Airport Road Travelogue
Part IV: The Village that Built an Airport

Previously: The Pearson Patch.

Airport and Derry

Malton is a community made by the airport, but its history stretches far back before it. The airport that became Pearson was established in 1937 by the Port Authority of Toronto, who deemed the lands southwest of the intersection of today’s Derry and Airport Roads as a suitable location. The airport originally took on the name of the community it abutted, and it would dramatically change this sleepy, century-old hamlet.

Moe Singh, a longtime Malton resident, walks me through the history of the community he calls home. As a second generation Sikh-Canadian, he symbolizes the change that has most recently occurred in the area. His father immigrated to Canada in the 1970s and moved to Malton when Moe was ten years old.

“Being Sikh, we moved to Malton because of its strong Sikh community and because most of our relatives lived here,” says Singh. “The temple on Airport Road was where we went to pray.”

“I’ve always loved living in Malton,” he adds. “High School was a wonderful experience for me. In the days before Wikipedia, I decided do some research on the history of Malton, but when I searched the net for information, there was nothing available. I figured that if I may as well register the domain and start the first site dedicated to Malton, Ontario.”

From his well-researched site, I learn that the area around Malton was bought from the Mississauga Indians in 1818 for 8,500 pounds. The first settlers arrived in 1819 and had roots from England; among them was Richard Halliday, who is credited for naming Malton after his birthplace in Yorkshire, England. By 1850, the “four corners” around today’s Airport and Derry Roads boasted such businesses as a general store, a cobbler, a hotel and a blacksmith.

Almost a century later, the Airport brought jobs and new settlers to the community as soon as it was established. Waves of development swept through the community as, during the Second World War, the Malton airfield hosted the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan facilities and a number of manufacturers, including Victory Aircraft. The streets, housing workers brought to the area in the 1940s, remember this era with names like Victory, McNaughton (after Andrew McNaughton, commander of the Canadian Armed Forces in the United Kingdom), Churchill and Lancaster.

“Malton is a war town,” says Singh. “There are many streets here named after famous battles - Derry Road, for instance — and war heroes.”

Following the war, Avro Canada took over the Victory Aircraft plant and worked on the Avro Arrow. Even after the cancellation of the Arrow program, the plant was subsequently taken over by de Havilland, then McDonnell Douglas and finally Boeing. This huge, squat factory dominated the landscape until its demolition in 2005.

The rest of Malton is taken up by industries drawn by the airport, or by residential housing built since the war, and commercial developments built to serve those residents. The plazas on the northern corners of the Airport Road/Derry Road intersection date from the 1950s, but bear considerable changes since then, as the immigrant communities of Toronto moved into the suburbs. Malton now has a decidedly East Indian flare, with the restaurants to match.

“Malton also has very strong Sikh, Italian, Carribian, and more recently Muslim communities,” says Singh. “It’s this diversity that sets it apart from other communities. I remember how excited my aunt was when she came to Canada for the first time. I picked her up downtown, and she was so happy to see a man with a turban when we got to Malton. On the way home from the GO Station, she must have seen at least 20 more Sardars (Sikh men). She had no idea how much of a Sikh community really was present in Malton. When she moved to the States, she was in a community in Upstate New York where there were absolutely no minorities, and was so happy to be a ‘regular’ here, rather than a very visible minority.”

A living community doesn’t stay still. It continues to grow and change, and Moe Singh knows this. “The Italians have started to move to Woodbridge and Maple, and Indians are starting to move to Brampton, specifically Springdale (affectionally known as “Singh”dale now) and Castlemore. More and more Caribbeans and Muslims have moved in to take their place.”

“House prices have gone up since we moved in. Houses are being demolished and new, huge homes put in their place. People figure, if they have to pay $500,000 to get a house in Brampton, may as well demolish a house in Malton build a huge one in its place for the same price. You get tax credits, you look like a king, and you stay in a really good neighbourhood, close to Airport jobs, automotive jobs, and highways 427, 407 and 401.”

Malton was amalgamated into Mississauga in 1974, but has remained somewhat isolated from the suburban city by the airport lands as well as longstanding economic ties to Toronto. The Toronto Transit Commission was the first municipal public transit agency to serve the community, and TTC buses continue to run to the community’s Westwood Mall, even as Mississauga Transit makes inroads here. To the north, Canadian National’s main freight line around the City of Toronto as well as Highway 407 raise barriers between Malton and the communities to the north. Heading over Airport Road’s bridge over the railway tracks, I feel as though I’m passing through another gateway, leaving Malton behind me, along with all other Toronto-area communities with visible ties to the post-war and earlier eras.

Further Reading

Next: Brampton and Caledon

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