It was about the time that someone compared mayor-elect Rob Ford to Hitler on this blogTO discussion thread--prompted, incidentally, by the news that the webmaster of a guide to Toronto buildings had closed down his website because he now felt contempt for a city that would elect Ford--that I started to lose hope for the possibility of civilized discourse.
Back in January 2008, I llnked and reproduced one of Catherine Farley and Damien Listar's maps of languages in Toronto, derived from the 2006 census and published by the Toronto Star on the 30th of December, 2007, showing the most important languages ranking after English in the thousand or so census tracts in the Greater Toronto Area.
In all, 56% of the Greater Toronto Area's population of 5.4 million claims English as a mother tongue, with Chinese languages ranking second at 6% of the population. Further behind are Italian, Punjabi, Portuguese, Spanish, Tagalog, Urdu, Tamil, Polish, and Tamil, with speakers of French accounting for only 1.2% of the city's population.
In only three areas do speakers of languages other than English outnumber Anglophones: Punjabi-speakers in the satellite city of Brampton, Italian-speakers in suburban Woodbridge, and Chinese-speakers in the Scarborough community of Agincourt and neighbouring Markham just to that community's north. Other notable relatively concentrated language enclaves include speakers of Polish in southwestern Toronto and Mississauga, speakers of Portuguese to their east, speakers of Greek along the Danforth, Tamils in eastern Scarborough, Tagalog-speakers in the Regional Municipality of Durham, and Russophones along the Bathurst Corridor.
So. Rob Ford country is at least as ethnically diverse as the downtown, if not more so. His stupidities about immigration aside--only a quarter of the hundred thousand immigrants he said were coming to Toronto annually actually are coming--I find it really hard to believe that he would have gotten elected by these multiethnic suburban people--especially given the significantly elevated voter turnout--had they perceived him to be racist. I'm sorry, Kapuskasing is not going to become the next Dachau. 2010 Canada is not 1939 Germany. Ford's bigotries are those of an isolated suburbanite, not the reflexes of a génocidaire in the making, and civil society and the rule of law and City Council and everything else, really, would be more than enough to restrain him if he was. And if he was, he wouldn't have been elected; Torontonians aren't sharpening their machetes.
The right in Toronto has problems. The left does, too, greater ones as evidenced by its failure to capture the suburban vote and the many minor insulting ways in which people opposed to Ford are talking about him, and about suburbanites. The number of fat jokes alone is distressing--sure, they may be somewhat better than making gay jokes about the out Smitherman, but that's faint praise indeed. Contempt is a profoundly, profoundly stupid strategy for any significant number of Ford's opponents to adopt. Unless they don't want to win but be a self-righteous minority, that is.