Mustafa Barghouti, the man many regard as the rightful successor to Yasser Arafat, looks as if he might be just another business traveller here at the Delta Chelsea in his dress pants and pale blue shirt without tie.
But for the past three years, he's been at the knife-edge of Middle East politics, as presidential candidate, as mediator between Hamas and Fatah and as information minister in the short-lived Palestinian national unity government.
However, there's a very Toronto purpose for his visit this weekend - to give a lecture on October 28 in memory of his friend and greatly respected local Mideast activist James Graff, founder of the Near East Cultural and Educational Foundation of Canada, who died almost exactly two years ago.
"He never asked for anything for himself, only about what he could do," Barghouti tells me.
A medical doctor by profession, Barghouti occupies a unique location in Palestine's political landscape. In 2002, he, Edward Said and others published the famous manifesto Al Mubadara: The Palestinian National Initiative, which called for a non-violent, non-militarized intifada, democratic rights and an end to both the corruption of Fatah and the religious dogmatism of Hamas.
He's always trod his own path, it seems. In the 70s and 80s, while Arafat and his chief crony, current Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, wandered the Arab world in exile, occasionally engaging in self-destructive military adventures, the Soviet-trained Barghouti was busy at home in non-violent projects like setting up NGO medical services.
In 2005, he ran in the presidential race for the Palestinian National Initiative, scoring just under 20 per cent of the votes and coming second to Abbas. I was in Jerusalem covering the election back then and discovered the most thoughtful Palestinians were invariably Barghouti backers.
But the optimism of that time seems so far away now. Yes, there's peace rhetoric in the air again, as the world waits for the Annapolis, Maryland, conference to be convened by U.S. Secretary of State Condi Rice. But few expect anything to come of that, Barghouti included.
"Israel could have had peace with all of us [in the national unity government], including Hamas. But it seems more important to them to keep the Occupied Territories."
In fact, he says, the relentless growth of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and construction of the so-called security wall put the very viability of the two-state concept in doubt. It's a bleak assessment coming from him, I say.
But dismantling the two-state option is not where he wants to go. "I do not want my daughter to be deprived of peace for 20 years to come. I prefer a solution now," he says.
It's a caution he repeats on Sunday afternoon to a crowd of Jews, Arabs and others at Trinity-St. Paul's Church. After he shows a series of pictures and maps of the wall and checkpoints, one attendee raises his hand.
"Isn't it more sensible and fair to talk about one state where Jew and Arab have common citizenship and equal rights?" he asks.
"Intellectually, [the case for this] is clear," Barghouti replies. "Politically, we must be careful because the Israelis would love us to say we are for a one-state solution."
Anyway, he says, debating this question is not of gripping importance. "We have been too attached to slogans," says the man who spent a lot of the past year zipping back and forth between Fatah's West Bank office and Damascus, where the Hamas leadership is located, trying to get the two sides to cooperate. "We need a work plan. There's nothing wrong with some people believing in a one-state solution and some in two."
And he wants as many people as possible to come to Palestine and take part in international solidarity, which he sees as crucial to non-violence."The biggest challenge for us [Palestinians] is to convince our people that they are not neglected by the world and that there is such as thing as humanity. Extremism, violence and fundamentalism grow when people feel isolated, hopeless and desperate."
It's quite an achievement to summon optimism, after what he's been through, in particular seeing the national unity government he put together torn apart by Israel's refusal to forward tax revenue to an administration with Hamas as one of the partners.
Do you plan to run for president again? I ask him.
"I don't exclude the possibility," he says vaguely, in the tones of a diplomatic negotiator.
I'm betting that he will. And with some help from Canadians, he may find that his finest moments are yet to come.