Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

The Representation of Ethnic and Linguistic Groups in the Federal Civil Service of Belgium and Canada

Academic journal article Canadian Public Administration

The Representation of Ethnic and Linguistic Groups in the Federal Civil Service of Belgium and Canada

Article excerpt

The literature on representative bureaucracy has largely been an American endeavor. Despite the British origin of the concept, theoretical advances made in the study of the American case have mostly driven the literature. That is not to say that this literature has not travelled beyond the United States. Scholars of public administration have used those theoretical and methodological advances to study a number of countries. These studies have mainly focused on the representation of similar groups in the civil service: women, racial and ethnic minorities, and new immigrants in countries that can be best described as mono-national or mono-linguistic, that is to say countries in which there is no deep cleavage along national or linguistic lines. Over the last decade, though, a growing body of comparative literature has investigated the politics of representative bureaucracy regarding national or linguistic groups in countries that can be described as multinational or multilingual (Gagnon and Turgeon 2006; Kubler, Kobelt, and Andrey 2011; Turgeon and Gagnon, 2013).

The literature on representative bureaucracy in both mono- and multinational states has not addressed the question of how measures put in place to ensure the representation of one specific group might encourage or hinder the representation of other groups. Such a gap is also present in the literature on cultural diversity. As argued by Elke Winter in relation to the work of Will Kymlicka and Charles Taylor, "the relations between different types of national and ethnic struggles for rights and recognition have remained unexplored not only in the work by these two authors but also in much of the subsequent literature" (2010: 167). Our intention is therefore to explore the role of the civil service as a means to attenuate political conflicts within complex political settings, such as Belgium and Canada.

This article investigates how the struggles of national groups have affected the politics of bureaucratic representation of both racial and ethnic minorities in Belgium and Canada, two federal multinational countries. A significant proportion of foreign-born citizens populates both countries. About 20% of the Canadian population is foreign-born compared with approximately 13% in Belgium. We aim to show the extent to which the politics of multinational representation in Belgium has limited the adoption of measures seeking to guarantee a greater representation of ethnic and racial minorities. (1) In the Canadian case, we will also argue that the politics of multiculturalism, associated with the political mobilization of ethnic groups, has led to the rejection of measures of guaranteed representation of Francophones in the federal civil service. Meanwhile, measures adopted to increase representation of Francophones did not constitute an impediment to later attempts to augment representation of visible minorities. Since the focus is on measures to ensure the representation of all linguistic groups as well as ethnic minorities in each country, we do not explore measures put in place at provincial or regional levels.

This article is organized in four main parts. In the first section, we discuss the politics of representative bureaucracy in multilingual and multinational states. In the second section, we contrast approaches adopted in both countries to ensure the representation of linguistic groups and ethnic minorities. In the last two sections, we examine how the politics associated with the presence of sub-state nations as well as with ethnic minorities have influenced the politics of representative bureaucracy in Belgium and Canada.

The politics of representative bureaucracy in multinational and multicultural states

In the 1990s, Canadian political theorists Will Kymlicka and Charles Taylor introduced an important distinction between national group, such as the Quebecois, the Catalans and the Flemings, and ethnic groups, such as Korean-Canadians or Indo-Canadians. …

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