Globe's Marina Jimez on future of multiculturalism
Globe and Mail Update
December 11, 2007 at 3:00 PM EST
For years, Canadians have successfully proselytized overseas the benefits of multiculturalism in our country,” The Globe's Marina Jimez wrote in Saturday's Globe Essay When multiculturalism morphs into pluralism
“Scholars trooped to European capitals to give Power Point presentations on how to successfully integrate immigrants. Canada was the multi-culti go-to nation.”
But at a major conference on social cohesion last month in Britain, Canadian academics “suddenly found themselves on the defensive, as multiculturalism was declared a failed model for Britain.
“Canada, it seems, no longer has any lessons for Europe. Multiculturalism is seen as yesterday's 'ism',” she wrote.
Globe Essay: When multiculturalism morphs into pluralism
From the archives
Earlier discussion: Marina Jimez on culture clash?
Globe editorial: Canadians born abroad
Census 2006: We are a nation of newcomers
Foreign-born population hits 75-year high
Immigrants in 'survival jobs' look for more
Torch and twang helping ESL students learn
” . . . As the U.K., France, the Netherlands and other European countries change course, Canada too has begun to re-examine its approach in managing diversity.
“With this week's news that one in every five Canadians was born outside the country, new challenges are emerging.”
What's your view on multiculturalism? Is it a failed policy of the past? Or an indispensable part of our future?
Ms. Jimez was online and took questions on her essay and on related issues.
Your questions and Ms. Jimez's answers appear at the bottom of this page when the discussion begins.
Ms. Jimez won a National Newspaper Award in 2003 for beat reporting (immigration) and was one of three finalists in 2004 for the same award.
Earlier this year, she wrote in The Globe: “The number of ethnic enclaves . . . has exploded in Canada.”
“In 1981, there were only six in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. By 2001, there were 254, according to a study by Statistics Canada, which defines ethnic enclaves as communities with 30 per cent of the population from one visible minority group.”
“What are the long-term consequences of this explosion in ethnic enclaves? Does self-isolation impede integration? Will the children of these immigrants eventually blend into Canadian society like previous generations, or will their status as visible minorities block their progress no matter where they live?
“Mostly, it's too early to tell. But one thing is already clear: Multiculturalism isn't working that well for visible-minority newcomers.”
Sasha Nagy, globeandmail.com: Marina: Thanks for taking reader questions today. There are many, and it is probably best to get right to them.
Cynthia C from Toronto writes: Two questions: First, do you think that part of the problem of multiculturalism is that it causes people to hold on to the old culture for a longer period of time, causing insiders and outsiders alike to believe that all XYZs are supposed to behave a certain way (and anything different isn't normal)? For example, unlike Chinese or Koreans in Canada, South Asians tend not to give their children westernized names at birth. If parents of South Asian descent do decide to name their child, say, Katherine or Jack, it's quite possible that they're criticized by family members. Second, why do the media often report that minorities are 'disadvantaged?' Most Chinese Canadians I know grew up in the suburbs, went to summer camp, played street hockey and took piano lessons. I don't see how that's disadvantaged at all.
Marina Jimez writes: I will answer the second question first. It is true that minorities and newcomers are not uniformly disadvantaged? One of the problems with federal employment equity laws (which apply to women, minorities, the disabled and aboriginals) is that it leaves out other groups who are disadvantaged (eg. Portuguese immigrants who historically have not had high levels of educational attainment, but you are also not visible minorities) and includes other groups who may not be. But it is still a useful tool to help newcomers get ahead and ensure they have opportunities in the labour market.
I think holding on to one's cultural practises can be helpful to newcomer groups and hopefully not stand in the way of their ability to integrate — as long as they actually have a chance to meet Canadians of all backgrounds and persuasions.
