The Canadian Myth of Multiculturalism

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Topic: Culture
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Modern-day Canada has become an amalgamation of different cultures, religions, and races. Like other first world countries, Canada is a land of immigrants from all over the world. Similar to countries such as the United States, Canada’s early immigrants were from France and England (Bibby, 2000).

Around the 1960s, Canada experienced a shift from the original immigrants to other ethnic groups, consequently giving birth to the all so familiar political concept of Multiculturalism. Canada’s current policy of Multiculturalism stems back to 1971 when the Federal Government officially unveiled its policy.

The intent behind the establishment of such a policy was to ensure that all citizens, irrespective of their background, could participate in Canadian life without encountering discrimination. In addition, the citizens were expected to perpetuate their national cultures as they desired.

With the explicit intent to ensure the preservation and enhancement of the 1971 policy of Multiculturalism while maintaining equality among Canadians, the Multiculturalism Act was brought into effect in 1988 (Bibby, 2000).

As a result of the multicultural policy of 1971 and Multiculturalism act of 1988 Canada has been praised by others near and far for its ability to create within its society a mosaic where its citizens can coexist while maintaining their own cultural practices rather than that creating a “melting pot” where traditional values are enforced upon immigrants as is the current practice in the United States.

However, despite this reputation that Canada has globally portrayed of its self that of being a multicultural society a solid argument can be made against the claim. It can be argued that the concept of Multiculturalism within Canada is a mere myth as Multiculturalism is not necessarily evenly or equally experienced within the broader Canadian experience.

It is, therefore then in that way that such a research paper of this type will explore the possible mythical perspective of the uneven distribution of Multiculturalism across the Canadian mainland through discussions relating to geography, culture, and religion.

Previous to the government of Canada officially recognized Multiculturalism as a state policy; the country already had many cultures due to different ethnic groups that had immigrated therein. The cultures never had equal privileges under the laws. It can be assumed that the different cultures led to ethnocentrism hence threatening the relative unity in the country (Almerico, Barron, and Silverman, 2010).

The succeeding government influenced the relationships amongst ethnic groups with different programs, some of which never worked to unite all cultures and also through amendments of many parts of the constitution (Almerico, Barron, and Silverman, 2010). In the process, some minority groups suffered a lot of disadvantages, which forced Canadian leadership to take action, which they hoped would bring unity to the nation.

In 1971, the government drafted a multiculturalism policy in an attempt to equalize all cultures within Canada legally. But even dissipate such a move, Almerico, Barron, and Silverman state that “unevenness would still be observed within the nation” many years after the pronouncement of this policy.

The Canadian idea and presentation of Multiculturalism are problematic because, in many instances, the idea focuses on “group cultural rights” rather than on that of individual equality and social harmony (Nugent 2006).

Canada has worked tenaciously to establish a multicultural society with hopes of having both Canadian citizens’ as well Canadian townships experiencing in its fullness the multicultural experience. By this, the multicultural policy of 1971 was intended that when one would traverse the country, Multiculturalism would be readily observed from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

However, many Canadian historians and sociologists have stated that though Multiculturalism is the national policy of Canada, such a reality is not homogeneously experienced throughout all of Canada. Canada depends enormously on immigration to sustain both its population and also its economy.

Immigration is desperately encouraged because Canadians (as was argued by Robert Wright in his book Virtual Sovereignty) do not have “but one or two children per household” (Wright 2004). The right continues to make the case that as a result of the low birth rates amongst Canadians, it can be deduced that Canada was thus built by immigrants.

Therefore, as a result of this fact, immigrants Wright argues, within Canada, should be given the freedom to express themselves in ways that reveal the authenticity of their divergent cultures and regions. Canadian cities and towns should then be overflowing with the presence of the culture of all its citizens he continues to argue and should be colored by anyone salient theme.

In an article written on the topic myth of Multiculturalism within Canada, historian Amy Nugent after performing a broad survey on rural areas with the country, argues that not all Canadian communities readily mirror Multiculturalism nor possessed a willing attitude to embrace such a Canadian ideology (Nugent 2006).

Her research shows that metropolitan cities such as Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, and even Montreal have all adopted this principle of Multiculturalism. The research further revealed that bucolic townships in most places did not represent “strong multicultural features” as they were seemingly molded and influenced by more traditional realities.

