Changing Visions in Ethnic Relations

By Driedger, Leo | Canadian Journal of Sociology, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

Changing Visions in Ethnic Relations


Driedger, Leo, Canadian Journal of Sociology


Abstract: Early studies focused on the relations between the dominant British and French charter groups, before Pierre Trudeau announced a policy of bilingualism and multiculturalism in 1971. A Royal Commission encouraged more research, where the focus of study turned from colonial to multicultural and multiethnic identity concerns, resulting in more open immigration policies. More immigrants of multiple races, religions, and cultures arrived, which required expansion of the largely white European heritage tent. By the eighties and nineties, demographic diversity, prejudice, discrimination, segregation accelerated, around problems of racism and the need for more equality and rights. While studies in the twentieth century were focused much on power and social class, research in the twenty-first century will need to explore cultures, diversity, conflict and cooperation.

Resume: Les premieres etudes se sont focalisees sur les relations entre les principaux groupes britanniques et francais, avant que Pierre Trudeau annonce une politique de bilinguisme et de multiculturalisme en 1971. Une commission royale encouragea de nouvelles recherches, dans lesquelles le centre d'interet passa du colonialisme a la question d'identite multiculturelle et multiethnique, en consequence des politiques d'immigration plus ouvertes. Plus d'immigrants de plusieurs origines, religions et cultures differentes arriverent, ce qui necessita un e'largissement du patrimoine qui etait jusqu'alors en grande partie celui des blancs europeens. Dans les annees 80 et 90, les recherches s'accelerent sur la diversite demographique, les prejuges, la discrimination et la segregation autour des problemes du racisme et du besoin de plus d'eglaite et de droits pour tous. Tandis que les etudes du XXe siecle se sont focalisees sur le pouvoir et les classes sociales, la recherche du XXIe siecle aura besoin d'explorer da vantage les cultures, la diversite, les conflits et la cooperation.

The field of ethnic relations in Canada is more developed than many, with sociologists, historians, anthropologists, psychologists and others deeply involved in thousands of published works, which cannot be dealt with in a short paper. To stimulate more work, we can only review a few major debates focused on bilingualism, multiculturalism and rights, to provide a frame of discussion -- few have attempted macro theories and paradigms. Before Trudeau's 1971 announcement on bilingualism and multiculturalism, studies focused on British and French charter group relations, and assimilation of others to these dominant languages and cultures. During the seventies and eighties multiculturalism got a boost from a royal commission, and much research focused on multiple identities and pluralism, which generated much research on cohesion, solidarity and conflict. Since the eighties, more demographic diversity led to increased work on race, racism, and the challenges of inequality, and human rights. We shall discuss these periods of research and debates in that order in this paper. Unfortunately, much has been left out, such as contributions by French sociologists, research on first nations, and much more. [1]

Early Chicago sociologists, sometimes referred to as "The Chicago School," did extensive research in race and ethnic relations. "Those particularly concerned with ethnic studies included Robert E. Park, W.I. Thomas, Louis Wirth," and their students (Persons, 1987:33). Thomas and Park emphasized quite different assimilationist and pluralist contributions, and two of their students, Charles Dawson and Everett Hughes, who began Canadian sociological studies at McGill, also emphasized ethnic and race relations.

Robert Park is well known for his race relations cycle which evolved as a sequence of stages from the initial social contact (which often resulted in conflict) to competition, accommodation, and, finally, assimilation of ideas, cultures, or populations. …

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