Sunday, February 6, 2011

Time for our government to start an open dialogue about Multiculturalism

First Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and now Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron has spoken out against the failure of multiculturalism as a state policy.

As the fractious nature of groups which resist integration into the mainstream has shown, state-sponsored multiculturalism has been a divisive force rather than strengthening for those societies which employ it.

America's Melting Pot does not seek to rub out immigrants' ethnic and cultural identities. As the world's top destination for immigrants, The Unites States has vibrant communities reflecting cultures from all over the world. The difference is that they come to America to be Americans, rather than immigrants who come to Canada to be, for example, Venezuelans in Canada.

Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau made Canada the first country to adopt multiculturalism as official policy. As Liberal member of federal parliament John McKay observed:

"Mr. Trudeau’s vision of official multiculturalism was largely a bi-product of his constant struggle against Quebec separatism...Trudeau .. saw official multiculturalism as a useful tool in his ongoing battle to diminish the threat of Quebec separatism, because in disentangling culture from language, he hoped there would be less emphasis on the notion of Canada being composed of ‘two nations/deux nations’, and more focus on Canadians as individuals whose first languages may be English and French, but had various different ethnic origins. In effect, he used immigration and multiculturalism to further his own political agenda for the country."

Many Canadians now agree that what began as a strategy to diminish separatism has backfired. The Quebec separatist movement is still strong. In some measure, it remains so as a backlash against the idea of Quebecois culture being further diluted by multiculturalism.

For English Canada, what was intended to be a policy to promote inclusiveness has deteriorated into a tyranny imposing minority values on the majority.

Within schools, where history is now a subject barely addressed, multiculturalism is taught as an enshrined characteristic of Canadian identity. In a nation that defines itself by the ways in which "it is not American", multiculturalism, by virtue of not being the American Melting Pot,  has become a religion whose dogma cannot be questioned.

But the apparent failings of multiculturalism have raised questions that cannot be avoided.

It's the responsibility of the government to have an open discussion about policies that affect everyone in this country. If we are on the wrong course, it is our duty to correct it, not continue simply because it's the way things have been done for the last two generations. If, as a nation, we can't adapt to contemporary realities, we will be destined to get swept away by them.

Canadians who want to see our government seriously examine whether we should enact changes to official multiculturalism should let Prime Minister Stephen Harper (pm@pm.gc.ca)  and Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism  (kennej@parl.gc.ca) know how they feel.

1 comment:

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