This Nugent conjectures it is the predominant reason for which immigrants who migrate to the nation tend to choose metropolitan cities to live in. These cities are chosen very often because it is within them that immigrants find a sense of belonging and observe cultural familiarities (Nugent 2006). Nugent further argues that were found showed that Quebec, unlike most other Canadian areas, is highly nationalist in its politics.

This point was illustrated by her pointing out the fact that within the providence of Quebec, “intercultural,” (the integration and assimilation of immigrants) as opposed to “multiculturalism” (the unifying of immigrants) is politically preferred.

It is upon this particular approach that sociologist Michèlle Laaroussi concurs with Nugent by contending that of all Canadian provinces, Quebec is the only one to have established an agreement with the federal government in 1991 on requesting the right to exercise its own management on immigration (Laaroussi 2008).

With this agreement, Quebec has therefore reserved the right to shape the demographics of its cities and towns, which Laaroussi believes will detour many immigrants from settling in Quebec. It is suggested by Laaroussi that not only does such autonomy allow the provenience of the sole-responsibility of handpicking its newcomers, but such autonomy would also facilitate in bolstering the presence of disunity among its peoples (Laaroussi 2008).

This does not suggest that there is not a strong presence of Multiculturalism within Quebec because Michael Byers in Intent for a Nation, stresses that Montreal is an example of the Canadian dream of a mosaic. But, rather, readers should see the broader picture that is being painted, which shows that Quebec’s philosophy regarding diversity and Multiculturalism are government-controlled.

Therefore, although Montreal might reflect in many aspects the notion of Multiculturalism, Multiculturalism is not implemented nor is viewed in the same manner in which is it is implemented and viewed metropolitan cites.

This is believed primarily because the presence of interculturalism continues to be the approach taken on immigrant integration and should this style of thinking continue to be the case, newcomers who come to Quebec can begin to feel separate from the rest of society. This demonstrates just how the policy of Multiculturalism can be view as a national myth as not all the nation embraces it (Laaroussi 2008).

As the topic and the history of Multiculturalism are traced, myths are not only observed regarding its salient limitation in creating a nationwide mosaic, but myths can be realized within the context of its negative impact on culture. Identity and what are we about are themes that have been on the minds of Canadian citizens since the days Confederation (Paul 2009).

Canadians, seemingly for countless generations, have been asking the basic existential question: Who are we? In addition, as Canada moves forward to define itself in the twenty-first century, its immigrants are also asking such identity questions as well. Many immigrants argue Byers has become “concern and” confused in recent times regarding the fate of their own identities (Byers 2007).

In his book Selling Illusions, Neil Bissoondath maintains that a vast percentage of immigrants who migrate to Canada (especially from oriental countries) are not permitted to transfer their cultural and culinary predilections with them fully.

Bissoondath makes his case by asserting that Chinese immigrates whose dilatory menu includes that of the eating of dogs and other non-Western delicates are simply not accepted within Canadian societies (Bissoondath 1994).

This he points out has shown that European thoughts still ring loudly within the nation and that such an attitude towards this issue will remain for quite some time (Bissoondath 1994).

Bissoondath further strengths his argument by contending that there is a major contrast existing between the words diversity and Multiculturalism.

Diversity, according to Bissoondath, speaks of the presence of multiple groups sharing different religions, cultures, philosophies, and so forth. On the other hand, Multiculturalism suggests Bissoondath, is the spirit of unity, compromise, and togetherness amongst these diverse people.

Yet despite the obvious distinctions between these concepts (that of dirty and Multiculturalism) on a daily basis, the Canadian government and its policymakers alike continue to make use of their words as if they were interchangeable.

Bissoondath states that this action is done purposefully, as Canadian leaders always want to convey that once a geographical location manifests some aspect of diversity, it should be believed that that area manifests Multiculturalism also as they should be viewed as the self-same thing.

However, it can be plausibly argued he suggests that it is such “linguistic misuse” has created prodigious confusion causing many to believe the myth that Canada is purely multicultural (Bissoondath 1994).

If Canada was authentically multicultural entirely, then Chinese citizens should be able to indulge fully and participate in the eating of their choice of meat.

Thus, expressing the right afforded to them through the Multicultural policy and the Multicultural Act. The Chinese failure to express this right and to legally practice their culinary culture Bissoondath subsequently argues shows the illusion of Multiculturalism and its failure to unite peoples within Canada.

