Multiculturalism: Canada’s Biggest Mistake?

This week the National Post launched a series about Canadas Biggest Mistakes. Written by different columnists, yesterdays big mistake was deficit spending. In todays installment of the top 5, columnist Barbara Kay sets her sights on multiculturalism.

I must admit I am not an avid reader of the National Post. In fact, I dont think I had ever even heard of it prior to this column. However, Wikipedia informs me that it is a voice for Canadian conservatives. A brief perusal of Kays biggest hits, including as “Hug the Earth, kill the humans, ” “Barack Obama’s selective silence on his racist pastor, Jeremiah Wright,” and “The College Campus: Anti-Semitism’s last North American Refuge and Taking Back the Campus” helps me situate her on a political spectrum. In America, we call her David Horowitz and Bill OReilly. Well, enough of that, let us try to engage the substance of her argument.

Kay doesnt mince her words on her stand:

Multiculturalism is Canadas greatest mistake, but if it is any consolation, it is every western countrys greatest mistake. And now some of them are paying a terrible price.

Glibly, she is our shining light that cuts through the darkness:

The happy surface of multiculturalism is a street-enlivening diversity of skin hues, native fabrics, with a panoply of foreign cuisines on every corner schwarma, pad thai, falafel, tandoori goat not to mention the feel-good, meticulously painted-by-number rainbow of visible minorities one sees working in government agencies, non-profit organizations and university equity offices.

However, Kay tells us the reality:

Multiculturalism is idealistic in theory, but its real effect has been the entrenchment in our intellectual and cultural elites of an unhealthy obsession with a largely phantom racism amongst heritage Canadians that no amount of penance or cultural self-effacement can ever transcend.

In its ideological insistence on the equal value of all cultures other than ours (ours being the sole inferior one), multiculturalisms main accomplishment has been to instill self-loathing in heritage Canadians, a sense of responsibility-free entitlement in identity groups, and the suffocation of critical diversity in the public form.

For Kay, it is a zero-sum game. Identity groups having pride in their heritage can only come about with the self-loathing of heritage Canadians (translation: goray). However, this is the problem, for Kay only heritage Canadians are asli Canadians. She fails to see that multiculturalism was not merely a policy, but it was (and is) the Canadian reality. All Canadians benefit politically, morally, and economically from its vast immigrant populations. Helping them integrate sections of new Canadians into the general populace should be continued and celebrated.

Kay sense of history seems especially suspect, when she writes:

Even though Canada was a colony itself, and had never indulged in imperialism of any kind, Canadians were informed they must share in the blame because of their religious, racial and cultural association with former colonialists.

Although I am sure first nations Canadians may have a very different memory. Kays ideas seem to have a special virulence with the post 9/11 climate and the War on Terr-a (btw, doesnt terra mean earth?). This seems to be exactly what is on Kays mind, in her examples:

You can be a Pakistani al-Qaeda supporter first and a Canadian second, a Hindu-hostile Sikh first and a Canadian second, an aboriginal, a woman, a black or a gay first and a Canadian second really, the personal being the political, as moral relativists are so fond of repeating Canada: its all about you, you, you.

But this is the continuing problem, not only in Canada, but also in other areas such as the United States. Those on the right side of the political spectrum take a certain nativist tone and harp on a loss of values. In America, this refers to the ambiguous Judeo-Christian heritage and I am assuming in Canada it also means something similar. However this critique is not limited to only a nativist sentiment, but I have heard it espoused by assimilated immigrants as well (I use the word assimilated on purpose). In a comment on a previously discussed article, an internet commenter named Pradip Francis Rodrigues, from Mississauga, wrote:

Hats off to Jasmeet Sidhu for exposing the hypocrisy of South Asian culture. It has been an unending source of grief for many second-generation kids whose parents fulminate against the perceived depravity of Western culture that seemingly threatens their values.Unfortunately for many like Sidhu, her parents’ generation came here (they still do) clinging to their own culture.

Despite Kay’s criticism, I think the way out is greater cultural pluralism. The day heritage Canadians (to borrow from Kays stupid terminology) no longer see the Sikh kirpan or the Muslims hijab as something foreign, but rather as something very much Canadian will be a great day for Canada.

Similar to Lal, I believe we do see ‘legal pluralism’ in the courts of Canada and the United States. However ‘legal pluralism’ are merely court verdicts and parliamentary/congressional laws and bills that offer some legal support to minorities, but are constantly and continuously contested. Legal pluralism is temporary. The real meaning of ‘legal pluralism’ only enforces the supremacy that is given to the state to make all decisions.

