Interactive production marking the 90th anniversary of the Christie Pits Riot

A live performance for students is being performed to mark the 90th anniversary of Canada's largest race riot. David Zura explains.

By David Zura

This summer marks the 90th anniversary of the Christie Pits Riot, the largest race riot in Canadian history.

On August 16, 1933, the riot, which lasted six hours, broke out after a quarter-final baseball game at Christie Pits between two local clubs, one of which was predominantly Jewish.

The fight started after a swastika was displayed during the game, the second occurrence of its kind in two days.

Members of Toronto’s Italian community rushing to stand with the Jewish players. Thankfully, by the time the riot was over, nobody was killed but it was seen as a revealing event in Canadian history, singing a light on hostility directed toward the city’s Jewish community and new immigrants to the country.

In Christie Pits Park this May and June, in conjunction with Jewish and Italian heritage Months, students from Toronto schools are participating in a live, interactive, theatrical production called The Riot at Christie Pits, depicting the events so they can learn about this historic episode in Toronto’s history.

“I think it will be a great learning opportunity,” said one student. “So, history doesn’t repeat itself,” added another.

“We tend to look on things in the past as sort of sepia-toned, historical, ‘that can’t happen anymore’ but the, the beauty and the joy of doing theater is that we can tell these stories and make them very alive and very present,” said writer and co-producer Drew Carnwath.

”We’re trying to show that all of us can live together no matter what backgrounds or religions, and that Toronto’s one of the most diverse communities but it wasn’t always that way,” added co-writer, producer and director Sam Rosenthal.

Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said this is a show of how these Jewish and Italian young people were not bystanders and stood up against hate.

“As we look upon this, we remember what happened, we learned from what happened and we commit to doing better,” added Michael Ford, Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism.

Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs Vice President, Noah Shack, said this is such an amazing opportunity for young people.

“The next generation, to get an immersive experience, to understand what was going on in the city’s past, so that we can learn the lessons from the hate that was prevalent at the time, to take a stand today against the resurgence of hate that we’re experiencing in the city right now.”

Some of the first classes, Grade 8s and 10s from two nearby schools were some of the first to see the production Thursday morning. The production will run until June 16.

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