residents prior to
1996, according to Census data.

There are more on the way, according to Ugyen Norbu, co-host of Radio
Tibet Toronto, which began broadcasting a Saturday morning show last
summer on 101.3 FM.

"It's only going to grow," said Norbu, who projects the population
will reach 10,000 city-wide within five to 10 years.

Most Tibetans say they came to Canada because it's easier to apply
for refugee status than in the U.S, particularly since 9/11. But they
also acknowledge the snowball effect: once a few Tibetans moved here,
others followed.

"Tibetans come here (to Parkdale) because it's easy to find a place
to live, and Tibetans are here," said Lhakpa Tsering, who came to the
neighbourhood from India two years ago. His wife and two children
were already here.

He said the community helps newcomers find their feet, showing them
how to apply for asylum and where to look for work.

It's a familiar story for Salden Kunga, a former Buddhist monk who
fled India and came to Toronto through New York.

"When I first started to stay in this area, I feel like I'm still at
home, because I still see all my friends, all the familiar faces who
talk the same language," said Kunga, now a board member of the
Canadian Tibetan Association of Ontario.

"My friends were so welcoming, they invited me to stay in their house
and they feed me because I'm totally new. Likewise, right now, I'd do
the same."

He said Parkdale Tibetans are cohesive and work hard to preserve
their culture, partly out of fear for the future of their homeland,
which has been under Chinese control for a half-century. Pro-Tibetan
protests targeting the Beijing Olympic torch relay have put the fate
of the tiny mountainous country and its people in the public eye.

"I used to fear that Tibetan culture would be destroyed outside of
Tibet," he said. "Now I fear Tibetan culture will disappear more in Tibet."
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