From Heritage Languages to Institutional Change: An Analysis of the Nature of Organizations and Projects Funded by the Canadian Multiculturalism Program (1983-2002)
McAndrew, Marie, Helly, Denise, Tessier, Caroline, Young, Judy, Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal
This article aims to shed light on debates relative to the Canadian Multiculturalism Policy through an analysis of the evolution of the attribution of grants by the multiculturalism program, according to the nature of the organizations and projects selected for the 1983-2002 period. Results show that, in a context of drastic reduction of the amounts granted during that period, multiethnic organizations, notably those associated with visible minorities, were the principal recipients. In addition, along with the changes in the orientation of the policy, initiatives aiming at intercultural understanding, institutional adaptation, and raising public awareness of racism clearly dominated over more traditional objectives, such as the maintenance of heritage cultures and languages or the support of the specific needs of communities.
Le but de cet article est d'eclairer les debats sur la Loi sur la politique canadienne du multiculturalisme en analysant I'evolution de I'attribution des subventions du programme du multiculturalisme, selon la nature des organismes et des projets selectionnes pour la periode 1983-2002. Les resultats montrent que, dans un contexte de reduction drastique des sommes attributes pendant cette periode, les organismes multiethniques, notamment ceux issus des minorites visibles, en sont les principaux beneficiaires. Par ailleurs, dans la foulee des changements d'orientation de la politique, les initiatives visant la comprehension interculturelle, I'adaptation institutionnelle et la sensibilisation du public au racisme dominent clairement les objectifs plus traditionnels, tels que le maintien des langues et des cultures d'origine, ou le soutien aux besoins specifiques des communautes.
THE PROBLEM AND THE PRESENTATION OF THE RESEARCH
This evolution, reflected in the various redefinitions of the programs supported under the Policy and the official underlying rationales, can be divided--at the cost of simplifying a more complex reality--into three major phases. In spite of the multidimensional character of the 1971 proclamation, the Policy was originally characterized by an emphasis on the reproduction of heritage languages and cultures of origin, associated with the longer-standing communities which had resisted the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (Government of Canada 1970). During the 1980s, the Policy gradually evolved--in part through a shift of community leadership to visible minorities--towards a greater emphasis on issues such as participation, the fight against racism, institutional adaptation, and raising the awareness of the majority of Canadians, a development that was formally embodied through the adoption of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1988. Finally, in the mid-1990s, as a result of pressures from the new Anglo-Canadian right and the renewed secessionist threat in Quebec, the promotion of a sense of belonging to Canada and of social cohesion took on more and more importance, as ultimate goals to be supported by the objectives, restated in 1995, of citizenship participation, social justice, and identity (Government of Canada 1989, 1991, 1995, 1998).
However, in spite of these multiple mutations, or perhaps partly because of them, the Multiculturalism Policy of Canada has never ceased to fuel debate, both among academics and decision-makers and in public opinion (Berry et al. 1983; Abu-Laban and Stasiulis 1992; Corbo 1992; Bissoondath 1994; Li 2003). Criticisms in this regard emanate from opponents to any form of factoring of diversity in the public sphere, as well as from supporters of such recognition who then take issue, not with this normative position in itself, but rather with the limitations of the Policy's definition and implementation. Without any pretensions to comprehensiveness, one may nonetheless, for heuristic purposes, summarize the debate relating to the effects of the Multiculturalism Policy into five broad categories of criticism, which the authors have, in varying degrees, identified.
The first three categories of objections, which are longer-standing but are still expressed today, have more to do with the impact of the Policy on minority group members themselves, whereas the last two, more recent, call into question the broader effects of the Policy on both society and the quality of democratic life.
1. Multiculturalism, while pretending to value diversity, would, in fact, encourage marginalizing or even exclusionary practices towards minorities or, to use a common expression, their "ghettoization." The Policy is thus reproached for unduly emphasizing the promotion of difference at the expense of equality.
