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Does Multiculturalism Fit Us Anymore?

For the past fifty years or so certain political ideas have become sacred, especially in the western world, and especially in Canada. One of them is multiculturalism. In a way this was natural. Canada was the first nation to introduce multiculturalism in 1971 when Pierre Elliot Trudeau introduced the idea as an official government policy, the first such policy in the entire world. The Multiculturalism Act, however, did not become an official act of Parliament until 1988. At that time, we were the first nation to completely embrace multiculturalism as national policy. Now it is an assumed aspect of almost every nation in the western world, even if it has not been officially adopted by some. In fact, years ago I read an article that stated no Canadian politician would ever be able to oppose multiculturalism and survive. But does this automatically mean that multiculturalism itself is good or is it time to rethink it? 

The Need to Question Sacred Cows

It’s a good question, one that now needs to be asked. First, let me state unequivocally that I believe it is healthy to question “sacred cows.” We should never forget that. The difference between democracies and totalitarian states in constitutional democracies we are able to question our government. Nothing political is sacred. Once upon a time it was considered incontrovertible that kings derived their power from God and that you should never question them. Everyone was horrified by the notion of regicide, the killing of kings, as an affront to the natural order, although it happened more than once.  Similarly, it took a long time for people to accept the idea that the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around, or that every citizen had a right to vote and not just the one or two percent of the population that met the property requirements. It’s healthy to question long standing beliefs. If they pass the test of time, then fine. If they can’t then maybe, they should go. 

Multiculturalism No More? 

Well known Canadian academic Salim Mansur once wrote a book entitled Delectable Lie. A Liberal Repudiation of Multiculturalism * It didn’t meet with the approval of some because it asked questions others were not willing to ask. Salim had come from Pakistan to Canada because he wanted to be Canadian and was disturbed by what he was seeing. He saw multiculturalism morphing into something even Pierre Elliot Trudeau would not recognize. On the surface multiculturalism looks wonderful. All these people accepting each other’s customs and being open and friendly, what could possibly go wrong? Love and tolerance, how could anyone argue with that? But under the surface multiculturalism has serious problems, and now there are questions that need to be asked. Perhaps we are even at the stage where multiculturalism needs to be modified or rejected. Horror of horrors! I said it. 

How the Rest of the World Feels

There has never been a time when multiculturalism has been under heavier attack than it is today. In Europe, largely due to out of control illegal immigration, cultural decline and the self-engineered segregation of ethnic groups, Europe is a political tinderbox. People are calling for sealed borders, mass deportations and the mandatory teaching of national history and cultural identity. Many politicians are now openly saying that multiculturalism has failed, and that it should be abandoned, and this is in countries like Britain, Belgium, France and Germany where multiculturalism has been accepted for a long time and massive illegal immigration has almost become a defining feature of the nation. What is going on, and why are things changing so rapidly?

Cracks in Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism has cracks in it. It is now seen differently in the West.  Let me also say that current multiculturalism is not your grandfather’s multiculturalism. Pierre Elliot Trudeau envisioned multiculturalism existing within an English and French framework. Before his death he was asked if he thought multiculturalism had worked. He shook his head and said no. And he was right. His version of multiculturalism did not work. In many ways it just paved the way for radical identity politics and the brutal divisions we see around us every day. Why? Because today’s multiculturalism does not honour the agreement new citizens need to make with their host country. And what is that agreement? It is that they will respect the existing history, culture, and customs of a countries like Canada, learn those things, try to assimilate and do their best to become Canadian. It is not part of the agreement that they impose their previous identity on the host nation or condemn and attack it in the hope that they can change or destroy it. 

Is This Appropriate?

There may be some of you out there who are raising an eyebrow, or maybe even two. You may be toying with the idea that I have crossed the line into “white supremacy “or “racism,” (by the way that is the charge always brought against anyone who challenges woke ideology) but I haven’t. As long-term readers of my posts know, I lived in Japan for seven and a half years, speak Japanese and have a long-standing love affair with Japanese culture going back to my childhood. I am not a racist, (of course) no matter what race baiters like Ibrahim Kendi or Robin D’Angelo say. I now believe that present day multiculturalism does not fulfill the fundamental contract I mentioned above, and that it is allowing segments of the population to reject civic nationalism and replace it with identity politics, grievance culture and the gradual takeover of nations. The plan is to change Canada and remake it in their own image. That should never be allowed to happen. 

A Concept No Longer Suited to our Times

Throughout my life it was accepted that Canada was multicultural, and multiculturalism was Canada. But that was years ago. Times have changed. The proof of this is that many of us look back nostalgically to the 1960s, 70s and 80s, remembering a safer, more prosperous, politically stable, and culturally homogeneous Canada. Certainly, we had a clearer idea of what it meant to be Canadian and did not lie about our history or identity. Pierre Trudeau launched the idea of multiculturalism in response to a lot of things including, believe it or not, the Ukrainian Canadian vote that he needed so badly (But that is a topic for a future post). Our Canada is different and is becoming increasingly dysfunctional with each passing year. One reason this is happening is because multiculturalism is not honouring Canada’s core identity, in fact, as I implied above, it is destroying it. Indeed, at a certain point, multiculturalism may become a smoke screen for the destruction of our identity, culture and history. If that is the case, then perhaps we should dismantle it and shore up our original identity.

