SELLING DIVERSITY: Immigration, Multiculturalism, Employment Equity and Globalization

By Abu-Laban, Yasmeen; Gabriel, Christina et al. | Resources for Feminist Research, January 1, 2004 | Go to article overview

SELLING DIVERSITY: Immigration, Multiculturalism, Employment Equity and Globalization


Abu-Laban, Yasmeen, Gabriel, Christina, Browne, Simone A., Resources for Feminist Research


SELLING DIVERSITY: Immigration, Multiculturalism, Employment Equity and Globalization Yasmeen Abu-Laban and Christina Gabriel Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2002; 202 pp.

How can we understand the processes that have refashioned Canadian public policy areas of immigration, multiculturalism and employment equity to seemingly serve the imperatives of the capitalist market and global competitiveness? Why now do we need to understand the recent histories of these policy areas? What are the alternatives to the assumption that globalization necessitates neo-liberal policies and practices? Yasmeen Abu-Laban and Christina Gabriel successfully answer these questions in Selling Diversity. The authors provide a clear overview of these three public policy domains. By critically addressing how these domains have been recast through discourses of globalization and the practices of neo-liberalism where the emphasis is on "markets, efficiency, competitiveness, and individualism"(p. 12), the authors draw attention to the specific ways in which these discourses and practices work in concert to situate the marketing and selling of diversity as a key practice of corporate Canada, modern governance and nationbuilding. Abu-Laban and Gabriel centre the histories of Canada's gendered and racialized social order that shapes the selling of diversity, a process which requires that the "skills, talents, and ethnic backgrounds of men and women are commodified, marketed and billed as trade-enhancing"(p. 12). This commodification of difference has very serious implications for citizenship rights, belonging, and the national imaginary in our present moment.

For Abu-Laban and Gabriel, the shift towards economic rationalism allowed for the principles of justice and equity reflected in policy initiatives of the 1980s to be somewhat suppressed. Organized into six chapters, this book provides a discussion of the economy of diversity in a number of areas: there is an in-depth analysis of "Not Just Numbers: A Canadian Framework for Future Immigration," a policy framework report commissioned by the Liberal government in 1998; Canada's new Immigration and Refugee Protection Act; a look at Canada's comparative advantage in international trade characterized by a specialization in multiculturalism-as-commodity; and employment equity debates and the managing of diversity in the corporate sector. Specific attention is paid to the period of 1993 to 2001, for two reasons. First, this period signals the coming to power of the federal Liberals under Jean Chrétien. Second, the period also "coincides with the government's commitment to gender-based analysis"(p. 28). Throughout the book it is made clear that a particular type of immigrant, or potential citizen, is promoted under the model of market-oriented diversity: one who is self-sufficient, highly skilled, and a contributing labourer. As the authors note, business-class immigrants, mainly "men from a class-advantaged background"(p. …

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