What we need is actual ‘cultural pluralism.’ Cultural pluralism will occur when Canadians or Americans see the Muslim hijab or the Sikh kirpan as not something foreign or belonging to only a specific community, but rather a cultural and religious marker of members of its own society. What is your take?


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110 Responses to “Multiculturalism: Canada’s Biggest Mistake?”

  1. P.Singh says:

    Suki,

    You have made several broad (not-to-mention ridiculous) comments in this thread, and you have been challenged on those comments. Instead of answering the questions that have been posed, and/or engaging in meaningful debate, you simply ignore the questions and move on, posting other similar comments.

    Is it that you are not interested in debating these issues, that you are unable to engage in debate, or that you would rather ignore those responses for which you have no reply?

  2. Suki says:

    Is the culture of Canada’s earliest immigrants to reign supreme by virue of being in Canada longest?

    Yes, cause that culture had the biggest influence on what Canada is today. From the system of goverment to the system of laws that make this country what it is. There is a reason that English and French are the 2 national languages and not punjabi.

  3. Suki says:

    If that is true, then do not even newly arriving immigrants to Canada change the landscape and culture of Canada to some degree? Do they not also contribute to Canada’s continuing evolution as a country? Is one immigrant’s contribution to Canada considered better than another immigrant’s contribution, because he happened to contribute in 1890 as opposed to 1990?

    They make be changing the landscape of Vancouver and Toronto. But there is more to Canada then those 2 major cities. They are making very little change to the rest of Canada. Maybe they bring in great thing like sharia law.

  4. Mewa Singh says:

    Suki,

    I wonder if that has more to do with the ‘type’ of immigrants that came to the United States due to a ‘selective immigration’ policy? Ethnic enclaves due exist, although amongst Punjabi they are less common.

  5. Suki says:

    Are you kidding me? Every Punjabi Sikh I spoke to was disgusted with the crime. There was nothing but condemnation for this murder on local radio stations/talk show programs. Do you live in BC? If so, how could you miss this?

  6. Suki says:

    Are you kidding me? Every Punjabi Sikh I spoke to was disgusted with the crime. There was nothing but condemnation for this murder on local radio stations/talk show programs. Do you live in BC? If so, how could you miss this?

    I paid alot of attention to this case. Most of the anger in the punjabi community was over the media coverage and not the murder. At the trial the father has support from his wife and 2 other kids, plus from the Kitmat punjabi community and even letters from gurdwara leaders saying that he made an honest mistake.

    And what has the community done to honor the memory of Amandeep Atwal. The last of couple of years there has been a candlelight virgil for an 80 year old sikh man who was killed in a robbery, yet there has been no virgil for 17 year old Amandeep Atwal.

  7. Suki says:

    Another thing about Amandeep was that she had to hide her relationship from her family. Yet her brother had a white girlfriend and he didn't have to hide it.

    I have noticed that here in Vancouver if a punjabi guy has a white girlfriend he can go out in public, yet if its the other way around the girl has to hide her relationship from public. I'm sick of the double standard.

    I thought our religon said that were were all equal.

  8. Suki says:

    wonder if that has more to do with the type of immigrants that came to the United States due to a selective immigration policy? Ethnic enclaves due exist, although amongst Punjabi they are less common.

    Yes the type of immigrant that come to America is more educated then to Canada from the South Asian/Middle Eastern part of the world. Other then central and Northern Califronia and Queens New York I don’t know of any punjabi enclaves. There could be other that I don’t know about.

    But what is the sikh population in places like St.Louis,Denver,Cincinnati, Nashville and Pittsburgh and so on. The United States has so many major cities that most places sikh’s don’t stand out like Vancouver and Toronto. So they can’t live in enclave and have to intergrate.

    There about 400,000 sikhs in Canada and about 500,000 in the States.

  9. P.Singh says:

    Suki,

    You have made several broad (not-to-mention ridiculous) comments in this thread, and you have been challenged on those comments. Instead of answering the questions that have been posed, and/or engaging in meaningful debate, you simply ignore the questions and move on, posting other similar comments.

    Is it that you are not interested in debating these issues, that you are unable to engage in debate, or that you would rather ignore those responses for which you have no reply?

  10. Mewa Singh says:

    P.Singh,

    I, like you, don’t agree with Suki’s ideas, but at the same time, let us make sure we only challenge ideas as opposed to making personal attacks or challenging their credibility (since he/she is only giving their opinion, not claiming any type of expertise or authority).

