Multiculturalism In Canada Thesis Statement

Essay about The Aspects of Multiculturalism in Canada

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A country built on immigration, Canada has long had a reputation of being culturally and ethnically diverse. While multiculturalism is meant to be built on equality and appreciation of different cultures, its concept has gained both support and opposition. On one hand, it allows for more assortment and the voices of minorities have a higher chance to be heard. On the other hand, loss of unity and conflicts may occur due to contrasting worldviews of the citizens. All in all, multiculturalism is a controversial policy that has both advantages and disadvantages, but has proven to be a successful strategy in Canada.

Multiculturalism has many positive effects, including but not limited to freedom of religion and beliefs, increased…show more content…

A country built on immigration, Canada has long had a reputation of being culturally and ethnically diverse. While multiculturalism is meant to be built on equality and appreciation of different cultures, its concept has gained both support and opposition. On one hand, it allows for more assortment and the voices of minorities have a higher chance to be heard. On the other hand, loss of unity and conflicts may occur due to contrasting worldviews of the citizens. All in all, multiculturalism is a controversial policy that has both advantages and disadvantages, but has proven to be a successful strategy in Canada.

Multiculturalism has many positive effects, including but not limited to freedom of religion and beliefs, increased recognition of minority groups, closer political ties to other countries and so on. To begin with, individuals have liberty “to choose for themselves, without penalty, whether they want to identify with their specific group or not” (“Canadian Multiculturalism”). Through this statement, it is clear that assimilation is not enforced in Canada and choosing to become Canadian while retaining one’s own identity is encouraged. In addition, visible minority groups, such as those of Asian descent, have equal opportunities and rights to have their opinions heard. The policy of multiculturalism ensures that the input of citizens of different ethnic backgrounds enriches and strengthens Canada as a country due to a wider range of views being taken into

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"Canadians talk about multiculturalism but don't practise it," author Daniel Stoffman wrote Saturday in his Globe essay on multiculturalism.

"That does not mean we don't embrace diversity. Both Canada and the United States, because of high levels of immigration, are diverse societies, but diversity and multiculturalism are not synonyms . . .

"Diversity is not divisive in secular democracies that respect individual freedom, such as Canada and the United States. On the other hand, culture is not just about superficial differences but also about core values. The people (immigrants) who were (arrested for) attending cockfights in Cloverdale (B.C.) simply don't understand our tender feelings toward animals. This is a difference in values and there is no room for compromise.

"The notion that Canada is a mosaic while the United States is a melting pot does not survive scrutiny," he added.

"In 1994, a study by two University of Toronto sociologists, Jeffrey Reitz and Raymond Breton, found that language retention of third-generation immigrants was less than 1 per cent in both countries. This was significant. One would expect foreign languages to dissolve into the American melting pot. But Canada is supposed to be a mosaic: a set of separate and distinct cultural entities. If it really were a mosaic, ancestral languages would survive through the generations. But they don't, because the offspring of immigrants are quickly absorbed into the dominant language milieux of North America . . . "

Mr. Stoffman notes that Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, says integration should be the goal of the immigration program.

"Our new focus is on integration," Mr. Kenney said in Calgary recently. "We don't want to create a bunch of silo communities where kids grow up in a community that more resembles their parents' country of origin than Canada. We want people to be Canadians first and foremost - to be proud of and maintain their own tradition and heritage, but not at the price of developing their Canadian identity."

But, Mr. Stoffman notes: If we don't want silos, then we don't want to be a mosaic either. Both images suggest a society composed of separate groups rather than an integrated whole.

"If the Minister of Multiculturalism is rejecting silos, he is also rejecting multiculturalism," Mr. Stoffman writes. "Maybe it's time the Department of Multiculturalism was renamed the Department of Integration."

Whether you agree or not, it's a provocative thesis so we at are pleased that Mr. Stoffman was online earlier today to answer your questions about his essay.

Your questions and Mr. Stoffman's answers appear at the bottom of this page.

