Forty years ago, then prime minister Pierre Trudeau created a policy — multiculturalism — that allowed immigrants to become Canadians by integrating into our culture without abandoning their own. He was trying to differentiate between Canadian integration and American assimilation (the melting pot).
Without question, integration is more appealing to newcomers than assimilation. But is it working for everyone?
In reality, the origin of multiculturalism predates the 1970s. It all started when the first Canadian prime minister, John A. Macdonald, said: “A British subject I was born and a British subject I will die.” While Thomas Jefferson decided to create America and Americans, Macdonald decided to create Canada but not Canadians.
A geographic compromise between the French and English people was found (by creating Quebec), while later they tried to assimilate the aboriginal population with cruel policies. When they failed, they showered the native peoples with money and accords that were never respected, creating the results we see today.
Within this shaky balance, Canada was built with the help of immigrants who created important infrastructure like railroads, and there is no doubt that Canada is a success story.
However, in the second part of the last century, these immigrants were becoming restless because they couldn’t be anglophones, francophone or native and they became a social problem because they had no national identity in a country they now considered theirs.
The multiculturalism of Pierre Trudeau filled that gap by creating a social container for the “ethnics,” but what about integration?
It was impossible to integrate with the natives and very difficult with the francophones (remember Jacques Parizeau’s comments after the 1995 referendum), so the only real chance multiculturalism had to work was within English Canada.
Did it work? In my opinion, no. In fact, I would argue that the current system penalizes new and old immigrants.
But multiculturalism became a mantra for the Liberals to secure votes from the “ethnics” and is now wielded by multicultural prophets who muzzle debate in order to protect their own interests.
They have erected a media and political firewall around the concept of multiculturalism (and immigration) that blocks any criticism of international criminals, dishonest consultants and sneaky individuals who take advantage of our generosity at the expense of those in real need of help or who are willing to come into our country to work and prosper with us.
This intransigence is forcing Canadians, who in general have supported the policies of multiculturalism and immigration, to take a second look at them because they want to make sure that our country remains a destination for people in need of help, not a cow to milk.
I read in the Globe and Mail a few weeks ago that “the positive link between multiculturalism and citizenship is further supported by comparing Canadian policy with that of the United States.”
The article reported that while in the ’70s, both in Canada and the U.S., almost 60 per cent of foreign-born residents acquired citizenship, by 2006 in the States that number was down to 42 per cent while in Canada it was up to 73 per cent, “one of the highest rates in the world.”
Numbers don’t lie but they can mislead. In fact, having a Canadian passport, doesn’t mean one lives in Canada.
For example, more than a million Canadians live in California and Florida and almost 2 million live in other continents. In 2003 (the numbers are higher now), there were 250,000 people with a Canadian passport living in Hong Kong.
For most of these people, Canada is not their country, it’s a life insurance policy, a place to rush to when in need of medical services or secure shelter.
Two summers ago, Ottawa had to spend $114 million ($94 million just for transportation) to repatriate 14,000 “Canadians” living in Lebanon. We sent planes and boats to bring them “home” — and most of them are now back there.
The numbers seem to imply Canadian multiculturalism is a better system than the American melting pot. However, the reality is that in the States, people like Cuomo, Dukakis, Ferraro and Pelosi can go right to the top, up to the White House of Barack Obama, while I’m wondering when multicultural Canada can have at least a black mayor in Toronto.
At times I wonder whether multiculturalism is a policy to invite “ethnics” in or to keep them out. In the meantime, we keep writing cheques for people who are not even living in Canada.
The Toronto Star