The Future of Canadian History

Article excerpt

Statistics Canada has confirmed what any observant Canadian has known for some time: the large majority of all the immigrants to Canada have settled in the major cities. Almost a third of the populations of Toronto and Vancouver are visible minorities, with 16% of the population of Calgary, 14% of Edmonton, and about 12% of the populations of Ottawa-Hull, Montreal, and Winnipeg fitting that description. And you can see the contrast almost immediately as you drive out of the centres of these cities: the scene changes from a patchwork of races back to the traditional Caucasian majority very quickly.

This is producing two Canadas, split not along linguistic lines, but between those for whom the needs of multiculturalism are an everyday reality, and those for whom it seems nothing more than some Ottawa-sponsored boondoggle. The idea of a turban on a Mountie might seem abhorrent to someone from the Prairies, and perfectly natural to someone who sees cops with "faces of colour" every day.

The friction caused by the rise of visible minorities in Canada is going to cause problems. It causes problems when times are tough, prompting calls to limit immigration in order to "stop immigrants from taking all the jobs that should be held by Canadians," and (perversely), "stop immigrants from coming here to live on welfare." It causes problems in communities when a neighbourhood, like Richmond, B.C., or Markham, Ontario becomes a focus for a visible minority, and the previous residents begin to feel that they are the minority, and not welcome in their own homes.

I speak to something like 20,000 people a year, mostly here in Canada, and I see our diversity on a daily basis. I once had a question from a woman who asked if we shouldn't put stricter limits on who comes to Canada, because we are, she said, being overrun by foreigners. What made the question so funny, and so pathetic, was that this woman had a thick European accent.

This is the future of Canadian history: a story of what will, perhaps, be the first truly multicultural society in history, if we can manage it. …