Toronto Life writer who agreed to explain a recent article on “Scarlem” to community council stood by his words under intense questioning last week.
Don Gillmor, who penned the article “The Scarborough Curse,” stood impassively at a podium facing the semi-circle of councillors.
Dressed in a black suit, black T-shirt and wearing black-framed glasses, he maintained a ‘poker face’ throughout the heated meeting.
“This is not my Scarborough!” Councillor Michael Thompson exclaimed as he slammed his fist on the table during the session.
Thompson’s emotional outburst was in response to Gillmor’s description of Scarborough as “the specter of ethnic gangs, of sectarian tension,” in a recent Toronto Life issue.
The piece states in the subheading that Scarborough is “a mess of street gangs, fire bombings and stabbings,” and that the article is a “portrait of Toronto’s unluckiest suburb.”
When questioned about these phrases by council, Gillmor said he was not responsible for the headings, rather someone else wrote them.
“There is no anti-Scarborough bias in the media,” Gillmor said. “But at the same time, it is not the mandate of the magazine to be nice.”
Various councillors aggressively questioned Gillmor about how he collected the facts for his piece.
“Your article is very, very, very biased,” said local Councillor Raymond Cho. “If you look for beautiful stories, if you talked to the right people, you would not have written this article.”
One such story was brought up by Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker, who spoke about 11-year-old Brunthan Nadarajah who drowned last year in an attempt to save the life of an older friend. Nadarajah’s story is mentioned in contrast to Gillmor’s descriptions of Tamil youth involved in gangs.
Many of the committee members commented on Scarborough’s misrepresentation in the article, quoting police statistics from a report entitled “Is Scarborough Getting Their Fair Share?” The report, which was presented directly before Gillmor spoke, shows the former city as having a lower crime rate than the rest of Toronto. This directly contradicts Gillmor’s article.
Despite this, the writer said that his statistics were accurate, saying that Scarborough has the second highest murder rates in Toronto.
“I have received 40-45 e-mails from people offended by your story,” said local Councillor Paul Ainslie, Ward 43.
Murray Hedges, Chair of the Scarborough Association of Seniors, did not seem to share quite the same sentiments as Ainslie. “The presenter was very tolerant, he took a lot of flack,” said Hedges, who has resided in Scarborough since 1960.
“I have no regrets writing this piece,” Gillmor said. “I’ve been getting lots of angry e-mails.
“But if you get a lot of positive e-mails, it’s usually a bad sign. Anyway, I’m not a politician, I’m a journalist. It’s better to be criticized than loved.”