Toronto's path to multiculturalism: a review of The World in a City.
Article Type: Book Review
Subject: Books (Book reviews)
Author: Qadeer, Mohammad
Pub Date: 12/22/2004
Publication: Name: Canadian Journal of Urban Research Publisher: Institute of Urban Studies Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Social sciences Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2004 Institute of Urban Studies ISSN: 1188-3774
Issue: Date: Winter, 2004 Source Volume: 13 Source Issue: 2
Topic: NamedWork: Toronto's Path to Multiculturalism: A Review of The World in a City (Book)
Persons: Reviewee: Anisef, Paul; Lanphier, Michael
Accession Number: 129248102
Full Text: Toronto's Path to Multiculturalism: A Review of The World in a City: Paul Anisef and Michael Lanphier, eds. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003. 543 p. ISBN 0-8020-3560-4

To observe the social organization of Toronto's metropolitan area, its train station (called Union station) is a good starting point. The station backs on Lake Ontario and faces the Bay street towers that are home to Canada's financial and corporate power. Not far north is Queen's Park, where Ontario's executive and legislative authority dwells. Also in this downtown are theatres, music halls, boutiques, fancy restaurants and the editorial offices of the two national dailies. Here money, power and high culture combine to make Toronto shine with affluence and assurance. This is the locus of historic white Toronto. Immigrants (foreign born) that now make up approximately 42% of the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA)'s population, particularly visible minorities, have a subdued presence in this part of the city. They have imprinted their identities on neighbourhoods to the east, west and north; even leap frogging to outer suburbs. This spatial differentiation is the metaphor for immigrants' exclusion as well as inclusion in Toronto's public life.

Immigrants' integration in the social and economic life of Toronto, not only in the central city but also for the whole CMA, is the focus of articles assembled in the book 'The World in a City' (1) As its title suggests, the book proclaims Toronto to be the city that has drawn people from around the world, whose multiple cultures, languages and cuisines are now the defining characteristic of the CMA's social life. John Barber, a correspondent of the Globe and Mail, quoted in this book sums up the change vividly: "I grew up in a tidy, prosperous, narrow-minded town where Catholicism was considered exotic; my children are growing up in the most cosmopolitan city on Earth. The same place" (p.373).

The book examines the dialectic of immigrants' social exclusion and inclusion from historical and analytical perspectives. It presents a comprehensive and insightful analysis of the trends and processes of immigrants' settlement and integration in Toronto's society. Toronto's story may be unique for the number and diversity of immigrants settling there, almost 70,000 immigrants from 170 countries arrive in the city annually (p.4), but it holds lessons for Canada as a whole whose falling birth rate has made it demographically dependent on immigration. What the Toronto area has to offer as a lesson is aptly summed up by Troper, " nothing so defines Toronto at the millennium as its cultural and racial pluralism. But it remains a pluralism of contradictions" (p.61).

The contradictions alluded to by Troper are elaborated by other contributors. Jansen and Lam, Murdie and Teixeria as well as Preston, Lo and Wang, separately, show with data that non-European immigrants have lower incomes, proportionately suffer more from housing shortfalls, lag in home ownership, take longer to reach the mainstream norms for economic and social well-being than Canadian-born and northern European immigrants. Noh and Kasper analyze differences in the health of Canadian-born and European as well as non-European immigrants. They conclude that immigrants arrive healthier than the Canadian--born and continue to have fewer health problems, but as the years go by and as they 'become more like us', they and their children "fail to maintain their health advantage" (p.350). That immigrants are healthy is ensured by the stringent medical examination they have to pass before being accepted for immigration.

Most immigrants admitted as Independent workers are reasonably fluent in English, though of different accents, but many who came as family members or refugees cannot speak or write functional English. They need English as Second Language (ESL) education. Yet this need has been compromised by the service cutbacks of the 1990s (pp.284-5), observe James and Burnaby. Regarding the educational performance of children, the school graduation/drop-out rates vary not so much between immigrant and Canadian-born, but they differ by ethnicity of immigrant groups. Of the linguistic groups, "Chinese and Vietnamese had the highest (school) graduation rates (72% each), followed by Greek (63%), English-only and Italian (53% each) and Portuguese students (48%)" (p.292). Thus in educational performance immigrant children, by and large, hold their own.

Some common myths about immigrants' needs and contributions have been exploded by the research findings reported in this book. Preston, Lo and Wang show that immigrants are not an economic burden on the public economy. In 1995, on the average for every dollar of welfare/UI payments to immigrants, they contributed 1.7 dollars in income tax (p.197). Similarly immigrant communities spawn ethnic economies and corresponding labour markets for their people. Two diverse communities, Chinese of long entrepreneurial history and Somalis with little business experience, produced jobs for 34% and 7% of their respective labour force (p.222). The authors conclude, "that the myth that immigrants take jobs away from Canadian-born workers is unfounded" (p.222). Paradoxically visible minorities, immigrants as well as Canadian-born, had unemployment rates almost double and median employment incomes 20-40% lower than those of whites (Tables 4.12/4.14). These differences narrow but do not disappear even after 25 years of Canadianization. Economic inclusion is seldom complete even for the second generation of visible minorities.

