Multiculturalism

By Stevenson, Garth | Inroads, Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Multiculturalism


Stevenson, Garth, Inroads


As Canadian as apple pie

1995 The title captures more than the content of this 1995 article written by political historian Garth Stevenson of Brock University. It also captures an element which was to prove characteristic of Inroads' approach: kicking sacred cows, in this case the assumption that multiculturalism was something distinctly and admirably Canadian. Stevenson set out his contention as follows:

As concept and symbol, multiculturalism may serve a number of purposes. For Trudeau, Its primary purpose was to undermine and destroy the older ideological symbol of "deux nations." For some allophones and members of visible minorities, it may convey the promise that their claims to equality and justice will be recognized. For my students, and for traditionally nationalistic Ontario, its main attraction seems to be that it distinguishes Canada from the U.S.

But does it really? The concept of multiculturalism, although of recent origin, does have some affinities with a concept with some plausible roots in Canadian history, that of the Canadian mosaic. Similarly, the concept of the "melting pot," a once powerful ideological symbol in the U.S., has some plausible roots in that country's history. However, the actual historical development of both countries has been more complex than the popular symbols would suggest. Furthermore, recent parallels between the two are as Interesting and significant as the contrasts. In the end, multiculturalism turns out to cause more harm than good, and is entirely unhelpful in securing independence from the U.S.

After tracing differences and similarities in attitudes in the United States and Canada over time, the article - here in abridged form - continues.

It IS THUS INCORRECT TO STATE THAT CANADA LACKS A MELTING POT tradition. It arose and gained support at the time a similar tradition was explicitly formulated in the U.S. Its continuity can be traced through John Diefenbaker's notion of "One Canada" to Preston Manning's Reform Party. Manning's view of bilingualism and multiculturalism as special privileges for distinct groups is strikingly reminiscent of Dalton McCarthy's Equal Rights movement ...

Apart from French Canada, two other forces have reinforced the Canadian mosaic. The first was the fact that Canadians of British ancestry wished to retain their British roots and traditions. Not really wishing to become unhyphenated Canadians themselves, they had difficulty persuading others to do so. British Canadians would not trade the rights of Englishmen for the rights of man, or the reflected glories of the Empire for a Canadian identity that might have included their fellow Canadians. The second force was anti-Americanism, as the sociologist S.D. Clark has explained most clearly. In 1950, Clark noted that the frontier had served as a melting pot in both North American countries but that Canadian elites had resisted this tendency so as to preserve the colonial character of Canadian society1 ...

In sum, the legacy of Canadian history and the complex character of Canadian society prevented either the melting pot or the mosaic philosophy from gaining hegemony. The former was strong in provincial politics and in populist movements. The latter reigned supreme in Quebec and dominated the two major parties at the federal level, Diefenbaker notwithstanding. The Liberals' early espousal of a melting pot philosophy came to an end as the populist roots of that party withered away under Lauriers leadership ...

Meanwhile, south of the border, by 1963 two noted students of American ethnicity maintained that the melting pot theory was no longer useful or credible, if it ever had been. In Beyond the Melting Pot, Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan concluded that ethnicity had persisted in the U.S. and seemed likely to do so indefinitely, reinforced by race and religion. By the time the second edition appeared in 1970, evidence had accumulated to prove them right. …

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