On November 8th 2012 an eclectic, intergenerational group of Torontonians met at U of T’s University College to listen to Globe and Mail’s Doug Saunders talk about his book “The Myth of the Muslim Tide.” This event was organized by U of T’s Science and Peace movement.
Mr. Saunders talked in a casual, relaxed, off-the-cuff manner about how he rationalized global migration trends. He described people living in communities where there is little “hope” moving to countries where “hope” is the major benefit from their choice to live in exile. He described how the transition is mostly one of peoples from deprived rural areas of their homeland, be it Vietnam, Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, Turkey, etc. and continuing their lifestyles in urbanized “ghetto” enclaves in Belgium, France, Germany, Britain, Canada or America.
Saunders was at ease bouncing around the globe comparing and contrasting newly arrived ethnic communities in New York, Antwerp, Paris, London, Berlin, Toronto and Tel Aviv. He described the cultural divide that arises when the woman has to work and often earns more than the man, along with the emergence of the next generation and its access to education. The likelihood of radicalism or crime emerging in any community can be interpreted as inversely proportional to the educational opportunities available. Disconnected, unemployed youth become targets for extreme views that Saunders claims are alien to what their parents would tolerate. There is also a tendency among these youth to adopt conservative practices derived from their acquaintance with traditional cloths and religious symbols that may be unfamiliar to their parents.
Having lived in Toronto Saunders was able to benchmark all of these trends with neighbourhoods like Kensington Market and Thorncliffe Park. Stressing the need for public space and the feeling for ownership he contrasted the row housing style of ghettos witnessed in Britain and places like Kensington Market with the high rise concrete edifices in Thorncliffe Park and discussed how communities are able to grow more positively where there is public space.
Saunders contrasted Germany’s second generation Turkish immigrants being denied of statehood with France’s colonial Muslims being re-defined as not being French enough and with the British allowing new immigrants to dress as they please. He related these attitudes of acceptance to challenges in the preservation of Quebec’s culture.
Reference to 9/11 occurred intermittently during the session. It was like as if people didn’t want to talk about it, which raises the question: Would Saunders have written a book with such a title had 9/11 not occurred? The chorographic hijacking of four inter-continental, commercial airliners over the eastern seaboard of America on that day was not part of any military intelligence scenario. Indicative of the way the world has changed, the RCMP’s ability to infiltrate the “Toronto 18” in 2006 saved Toronto/Canada from being added to the following list: Bologna, 1980; Air India Bombing, 1985; Oklahoma City 1995; New York 9/11, 2001; Bali bombings, 2002; Madrid, 2004; London 7/7, 2005; Mumbai 11/2008; Glasgow, 2007 and Oslo 22/7, 2011.
Acknowledging the “Science and Peace” motto ascribed to Albert Einstein that peace “can only be achieved by understanding,” Saunders’ book certainly contributes towards an appreciation of this stance. That said, Einstein’s scientific discovery has as a legacy in the possible assembly of a “Dirty Bomb.” The detonation of such a device somewhere in Toronto could result in the 4,000 deaths of 9/11 being multiplied by ten in as many seconds after detonation. In the presence of such a threat no country, not even Canada, can ignore the possibility of such a catastrophe unfolding .
In a world where Canada is not recognized as having too many spokespersons, Saunders has to be recognized as a “Canadian Treasure.” His heritage allows him to see the world through a Canadian lens. His objectivity and clarity of expression was most evident in his critique of “Canadian multiculturalism.” Growing up in a land of immigrants he is able to relate to the obstacles, opportunities, pitfalls and challenges that all “new comers” face arriving in a strange land. Beyond his journalistic research of migration trends, Saunders has contributed to global migration policy formulation. The challenge here may be to define a new relationship between immigration policy and national security policy. It would be a mistake not to also acknowledge the historic Canadian institution that makes Saunders impact on the world scene possible – his employer the “Globe and Mail.” Given the challenges facing newspapers and the journalists these days, and Canada’s need to have a presence on the world stage through our foreign correspondents, perhaps there is need for a “Friends of the Globe and Mail Society.”