2. Multiculturalism allegedly puts forth a folkloric and static conception of culture and identity that does not do justice to the vitality of these phenomena in a migratory context. The emphasis on the culture of origin (the "elsewhere" and the "bygone days") serves the interests of an ethnic elite eager to retain control over its "base" more than those of minority group members themselves who experience a de facto acculturation (the "here" and "now").
3. Multiculturalism, by overemphasizing the cultural aspect of ethnic relations, allegedly masks the power issues within pluriethnic societies, inter alia those related to racism and socio-economic inequalities. Therefore, it is a policy that legitimizes injustices.
4. Multiculturalism would subordinate individual freedom to community belonging. It imposes a cultural identity or even a "racialization" upon certain individuals against their will, and unduly confers group representative status to unelected "leaders." Therefore, it is contrary to the very principles of liberal democracy.
5. Multiculturalism, by postulating the equality of cultures and a relativism of values, which is unrealistic on a policy level, allegedly inhibits the consensus building that is necessary for public life and the protection of human rights and freedoms. It promotes, in the medium term, a fragmentation of society.
Beyond the variable degree of theoretical relevance of each of these objections (Breton 1984; Taylor 1992), the debate over the past thirty years, among both supporters and opponents of the Policy, has been characterized by numerous limitations that, in effect, largely undermine its usefulness at the decision-making level. Indeed, the bulk of opinions are based neither on an analysis of the programs and initiatives undertaken under the Policy nor on the evolution of the Policy, but rather on a largely qualitative and personal assessment of its indirect ideological impact, or even on a series of anecdotes illustrating its perverse effects or its potential merits (McAndrew 1995b). Multiculturalism thus becomes an archetype, a convenient construction that allows the crystallization, in a single model or counter-model, of the strengths and weaknesses of distinct and sometimes contradictory trends or initiatives embraced by various levels of government--or even international institutions-and a variety of civil society groups. The myriad social evils or benefits then attributed to a policy, whose budget never exceeded $25 million in any given year, makes one wonder whether it should at least provide comfort to a federal bureaucracy often accused of not maximizing the impact of public expenses.
The limited number of more substantiated studies (Burnet 1975; Breton and Reitz 1994; Kymlicka 1995; Kordan 1997; Li 2003), which constitute valuable and reliable sources on the evolution of official guidelines and their translation into specific programs, are not without limitations either. Indeed, they often lack precision in the criteria used to assess the impact of a policy. Thus, a number of detractors blame the Multiculturalism Policy for the persistence of unresolved or insufficiently resolved social problems or interethnic tensions that existed prior to the implementation of the Multiculturalism Policy. Conversely, some supporters credit the Policy for effects that any reasonably informed observer knows to result, either wholly or at least in part, from other federal, provincial, or local policies. For instance, it is obvious that the relatively favourable results of the immigrant population at the socioeconomic level are influenced, first and foremost, by our planned and selective immigration policy, which differs from prevailing policies in Europe or even in the United States, where illegal immigration is far more significant. Similarly, the programs and practices relating to the multicultural or intercultural education of school children come exclusively under provincial jurisdiction, while municipal initiatives in the area of intercultural rapprochement are by no means insignificant.
Moreover, studies rarely assess the degree to which the policy changes were reflected at the operational level in decisions regarding the types of organizations and projects funded pursuant to the Policy. Yet, research on policy implementation and evaluation (Monnier 1992) teaches us that the causal link is far from univocal in this regard. This discipline, which partakes more of archeology than of the study of revolutions, indeed reveals that …
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Publication information: Article title: From Heritage Languages to Institutional Change: An Analysis of the Nature of Organizations and Projects Funded by the Canadian Multiculturalism Program (1983-2002). Contributors: McAndrew, Marie - Author, Helly, Denise - Author, Tessier, Caroline - Author, Young, Judy - Author. Journal title: Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal. Volume: 40. Issue: 3 Publication date: Fall 2008. Page number: 149+. © 2007 Canadian Ethnic Studies Association. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
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