An annual “yellow page” directory known as Zarvaragh (www.zarvaragh.com) published by Shahram Saremi lists the large number of Canadian Iranian professional services and business activities in the city. Toronto’s Iranians are involved in almost all areas of business, including the insurance and real-estate businesses, import/export and international trading, construction, banking, and financial services, education, politics, and medicine. Most of Toronto’s 120,000 Iranians are highly educated—physicians, engineers, bankers, teachers, lawyers, architects, and business people—from the Islamic Republic of Iran, formerly known as Iran. The majority of immigrants have arrived since the late 1970s.
The first recorded Iranian immigrants to Canada were predominantly students who came between 1946 and 1965. Non-student immigrants began to arrive after 1966, and the third wave, from 1979 to 1981, brought Iranians seeking refuge from political upheaval in their homeland. Other Iranians have come to Canada indirectly from the United States, England, France, Germany, and other countries.
Iranians are spread throughout Toronto but there is a concentration in North York, and Richmond Hill, where the first language and cultural heritage school was established. In 1982, an Iranian soccer league was formed with four teams. In 1983, a special ceremony was held to honour the year’s champions and to encourage participation in the Iranian Soccer League.
Hints of ancient Persian culture can be unearthed around Toronto. Persian musicians playing various musical instruments and theatrical troupes are regular performers at Toronto’s theatres. The Persian Traditional Art and Cultural Foundation of Ontario has organized a number of events, including an international folk songs concert; a Persian Traditional Concert to commemorate Ontario’s bicentennial; arts exhibitions and cultural seminars; and an International Congress on Persian Heritage to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the birth of Sa’di, Iran’s greatest poet. The foundation plans to start a library and open a community centre.