Vivaldo Latoche from Ottawa writes: Hello Ms. Jimez, I don't kow if you ever asked an immigrant why he/she came to Canada? Or even to your parents, why did they come to this country? In my view, this is the first question to be answer when discussing the issue of 'multiculturalism.' Pierre E. Trudeau, who is still my hero in many respects, was not right in this one. I strongly disagree with him regarding his 'multicultural policy.' This policy does not integrate a foreigner. It does foster and creates cultural ghettos only. And thus the policy becomes the 'Us and them.' The end result of this, is that politicians at every level, either local, provincial or federal, use this policy to win votes for re-election or election. In other words, 'politicos' make good use of this policy for their own self-interests and nothing else. This is why, I was very glad when I heard that John Torry was defeated in the last Provincial Election, in part for his illed-concived proposal to offer funding for minority religous schools. Therefore, politicians take note: 'immigrants' are tired of your 'multicultural policy' and they will not be taken for granted any more. Offer them realistic policies to help them become better citizens and true Canadians rather than human dependence. I do believe that 'culture' should be treated like 'religion,' a private matter. If you want to foster it you pay for it. Thank you for your time and attention.
Marina Jimez writes: That is an interesting perspective. I would imagine that the ability to get a job is the most important issue in the beginning for newcomers. As for cultural ghettos, I think it is true that we do have more ethnic enclaves than we did 20 or 30 years ago … the jury is still out on the impact of this or what it means to the next generation. As for my background, my father immigrated here from Spain and my mother from Australia in 1960. Both were able to find jobs in their respective fields. However, my father had to repeat all of his medical training as his qualifications from Madrid, Spain, were not accepted. The good news is that he was able to do this, in contrast with many of the foreign doctors who come in today and cannot find a spot in our medical schools to repeat their training. My mother's credentials as a physiotherapist (from Sydney University) were accepted. I wonder if this would be true today?
Mei-Xing Xu from Canada writes: I find multiculturalism to be the greatest thing about Canada. I love Canada and the fact it's home to so many cultures, races, and religions. From a financial standpoint Canada is also the best, as with a little hard work, and the will to save money, anyone in a very short period can own and open their own business. I love you Canada.
Marina Jimez writes: That is great to read your optimism! That it were so for everyone…
Steve Michaels from Canada writes: When will Canada's out-of-touch political elite realize that multiculturalism simply does not work for establishing a national culture and identity based on shared common values? While there is nothing wrong with a multi-racial society … racial and cultural exclusive ethnic enclaves send a message to the rest of Canada that this section of society have no interest in integrating to the values and culture of their adopted country. Furthermore, it impedes rapid integration for 2nd and 3rd generations. Yes, we are a nation of immigrants but only in the last 30 years has there been an emphasis of multiculturalism – a policy which simply works against a united country.
Marina Jimez writes: There are certainly concerns about ethnic enclaves. The question of creating and articulating a national culture is an interesting one. How would we define our common values? Some scholars say that diversity itself and multiculturalism are our defining characteristics. Others say we have common principals, as articulated in the Charter of Rights of Freedoms, and the law, but no common values. Toronto is one of the world's first “plural” cities where more than 50 per cent of the residents were born somewhere else, but where no one ethnicity dominates. We are being watched around the world to see how the challenges of our changing society unfold…
Mary O'Hara from Canada writes: Actually, increasingly it seems that non-newcomer Canadians are thinking that it's not working that well for them either. I believe 3/4 of the respondents in the recent Globe poll with the largest response rate that I ever saw (18,000) felt that it was a 'a failed policy of the past'. Maybe it's time to think again about what we want our future to look like. Are Canadians going to get any input? Or only special interest groups and the United Nations?
Marina Jimez writes: That is an interesting point. Many of the newcomers I have interviewed over the years have one central complaint: they cannot get the jobs they were educated to do and are forced to take menial jobs delivering pizza or flipping hamburgers, to use two clich. It takes them years sometimes to finally get a job that was as good as the one they left behind. Often by then they have had to spend their life's savings. … Some are bitter about this and who can blame them. Luckily the government seems to accept that they must act to help foreigners understand what they must do to get their credentials recognized BEFORE they make the decision to immigrate here. Regulatory agencies which assess foreigner's professional qualifications are also paying attention to this challenge.
