Introduction: Multiculturalism Discourses in Canada

By Garcea, Joseph; Kirova, Anna et al. | Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

Introduction: Multiculturalism Discourses in Canada


Garcea, Joseph, Kirova, Anna, Wong, Lloyd, Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal


CONTEXT AND FOCUS

The management of ethnocultural diversity is a major governance function in most countries in the world today, and Canada is no exception. In most of these countries various approaches to diversity management have been highly scrutinized and debated in the media and in the academic literature. One of the approaches that has received extensive attention has been multiculturalism.

In Canada multiculturalism, both in terms of public philosophy and public policy, has been the subject of much debate during the past four decades. The extensiveness and intensity of the debates have increased in recent years in light of at least four major developments--the inclusion of the provision related to multiculturalism in the Constitution Act of 1982, Canada's Multiculturalism Act of 1988, Quebec's adoption of the interculturalism model for managing diversity, and the concerns for security in light of the events of September 11, 2001 and subsequent events such as the 2002 Bali bombings, the 2004 Madrid train bombings, the 2005 London bombings, the 2005 civil riots in France, and the 2006 arrests of seventeen alleged terrorists in Ontario, Canada.

It can be argued that September 11, 2001 was a formative event that demarcated a new period in diversity management, now commonly referred to as the"post 9/11" era. In this new era, multiculturalism discourses now clearly have a component that can be referred to as "anti and/or post-multiculturalism discourse." The term "post-multiculturalism" was first used in Britain a few years ago in the context of the need for alternative philosophies and models to multiculturalism that would foster social cohesion and promote assimilation and a common identity. (1) The central premise of the anti- and/or post-multiculturalism discourse is that multiculturalism is not working and that modified or radically different public philosophies or public policies and programs are needed that move beyond multiculturalism as it is presently known and constituted. (2)

A central argument contained in the anti- and/or post-multiculturalism literature is that multiculturalism is not working because it is segregating, rather than integrating, diverse racial, ethnic, and religious groups. In other words, the policy and practice of multiculturalism contributes to social and political fragmentation that makes social and political cohesion difficult, if not impossible. It is this fragmentation discourse of the anti- and/or post-muhiculturalism literature that this special issue addresses. The two central questions are: What is the nature of anti- and/or post-multiculturalism discourse in academic and media texts regarding the effects that Canadian multiculturalism public philosophy and public policy have on fragmentation and cohesion? What implications does this discourse have for the current Canadian public philosophy and public policy on multiculturalism and, ultimately, for the Canadian polity?

OBJECTIVES AND OVERVIEW OF THE ARTICLES

The objective of each of the articles in this issue is to examine a central aspect of the discourse on multiculturalism and, where possible, on the aspect of the discourse that relates to anti and/or post-multiculturalism in which social and political fragmentation is a theme.

Lloyd Wong provides an overview and analysis of the literature produced by leading sociologists in Canada and Europe (e.g., John Porter, Reginald Bibby, Michel Wieviorka, Bruno Latour, and Tahir Abbas) in which multiculturalism is depicted as fostering societal fragmentation. After providing an overview of the positions of these sociologists on the fragmentary effects of multiculturalism, Wong explains two important conceptual distinctions in the extant literature. The first distinction is between fragmented pluralism, which entails a separation and segregation of members of various groups, and interactive pluralism, which entails interaction and conversation between members of various groups. …

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