Daniel Stoffman's book, Who Gets In: What's Wrong with Canada's Immigration Program and How to Fix it, published in 2002, was runner-up for the Donner Prize for best book on Canadian public policy and the Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for best book on Canadian politics.

He has written or co-authored several other books, including Boom Bust & Echo, one of the best-selling titles in Canadian history.

In 1991 he was the recipient of the Atkinson Fellowship in Public Policy which enabled him to spend a year studying immigration and refugee policy. This led to a series of articles published in The Toronto Star and a report published by the C.D. Howe Institute. He has written on immigration-related subjects for several national magazines and has discussed the subject frequently as a speaker and panelist.

Editor's Note: editors will read and allow or reject each question/comment. Comments/questions may be edited for length or clarity. HTML is not allowed. We will not publish questions/comments that include personal attacks on participants in these discussions, that make false or unsubstantiated allegations, that purport to quote people or reports where the purported quote or fact cannot be easily verified, or questions/comments that include vulgar language or libellous statements. Preference will be given to readers who submit questions/comments using their full name and home town, rather than a pseudonym.

Jim Sheppard, Executive Editor, Welcome, Mr. Stoffman and thanks for taking questions today from the readers of Before we get to those, let me start by asking why the issue of immigration itself -- in addition to the arguments you raised in your essay Saturday -- is such a controversial one today? And, if I may, is the controversy over immigration itself today any greater than it was in earlier decades in Canada?

Daniel Stoffman: The immigration issue was politicized during the Mulroney era when, for the first time, a government imposed permanent high immigration levels regardless of economic conditions or labour market needs. Before then, nobody paid much attention to immigration policy. Previously, immigration levels were just something we assumed the government could manage.

Trudeau, in his last year in office, slashed the immigration intake by 25% for the standard reason that the economy was in a downturn and you don't bring in a large number of additional workers when there are no jobs available. I don't recall any controversy over this and I don't recall Trudeau being denounced as anti-immigrant.

If Harper did the same thing today, there would be near-hysteria, both in Parliament and the media. So the current government maintains the world's highest per-capita immigration intake at a time when 1 million people are out of work. This does not make any sense and I think most people know it.

Immigration is a Canadian tradition and openness to the world is a Canadian value. But the immigration program needs to be managed in the best interests of all, both existing residents and new arrivals. If the mismanagement continues, the immigration program will be brought into disrepute.

Colin Welch, Chilliwack, B.C.: You wrote in your essay: "It seems that multiculturalism is an idea that appeals to certain politicians, columnists and academics but has little resonance in Canadian society as a whole." Is this because other values, like liberal democracy, are more central to Canadian politics and culture? In discussions of multiculturalism, we often forget that the vast majority of Canadians are committed to a core set of relatively stable values: democracy, political and moral equality, individualism and consumerism. We also seem to accept more state intervention and collectivist policies than the U.S.A. And this is largely why multiculturalism is found in Section 27 of the Charter and not, say, in Section 2. Interestingly, all mainstream parties subscribe to these core values but nevertheless curry favour with visible minorities via sectarian policies as one way to gain new adherents. Unfortunately, I think this undermines the very values that most Canadians hold, including most of the immigrants (like my parents) who come to Canada precisely because of its central values.

Renée Sarojini Saklikar: How would you define Canada's core values and do they differ from the core values of the United States? Great Britain?

Daniel Stoffman: Colin, Renée, I think it's important to understand where the notion of multiculturalism comes from. The best treatment of this subject is in the book Nationalism Without Walls, by Richard Gwyn, a veteran political columnist who also worked for a spell in government during the Trudeau era. Multiculturalism was invented by Trudeau for purely political reasons. As Gwyn recounts, Trudeau hated the idea of a Canada consisting of " deux nations" and thought that by making Canada multicultural he would be able to weaken Quebec nationalism.