Not Necessarily Happy About This

I hope no one is assuming that I am happy about all this. The original impulse behind our multicultural policy, although naïve, was well intentioned and fit the prevailing ideology of the time. It would be nice if people of various cultures and religions could live together in loving harmony, perhaps even embracing aspects of other cultures and fully accepting differences. But that is not happening. The clash of cultures and civilizations is getting worse, not better, and we have more problems, not fewer, more religious and political strife, not less. Has multiculturalism failed? Should it go? Should we return to cultural nationalism? These are all good questions. Maybe it is time. The only thing we know for sure, though, is that multiculturalism is not succeeding as we thought it might. Bearing that in mind, perhaps we should consider another way of thinking about Canada. 

*Salim Mansur Delectable Lie: A Liberal Repudiation of Multiculturalism. Mantua Books. Brantford Ontario 2011.

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Hal Adam
Hal Adam
6 months ago

IMO multiculturalism has as it basis premise that all cultures are equally valid and good. That of course is a blatant lie. Those cultures that sacrificed babies to some god or to the god of ‘choice’ are worse than cultures that do not. Any culture that promotes Judeo Christian principles, like a strong work ethic, a strong family unit with the father as the head and promotes getting a good useful education will do better than those who do not.
Jewish, Chinese, and Korean cultures come to mind.

Perry Foster
Perry Foster
4 months ago
Reply to  Hal Adam

Yes. All cultures the same? It’s a blatant lie indeed…

Mike Groenewold
Mike Groenewold
6 months ago

The term, ‘multiculturalism’ suffers from the same problem that so many terms do today. First of all, what does the user mean by the term and secondly how is it being used by culture generally and finally what does the term actually mean? I understand the term to mean essentially that all cultures need to be seen as equally valid and thus no one culture should be seen as superior to others. In this sense multiculturalism is a poor idea. A cursory look around the world will show you that cultures vary tremendously! There are cultures that produce tyranny, dictatorship… Read more »

Perry Foster
Perry Foster
4 months ago

Multiculturalism has failed, and we are now seeing the effects of this. Thank you so much for this cogent comment Michael.

Patricia Field
Patricia Field
6 months ago

Thank you, Perry, for this article. There’s much to be re-considering about Multiculturalism. Two weeks ago my cousins and I ( 25 of us still living!) came together to celelbrate “100 years in Canada.” Our Grandparents ( German Mennonites) fled Southern Russia in 1923, being sponsored by Bishop Toews and the MCC to come to Canada. They came through Latvia, then to Southampton, and finally to Quebec. They came with 3 children, a violin, a Samovar, my paternal great grandfather and great aunt, and my Grandmother who was 6 months pregnant with my Mother, who was later born in Herbert,… Read more »

Perry Foster
Perry Foster
4 months ago
Reply to  Patricia Field

An excellent comment Patricia. No…multiculturalism isn’t working, but then what we have today is nothing like the original idea of multiculturalism. I am so proud and glad that your family was able to do so well in my country. My mother’s French Canadian ancestors came here in 1667 and my English ancestors in the late 19th century. This is my country and no one should be able to diminish or pervert it.

Ken Oakes
Ken Oakes
5 months ago

I grew up in a community that was multicultural. It did not need any prodding from government or social idealists to be that way.  It just was; because they made it that way. v We lived in the Southeast part of Vancouver on East 42nd Avenue. What a cultural mix there was with Irish, English, Ukrainians, Scottish, German, Danish and many more. Our house was the hub of the community for parties and everyone was invited. My Mother played the piano and they sang together for hours. These parties sure were a means of knitting the whole community together. What I saw before me in our… Read more »

Perry Foster
Perry Foster
4 months ago
Reply to  Ken Oakes

Great comment Ken. You are right to be deeply concerned about Canada. The country you see now is not the one you grew up in and that is nothing less than a tragedy for us and for all Canadians who love their nation.

Robert
Robert
5 months ago

Hi Perry…thanks again for another well researched and clearly thought out comment on this topic…..as usual you manage to illustrate our current reality and challenge the reader to think about the topic in an informed and carefully considered way. My own family experience informs me that people from different cultures can, and do, learn to live together and contribute to create a changing culture. My roots are probably similar to those of most Canadians. My grandparents were Dutch, Italian, and English. As a child I can clearly remember how proud my grandparents were of their ‘mother countries, and as one… Read more »

Perry Foster
Perry Foster
4 months ago
Reply to  Robert

What a wonderful comment Robert! I think you express what millions of Canadians feel, especially now that so much of what our country was founded on is being challenged by the radical left and the Woke mob. Is Canada multicultural? As you said, No! The onus is on us to preserve the great nation you have described and the time for action in this regard is growing short. May we all respond to the challenge ahead of us…