The Great Misunderstanding of the word “Multiculturalism”—The Ukrainian Connection
By Frank Hilliard
Author of “A Conspiracy of Two”
Events in the Ukraine are still playing out, particularly the role of Russia, but they have already produced a remarkable irony. The new EuroMaidan government of Ukraine has rescinded a law allowing Russian as an official language in the Ukraine (1) and is considering a ban on Russian-language broadcasts (2).
This ethno-nationalism is significant to Canada now because it is the exact opposite of the demands of the Ukrainian-Canadian community in the 1960’s. At that time, Ukrainian Canadians reacted to the proposed “Biculturalism” (French-English) policy for Canada by arguing for a Multiculturalism policy. For his own political purposes, then PM Pierre Trudeau genetically modified those relatively limited demands for a “multicultural” rather than the proposed “bicultural” policy and produced the monster Canada now calls its official “multiculturalism” policy. This policy has had a massive negative effect on Canada.
Supporters of Canada’s mass immigration and multiculturalism policies often point to the success Canada had in the past of assimilating newcomers into Canadian society. They say by the third generation most immigrants are thoroughly Canadian in thought and action. To these proponents, there is no need to change our open-door, mass immigration policy because it’s been, in their view, a roaring success.
Unfortunately, what was true in the past is often not true now and may not be true at all in the future. Some newer immigrant groups don’t want to assimilate and prefer to remain distinct. The reason they feel this way has to do with what I call ‘the great misunderstanding’ of the word “multiculturalism”, a philosophical position advanced by the Ukrainian-immigrant community in the 1960’s that led to a fundamental shift in Canadian governance.
What’s surprising today is that, over forty years later, almost no one remembers which community it was, what position they advanced and how it changed the course of Canadian history. Not one person in a thousand knows the name of the leader in this community or has read any of his writings. Nor do they remember, if they ever knew, who took advantage of the position for his own cultural, political and philosophical ends.
I wrote an entire book, “A Conspiracy of Two”, on this subject, but I’ll try to boil it down to just a few paragraphs.
The community I’m referring to was the Ukrainian-Canadian community and its leader was Isydore Hlynka. Hlynka lobbied tirelessly in letters, speeches and a newspaper column in “The Ukrainian Voice” under the pseudonym of Ivan Harmata for a new kind of Canada. He presented the Ukrainian Canadian Committee’s submission to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism on Oct. 1, 1964, arguing that Canada was a multilingual and multicultural country and that the very concept of biculturalism– the subject of the Royal Commission–was an insult to one third of Canadians. Canada should be, instead, officially multicultural, recognizing the role that other cultures, like that of Ukraine, had played in creating the country.
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, in declaring there is no official culture in Canada, decided to switch horses in the B & B mid-stream, accept Hlynka’s argument, change the constitution, and assign another Ukrainian to promote the new policy.
Now we come to the actual misunderstanding I mentioned earlier. Dr. Hlynka was clearly referring to Ukrainian language, food, clothing, music and religion when he referred to Ukrainian culture. But culture is more than that; indeed the primary product of culture is law. Another way to put this is to say that law is merely a way of institutionalizing culture. For example, Canada was a primarily Christian country in its beginnings and its people celebrated two of the most important holy days in the Christian culture : Christmas and Easter. In time, those days became institutionalized as official holidays in law in Canada.
However, when Dr. Hlynka asked that Ukrainian culture be included in the Canadian mosaic, he never once suggested that the Soviet Parliamentary model, Soviet economic model or Soviet legal model then current in Ukraine be adopted in Canada. Indeed not. He was content with the British Parliamentary model, the capitalist economic model and a criminal code based on English common law and Judeo-Christian religious law. Indeed, the million or so Ukrainian immigrants who came to Canada not only sought a better life, but were anxious to escape the political, economic and legal norms in their homeland.
Trudeau knew all this, of course, even when he said Canada had no official culture. How could he not, saying it in a House of Commons modeled in practice and architecture on the one in London? He knew it ; he just didn’t like it.
And so Hlynka’s appeal for Ukrainian recognition became a useful mechanism for Trudeau. If English Canada could be made to swallow the Ukrainian argument, the entire fabric of English culture and its constitutionalism could be attacked. And attack it he did most notably in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which officially dumped biculturalism and replaced it with multiculturalism.
It also, as we soon found out, replaced Parliamentary democracy with a constitutional model which raised the role of the Supreme Court, and that of the individual, and reduced the role of Parliament and that of the English-speaking majority.
This is a hard point to put across, so I’ll say it again in a different way. In the traditional British governmental model, the majority rules, pure and simple. Britain had no supreme court before 2009 and had no need for one as Parliament was supreme. That meant, in practice, the majority could create the laws for the majority and the rest of the population had to play along.
Under the Trudeau model of multiculturalism, the defining unit of society was the individual, and each individual would have equal rights. To sort out conflicting claims, a document (the Charter) would set the standard and the court (Supreme Court) would make the decisions. Parliament, meanwhile, the only place where the majority as a group could make an impact on national affairs, would be given a secondary role.
Trudeau, in effect, used the Ukrainian multiculturalism argument to alter the British Parliamentary and legal system and replace it with one that divided society into small ethnic communities each with its own cultural norms.
We have seen the result in the gang, gun and drug culture of fatherless Jamaican young men in Toronto and in the spate of honour killings in the Sikh and Muslim communities in British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario. It is also more and more evident in the calls for Sharia law, Sharia-compliant facilities, numerous visible minority demands and for the elimination of any mention of God in the Constitution or in the Canadian public square.
To many immigrants, genital mutilation, stoning of adulterers, polygamy, restrictions on women, child marriage, female-specific abortions and many other cultural attributes are lawful in their homeland. And, because multiculturalism raises the value of these attributes in Canada, these practices may become laws here too in time. In other words, if all cultures are equal (if cultural relativism continues to prevail), then anything can be justified.
This is the direction we are going down as a result of unnecessary high immigration : larger cultural ghettos, more changes to the law to accommodate foreign cultural norms, less stability and more violence in society.
These changes are leading us down the road to Sarajevo. And in case Canadians have forgotten what that means, the road to Sarajevo is the road to civil war.
Fixing this mess will take time. Step number one in the fixing is to dramatically curb immigration.