    So back to Suki, but then if you agree that the type of immigrants that the United States, selectively brought to their country is generally of a higher educational background, then it will make sense why they better integrate — most are in professional classes and they came in with greater English-speaking abilities. Also, the integration of the American economy and its pull allows all groups to ‘integrate’ in the workplace, but do not think in their private lives there really is much mixing. So I wonder if it really is that different than most Canadians?

  11. Suki says:

    Is the culture of Canadas earliest immigrants to reign supreme by virue of being in Canada longest?

    Yes, cause that culture had the biggest influence on what Canada is today. From the system of goverment to the system of laws that make this country what it is. There is a reason that English and French are the 2 national languages and not punjabi.

  12. Suki says:

    If that is true, then do not even newly arriving immigrants to Canada change the landscape and culture of Canada to some degree? Do they not also contribute to Canadas continuing evolution as a country? Is one immigrants contribution to Canada considered better than another immigrants contribution, because he happened to contribute in 1890 as opposed to 1990?

    They make be changing the landscape of Vancouver and Toronto. But there is more to Canada then those 2 major cities. They are making very little change to the rest of Canada. Maybe they bring in great thing like sharia law.

  13. Suki says:

    Are you kidding me? Every Punjabi Sikh I spoke to was disgusted with the crime. There was nothing but condemnation for this murder on local radio stations/talk show programs. Do you live in BC? If so, how could you miss this?

  14. Suki says:

    Are you kidding me? Every Punjabi Sikh I spoke to was disgusted with the crime. There was nothing but condemnation for this murder on local radio stations/talk show programs. Do you live in BC? If so, how could you miss this?

    I paid alot of attention to this case. Most of the anger in the punjabi community was over the media coverage and not the murder. At the trial the father has support from his wife and 2 other kids, plus from the Kitmat punjabi community and even letters from gurdwara leaders saying that he made an honest mistake.

    And what has the community done to honor the memory of Amandeep Atwal. The last of couple of years there has been a candlelight virgil for an 80 year old sikh man who was killed in a robbery, yet there has been no virgil for 17 year old Amandeep Atwal.

  15. Suki says:

    Another thing about Amandeep was that she had to hide her relationship from her family. Yet her brother had a white girlfriend and he didn’t have to hide it.

    I have noticed that here in Vancouver if a punjabi guy has a white girlfriend he can go out in public, yet if its the other way around the girl has to hide her relationship from public. I’m sick of the double standard.

    I thought our religon said that were were all equal.

  16. kprincess says:

    Sukhi:

    From your comments it seems like you're bitter that "uneducated" Punjabi's are making it into Canada. To me you sound no different from those Punjabi's who are upset that the bahai are making it into Punjab.

    I live in the bay area too, and there are plenty of people here who don not assimilate. Most Mexicans don't even know English, so you'll find Spanish everywhere. Go to Yuba city, and it feels like a village in punjab. I don't agree w/ the whole caste think and killing kids over marriage, but I don't see anything wrong w/ holding on to your beliefs if there's not discriminatory. Also, just cuz your educated doesn't mean you won't discriminate. There's plenty of educated people who cling on to caste as if it's their religion.

    Ok, I've had enough of this conversation.

  17. kprincess says:

    Sukhi:

    From your comments it seems like you’re bitter that “uneducated” Punjabi’s are making it into Canada. To me you sound no different from those Punjabi’s who are upset that the bahai are making it into Punjab.

    I live in the bay area too, and there are plenty of people here who don not assimilate. Most Mexicans don’t even know English, so you’ll find Spanish everywhere. Go to Yuba city, and it feels like a village in punjab. I don’t agree w/ the whole caste think and killing kids over marriage, but I don’t see anything wrong w/ holding on to your beliefs if there’s not discriminatory. Also, just cuz your educated doesn’t mean you won’t discriminate. There’s plenty of educated people who cling on to caste as if it’s their religion.

    Ok, I’ve had enough of this conversation.

  18. P.Singh says:

    Suki, you wrote:

    They make be changing the landscape of Vancouver and Toronto. But there is more to Canada then those 2 major cities.

    Definitely, there are towns across Canada where Punjabis, the Chinese, the Irish, and numerous other immigrants have contributed and continue to contribute to the fabric of Canada.

    They are making very little change to the rest of Canada.

    As opposed to what other group? What ethnicity constitutes these apparently superior Canadians that are collectively acting to change "the rest of Canada" in ways that go beyond what other immigrant groups are doing? What kind of change? How are these 'superior' Canadians affecting this change?

    Heck, looking at things from only a political front – I'll leave alone the contribution of immigrants to the economy (too easy, that) – does the political success of the Sikhs across Canada not represent some measure of impact they are having on Canada?