Marie-Claire Barba-Flores from Toronto writes: Ms. Jimez: I wrote my final Bachelor's thesis on Immigration within NAFTA back in 1998-1999. In my thesis, I noted the difference between the U.S. (Assimilation Theory – not so much Melting Pot, in my opinion) and Canada (Cultural Mosaic – no so much Melting Pot either). The world has changed very much since then, especially after 9/11.
I believe in Samuel Huntington's theory about the Clash of Civilizations. After watching all the problems that the European nations are facing regarding immigration (i.e France and the Algerian immigrants) I think that colonialism is backfiring on them. Do you think that, although the U.S. and Canada were colonies themselves, but are countries that have high volumes of legal and illegal immigration, in the long run this might backfire on Canada and the U.S. as well? Please note that I am certainly not against immigration. I am in favour of receiving skilled immigrants.
Marina Jimez writes: In fact, many scholars believe that Canadians continue to support high levels of immigration precisely because they still believe that we have a “managed system” and that the flow of 250,000 annual newcomers is regulated. We do not have a huge population of illegals in Canada, partly because we do not share a border with a refugee-producing country, and partly because we make it quite difficult to enter our country by imposing visa requirements, etc. In contrast, the U.S. has seven million foreigners living there who do not have legal status. Coincidentally, the U.S. has also seen a backlash against efforts to regularize the status of this population, and support for building a fence between Mexico, where most illegals come from, and the U.S. There are towns where illegals have been chased away, and entire economies have collapsed but the town would rather have this, than support this flow of people who “cheated the system” and came in without proper work papers.
Maroun Maroun from Gatineau, Quebec writes: In your article, you quoted Mr. Kenney as saying 'Immigrants don't integrate.' Since the space was limited to take his full statement, could you elaborate whether what he meant was something of the immigrants' fault or that they are facing barriers from the host society because more recent immigrants are not from Europe?
Also, could you explain in what sense is pluralism deeper than multiculturalism? All my life I though that multiculturalism is synonymous with being Canadian, and is a superior concept to conformity and assimilation. Why does the government not do a better job at communicating it if the issue is simply about public perception?
Marina Jimez writes: I cannot speak for Mr. Kenney, but my understanding was that when he speaks of pluralism, as opposed to multiculturalism, I think he means including the views and diversity of the host society… as well as of those who were born elsewhere and come to Canada as immigrants. He also spoke about articulating a strong national identity, even as we accommodate minorities and ensure we are doing enough to help newcomers get language training, enter the job market, etc. I think the government is beginning to articulate a more nuanced understanding of immigration and the signal is the change in the name of Mr. Kenney's position, which is secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity. But perhaps there is much more that needs to be said/debated about the change in direction.
C Chow from Ottawa writes: Recently I was on a major city bus when school just finished and the bus was flooded with high school students on their way home. I noticed groups of students huddling together chit-chatting and having fun and most of these groups were very ethnically defined. In other words, you don't see very many students from different cultures interacting in a group. Also, you hear students prefering to speak in their native tongue in a social setting.
I wonder whether language is the main obstacle to social interaction between members of different cultures in today's Canadian society (even amongst students), and;
would you view this situation (students creating social circles with only members of their own culture) as a positive or negative demonstration of 'multiculturalism' in Canada?
Marina Jimez writes: I know that public schools are often thought of as the great leveller, a place where young students can mix and meet people from all different religious and ethno-cultural backgrounds. BUt it would make a fascinating study to see whether this is actually happening. I know in my neighbourhood there are two schools blocks apart. One is French immersion and seems to attract mainly white students. The other seems to have a much higher degree of cultural diversity in its student body. I wonder why this is so.
