Thursday, April 14, 2011

Democratic Multi-Culturalism: Separating "Them" from "Us"

Whatever the value of democracy, the adversarial system that our form of government produces makes it hard to take the cut and thrust of political wrangling seriously. The recent English election debate reinforces the appearance of the most influential people in the land squabbling like children, contradicting each other, while saying almost nothing of substance.

The arrangement of combatants in this latest battle royal, although apparently settled by lot, says volumes. Mr. Harper was safely ensconced in the west, his place of solid support, while Mr.Duceppe occupied the east where he would like to ascend the throne of a sovereign Quebec.

Mr. Ignatieff, meanwhile, was strategically placed between Jack and Gill, close enough to grab their hands, if necessary, and hoist them up in a caricature of Stephan Dion’s triumphant formation of his coalition.

I have little patience with Mr. Duceppe whose expressed mandate is to break up Canada and obtain the lion’s share of the public purse for his wannabe nation. But one comment he made resonates deeply with me. He complained that multiculturalism doesn’t work for Quebec.

He is repeating comments about the failure of multiculturalism made by both the Prime Minister of England and the President of France. One Canadian commentator, Brian Seaman at tries to cover the failure of multiculturalism as a “still a work in progress” after 40 years. He claims Canada is sufficiently different to make it work.

It seems to me, that multiculturalism, as “in progress” in Canada, is producing a polyglot of small political enclaves imported from the sending countries. Whatever the legitimate grievances of first nations, they provide a template for other “second” nations to follow, creating ghettos that have little or no allegiance to Canada yet use the infamous Human Rights Tribunals to air their grievances.

But if a nation of immigrants—as I am—is to be forged into a nation, an integration process of some sort is needed to produce a cohesive country. Newcomers must recognize the responsibilities as well as the rights of residence and citizenship. They are not simply a package transplant from their homeland, apparently the way some understand multiculturalism.

This would not only ease the way for immigrants to settle, but would also make it easier for Canadians to recognize and support new residents as neighbours rather than strangers. We need and appreciate the skills and industry that immigrants contribute to Canada, but need an approach to immigration that includes, not divides, “them” from “us.”

Unfortunately, the form of divisive government practised in Ottawa, and illustrated in the Great Debate, reinforces a multi-partisan culture the rest of us, new or native, don’t really want to follow.

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