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Discuss The Positive Evaluation Of Official Multiculturalism As Unifying, Progressive And Effective, And The Critical View That Tt Is Divisive, Regressive And A Hindrance To National Unity.

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Yanina Palkova

Intro to Canadians Languages and Culture

f.n 246 37

25th January 2008

Discuss the Positive Evaluation of Official Multiculturalism as Unifying, Progressive and Effective, and The Critical View That Tt Is Divisive, Regressive and a Hindrance to National Unity.

"I want the marble to remain the marble, the granite to remain the granite, the oak to remain the oak - and out of all these elements I would build a nation great among the nations of the world." Wilfrid Laurier's dream of Canada as a Gothic cathedral

Canada has been playing with various metaphors and lofty ideals to give itself a homogeneous identity while having a heterogeneous society. It has gathered a colourful crowd of peoples beneath a big tent describing it as cultural mosaic, which later on took the form of "level playground field", a "two-way street" and has recently been referred to as a kaleidoscope. This searching for the right word shows to me, an outsider and a person who has never been under the big tent, an uncertainty on the part of the Canadians about what Canada really is. Since it is a country of no unified religion, ethnicity, culture and customs, the only things uniting them are the values which they support: multiculturalism, respect and tolerance towards difference.

This research project aims at identifying the attitudes to multiculturalism in Canada. Many supporters of Multiculturalism, mainly Kymlicka, claim that multiculturalism "help[s] members of ethnocultural groups overcome barriers to full participation in Canadian society; promote[s] creative encounters and interchange among all ethnocultural groups;" (1 Kymlichka). A great number of people however oppose this view saying that multiculturalism is on a deathbed because it doesn't work in practice, creates ghettos and further isolates ethic groups. They claim it is more divisive than uniting and more regressive than progressive.

It is evident from those two views that people beneath the big tent are divided. And having in mind that multiculturalism is one of the main values in Canadian society, the discussion of this division is of great importance.

I would like to first start with the provisions of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act:

"The Government of Canada recognizes the diversity of Canadians as regards race, national or ethnic origin, colour and religion as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society and is committed to a policy of multiculturalism designed to preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of Canadians while working to achieve the equality of all Canadians in the economic, social, cultural and political life of Canada"

Preamble to the Canadian Multiculturalism Act

Canada embraces immigration as a key resource for "nation-building." It has policies to regulate immigration influx, it advocates the attainment of citizenship, and it has established programs such as multiculturalism to help immigration settlement. Canadians believe that their country's diversity is their strength. They pride themselves on being the first country to adopt an official policy of multiculturalism. Supported by a suite of policies and legislation, Canada's approach to inter-ethnic relations is based on the principles of equality, respect for diversity, and human rights. In practice, however, nurturing ethno-cultural diversity remains a work in progress subject to the constant evolution of social realities.

The belief that multiculturalism is a progressive policy, making Canada one of the most open, inclusive and accepting countries in the world, is reflected in the opinions of many well-known supporters of inter cultural dialogue and peace. This is an idea shared by countless Canadians too. It has also been affirmed by international observers as diverse as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and U2 frontman Bono (who both declared that "the world needs more Canada") (6), as well as the Aga Khan who recognized Canada as "the most successful pluralist society on the face of the globe."(6) Canada, it is suggested, is a model that other countries could, and should, follow. "Unlike the United States, Canada's multiculturalism rejects transformative change, preferring, instead, to perform removal of prejudicial attitudes and discrimination. Unlike the "guest-worker" models of European multiculturalism, Canada's involves a two-way process of accommodation -- "you" adapt, "we" adjust.", said Kymlicka for the The Toronto Sun on January 17, 2007.

Although this argument sounds convincing, the division of "you" and "we" in the above mentioned opinion is somewhat bothering to an outside researcher. Who are "they" and who are "we" in a multicultural society. Is there supposed to be such a division in a multicultural society? Obviously Kymlichka talks about "we" (those who live in Canada) and "they" (those who want to join Canada). In the past symbols of the "mosaic" and "kaleidoscope "they" wouldn't be set apart like this, moreover, they would be referred to as part of the beautiful "rainbow" of diversity. The recent metaphor of the "two-way street" is apparently driving towards a more assimilating approach to new immigrants. This trend has been observed recently in Canadian society due to a number of reasons, the most prominent of which is the Terrorist Attack of 9/11 and the Subway Terrorist Attack in London.

Canadians are starting to panic saying that more rules and regulations should be set in order to avoid similar threats in their country. Canada has begun to fear the uncertainty and freedoms allowed by its openness to various ethnic groups. Canada has seen an enemy in its own rows, it has seen its "home-grown terror" ( 2). The Citizens' Forum on Canada's Future established in 1991 also reported that "if the country was to remain united, citizens must learn to be Canadians first." This attitude resembles the attitude of America and Europe and whether they overtly admit it or no, Canadian multiculturalism is becoming more and more assimilative. "A recent poll conducted by The Strategic Council, which found that nearly seven of 10 Canadians believe that immigrants should be encouraged to integrate into broader Canadian society rather than to maintain their ethnic identity and culture, might be seen as confirmation that Canadians are fed up with multiculturalism." (3)

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