    Moreover, they are affecting change where they reside, and most Sikhs tend to reside in British Columbia and Ontario, so that is where they make the bulk of their contributions. The same holds true for virtually every individual living in Canada – their greatest contributions are in the provinces where they reside.

    Maybe they bring in great thing like sharia law.

    Wonderful – your one liner above does a more than adequate job of letting everyone know just how you feel about immigrant contributions to Canada, and about immigrants in general.

  19. P.Singh says:

    Suki, you wrote:

    cause that culture had the biggest influence on what Canada is today. From the system of goverment to the system of laws that make this country what it is. There is a reason that English and French are the 2 national languages and not punjabi.

    Wrong. That culture demolished, destroyed, raped the culture that existed in Canada at the time (the First Nations' culture(s)) and as the predominant immigrants in Canada at that time, established the laws from their own native countries i.e. the common law from England and civil law from France.

    In addition to the above, they did plenty of positive nation-building as well, and contributed to the growth of Canada.

    However, your statement indicates you believe that because of nation building in the past, this particular culture needs to be placed on a pedestal and deserves continued applause and admiration from us lesser Canadians (gosh darn it – why weren't my parents white immigrants – I want to sit on a pedestal too!).

    To reiterate previous posts – Canada is not, and never was a crystallized, static entity. Canada continues to evolve, grow, and change due to the contributions of all its peoples.

    As such, I still fail to see how the contribution of an Englishman trapping beaver for the Hudson's Bay Company in 1690, is superior to the contributions of a Chinese worker builing the Trans Canada Railway in 1880, or that of a Punjabi mill worker hauling logs for the Abbotsford Lumber Company in 1908.

  20. P.Singh says:

    Suki, you wrote:

    They make be changing the landscape of Vancouver and Toronto. But there is more to Canada then those 2 major cities.

    Definitely, there are towns across Canada where Punjabis, the Chinese, the Irish, and numerous other immigrants have contributed and continue to contribute to the fabric of Canada.

    They are making very little change to the rest of Canada.

    As opposed to what other group? What ethnicity constitutes these apparently superior Canadians that are collectively acting to change “the rest of Canada” in ways that go beyond what other immigrant groups are doing? What kind of change? How are these ‘superior’ Canadians affecting this change?

    Heck, looking at things from only a political front – I’ll leave alone the contribution of immigrants to the economy (too easy, that) – does the political success of the Sikhs across Canada not represent some measure of impact they are having on Canada?

    Moreover, they are affecting change where they reside, and most Sikhs tend to reside in British Columbia and Ontario, so that is where they make the bulk of their contributions. The same holds true for virtually every individual living in Canada – their greatest contributions are in the provinces where they reside.

    Maybe they bring in great thing like sharia law.

    Wonderful – your one liner above does a more than adequate job of letting everyone know just how you feel about immigrant contributions to Canada, and about immigrants in general.

  21. P.Singh says:

    Suki, you wrote:

    cause that culture had the biggest influence on what Canada is today. From the system of goverment to the system of laws that make this country what it is. There is a reason that English and French are the 2 national languages and not punjabi.

    Wrong. That culture demolished, destroyed, raped the culture that existed in Canada at the time (the First Nations’ culture(s)) and as the predominant immigrants in Canada at that time, established the laws from their own native countries i.e. the common law from England and civil law from France.

    In addition to the above, they did plenty of positive nation-building as well, and contributed to the growth of Canada.

    However, your statement indicates you believe that because of nation building in the past, this particular culture needs to be placed on a pedestal and deserves continued applause and admiration from us lesser Canadians (gosh darn it – why weren’t my parents white immigrants – I want to sit on a pedestal too!).

    To reiterate previous posts – Canada is not, and never was a crystallized, static entity. Canada continues to evolve, grow, and change due to the contributions of all its peoples.

    As such, I still fail to see how the contribution of an Englishman trapping beaver for the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1690, is superior to the contributions of a Chinese worker builing the Trans Canada Railway in 1880, or that of a Punjabi mill worker hauling logs for the Abbotsford Lumber Company in 1908.

  22. Harinder says:

    English man can lay claim to Canada by my

    "PRINCIPLE OF TECHNOLOGY".

    Since the ENGLISHMAN has the ferry to find CANADA and then ship you to CANADA.

    He is its rightful Heir.

  23. Harinder says:

    English man can lay claim to Canada by my
    “PRINCIPLE OF TECHNOLOGY”.
    Since the ENGLISHMAN has the ferry to find CANADA and then ship you to CANADA.
    He is its rightful Heir.

