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It's a world within a city but does it work for all? This article was published in the
Toronto Star on Jan 23, 1999
Greater Toronto - home to the world. A world within a city. Or simply - the global village. Whatever we call it, our city and region are unique. People from 169 countries speaking 100 languages now call Greater Toronto home. When speaking to others about our city, we most often bring up our diversity. Certainly, it is what distinguishes us from other great cities around the world.

Publisher's Notebook
John Honderich

No one can seriously dispute that wave after wave of immigrants have enriched our fabric of life and contributed greatly to our collective well-being. Indeed, newcomers' ongoing contribution and energy are essential to our economic health. One has only to ride a bus or walk down a street to understand the dramatic demographic changes that are taking place.

For example, next year, it is projected that visible minorities will form a majority of the city's population.

Ten per cent of the city's population has been here only since the turn of the decade. Chinese has already surpassed Italian as the second most-spoken language in Toronto, while Islam has replaced Judaism as the next religion after Christianity.

For the most part, these huge demographic shifts have taken place peacefully and quietly. Several studies have shown that immigrants continue to give a great deal more to the country than they take back. Yet nagging doubts persist.

The increasing pressures on our social infrastructure to handle newcomers, at a time when budgets have been slashed, have produced troubling questions. The whole concept of multiculturalism has come under attack. Racism persists.

As we navigate through these difficult issues, we have won the praise of the world for our tolerance and compassion. We have been pioneers in developing a vocabulary and a process of accommodation for diversity.

But is our super city working for everyone? Or is it getting frayed around the edges? What challenges must our region confront as we head into Year 2000? How can we best equitably build on the strengths of successive waves of newcomers?

To attempt to answer these and other questions, The Star is launching a year-long study of the ethnic and cultural mix that is Greater Toronto. Simultaneously, we will begin an exploration of those important quality-of-life issues that flow from our diversity.

We start the year with a retrospective look at the waves of immigrants from around the world who, for a variety of reasons, left their homes during the last century to start afresh here.

We will profile various communities. We will investigate the hardships experienced by more recent arrivals as they seek to take their place. A major survey is under way to provide insights into how well our city is working, how we view our cultural diversity and what issues we should be most concerned about.

We will ask our newer arrivals if our city is working as well as we think it is and, if not, what changes should be made. We will also ask newcomers if the Canadian Dream lives up to their expectations. If not, why not?

During the year ahead, the views of ordinary people and experts will be sought on the many issues involved. We will not be afraid to question; nor will we hesitate to applaud. Our aim is to open a dialogue, to be daring and open, while at the same time celebrating our achievements. In short, it will be our special millennium project. We can't imagine anything more important than the place where we all live.