After a near-defeat in the 1972 election, multiculturalism became a political tool in the rest of the country. The budget for it was tripled, the government started advertising heavily in ethnic papers and new Canadians were encouraged to start organizations. Some of these organizations had no members and existed for the sole purpose of receiving government grants. Since then, multiculturalism has taken on a life of its own and many people have a stake in it _ not the least those who work in the federal department.

I agree with Mr Welch's point that liberal democracy is more central to Canadian values than multiculturalism. I think Canada has always been multicultural but only in the sense that the immigrants who come here carry the language and culture of wherever they came from. Succeeding generations become more or less assimilated not because we think they should but because it just happens -- when you are born and grow up in a particular society, you assume that society's ways and values. I also agree that a major attraction of Canada to some immigrants is the fact it is a liberal democracy that values individual freedom.

As far as Canada's core values, Mr. Welch's list is as good as any. These aren't just words. They are very real. Recall the case of Mahar Arar. What happened to him was seen as a contravention of our core values and that is why there was so much outrage and why he was compensated. In many countries, including many of the major immigrant-sending ones, there would have been no protest at all.

I don't think there is much difference among Canada, the U.S., and the UK. To the extent there is, it is a difference of degree. For example, both Canada and the U.S. have freedom of speech as a core value but that freedom is more unrestrained in the U.S. than it is in Canada.

Mark Thornton, Toronto: Surely you present an extremist, radical version of multiculturalism quite different from official Canadian multiculturalism? Why do you think there is any incompatibility between official multiculturalism and integration?

Daniel Stoffman: My article was not an attack on multiculturalism. I was merely pointing out that we don't have it and we don't want it and therefore we should stop pretending. A good example is khat. First, we admit a huge number of people from Somalia, we boast to them about our multiculturalism, and then we tell them they will get arrested if they use the substance that plays exactly the same role in their social life that wine and beer do in ours. (And their religion prohibits the use of alcohol.) I am not saying Canada should legalize a substance that our health authorities have found to be harmful. I'm merely pointing out that if we were really multicultural, we would.

There are much more serious issues than that and, far from being extremist and radical, I tried to discuss this topic in a neutral, non-provocative way. I might have mentioned the horrific case in Quebec in which a judge gave an immigrant who sodomized his step-daughter a reduced sentence because, true to his cultural values, he preserved her virginity. Or referred to a judge of my acquaintance who has heard the multicultural defence several times in cases of domestic abuse. I am not suggesting that more than a miniscule number of immigrants commit such crimes, but I'm pointing out that if we are going to claim to be multicultural, we need to define what we mean much more clearly because failing to do so can cause grievous harm.

Rick Denley: As a third-generation Canadian whose great-grandparents came from England in the late 1800s, my fear with the tremendous amount of immigration today is that what we traditionally call "our" Canadian culture is getting watered down and in many cases ignored. Multicultural or heritage days at public schools focus on Indian and other cultures, but what about the people who helped settle Canada? Are we to just vanish and become a minority ourselves? How do we hang onto and have others embrace what has made this country great for many decades?

Daniel Stoffman: I think Canadians need to be far more assertive about valuing and promoting traditional Canadian culture. An important place to start is to put pressure on governments and school boards to put more emphasis on Canadian history in the schools. I would refer you to the work of the Dominion Institute in this regard.

William Pollitt: Your essay defined culture as a series of "core values" and contrasted it with diversity, the superficial variety of characteristics (dress, cuisine, music) that differentiate people. Whether or not a given family lights a Menorah or Xmas tree, eats pork or beef or has dress mandates would be considered diversity. But whether it is a Christian organization in the U.S. protesting the lack of a nativity scene in public buildings or French parliament banning the Kippah in schools, it seems diversity as opposed to culture is often the epicentre of debate. Would you agree with this observation? If so, what do you feel the implications are to increasingly diverse countries such as Britain, Canada or the USA? In 2025, will we be discussing cultural preferences towards education in non-white communities or their general disinterest in hockey?