  24. P.Singh says:

    Harinder,

    By my "PRINCIPLE OF ICE-AGE FORMATIONS" – as discussed in my popular, but super-secret, newsletter, "I AM THE TOOTH FAIRY, HEAR ME ROAR" – the First Nations can lay claim to Canada. Since the FIRST NATIONS were first to North America via the Bering Strait Land Bridge and provided a civilization to be exploited by all immigrants who followed, the First Nations are Canada's rightful heirs.

    Moreover, by my "PRINCIPLE OF WILLIAM SHATNER – AVOIDING TROLLS AT WARP SPEED", I will now refrain from engaging in any discussion with you. Cheers.

  25. P.Singh says:

    Harinder,

    By my “PRINCIPLE OF ICE-AGE FORMATIONS” – as discussed in my popular, but super-secret, newsletter, “I AM THE TOOTH FAIRY, HEAR ME ROAR” – the First Nations can lay claim to Canada. Since the FIRST NATIONS were first to North America via the Bering Strait Land Bridge and provided a civilization to be exploited by all immigrants who followed, the First Nations are Canada’s rightful heirs.

    Moreover, by my “PRINCIPLE OF WILLIAM SHATNER – AVOIDING TROLLS AT WARP SPEED”, I will now refrain from engaging in any discussion with you. Cheers.

  26. Mewa Singh says:

    haha too funny p.singh

  27. Mewa Singh says:

    haha too funny p.singh

  28. P.Singh says:

    Thanks Mewa Singh – I couldn't resist :)

  29. P.Singh says:

    Thanks Mewa Singh – I couldn’t resist :)

  30. […] 182 be one and the same in the minds of most Canadians? How is this going to help with the issue of multiculturalism in Canada and race relations between Sikhs and […]

  31. alan schwartz says:

    It's going with a race war. Everyone knows it. No one wants to admit.

    RAHOWA.

  32. alan schwartz says:

    It’s going with a race war. Everyone knows it. No one wants to admit.
    RAHOWA.

  33. […] recent French decision brings debates about multiculturalism and accommodation back into focus. France’s highest administrative court prevented the wife of […]

  34. […] a previous post, here on The Langar Hall, titled: Multiculturalism: Canadas Biggest Mistake?, I wrote: What we need is actual cultural pluralism. Cultural pluralism will occur when […]

  35. […] the diaspora?Chapter 6 delves into the politics of multiculturalism. [Jodha has expressed some of his own views on this […]

  36. Singhstyle says:

    y does suki always say the same things over n over?

  37. Singhstyle says:

    y does suki always say the same things over n over?

  38. Rana says:

    Britain has multiculturalism..nothing wrong with it, its just another word for diversity

  39. Rana says:

    Britain has multiculturalism..nothing wrong with it, its just another word for diversity

  40. SukiG -formerly Suki says:

    Crickey…another Suki…guess I shall have to change my name to SukiG…yeh not the same one that that has posted yet on this article but have on others…but the one that did mention Jeffrey Bond from the Southall Gurudwara…hmmmmm how conflicting. I shall address this article in a moment now that I have clarified myself…

    and the other Suki…needs to know yeah Brits and French may have come to Canada but the Chinese lost many a life due to the railway systems and Indians have been here well over 100 years and thats just to start off with…So no it wasn't built on them…others did contribute -buddy.

  41. SukiG -formerly Suki says:

    Crickey…another Suki…guess I shall have to change my name to SukiG…yeh not the same one that that has posted yet on this article but have on others…but the one that did mention Jeffrey Bond from the Southall Gurudwara…hmmmmm how conflicting. I shall address this article in a moment now that I have clarified myself…

    and the other Suki…needs to know yeah Brits and French may have come to Canada but the Chinese lost many a life due to the railway systems and Indians have been here well over 100 years and thats just to start off with…So no it wasn't built on them…others did contribute -buddy.

  42. […] The aboriginals were savages and prehistoric, we tamed them! My only regret was that we didn’t fully assimilate them and destroy their past. (read more via Multiculturalism: Canadas Biggest Mistake? | The Langar Hall). […]

  43. robert says:

    well, multiculturalism is a failure! plain and sinple! you got these people comming into whatever country, im in maerica myself, and it is utterly destroying the american culture here !

  44. Harrold says:

    Posting guidelines state:

    "Comments are welcome. This space is intended as a forum for open discussion. However, we will edit or remove comments we find inappropriate, at our discretion. No profanity, name-calling, discrimination, or hate will be tolerated, whether directed towards another commenter, a blogger, or an individual or group not directly present on TLH."

    I'm interested in what the moderators of this site consider "hate". Comments please.