The Globe and Mail To what degree do you think people from rural villages should assimilate when they arrive in new urban settings -- whether it be in Toronto or Paris or a city in China?
Doug Saunders Assimilation is not a useful concept -- it implies that you become identical to the host population. More useful is integration, which means becoming part of the economy and society without the question of whether you're identical to it. And there's no "should" in that - - everyone who arrives, every single person, is trying to do that; it's a question of how we can remove barriers to it. Once that happens, there is a double assimilation -- we assimilate to them, and they to us; i.e., our culture shifts and changes to incorporate elements from both sides.
Ark Hi Doug, I'm a big proponent of Freedom of Movement as one of the basic human rights. Allowing economic, social and cultural forces to determine the movement of people, and not politics. Do you have a view on this matter?
Doug Saunders I think that human movement is very important -- and economically beneficial - - and governments like China's need to understand this and eliminate barriers to internal movement that are causing great human and economic damage. Internationally, I think that movement should be understood as very important - - the European Union's borderless regime is one of the great successes here, and one of the things in the EU that has unambiguously succeeded - - but I'm not sure if the word "right" applies here. When something's good and desirable, it doesn't quite make it a right, and I'm not sure if that sort of legal approach would improve things.
Guest Doug, what's the most important message for those running for office in Toronto?
Doug Saunders Toronto is probably North America's largest collection of arrival cities - - Los Angeles is the only place that even comes close - - and they are not just on the margins but at the core of the city's economy and structure. That isn't going to stop: More than half of the 250,000 to 300,000 people who come to Canada each year arrive in the Greater Toronto Area, and that will continue to be the reality no matter what politics are in force. We can either ignore that or assume it isn't an issue and that we're going to be as lucky with neighbourhoods as we have been in the past, or face up to the new reality. Your city doesn't have neighbourhoods that are naturally prosperous arrival cities any more - - i.e. places near the core, with underpriced Victorian row housing that can easily be turned into businesses or investment properties and needs no special transportation links. The new arrival cities, higrise enclaves in the north and east of the city and througout Peel, are lacking institutions and connections that are badly needed. If we don't invest in them, they will become far more expensive in alarming ways.
The Globe and Mail That was our final question in today's online discussion. Thanks very much to all the readers who sent in their questions, and to Doug Saunders for joining us.