Daniel Stoffman: I think the French banned all religious attire because secularism is a French value. It's one of ours as well but it's not as central to our culture as it is to the French. It's true that cultures change over time and not just because of immigration but because attitudes and values evolve. With respect to 2025, it really depends on the immigration levels. The larger the numbers and the less diverse the intake, the greater the likelihood that we will have minority cultural enclaves large enough to resist integration.

Andrew Pitstra: Good afternoon Mr. Stoffman. First off, I'm a big fan of your book Who Gets In and want to thank you for both raising the issues of multiculturalism and immigration and taking the time to discuss them here. I generally concur with you and other authors (i.e.. Neil Bissoondath, Mark Steyn) in your analysis of multiculturalism in Canada. I would be very interested to hear what you believe the "end game" of Canada's multicultural policies _ both in theory and in reality _ will be. Looking forward 10,15 or 20 years, do you see Canadian society continuing along the current path or do you envision a point in time where our unofficial state religion (as I often refer to multiculturalism) will ever be abandoned?

Also, if time permits, I'd like to hear what the purported "strengths" of multiculturalism are as they have been presented to you. Beyond the "Disney-ish" costume/food/dance elements that we all see at the various folk festivals around the country, I have yet to hear or understand exactly what Canada gains from this policy.

Daniel Stoffman: I think that "multicultural" is often used as a synonym for "tolerant" and so Canada gains prestige in that way. I don't mean to suggest that the "good old days" were always better. There was a time when the children of immigrants would be embarrassed to speak the ancestral language with their parents in public. Those days are happily long gone. But I think that would have happened anyway just as it has happened in the other immigrant-receiving countries that have not imposed official multiculturalism.

Neil Gibbard, Vancouver: The two driving factors behind immigration policy appear to me to be politics (the immigrant vote) and economics. These two forces always win out over the environment. Now, Canada is a massive country but, lets face it, most of it is not fit for human habitation. I'm sitting in Vancouver watching our pitiful amount of agricultural land under constant pressure from development. Has anyone done a footprint analysis of our country to determine, given the amount of land and resources are required for our lifestyle, exactly how many people this country can sustainably support? It would be good to know what the upper bound is, rather than just assuming that there is no limit to growth. I'd like to make sure that we save space for the class of immigrants that we just can't ignore _ refugees.

Daniel Stoffman: I believe that such a study of the Lower Mainland was done at UBC but I don't have it at hand. I don't think economics has anything to do with immigration policy _ except in the sense that it benefits employers to have a large pool of labour. It is driven strictly by politics _ governments think that newcomers will reward them with their votes.

O. Ferro: Should the principle of multiculturalism created in the past to unify Canada during the political turmoil of separatism be revised to reflect the current demographic and cultural reality?

Daniel Stoffman: I have to admit that I don't really understand what the principle of multiculturalism is. Politicians and others state over and over again that we are multicultural without defining it. I don't think it affects anyone's daily life very much and I don't think the average person gives it much thought. I was told by the host of a phone-in show on a Chinese station in Vancouver that on the occasions when he had multiculturalism as a topic, nobody phoned in.

Arturo Morales, Montreal: Mr. Stoffman. you mentioned a study which found "language retention of third-generation immigrants is less than 1 per cent." But conditions are very different now than they were 50 years ago with the communications revolution, the Internet, low airfares etc. Low-income immigrants today can still make visits to Moldavia, Egypt, the Philippines or Haiti. These families are able to see TV broadcasts produced in foreign countries directly in their Canadian homes. Many immigrants send their children on summer trips to visit their relatives abroad. Every weekend, they talk to relatives and grandparents in their own language. So, do you think that this percentage (of third-generation immigrants retaining their language) will grow significantly in the upcoming decades? If so, by how much?

Daniel Stoffman: This is a very interesting subject. The short answer is, we don't know. In my book, I mentioned the schools in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, where children born in Canada were showing up for Grade 1 not knowing a word of English. This has rarely if ever happened before in Canadian history. It happens for an obvious reason the kids are growing up in all-Chinese communities with no English-speaking kids to talk to. Eventually they will speak English if they stay in Canada but how well? We don't know. My experience is that children learn a language if there is a good reason to. If a young person is sent to another country every summer while growing up that person is obviously going to learn the language. But if he stays in Canada and associates mainly with anglophones he won't _ no matter how much his parents encourage him to.

