A New Canadian Dynamism? from Multiculturalism and Diversity to History and Core Values

Article excerpt

This article examines how Canada's new citizenship study guide might be considered a fundamental shiftin Canadian citizenship from one emphasising multiculturalism, rights and diversity to one that encourages the integration of newcomers into Canadian society. It contends that the new approach to Canadian citizenship is part of a wider integrationist agenda sweeping much of Europe and settler-countries such as the United States and Australia. While the integrationist approach in the new citizenship study guide does not explicitly reject multiculturalism, rights and diversity, it promotes a greater commitment to a common set of core values rooted in Canada's history and heritage which might be described as a process of liberal assimilationism. The new agenda does not attempt to construct a religious, cultural or ethnically defined Canadian identity; it attempts to construct a shared citizenship within an increasingly diverse Canadian community.

Keywords: Stephen Harper, Prime Minister, Canada, national identity, citizenship, multiculturalism

Political assassinations are, fortunately, rare in Canada. There have been only two. The first was Irish-born Canadian Member of Parliament, Thomas D'Arcy McGee who, on the early morning of 7 April 1868, was shot dead by fellow Irishman Patrick James Whelan, a suspected member of the Fenian Brotherhood. The second occurred in 1970, when revolutionaries in the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) kidnapped and assassinated Pierre Laporte, the Minister of Labour, in their pursuit of an independent Quebec. So, when Canadian newspapers carried reports in late April 2010 of a Facebook page calling for the assassination of Ujjal Dosanjh, a former premier of British Columbia and, at the time, a Member of Parliament, Canadians, were, not surprisingly, appalled.1

What had Dosanjh done to warrant a threat on his life? He had for years condemned extremism and violence within the Canadian Sikh community in its struggle for an independent Punjab region of India, where he and many other Canadians had been born. For his outspoken views, he was severely beaten in 1985 and later, while a member of the BC Legislature, his constituency office was vandalised and a Molotov cocktail leftburning on his desk. Just two days before the death threat against him, Dosanjh had told the Globe and Mail that Canadian multiculturalism 'has allowed extremism to take root in Sikh and other ethnic communities'. He blamed what he described as 'politically correct' Canadians who encourage a polite brand of multiculturalism in the name of diversity for giving extremists the space to nurture old grudges brought from their homelands. Further, he contended, Canada has allowed the idea of multiculturalism to become so distorted that 'anything anyone believes - no matter how ridiculous and outrageous it might be - is okay and acceptable in the name of diversity'. In the pursuit of multiculturalism and diversity, he lamented, Canada has failed to instil its core values in its newcomers.2

The Dosanjh incident was not an isolated one. There have many others that have had Canadians wondering about the impact of multiculturalism. In Montreal, Hasidic Jewish leaders asked the YMCA to frost its windows to prevent young Hasid men from gazing upon women working out in the gym. Controversy has interrupted over girls wearing the hijab while playing organised soccer; Quebec has proposed a law to ban niqabs for those seeking public services; expectant fathers have been asked to leave pre-natal classes because women from certain ethnic groups object to their presence; pork has been removed from the menus of sugar-shacks in Quebec; religious schools have been torched and vandalised; violence between various ethnic groups on university campuses have become all too commonplace; and so-called honour killings of Muslim teenagers have taken place, such as the case of Aqsa Parvez in which her brother and father were convicted of her murder in June 2010 because she refused to abide by the family's strict traditional customs. …