9 Jun 2015

Introducing Generation 9/11

Where were you on September 11, 2001? I don’t really remember, but I’ve grown up with its consequences.

Investigating security

Generation 9/11 is the working title for Michelle Shephard’s 2015 – 2016 Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy series. For a full year, she will research the topic of the Islamic State, why Western youth are drawn to it and what the Canadian government is doing to address this situation. As the Toronto Star’s National Security Reporter she has had this beat for well over a decade, including reporting from Yemen, Somalia and Guantanamo Bay. Michelle’s view is some of the policies that have been put in place have made things worse. To avoid the repetition of such mistakes, she is determined to shine a light on public policy that works — in the Atkinson tradition.

Encoding memories

When the first plane hit, I must have been at school in Istanbul. I vaguely recall hearing the news from our principal, but perhaps that was another time when a string of al-Qaeda attacks took place in the city. I was 10. The aftermath of 9/11 is in fact clearer in my mind than the actual attack – with one caveat. Not knowing how the world looked before 2001, it’s been difficult to pinpoint the choices that have brought us to the present day. Were airports as hostile back then? Did the act of immigration require one to prove that they posed no threat? Was waging war in foreign countries always the preferred course of action to ensure security? Have we always associated terrorism most closely with a single community?

Zeroing in on root causes, getting behind solutions

On June 3rd, Colette Murphy and I attended the Canadian Journalism Foundation’s Awards Gala for the announcement of the 2015-2016 Atkinson Fellow. We were joined by six colleagues who are working on issues adjacent to those Michelle will examine. Some of our guests are in the first years of their careers, others are farther ahead.  Some work in neighbourhoods, others in boardrooms. Some make the case for greater inclusion by unearthing evidence, others tell stories that aim to move more Canadians in that direction. Just like Michelle, however, all of them are eager to zero in on the root causes of these issues, and get behind meaningful solutions that have a long-term positive impact.

Extending the conversation

Last year, I was part of a conversation series titled, the Spirit of Social Change. This initiative has been bringing people together across the country to explore intimate topics, including shared identity, since 2013. Witnessing Michelle being named as the 2015 Atkinson Fellow left me with a desire for a similar extended conversation. Our guests offered thoughtful insights into a time I don’t really remember as vividly as they do. I hope I too provided them with a perspective they hadn’t considered before. It seems as though we hold a different piece of this complex jigsaw puzzle Michelle will diligently assemble as she listens to stories spanning the generations over the next year. If you too would like to share yours, here is how you can contact her.

Nil Sendil is Atkinson’s Digital Engagement Coordinator. She has a Masters degree in Political Science from the University of Toronto where she conducted research on online engagement strategies.

< Back to Atkinson Field Notes