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Winston "Wire" Clarke

Born in Jamaica, arrived in Canada in 1971

Wire as a teenager in Kingston, the capital of
Jamaica, not long before he left for Canada.

Overt racial discrimination was removed from Canada's immigration policy
in 1962, leading to a dramatic increase in immigration from the West Indies.

Image Credit

Photo by Eduard Marmet

Sponsored by an older sister who was already living
in Canada, Wire arrived in Toronto in 1971.

He ended up enrolling in vocational school to become a certified welder.

Wire worked as a welder for a number of years before
his employer shut down their operations in Toronto.

Out of work for a period, Wire developed
the idea of opening his own business.

Wire's Variety opened in 1980, a time when there was
a sizable Caribbean population in Bloorcourt.

Small stores like Wire's that specialized in hard-to-find tropical
produce and West Indian goods were scattered throughout the city.

"Business was really good until all these big
establishments started selling our stuff."

- Wire

After 33 years in business, Wire's closed in 2013.

Learn more about Wire

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Even after some 45 years of living in Canada, Wire remains
deeply connected to his Jamaican roots and reggae music.

With a lifelong passion for music, Wire has been performing since he was a teenager.

A shot from the studio shoot for the artwork for Wire's album from 2002, High Time.

Wire's was one of increasingly few Jamaican hangout spots in downtown Toronto. Although Toronto's Little Jamaica is just a few kilometres north of Bloorcourt, many Jamaicans have moved to suburbs like Brampton and Mississauga to the west, and Ajax and Pickering to the east.

For years, Wire sold tickets for reggae shows and Caribbean cultural events. Always keen to support up-and-coming artists, Wire often accepted a couple of "comps" instead of commission.

Wire's was a popular spot for West Indian snacks and drinks, including Jamaican patties in harder-to-find flavours like Ackee fruit and saltfish, and callaloo (stewed greens).

With a population of more than 250,000 in the 2011 census, Jamaican Canadians are one of the country's largest non-European ethnic groups, and roughly 85% call Ontario home.