“The one thing that I am taking away from India is the understanding that it is a very complex society and I would never presume to offer her my simple solutions to deal with such complex situations.”
That is William Blair, 52, Chief of Toronto Police and president of the Association of Chiefs of Police of all Canada.
Blair himself deals with a complex society — Toronto today has residents from all over the world, speaks 140 languages, celebrates Gurunanak Jayanti, Diwali, Id and Christmas back to back and also takes in protests by Sri Lankan Tamils when LTTE leader V. Prabhakaran is killed by the army in Sri Lanka.
Yet, it has had very few racist attacks, none at all related to terrorism (though they did identify in time and arrest 18 young Muslim youth preparing to make bombs before they could do so) and there are no religious clashes at all.
That is because the Toronto police has decided to recognise and acknowledge racism as the best means of avoiding, well, racism and governs the city through a series of ‘community consultations’, that helps the police — under the civilian authorities and not politicians — understand the cultural sensitivities of its rather large (around 2 million) population.
When Blair joined the police force in Toronto 30 years ago, the city police were mostly White Canadians.
Today, they are multi-ethnic and speak 85 of the 140 languages spoken in Toronto.
“It helps to understand the population and build bridges with the various communities.”
There is still some resentment, though and a little bit of paranoia a la Mumbai about the jobs that might be taken away from White Canadians.
But as Blair puts it, “We make it clear that jobs will go only to those who deserve it and the deserving will not be discriminated against.”
There are lessons there for both Indian politicians and the police force — Blair and the chief of his governing board Dr Alok Mukherjee have so far met up with many of their Indian counterparts. They are slated to meet D. Sivanandhan and A.N. Roy on Friday.