The World in Canada Part 5
by Alidad Mafinezam
A tremendous reservoir of knowledge and practical know-how exists in the largest Canadian cities about dozens of countries and all continents. The knowledge within Canada about the economic, political and cultural realities of the most vibrant economies and geopolitical pivot points, as well as the world’s poorest and most distressed regions, places Canada in a good position to develop responses to opportunities and challenges that require the cooperation of various peoples across Asia, Africa, the Americas and elsewhere. Canada is an ideal host for debate and reflection on the most pressing issues of international relations: the global struggles against poverty, disease and extremism. Up-to date and historically grounded knowledge and solutions about many parts of the world must be created and compiled for the benefit of Canada and others, especially by that subset of dual Canadian citizens who are as knowledgeable about the affairs and needs of their first homelands as they are of Canada, and increasingly sought after, for that reason, in both places.
For such people, the more their knowledge of Canada expands, and the more they are integrated into Canadian institutions, the better they will be able to act as builders of two-way cultural links and as investment and trade bridges between Canada and other countries. Such a trend can naturally evolve into the development of cadres of people who function as producers and transmitters of global knowledge. In their own lives, dual citizens have been made to see the world through at least two lenses and this makes them ideal bridges. Canada can utilize such talent for wealth creation and for expanding global equity.
Such human resources produce global knowledge and art that is displayed more and more often in Canadian-produced books, films, radio and television, newspapers and magazines. These expressions, in turn, help define not only the culture and capacities of such ethno-cultural communities in Canada, but the culture and capacities of original homelands as well.
A good place to look for the expression of global knowledge is the National Ethnic Press and Media Relations Council of Canada. A consortium of many hundreds of newspapers and other periodicals in various Canadian provinces, and covering dozens of languages and ethnicities, the council’s members offer information on the current realities of dozens of countries. In Toronto alone, there are hundreds of such outlets. Given the large number of entries on the council’s website, it is thus necessary to know which media to focus on as the best sites for reliable knowledge.
The vast potential of Canada as a repository of global knowledge and solutions is still largely untapped. One reason for this is that the expressions of cultural and economic insight about many countries appear only in the languages of these communities themselves, making that information accessible only to those who know Mandarin, Hindi, Persian, Spanish, Russian, etc. Second, Canada is relatively inexperienced in the academic study of other countries, and “area studies,” so well developed in the U.S. in the post–World War II period and a traditional strength of British scholarship, have found relatively faint expression in Canadian universities and think tanks so far. This must change. It is important to find and train academics who are experts on many countries, and to enable them to educate new cadres of undergraduate and postgraduate students in Canada who can go on to become the next generation of scholars and solution seekers to global challenges. Such academic expertise will naturally benefit from the vast knowledge about the world possessed by the many diasporas in Canada.
It is necessary to identify, for each ethnicity and country, their leading media outlets in Canada and to link their editors and publishers and producers to those who can select and translate into English the most substantive and rigorous essays, reports and books, as well as documentaries and films, that are being produced within Canada about different countries. This requires the input of fluently bilingual experts and translators who can act as bridges between their community and the broader Canadian society.Monitoring the best of ethnic cultural productions within Canada and translating that content into English is in itself a good way to expand crosscultural understanding, and simultaneously Canada’s knowledge of the world and Canada’s influence within it. Here the role of non-profit and charitable organizations is crucial. It is also important to take stock of all the leading civic and business organizations of the largest diasporas in Canada.
Such an effort should begin by taking stock of the international knowledge resources, and the leading experts already in Canada. For countries such as China, India, Iran, Russia and Italy, it is necessary to identify the key experts on these countries and their community’s attributes in Canada, and then to commission the production of foundational knowledge resources that can cast light on the opportunities and challenges facing such countries and Canada, and ways of meeting them.
More so than in any industrial country, large majorities of Canadians see immigration as benefiting the country both economically and culturally. This, indeed, is what makes Canada unique, and in time such openness—if supported by strategic vision, solid research and political will—is likely to place Canada at the very centre of global dialogue and commerce, even more than it is today.