Multiculturalism Losing Ground In Canada

Multiculturalism loosing ground in Canada []
2007-11-08 02:45:29 t

OTTAWA, Nov. 7 (Xinhua) — As one of the world's major immigrant-receiving societies, Canada has taken pride on being a cultural mosaic where different ethnic cultures co-exist.

However, a recent poll finds most Canadians are no longer fond of the concept of ethnic diversity.

The poll conducted by SES Research showed as many as 53 percent Canadians believed immigrants should “adapt fully” to Canadian culture. Just 18 percent agreed with the statement “it is reasonable to accommodate religious and cultural minorities.”

As for accommodating religious and cultural minorities in public places, such as schools, hospitals and government buildings,37 percent thought there should be no accommodation at all. Only 6 percent are in favor of full accommodation. As for accommodation in the workplace, 45 percent said there should be none, with 4 percent agreeing to full accommodation.

The poll's analysis reads: “By significant majorities in Canada as a whole, and by overwhelming majorities in Quebec, Canadians and Quebecers declare limits to reasonable accommodation.”

The Canadian government established the Multicultural Act in 1971, to “promote the understanding that multiculturalism is a fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage” and “acknowledge the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage.”

But a series of incidents that happen lately indicate that those Canadians who believe multiculturalism is synonymous with identity are losing ground over those who believe Canada's identity precedes and supersedes the notion of multiculturalism.

In French-speaking Quebec province, there have been reports of tense relations between “pur laine” Quebecers, or people who can trace their ancestry back to the province's first French inhabitants, and racial and religious minority groups as well as visible minorities.

For example, a village proposed a ban on veils and the stoning of women; an 11-year-old girl was denied participation in a soccer tournament because she wore the hijab; a gymnasium tinted its windows to appease members of a Jewish group across the street who felt women exercising was too provocative.

The situation has even aroused the attention of the Quebec government who struck a commission to examine relations between the two sides. The commission is holding 17 public hearings in the province this fall to discuss such questions as: what level of accommodation is considered reasonable when it comes to minority groups? What obligations, if any, are reasonable to expect in exchange for the right to call oneself a Canadian citizen?

Even in Ontario, the birthplace of multiculturalism with the city of Toronto a tapestry of cultures, reasonable accommodation has become an issue.

In the provincial election last month, Progressive Conservative Opposition Leader John Tory proposed extending government funding of education to include faith-based schools. The plan to give tax money to Christian, Jewish and Muslim schools sparked outrage and dominated debate throughout the campaign. Many said Creationism would displace Evolution, female students would be reduced to second class citizens, along with a number of other claims.

Not only were supporters of the ruling Liberals lambasting Tory for promoting “cultural enclaves,” but even hard line supporters vowed not vote for him if he did not drop the idea. Tory eventually relented, offering to allow a free vote on the issue if he won power, which would have effectively killed any legislation.

Analysts say it is no surprise to see reasonable accommodation take center stage in Canada's politics. The debate has been simmering for some time. Before the Conservative Party won the federal election in January 2006, the one-time Department of Multiculturalism was downsized to a sector within the Department of Heritage, even though immigration continues to grow.

Jason Kenney is Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity. His spokesperson, Ronald Leung, does not include multiculturalism among the attributes of the Canadian identity.

“When we talk about Canadian identity, we talk about the common values we all share. They are democracy, fairness and human rights,” Leung said. “We welcome immigrants. In 10 years time, one in five Canadians will be a visible minority. And we need those immigrants, which is why we should be able to celebrate our diversity.”

“But we as a government are committed to multiculturalism,” Leung said.

Editor: Yan Liang