A New Vision of Multiculturalism in Canada.
embrace of multiculturalism makes it one of the most desirable countries
in which to live. It is the single most important reason why I migrated
here from my native Bangladesh 15 years ago. As a social and political
activist at both the federal and provincial level I have come to realize
that the vision of multiculturalism envisaged by Prime Minister Pierre
Trudeau three decades ago has unfortunately stagnated.
is in trouble because our political leadership can’t decide whether it
serves any purpose in the current climate of fear over terrorism and a
global recession. One group is trying to prop up multiculturalism without
a constructive plan to enhance its core values while another group is
trying to tear it apart ignoring it's current relevance.
the relevance of multiculturalism requires us to alter our language. It is
a fact that Canada is a nation of minorities, probably the only one of its
kind. And while there is no clear majority the term ‘visible' minority
is regularly deployed as if it stands in opposition to a known ethnic
majority. In this context, the term ‘visible minority’ is perceived as
having racist overtones particularly when it is coupled with policies that
marginalize a vast number of citizens from political participation.
If one were
to unpack the implications of the term ‘majority’, one will see that
it applies not only to Anglo-Saxons but to the Irish, French, Russians,
Romanians, Italians, and Greek Canadians. Common ethnic features and
perhaps also adherence to a common religion unite this disparate
‘majority’. There is nothing homogeneous about this group.
And yet this
so-called 'majority' is entrenched in the upper echelons of our society
and is favored politically and economically. This group not only has
political and legal legitimacy, but because it is a racial formulation, it
undermines the cherished ideals of our liberal democracy particularly the
values of equality enshrined in our Charter. Insisting on a ‘minority’
‘majority’ bifurcation of our society mitigates against the
multicultural vision that so many beyond our borders admire us for.
step in reviving the ideals of multiculturalism is to expunge from our
discourse the terms ‘minority’ and ‘majority’. These categories
are racist and they distort our collective commitment to citizenship.
insisting on casting citizens into groups of minority and majority,
newcomers to this country are trapped in a system of structural
discrimination when it comes to issues of settlement, employment and
social mobility. Today, we are witnessing the rise of ethnic ghettos in
Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver. This is a stark reflection of the
derailment of multiculturalism. Instead of taking the path of cultural
tolerance and social inclusion our current brand of multiculturalism has
us going down the road of cultural intolerance and social exclusion.
are asked to be grateful for the privilege of living in Canada while
accepting that they may never achieve the social and political status of
the entrenched majority. Our system is designed to benefit that
‘majority’ at the expense of the ‘visible minority’.
immigrants who get jobs face a glass ceiling in their respective
professions that restricts their professional growth. There is little or
no representation of immigrants in various professional areas and this has
eroded the confidence of those who are considered to have been '
successful'. It has created a parallel world where the majority live is
one world while the minority inhabits another. A complaint against the
status quo is perceived as ‘whining’ by the immigrants.
Canada has been accepting immigrants, its utilization of their
professional expertise is marginal. In other words, Canada is wasting the
talent pool it has at its disposal. The result is economic stagnancy among
‘visible minority’ communities, high unemployment and now
generation Canadian university and college graduates are forced to settle
for dead-end jobs with minimum wage. Migration to the US is on the rise.
These are alarming signs that require new thinking and a new approach.
are policies that have to be addressed there are many actionable issues at
stake. A great deal of work needs to be done by city councillors and the
service organizations at the neighborhood level where marginalization is
confidence in multiculturalism much work will have to be done at the local
level where the emphasis should focus on socio-economic issues rather than
celebrating cultural diversity. This is one way our leaders can begin to
erode the minority-majority categories that is trapping our true potential
as a nation.
leaders with vision and political will to harness our collective potential
and turn this nation into one of the richest in the world. We should not
accept anything less.
graduates cannot remain unemployed even if for a month after their
graduation. In the current global recession the first generation of recent
immigrants are troubled by the prospects that their Canadian born children
who are graduating in large numbers from our colleges and universities
with top grades, will not find good jobs with decent wages.
assistance program must be reformed since the present system is in tatters
and cannot be sustained. The system will trap not only this generation but
generation to come in a cauldron of poverty and depression. We are already
witnessing that some ethnic groups are overrepresented in our criminal
immigration system must br reformed on the basis of scientific, productive
and effective criteria. We can’t justify draining the brain-power from
the developing world only to have them do menial jobs and live from pay
cheque to pay cheque.
Canada is a
great country and a land of opportunity but if the doors of opportunity
remains shut for large segments of people Canada will never experience its
true potential. We need to reinvest in a vibrant notion of
multiculturalism, one that is well suited for the 21st century.