Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

No Mess, No Fuss ... No Cigarettes

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

No Mess, No Fuss ... No Cigarettes

Article excerpt

Another holiday in a faraway place with a strange-sounding name: Toronto, in Ontario, Canada. Each morning I view the world from my seventh-storey flat in South Parkdale, an inner-city district that nestles quietly on the shores of Lake Ontario. It is a community transformed by the smells, sounds and passions of immigrants from just about every continent imaginable.


My host holds a senior position in the social services that serve the community. Our families have been intertwined over a century or so, with common roots in Trinidad. We were school friends, our parents were school friends and, over the passage of time, we have evolved largely in the spirit of anti-colonialism and anti-racist sentiment. I am relaxed and at ease here.

Larger issues and concerns in the province and the country are remarkably similar to those I left behind in London. Canadian soldiers are dying in Afghanistan--a roadside bomb killed four of them on the day I arrived here--and 18 young, middle-class Muslims, one of them of Trinidadian descent, are in custody and awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy to cause explosions. Their anger flows from the events in Iraq, Afghanistan and now Lebanon. In addition, Canadian troops may well be in Lebanon before summer ends.

But at least the government here doesn't boast about a war on terror. It is a "military engagement" that is seen as a rather unfortunate occurrence. It is not pursued with Blairite exhibitionism and posturing.

Over the weekend, Toronto throbbed with the sounds of a festival, no different from the Notting Hill Carnival, shaped and organised by Trinidadian migrants. I pranced and danced in the parade. Now my feet ache and my lower back pains me. Was it worth it? Oui! Oui!

I have made contact with friends I haven't seen for 50 years, friends of my parents' relatives who disappeared over the North American horizon. …

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