As the Toronto Star columnist devoted to issues of discrimination and identity, Shree Paradkar is accustomed to “poking sleeping bears into action.” The Indian-born journalist and author says that while she receives plenty of criticism for daring to explore Canadian racism, Islamophobia, and misrepresentation of people of colour, she also gets emails from readers thanking her for making them uncomfortable.
“The most gratifying response I get is when people—from university students to senior citizens—write to say ‘I just hadn’t thought of it like that.’ This makes my job indescribably rewarding.”
Ultimately Shree wants her column to do two things. One is to influence thinking about race and racism among people who don’t need to think about it, because “If more people became aware of inequities, it will ease the burden on the few who do.” The second is to influence structural-systemic policies to become more accountable to racial equality in practice.
Shree and her husband moved to Scarborough in 2006 to be close to his family –their only family in the country. The seasoned international journalist and mother of two says Scarborough is her sanctuary:
“My working life is a big world where I am constantly exposed to atrocities, instabilities, depravities from around the world. My home in this suburb and the serenity of its natural beauty offer me a safe place to retreat into, and that is invaluable.”
Shree describes her favourite spot in Scarborough, on a cliff side at the Port Union waterfront. “There is a ledge where I can sit, facing the beautiful lake and what looks like nobody for miles around. It is a meditative spot and I feel very blessed that it exists.”
Shree shares that she lives in a secret pocket of Scarborough, in the beautiful West Rouge neighbourhood.
“Scarborough has a negative stereotype associated with crime. Sometimes, selfishly, I think that’s just fine. Fewer people here, more for me. What the stereotypers miss is enough to fill a book. Exquisite food places, gorgeous nature – the lake, the national park, the river and canoeing, the wildlife – and culture, just hearing different languages being spoken.”
Brave insights provoking discussion, debate, and hopefully illumination make Shree’s work a must-read.
“While I don’t expect to see equality in my lifetime, I want my children to see that it’s worth fighting the good fight, and that mummy tried to make things better.”
Photo by Richard Lautens, Toronto Star.