The First Sucker to Adopt Multiculturalism as Policy
Very few people knows that Canada was the 1st nation to adopt ‘multiculturalism’ as an official policy. That’s right, you know that failed idea that everybody says it doesn’t work, well not only the Canada is a pioneer into that, by it has made it the corner stone of it’s national identity. In the early 70s, it was introduced into the country and was made a federal law in 1988 by the Multiculturalism Act during the premiership of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. It is a multifaceted policy and is designed to preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of all Canadians while working to achieve the equality among all in the economic, social, cultural and political life of Canada. It replaces the ‘melting pot’ concept where migrants are expected to adjust to the dominant culture and also embraces diversity. The origin of multiculturalism is often attributed to the struggle of Canada to address bilingualism and biculturalism. Its roots are based in the fact that the country was, and continues to be, a mosaic never with just ‘two’ groups. Rather, Canada had Aboriginal people and cultural, ethnic, religious and racial groups who migrated to the country in wave after wave. As per the government statistics, Canada continues to be shaped by immigration with one in five people being from a visible minority and 6.8 million foreign born residents living in the country. Canada welcomed over 257,000 immigrants in 2012, out of which over 36,000 settled in B.C (British Columbia). In a 2002 interview with the Globe and Mail, Karīm al-Hussainī the 49th Aga Khan of the Ismaili Muslims described Canada as “the most successful pluralist society on the face of our globe”, citing it as “a model for the world”. He explained that the experience of Canadian governance – its commitment to pluralism and its support for the rich multicultural diversity of its peoples – is something that must be shared and would be of benefit to all societies in other parts of the world.
Support and global influence
Canadian multiculturalism is looked upon with admiration outside the country, resulting in the Canadian public dismissing most critics of the concept. Multiculturalism is often cited as one of Canada’s significant accomplishments and a key distinguishing element of Canadian identity. Canadian supporters of multiculturalism promote the idea because they believe that immigrants help society grow culturally, economically and politically. Supporters declare that multiculturalism policies help in bringing together immigrants and minorities in the country and pushes them towards being part of the Canadian society as a whole. Supporters also argue that cultural appreciation of ethnic and religious diversity promotes a greater willingness to tolerate political differences. Journalist and author Richard Gwyn has suggested that “tolerance” has replaced “loyalty” as the touchstone of Canadian identity. In a 2002 interview with the Globe and Mail, Aga Khan the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims described Canada as:
the most successful pluralist society on the face of our globe, without any doubt in my mind…. That is something unique to Canada. It is an amazing global human asset.
Aga Khan explained that the experience of Canadian governance – its commitment to pluralism and its support for the rich multicultural diversity of its peoples – is something that must be shared and would be of benefit societies in other parts of the world. With this in mind, in 2006 the Global Centre for Pluralism was established in partnership with the Government of Canada. The Centre seeks to export the Canadian experience by promoting pluralist values and practices in culturally diverse societies worldwide.
Critics argue that multiculturalism promotes ghettoization and balkanization, encouraging members of ethnic groups to look inward, and emphasizing the differences between groups rather than their shared rights or identities as Canadian citizens.
Canadian Neil Bissoondath in his book Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada, argues that official multiculturalism limits the freedom of minority members, by confining them to cultural and geographic ethnic enclaves (“social ghettos”). He also argues that cultures are very complex, and must be transmitted through close family and kin relations. To him, the government view of cultures as being about festivals and cuisine is a crude oversimplification that leads to easy stereotyping. According to a study conducted by The University of Victoria, many Canadians do not feel a strong sense of belonging in Canada, or cannot integrate themselves into society as a result of ethnic enclaves. Many immigrants to Canada choose to live in ethnic enclaves because it can be much easier than fitting in with mainstream Canadian culture. Canadian Daniel Stoffman‘s book Who Gets In questions the policy of Canadian multiculturalism. Stoffman points out that many cultural practices (outlawed in Canada), such as allowing dog meat to be served in restaurants and street cockfighting, are simply incompatible with Canadian and Western culture. He also raises concern about the number of recent older immigrants who are not being linguistically integrated into Canada (i.e., not learning either English or French). He stresses that multiculturalism works better in theory than in practice and Canadians need to be far more assertive about valuing the “national identity of English-speaking Canada”.
Canadian Joseph Garcea explores the validity of attacks on multiculturalism because it supposedly segregates the peoples of Canada; multiculturalism hurts the Canadian, Québécois, and Aboriginal culture, identity, and nationalism projects; and, it perpetuates conflicts between and within groups. Oxford sociologist, Reza Hasmath, argues that the multicultural project in Canada has the potential to hinder substantive equality in the labour market for ethnic minorities. Despite an official national bilingualism policy, many French commentators from the Province of Quebec believe multiculturalism threatened to reduce them to just another ethnic group. Quebec’s policy seeks to promote interculturalism, welcoming people of all origins while insisting that they integrate into Quebec’s majority French-speaking society. In 2008, a Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences, headed by sociologist Gerard Bouchard and philosopher Charles Taylor, recognized that Quebec is a de facto pluralist society, but that the Canadian multiculturalism model “does not appear well suited to conditions in Quebec”.