“Particularlism and Tolerance”
In week 6, we explored what some of the value differences are between Canada and the United States. It was suggested that one of the characteristics that sets Canada apart from the United States is that Canadians value diversity and tolerance – suggesting that we embrace different cultures. As such, the distinction was made between the Canadian brand of multiculturalism and the American brand of the melting pot, arguing that Canadian multiculturalism has been extended towards attitudes with women, class, unions and the treatment of foreign countries.
A class discussion then ensued where the popular sentiment defended Canadian multiculturalism as superior to the assimilationist tendencies in the United States. The comment was made that just the fact that our government is willing to entertain thoughts of reasonable accommodation means that we are a multicultural country.
To be completely honest, I was astounded in the direction that this class discussion took. Perhaps being a fourth year in a 200 level class means that I have two more years of education that have made me both jaded and cynical towards this supposed hallmark of the Canadian identity. In many ways, I believe, that this narrative has lost much of its credibility in our country, if it was ever really true in the past. The powers that be cling to this narrative and perpetuate it throughout society but in reality, it is arguable whether or not everyday Canadians hold true to it.
In class, Dr. Leone made reference to the 2007 Maclean’s article “Canada: A Nation of Bigots?” Having read this article in the past, it is startling to reflect on the extent to which, under the guise of “reasonable accommodation,” Canadians are willing to restrict the freedom of groups to exercise their culture. Whether it is banning a young Muslim girl from a soccer tournament for wearing a hijab or the more contemporary example of banning the kirpan from the Quebec national assembly, it seems as though Canadians are becoming less and less accepting of cultural difference or more and more fearful of that which they do not understand.
I think it’s time for both politicians and everyday Canadians to stop hiding behind this fallacy of multiculturalism. In perpetuating this narrative unchecked, it serves to cloud the reality at the micro-level which actually reveals a startling trend – that we are letting ignorance, arrogance and paranoia become an excuse for racial prejudice.