Stephen Fong, Toronto: Mr, Stoffman, isn't the current push to promote integration supposedly to Canadian values, i.e. "assimilation," the government's response to the greater intake of immigrant populations from Muslim countries as opposed to say Eastern European, African and Asian countries? Meaning that the government, as with other nations, excepting Muslim ones, has in essence acknowledged albeit in undertones that the Muslim immigrant by religion and culture is at the very least resistant to integration into the Canadian milieu and at most aggressive in propagation of values in contradiction to that milieu?

Daniel Stoffman: I don't know whether you are right or not. The change in tone may simply be because Jason Kenney, the current immigration minister, has strong opinions about the need for better integration and is not afraid to express them. As I indicated in an earlier response, I don't agree with his policy on the immigration level but I must admit that he seems to be the first immigration minister in about 30 years who understands that he is working on behalf of all Canadians. The others saw themselves as representatives of what they call the "stakeholders" -- ethnic groups, immigration and refugee lawyers, etc. It's also important to understand that the Muslim community is not monolithic. There are many variations in terms of religion and national origin and there are also secular Muslims.

S. Prest: Thanks for taking questions today. I have two.

First, do you not think you are being overly arbitrary in stating that "either we are multicultural, or we aren't?" Surely there is room enough in your outlook to allow for gradations of multiculturalism. For instance, you seem to consider a "multicultural" society one that accepts differences of core values. I should think it possible that a country be diverse in some values, but not others, as is the case currently in Canada. Canadians are not tolerant of polygamy or cruelty to animals because there is a power imbalance at work in such situations that they find acceptable. But they are tolerant of a plethora of other religious traditions that do not undermine Canadian sensibilities of fairness and equality. It may not be perfectly multicultural, but it's not "not multicultural" either.

Second, do you not see some valuing in having a political culture that celebrates the concept of multiculturalism, even if it is implemented imperfectly at times? Personally, I would far rather live in a country that attempts to embrace diversity (including a diversity of cultures, i.e. multiculturalism) than in one in which leaders attempt to score points with the electorate by vilifying outsiders, newcomers, or other forms of "the Other." That doesn't let Canadian politicians off the hook for silly decisions like banning khat, but it does acknowledge that progressive political discourse itself is important.

Daniel Stoffman: I didn't say banning khat was a silly decision. I think it is perfectly reasonable as a reflection of a culture -- ours -- that values public health. But it also proves my point -- we aren't multicultural. I think a better expression of what most Canadians want is an one a friend of mine came up with after she read my article -- "diverse integration."

Jim Sheppard, Executive Editor, Mr. Stoffman, thanks very much for taking questions today from our readers. Any last thoughts on issues they raised? Or on issues they didn't raise?

Daniel Stoffman: I guess what it all comes down to is that when we say we are multicultural, we exaggerate. What does a multicultural country look like? It looks like India -- there are many different languages there spoken by millions and millions of people generation after generation. Different religions practice their creeds without restraint. It doesn't mean they all get along peacefully all the time -- on the contrary, Pakistan exists because they don't. But here's an example of real multiculturalism -- an old man stark naked walking down a sidewalk thronged with people not taking the slightest notice of him. It turns out he was a monk in a small religious sect that does not allow its monks to wear any clothes at all. What would happen if he were walking down a busy street in Toronto? He would be arrested. And he might say to the policeman: "But my culture requires this and Canada is multicultural." The policeman would answer: "Yes we are multicultural and isn't it wonderful. And you're still under arrest."

Jim Sheppard, Executive Editor, To our readers: Thanks very much for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed the discussion. We received far too many questions to answer in the hour alloted. it's obviously a topic on which many people have strong views.

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