Although the term multiculturalism has remained broadly popular, its application has been the object of ongoing controversy. At the center of the debate is the issue of whether identities are in inevitably in conflict. That, for example, individuals must choose between their ethnic attachments and their Canadian identity. This view is rejected by the Government of Canada's as its vision of multiculturalism states that "...all citizens can keep their identities, can take pride in their ancestry, and have a sense of belonging. Acceptance gives Canadians a feeling of security and self-confidence, making them more open to, and accepting of, diverse cultures...with no pressure to assimilate and give up their culture, immigrants freely choose their new citizenship because they want to be Canadians."
Jack Jedwab, Chair, National Metropolis Conference on Immigration and Integration
Since we are approaching almost a decade into the post 9/11 era public discourses and sentiments of anti-multiculturalism have become solidified in several countries of the world including Canada. This sentiment has been fuelled by the link, in public discourse, of terrorism with multiculturalism. Thus events such as the Madrid bombings in 2004, the London bombings in the summer of 2005, and the terrorist plot by the Toronto 18 in 2006, have been cited by critics of multiculturalism. Part of this public discourse involves academics. For example, sociology professor Dr. Mahfooz Kanwar from Mount Royal University in Calgary made the following two comments to the Calgary Sun newspaper in 2006 shortly after the Toronto 18 arrests: "Multiculturalism has been bad for unity in Canada. It ghettoizes people, makes them believe, wrongly, that isolating themselves and not adapting to their new society is OK. It is not." and "Multiculturalism creates nations within a nation and divides the loyalty of people" (Corbella). These two front page newspaper quotes subsequently landed on the websites of several conservative anti-immigration and anti-multiculturalism organizations as credence to their cause that immigration and multiculturalism were not good for Canada.
Lloyd L. Wong -- Diverse, Canadian Multicultural Awareness Magazine
Well, there's pro-multiculturalism opinion in support of the so-very generous theory that people with mixed loyalties can pick and choose how they prefer to express their fealty to a country they have migrated to from their places of origin, bringing with them the baggage of culture, tradition, heritage, religious adherence and, most unfortunately, attitudes about other cultures, other ethnic groups, and along with all of that simmering resentments against those they traditionally consider to represent 'enemy' groups.
Encouraging the concept of multiculturalism seems like a good idea on the surface, that people should be free and feel free to express themselves in the manner most comfortable to them, irrespective of the fact that to do so may often clash with prevailing social norms in the new culture with its variant values. The importation of cultural values that are inimical to the well-being of some members of society is often in direct offence to the laws upholding the justice system of the welcoming country.
Immigrants to a new country do need to know that they will be expected to learn about that new country, to respect its laws, particularly such guarantees under the law of social equality, for harmony to result. People who choose to become landed immigrants and eventually attain to citizenship of another country should be prepared to surrender to the past what belongs in the past, and that would include attitudes toward others that guarantee disharmony.
It is a reflection of basic human nature that people are comfortable among others who reflect their culture, ethnicity and religion. And the problem is obvious enough, resulting in ghettoes encouraging a lack of intention to integrate into the larger society. A part of society that is insular and suspicious and anxious to remain separate and apart from the greater society, resistant to being absorbed and determined to remain a community group reflective of whatever it was they left behind.
There should be an imperative to become familiar with the language of the new country and a familiarity with the broader culture, with the necessity to cultivate an appreciation of societal values reflecting the new country's. A failure of willingness to adapt to the welcoming country can often be attributed to institutionalized multiculturalism. No one is expected to leave behind all vestiges of their original culture, heritage and whatever else has value to them.
But increasingly, in Europe, Britain, France, Germany as well as throughout North America, an unease has arisen over the functionality of multiculturalism. While civility ruled in general society it made some measure of good common sense to inclusively accept the concept of multiculturalism and not press too vigorously on good citizenship requiring that all citizens of a country share a basic commonality of behaviour and values-driven concerns.
What has resulted from multiculturalism, however, is discrete groups of people living their exclusion-driven lives in proximity to but not in concert with the larger, general population. A kind of balkanization of society, and an assault upon the heritage, culture, nature and values of the country that absorbs a wide range of people seeking the advantage that other countries advance over their own.
In 2011 David Cameron, then the prime minister of Great Britain said: "Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream", and he was not speaking in a congratulatory vein.
The international academic, Canadian Michael Ignatieff who once entered the political sphere in an effort to gain the leadership of the country once said: "A multicultural Canada is a great idea in principle, but in reality it is more like a tacit contract of mutual indifference. Communities share political and geographical space, but not necessarily religious, social or moral space. We have little Hong Kongs, little Kabuls, just as we once had little Romes or little Lisbons."
The very basics of what it means to live in a liberal democracy should be ingrained in the minds and attitudes of every immigrant who comes to Canada to fully understand the meaning and importance of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Unfortunately, the Charter has been manipulated to reflect at times what people feel it should mean, not what it was meant to be.
|The Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan|