Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Two Multicultural Debates and the Lived Experiences of Chinese-Canadian Youth

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Two Multicultural Debates and the Lived Experiences of Chinese-Canadian Youth

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper examines the lived experiences of Chinese-Canadian youth in Alberta in relation to two multiculturalism debates: multiculturalism as a politics of recognition and multiculturalism as a cohesive force. It focuses on three themes of their lived experiences, which include racial discrimination and stereotypes in school; biased media representation; and the relationship between ethnic language maintenance, sense of belonging and multiculturalism policy within a bilingual framework. Two findings are highlighted in this paper. First, the racism youth experienced at school and the racist discourse against Chinese-Canadian students found in Canadian media indicate that Chinese Canadians as racialized and ethnic minorities have not been recognized and treated as equal partners in social interactions with the White dominant group. The multicultural policy focus and task of addressing racism in the 1980s has yet to be finished despite current multicultural policy having a new focus. Second, multiculturalism within a bilingual framework is more an assimilating force than a divisive one. Given the separation of language rights and cultural rights as well as the strong linguistic and cultural assimilation forces in major Canadian institutions, it is less likely for Chinese-Canadian youth to maintain their ethnic language and culture. The main factor that affects their sense of belonging to Canada is the racism in Canadian society rather than the symbolic recognition of diversity that multiculturalism encourages.

Resume

Cet article porte sur les experiences vecues par la jeunesse sino-canadienne en Alberta par rapport a deux debats multiculturels : le multiculturalisme en tant que politique de reconnaissance d'une part, et que force cohesive, d'autre part. Notre etude se focalise sur trois themes de ce qu'ils ont vecu, et inclut la discrimination raciale et les stereotypes a l'ecole, la representation biaisee des medias, et enfin, la relation entre le maintien de la langue ethnique, le sentiment d'appartenance et la politique du multiculturalisme a l'interieur d'un cadre bilingue. Nous relevons deux constats : d'abord, le racisme que les jeunes subissent a l'ecole et le discours raciste contre les etudiants sino-canadiens que l'on trouve dans les medias de ce pays, indiquent que les Canadiens chinois, en tant que minorites ethniques racialisees, ne sont ni reconnus ni traites comme partenaires egaux dans les interrelations sociales avec le groupe dominant des Blancs. L'objectif et la tache de la politique multiculturelle de prendre en cause le racisme dans les annees 1980 sont loin d'etre remplis, bien qu'aujourd'hui celle-ci aille dans une nouvelle direction. Selon notre second constat, le multiculturalisme dans un cadre de travail bilingue est plus une force assimilatrice qu'un facteur de division. Etant donne, au niveau linguistique et culturel, la separation des droits et les grandes forces d'assimilation dans les principales institutions canadiennes, il est moins que probable que la jeunesse sino-canadienne maintienne sa langue et sa culture d'origine. Le facteur principal qui affecte son sentiment d'appartenance au Canada est le racisme de la societe de ce pays, bien plus que la reconnaissance symbolique de la diversite encouragee par le multiculturalisme.

INTRODUCTION

Canada's multiculturalism policy helps garner international prestige at the same time as it attracts large numbers of new immigrants to settle, enticed by dreams of equality and freedom. Over forty years have passed since multiculturalism's inception as a government policy in 1971, and the policy has fueled many debates among academics, politicians, various media and community organizations about its strengths and limitations. As Li (1999) argues, multiculturalism is a "muddled concept" because there is no agreement on its precise meaning, and as its definitional content is periodically changed. Despite the lack of coherent definition or content, people have consistently argued that although multiculturalism claims all cultures in Canada enjoy equal status, racialized and ethnic minorities may not be treated as "real" Canadians or as full partners with the White dominant group (Bannerji 2000; Ali 2008). …

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