Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Uneasy Partners: Multiculturalism and Rights in Canada

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Uneasy Partners: Multiculturalism and Rights in Canada

Article excerpt

Janice G. Stein, David R. Cameron, John Ibbitson, Will Kymlicka, John Meisel, Haroon Siddiqui and Michael Valpy, Uneasy Partners: Multiculturalism and Rights in Canada (Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier Press, 2007), xiii + 165pp. Paper. $24.95. ISBN 978-1- 5545-8012-5.

This collection of essays addressing the tensions in Canada between rights and multiculturalism is a very Canadian book. It provides an excellent survey of multiculturalism and rights issues in Canada, and of the manner in which the debate is taking place - intense disagreements debated in a very collegial (Canadian) fashion.

The book begins with Janice Gross Stein's assertion that beneath the seemingly satisfactory veneer of Canadian cultural accommodation lies a growing tension between the manifestations of multicultural Canada and the rights that are entrenched in Canadian law. She challenges the correctness of the balance between rights and culture primarily through the tension between 'religious orthodoxy' (p. 4) and equality rights. This is followed by an essay by Haroon Siddiqui who calls into question the premises of Stein's assertion and elaborates upon how contemporary multiculturalism policies are rather 'an inevitable extension' of the 'Canadian commitment to accommodate three distinct racial, religious and linguistic collectivities ... at the heart of the 1867 British North America Act' (p. 29). Canadian society, then, is dealing with 'similar challenges, only on a larger scale' (p. 29). While he admits that there are challenges to be faced on the front of cultural accommodation and immigration, he calls for a more 'coherent and logical' understanding of multiculturalism.

John Ibbitson points out that, rather ironically, the adaptability and success of Canada in the face of the challenges of multiculturalism come from the failure of Canada as a nation. He argues that the restraint that the Canadian government has shown in dealing with some fairly difficult cultural challenges that have existed since before Canada became a nation has tempered Canadian political culture, and that Canada's historical narrative has instilled a sense of moderation in matters of cultural difference that he finds commendable. …

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