What impedes the smooth integration of immigrants? Contributors to this book offer similar answers to this question. Historically immigrants entered at the bottom of Canadian society and climbed to higher social rungs after years of acculturation and 'paying their dues'. There were many restrictive policies successively barring the inclusion of Aboriginals, Catholics, Jews, Japanese, Blacks, Chinese and East Indians in Canadian society. The legacy of racism and colonialism structured Canadian society historically, though the post-1970s civil rights legislation has diluted its effects. The Charter of Rights and Freedom, national policies of Multiculturalism and Bi-nationalism and the nondiscriminatory policies of immigration have established individuals' and communities rights of fair and just treatment.

Siemiatycki, Rees, Ng and Rahi's article recounts experiences of Jewish, Italian, Caribbean and Chinese communities in settling in Toronto. The common thread in their experiences is that of exclusion from the opportunities and facilities of the city. Undoubtedly many of those policies and practices have been eliminated, but the social structure they fostered persists. Now the barriers to integration come in the form of non-recognition of professional and educational credentials of immigrants, shortage of suitable jobs, inadequacies and inequities of settlement and human services, marginalization of immigrants in public affairs etc.

Undoubtedly new immigrants have to go through a period of adjustment and acculturation before they can benefit from the opportunities of Canadian society. Some time lag in their integration is expected. Furthermore their integration is impeded if they lack in English language or the skills for today's economy. The book offers striking evidence of immigrants' community self-help and personal drive. Yet they need a sympathetic policy framework and appropriate support services to join the mainstream. This is a national challenge as much as it is Toronto's burden.

The two public officials contributing to this book, Burstein and Duncan take a rather sanguine view of the federal government's role in immigrants' integration. They regard it to be 'limited anyway' in a free and pluralistic society and envisage the federal government to play " somewhat background role of creating conditions within which our cities and their residents can flourish" (p.461). The persistent demand of Toronto's successive mayors for federal help in absorbing immigrants goes against the thrust of their argument. The raising of the urban agenda in the recent national elections is another acknowledgement of federal responsibility, albeit indirect, in dealing with challenges of settling immigrants converging to cities.

The barriers confronted by the present waves of immigrants may be old but they have new configurations. A major difference with the past is in the characteristics of immigrants. Immigrants now coming to Canada include a large number of well-qualified professionals who have had modern comforts at home. They often are not the "toiling poor' escaping a life of deprivation and hopelessness. They come for the promise of self-fulfillment and security. Yet on arrival in Canada, they suffer a 'downward draft', not able to find suitable jobs and forced to work as security guards, cooks and factory labour.

Aside from the discriminatory barriers, today's economy is not producing jobs to absorb thousands of immigrant professionals being admitted every year along with crops of graduates from Canadian universities and colleges. For a large number of immigrants, Canada becomes a slide down into poverty and loss of social status, not to mention deskilling. Business, as in the past, may be pressing for immigration to have an ample supply of cheap labour, but it is not producing jobs commensurate with the qualifications of immigrants. The new economy and globalization have realigned the job market. Technical and professional jobs are few and disposable. In this volatile and uncertain job market, immigrants are last to be hired and first to be fired.

Of course there is a stream of immigrants who do find footholds in the city's economy. Investors, tradesmen, construction workers and professionals of skills in demand are examples of immigrants who have settled successfully. Immigrants have also penetrated the small business sector, particularly in neighbourhood stores, restaurants and household services. A drive along Lawrence or Sheppard avenues in Toronto or on Dundas Street in Mississauga shows the multicultural face of the CMA. These roads, like others, are lined with Indian groceries, Caribbean Rot| houses, Halal meat shops, Chinese eateries and Italian boutiques, all interspersed with supermarkets, department stores, malls and business parks. Here is the World encapsulated in a city. The process of immigrants' economic inclusion is segmental in scope, many make it but still larger numbers are blocked out.

Toronto's multiculturalism is an outcome of large-scale immigration. |t is an experiment in a new form of social integration, where community cultures thrive as parallel solitudes. There are almost 300 ethnic weekly newspapers in scores of languages. The World Soccer Cup brings out jubilant crowds celebrating their home countries wins. Music recitals, poetry reading and political discussions in a variety of languages fill up community halls and school auditoriums every weekend. Yet little of cultural or literary pleasures are shared among different immigrant communities and between them collectively and the mainstream society.

Mohammad Qadeer

Urban Planning

Queen's University
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