In an article discussing The Illusion of Multiculturalism, Daniel Stoffman portrays Canadian leadership and its politics regarding Multiculturalism as mere “hypocritical” (Stoffman 2004). Stoffman establishes his assertion by leveling a convincing listing of cultural practices that newcomers to Canada are usually required to desert when entering into the country.

He asserts that many of these cultural practices would not only be “unacceptable to the majority of Canadians” but that should Canada’s policymakers allow immigrants to freely practice their desired cultural activities such as; female circumcisions, men having more than one wives, cockfights, the smoking of Marijuana, the eating of dog meat, amongst many other cherished native behaviors, “greater national tensions” and perhaps even “the proliferation of violence” would be a direct result (Stoffan 2004).

Such realities have caused the governments to establish a policy of Multiculturalism through which it would be too able to maintain a “stable and organized society,” but at the same time, its inability to create within Canada a truly multiculturalism experience does causes one to question its claim of Multiculturalism.

Canadian attitude towards other cultural issues also demonstrates the mythological concepts of Multiculturalism. An article published in a Canadian magazine tells of the circumstances which surrounded issues relating to “Somali Claimants” who had migrated to Canada.

The main thesis of the article pointed out that Canadian immigration has proven time and again that they are not always flexible or sensitive regards it’s handling of new cultures.

In Somali, a substance that bears the name Khat “is chewed for its euphoric effects” and is also used as a social lubricant in much the same way that wine and beer are used in Western societies (Stoffan 2004). Khat is also used ceremonially by Somalis during religious and wedding actives.

In recent years Canada has followed the decisions sanctioned on the use of Khat in the United States and has added Khat as a prohibited medicine, arguing that such a ‘drug’ it to be viewed as “mood-altering amphetamine” (Jones 2001).

However, Jones carefully points in this article that such a prohibition was scrumptiously rendered against Somalis as Canada he argues, “must consider it’s neighbor’s next door.” It is in this way that he covertly suggests that the Canadian governments, in many ways, are willing to show its allegiances to outsiders much more than they are will to show them to those living within its own walls.

In view of that, Jones also illustrates that the ban of Khat in Canada is another clear example that shows how Canada’s ostensible claim of being a mosaic and therefore, serving as the global bacon of Multiculturalism does not bear out when one notices the government’s approach for uniting citizens and for passing laws on key matters.

Stoffman agrees with Jones and he mentions the fact that Canada is legitimately multicultural while France in uni-cultural. Both sovereign states have banned Khat. However, it is pointed out that France’s in forthcoming and thus has given the Somalis a rather clear message. “You’re in France, so you have to do things our way” (Stoffman 2004).

In contrast the Canadian massage is variegated with and mystifying. Canada tells the world that “we are multicultural,” but when you come to Canada, be prepared to give up aspects of your culture that do not blend with ours. This shows great contradictions with your policies.

The expression “belonging” is habitually used in the migration literature in reference to the political beliefs of belonging or the political belief of identity (Wong, Lloyd, and Roland Simson 2009). When one states that he or she the right to belong, what it is that they are truly conveying.

According to Wong, Lloyd, and Roland Simson in their paper dealing with Multiculturalism and religion in the Canadian context to belong means that one has the right to express him or her faith with freedom and tranquility.

However, in Canada, this is not always the experience. Immigrant men and women are exposed to acts of discrimination almost on a daily basis. They also often prey to government scansions, which ultimately impedes their rights to express their faith in divergent ways freely.

One case in point can be noticed in the case of a Sikh man who went to the Human Rights Commission to arguing the law would allow him the right to wear a turban appose to a helmet while riding his motorcycle has his religion demanded that his head be covered with a turban at all times (Stoffman 2004).

his situation truly created a meaningful discussion with the nation as Canadians and policymakers began asking how far the nation should go in bending its laws in order to accommodate Multiculturalism. Canada has become a secular nation as its tolerance for religion is growing weak, argues Stoffman.

Therefore, those how come to Canada must understand he exclaims that freedom of religion is not paramount as the nation has other ‘important’ matters to attend to (Stoffman 2004).

Religion and politics have always been mixed in Canada, argues Janice Stein in your book on Multiculturalism and right in Canada (Stein 2007). She also contents that immigrant who migrates to Canada and who represents traditional religious ideas that are non-Christian in nature usually are faced with challenges which at times seem to intimidate them in boldly and publically practicing their faiths (Stein 2007).

In Canada, the manner in which one chooses to dress in a matter of personal choice states Stoffman, yet we are often privy to be informed that Muslims are very often targeted in the workplace and are asked to part with their religious apparels (Stoffman 2004).

These places are employment includes offices, hospitals, public transportation, schools, and so forth (Wong, Lloyd, and Roland Simson 2009). It is to be noted in the positive that such an issue was more of issues in recent times, however, cities that do not have a very strong multicultural experience continues to face religious discriminations quite too often (Stein 2007).

In conclusion, Canada, since the 1970s, has encountered an enormous shift from its original immigrants to embrace new ethnic groups, which, as a result, has giving birth to the political concept of Multiculturalism. This that time, the nation has struggled in its efforts to create a solid and entirely visual community that reflects this notion of Multiculturalism.

Due to its failure to make Multiculturalism from the Atlantic to the Pacific a reality, it has been argued in this paper that the concept of Multiculturalism within Canada is a mere myth as Multiculturalism is not necessarily evenly or equally experienced within the broader the Canadian experience.

Many Canadian cities do not have a strong presence of multicultural due to the fact that many immigrants who come to the country seemingly settle in metropolitan areas. This is usually the case as immigrates have found out that in bucolic areas not much seem to be familiar.

A wonderful example of this Canada be seen the concept that Quebec that chosen as its political position. Quebec prefers and has incorporated the practice of interculturalism rather than Multiculturalism. This helps in making it difficult for the nation to reach ethnic unity fully.

Amidst this, other factors illustrate the myths of Multiculturalism in the nation. Culture plays a huge role as those who migrates to Canada from places that China are not able to carry with them their personal choice of food, namely dot meet.

The fact that the Canadian government has band such a praised item from its menu reveals the issues that the nation is facing and also expresses how the idea of Multiculturalism has mammoth limitations, and therefore, it proves to be imperfect not being able to bring national togetherness.

The banding of Khat is also another example showing the magnitude of this multiculturalism myth. Finally, the connection between religion and politics also aids in making a point of this paper.

Not only are immigrants denied the full experiences of Multiculturalism geographically and culturally, but many have also seen their freedoms infringed upon religiously as well. Some have been forced to do away with their religious garbs, and others have been discriminated against in regards to praying in public, and for expressing non-Christian ideologies about faith.

Canada is truly a great nation and has the potential to become the greatest nation in the world. However, Canadians should be asking themselves, “are we really multicultural in experience” or is our Multiculturalism only true in a political sense.

Works Cited

Almerico, Gina, Barron Elizabeth and Silverman Helene. “Multicultural Literature as Defined in College Texts.” Research in Higher Education Journal, Volume 1. 2010.

Bissoondath, Neil. Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada. Toronto: Penguin, 1994.

Byers, Michael. Intent for a Nation: What Is Canada For.? Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre Ltd, 2007.

Jones, Vernon. “Cultures Clash on Streets over Canada’s Ban on Khat.” Toronto Star [Toronto] 2001.

Laaroussi, Michèlle. “Immigration in Quebec Regions and Francophone Communities Outside Quebec.” Canadian Issues / Thèmes Canadiens (2008): 30-33.

Nugent, Amy. “Demography, National Myths, and Political Origins: Perceiving Official Multiculturalism in Quebec.” Canadian Ethnic Studies 38.3 (2006): 21-36.

Paul, Ian. “Point: Cultural Protectionism Cannot Solve Canada’s Identity Crisis.” Canadian Points of View (2009): 2.

Stein, Janice. Uneasy Partners: Multiculturalism and Rights in Canada. Toronto: Unknown, 2007.

Stoffman, Daniel. “The Illusion of Multiculturalism.” Multiculturalism and Immigration in Canada (2004): 217-41.

Wong, Lloyd, and Roland Simson. “Citizenship and Belonging to Canada: Religious and Generational Differentiation.” Canadian Issues (2009): 3-12.

Wright, Robert A. Virtual Sovereignty: Nationalism, Culture, and the Canadian Question. Toronto, Ont.: Canadian Scholars’, 2004.