FACE TO FACE: Does multiculturalism still make sense after all these years?
Is multiculturalism "working" in Canada? I think it is. Would we Canadians consider any other way of treating those of different races and cultures?
That multiculturalism is a failed policy is an idea intermittently broached by conservatives in urban areas, where lots of "those people" don't seem to want to embrace "Canadianism." The analyses cite difficulties arising from multiculturalism in other countries and sincerely hope that Canada won't experience similar difficulties.
Thinly veiled racism notwithstanding, what, other than multiculturalism, would they propose Canadians embrace? Would we try the "melting pot" concept?
Could we develop a mono-cultural view of Canadianism? Could we glorify the same God? Celebrate only "Canadian" occasions? Glorify Canada above other countries and perhaps send troops to help them seek the freedom we have?
Naw, we couldn't do that - it just isn't us.
Conversely, multiculturalism is so characteristically Canadian. The dogged respect for diversity it encourages is what, for example, allows Canadians to not only accept gay marriage but support it.
It is our accepting nature that allows Canadians to respect a women's right to have control over her own body. It is why we don't assassinate our leaders or designate countries as "axes of evil" or toddle off to fight unjustified wars. It is what makes Canadians, regardless of political stripe, support Medicare and other social programs.
Multiculturalism is the bulwark of our Canadian tolerance. It embodies the best thing about being Canadian, that the single focus of Canadianism is tolerance for diversity; that our singular cultural focus is a lack of singular cultural focus.
A small but cogent point is that the acceptance of diversity embodied by Canada's multiculturalism allows two Canadians of disparate perspectives, such as me and my rabid right-wing debating partner, to be not only colleagues but good friends.
Multiculturalism is not just a legislative policy enacted in 1988, it's a Canadian perspective that both epitomizes and underpins Canadian tolerance. Were multiculturalism Canada's consciousness in the 1940s, I, as Canadian of Swedish descent, might have retained the language and culture of my forefathers. Instead, they were called "dumb Swedes," which forced them into speaking only English and acting "Canadian," thus limiting my expression of my heritage to eating pickled herring every Christmas.
Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.