Governor General-To-Be-Jean Lamented Multiculturalism’s "Absurdities" In April Speech

September 23, 2005: Governor General-To-Be Jean Lamented Multiculturalism's “Absurdities” In April Speech

Jean lamented multiculturalism's 'absurdities'
Policy hurts unity, governor general-to-be said in April speech

Kate Jaimet
The Ottawa Citizen


Friday, September 23, 2005

The government's policy of multiculturalism encourages people to stay in ethnic ghettos and leads to “all sorts of absurdities,” governor general-designate Micha?le Jean has said

Ms. Jean made the comments in French at a colloquium in Montreal last April, before she was named the country's next governor general. They were reported in the Canadian Jewish News.

“Citizenship means living together. … But does 'multiculturalism' really propose us living together?

“We are even given money so that we will each stay in our own separate enclosure. There's a kind of proposition of ghettoization that is there, and that is financed. Yet 'multiculturalism' is proposed as a founding model of Canada,” she said at the colloquium held by the Institut de Judaisme Quebecois.

Ms. Jean went on to criticize the leaders of organizations who make their living from multiculturalism.

“It's terrible, when you think about it. My dream is that we reflect much more deeply on citizenship, on belonging, which is not a negation of where we come from or our heritage, whether we are from Abitibi or Haiti or somewhere else.

“It's not that. But what are we doing together? Right now, we are living through all kinds of absurdities surrounding this separate development. There are even values that we would profoundly like to adhere to, here in Quebec, and also in the rest of Canada, that are undermined in the name of this separate development and 'multiculturalism'.”

Ms. Jean, who immigrated from Haiti as a child, will become Canada's first black governor general when she assumes her post next week.

She was appointed by Prime Minister Paul Martin on Aug. 4. She is not granting interviews before taking office.

Melanie Gruer, a spokeswoman for Mr. Martin, refused to respond to Ms. Jean's comments, saying they were made before she was selected for the position.

“I would just say it should not come as a surprise to people that she held views on public policy prior to being appointed,” Ms. Gruer said.

The federal government spends about $20 million a year specifically on multiculturalism. Of that, $13 million is handed out in the form of grants and contributions to various community groups.

In 1988, Canada enshrined its policy of multiculturalism into law. While affirming the equality of all individuals, the act requires the government to “recognize and promote the understanding that multiculturalism is a fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage and identity.” The government must also “foster the recognition and appreciation of the diverse cultures of Canadian society and promote … the evolving expression of those cultures.”

Ms. Jean, who became the first black television news anchor on Radio Canada in 1995, remained one of the few black reporters working at the public broadcaster.

In her speech at the colloquium, Ms. Jean also criticized Radio Canada for failing to hire more ethnic minorities. She said that for people of different ethnic backgrounds to integrate into society, they must be able to see themselves reflected in public institutions, like public television.

“In the Radio-Canada newsroom, where I work every day, we have a sort of mezzanine where we can see everyone. I am disappointed to note that you could count on the fingers of one hand the people who are different,” Ms. Jean said. “If… there is no projection of a multi-faceted, diverse, cosmopolitan, modern, dynamic society, how can young people feel that there is a place for them, that they belong to the society in which they live?”

She said it is damaging to children to be pushed into separate ethnic identities.

“Lots of kids in north Montreal don't recognize themselves anywhere. In school, they're still called 'our little Haitians,' 'our little this,' 'our little that.' They have no opportunity to be Quebecois… These kids say: I'm Haitian, I'm Latin-American. They're born here, they grow up here, they speak Quebecois … and yet, they're incapable of calling themselves Quebecois. Why? Because they don't feel it. We still call them 'the others.' These young people don't have the sense of being full-fledged citizens.”

Bev Oda, the Heritage critic for the Conservative party, said she believes Ms. Jean meant that multiculturalism might potentially cause ghettoization — not that it necessarily does.

Ms. Oda said she believes that multiculturalism works well in Canada.

“Most of the grants are for cultural activities. So if you wanted your children to learn the traditional dances, or whatever, there was a place for that,” said Ms. Oda, who is of Japanese heritage.

“We had different activities, community activities, but it didn't mean I was living in a ghetto. I was living in the heart of Mississauga.”

The Ottawa Citizen 2005