Monday, June 7, 2010


*** Actually, the CN tower was never mentioned as a target but was assumed so by the media and has found its way into the popular discourse. A good point though about the reality of homegrown terrorism and domestic security costs. MS ***


From the outside looking in, the world view is Toronto is the perfect setting for this month’s G20 summit, while the higher-end G8 attempts to get a peek at Muskoka’s beauty from behind a ribbon of sky-high security fences.

Toronto, after all, likes to tout its image as the world’s most multicultural city, a racially-tolerant and vibrant cultural mosaic teeming with diversity and brimming with hope.

And rightly so.

But it also has an underbelly.

And therein lies the problem.

While it will take a post-mortem examination to determine whether the much-criticized $1 billion being spent on security is an outrageous amount of money, there are factors in a city like Toronto that make it a veritable safe house for potential terrorists.

Because of the racial diversity of the city, and the mass of its humanity, no one truly sticks out in the crowd.

No one gets noticed in its kaleidoscopic cityscape until something goes awry.

Anonymity is almost guaranteed.

Let’s not forget, for example, that up until the summer of 2006, no one had ever heard of the Toronto 18, a terror cell that plotted to attack Parliament and downtown Toronto landmarks, lop the head off the prime minister, explode truck bombs near the CN Tower — ground zero for the G20 — and take out the Toronto Stock Exchange and a nuclear plant east of the city.

Two weeks ago, following the lead of some of his followers, the kingpin of the Toronto 18, 25-year-old Fahim Ahmad, suddenly pleaded guilty to terrorism charges midway through his trial.

So the plot was real, not imagined.

And these were predominately home-grown terrorists — not like the hijackers who brought the horrors of 9/11, not like the potential terrorists who might see our porous border and the G8 and the G20 summits as a world-stage opportunity, and not like the masked anarchists who will flock from beyond on their predictable missions of havoc.

The reality is that these terrorists were hiding in the underbelly of a city not known for violent demonstrations or racial intolerance — all going unnoticed until something went awry.

So, will a billion dollars in summit security be too much?

We can only hope.