Rod Duncan from Toronto writes: I'd like to address the need for Canadians and Canadian organizations to increase their intercultural competencies to be able to satisfactorily respond in a timely and effective manner and resolve future domestic and foreign intercultural conflicts, to optimize positive consequences flowing from articulated different ways of seeing things, and to realize the national (and regional) competitive advantages that have become possible by virtue of the increasingly complex multicultural environment most Canadians and most Canadian organizations live and operate within. Other countries, such as the EU nations and the U.S., have well developed programs and services, both provided by the private and public sector, to increase domestic intercultural competencies, and Canada lags behind, particularly within in private sector. It's public sector efforts have been mainly directed at federal Foreign Affairs departmental staff, CIDA, military personnel going overseas, and so on. There are some University programs, but much needs to be done to broaden the base of such programs and create new programs, particularly in the private sector. Do you agree, and if so, what is the best way to solve the problem, create positive competitive differentiation in business and realize the opportunities to increase domestic productivity, support the globalization of Canadian based businesses, particularly those in a knowledge economy, andwiden and develop our exported products and services.
Marina Jimez writes: That sounds like a great idea. I think we could do more to leverage the brains, networks, and knowledge of our diaspora communities. We could come up with different ways to recruit, and work harder to ensure that universities/ the media/ the private sector/ government bureaucracies/ law firms are broadening their talent search to include visible minorities and recent arrivals from certain countries and regions. Diversity as a business model should sell.
Proud Canadian By Choice from Canada writes: Multiculturalism can work better if combined with a reasonable degree of assimilation, the result will be an improved version of ourselves. We all (old and new Canadians) need to be even more open to learning from all cultures, inlcuding our traditional Canadian culture, and adopting the best best from everybody. If we give up on this, we will compromise our future and may end up like an average country on earth.
Marina Jimez writes: I guess it's a question of how you define multiculturalism. We are very sensitive to the “A” word and always prefer to speak of integration… where we can be both our old and our new selves. It is true that nothing is static and when newcomers interact with Canadians of different backgrounds, new identities are created in that very interaction.
Marie-Claire Barba-Flores from Toronto writes: Thank you for your response. I am Canadian, but grew up in Mexico (Mexican dad, French-Canadian mom and American born). I have experienced the immigration shock of having to obtain Canadian work experience, etc. My husband has experienced that as well. We are both struggling to find our niche in Canada. We're both educated individuals (my husband has a Master's degree) and have ended up working in Customer Service jobs. After over 7 years in Canada, I sometimes feel we're running out of patience. Going back to Mexico is not an option, as our families will resent us for leaving in the first place. I hope you still speak Spanish, I would really like to keep in contact. I am very impressed with your comments and knowledge.
Marina Jimez writes: I empathize with your struggle and hope that you find fulfilling work. Otherwise you will join the 30 per cent of immigrants who eventually leave and go elsewhere, and that will be Canada's loss.
Sasha Nagy: Marina, as the events that occurred in Mississauga yesterday so graphically illustrate, a father is charged with killing his 15 year old daughter, after allegedly clashing over her desire to stop wearing a hijab and embrace more Western customs, these are clearly times of tumult in Canada when it comes to integrating different cultures and beliefs into our society. It is simply a very difficult road ahead.
Canada has often been compared as an example for the rest of the world. When I read about such events, I wonder if we are starting to reflect the clash of cultures that we see elsewhere in the world. Any comments?
Marina Jimez writes: While this is an isolated event (and we don't actually know what has happened yet), it is always distressing to see the fall-out between generations, as parents struggle to hold on to their cultural traditions, while their offspring struggle to throw them off and “integrate” into mainstream society. I think we have more of these struggles going on (spousal abuse , etc) than we probably realize or than some care to admit. We shouldn't fear to report on these events, but use them as a chance to highlight the very real struggles that newcomers go through, and to educate all involved, and ensure they have somewhere to turn to avoid these tragic situations. I recently sat through a great seminar organized by a community centre in Brampton for South Asian men on marital issues. It was overseen by a man of Sikh origin who spoke Punjabi, and the men were so grateful to have a chance to air their problems, and their struggles, with someone who could offer guidance and support and hopefully steer them clear of resorting to physical violence.