Second-Generation Youth's Belief in the Myth of Canadian Multiculturalism

By Ali, Mehrunnisa Ahmad | Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Second-Generation Youth's Belief in the Myth of Canadian Multiculturalism


Ali, Mehrunnisa Ahmad, Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal


Abstract

Second-generation youth in Toronto, growing up in low-income neighbourhoods, interact primarily with other racialized and ethnicized people. Within this environment they do not experience racial prejudice or discrimination, appreciate the cultural diversity around them, and attribute it to Canada's ideology of multiculturalism. However, they are beginning to realize their own subjectivity in relation to the power of White people and institutions. These confident, ambitious, and globally connected young people are likely to get deeply disappointed as they uncover the myths of Canada's multiculturalism in the world beyond their ethnically concentrated schools and neighbourhoods. Acknowledging and addressing their marginality is critical to their inclusion in Canadian society.

Resume

Les jeunes immigrants de deuxieme generation a Toronto ont principalement des contacts avec d'autres groupes appartenant a des populations racialisees et ethnicisees. Dans le cadre de cet environnement, ils ne font pas l'experience de prejuges raciaux et de discrimination, ils apprecient la diversite culturelle autour d'eux et l'attribuent a l'ideologie du multiculturalisme canadien. Cependant, ils commencent a se rendre compte de leur propre subjectivite par rapport au pouvoir des Blancs et des institutions. Ces jeunes pleins de confiance en eux-memes, ambitieux, et connectes au monde entier ont de fortes chances de se trouver extremement desappointes Iorsqu'ils vont decouvrir les mythes du multiculturalisme canadien dans la societe au-dela du perimetre de leurs ecoles et quartiers a forte concentration ethnique. Il est crucial de reconnaitre et de prendre en compte leur marginalite pour rendre possible leur inclusion dans la societe canadienne.

INTRODUCTION

News from Europe about public violence associated with second-generation youth, as well as Canadian media reports about ethnic youth gangs, disproportionately high rates of school drop-outs among some ethnic groups, and the arrests of the alleged "home-grown" terror suspects in Toronto have added unprecedented urgency to the question of how far children of immigrants have integrated in Canadian society.

The term integration can mean many different things. Following Park's seminal work (1950, cited in Waiters et al. 2006, 1) on how different ethnic groups living in one geographic space eventually merge into an indistinguishable whole, many scholars have written about how immigrants settle in receiving societies. Gordon (1964) proposed a continuum of processes leading to eventual assimilation, while Glazer and Moynihan (1963) claimed that some groups assimilate in receiving societies, while others always retain their distinctive characteristics. Berry's (1997) four categories of immigrants' settlement trajectories are widely known in the literature: assimilation makes the newcomers indistinguishable from the receiving society; integration indicates retention of a distinct identity, along with full participation in the receiving society; separation means maintenance of a different identity without participation in the larger society; and marginalization refers to the absence of a separate identity as well as of participation.

The ideology of multiculturalism in the public and academic discourse in Canada is consistent with Berry's definition of integration, and is often contrasted to the American model of assimilation. However, the significance of various aspects of integration continues to be debated. Some scholars have argued about the relative merits of social, economic, and political integration, and sometimes conflated these categories as measures of immigrants' successful integration (Walters et al. 2006). Others have emphasized the subjective feelings of belonging, entitlement, and control people have in a society as a better measure of their integration (Harry and Murphy 2005).

Based on the latter category of measures of integration, recent research on visible minority children of immigrants, i. …

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