My friend, Neil Remington Abramson, recently wrote to me about a poll on the attitudes of Canadians towards multiculturalism. I wonder how many respondents were from minority cultures, or how the study controlled for such. What does the term “Canadian attitudes” mean?
Neil wrote as follows (reproduced with permission):
The Association for Canadian Studies has released a new poll (“Muliculturalists With Concerns”). 45% of Canadians agree, and 49% disagree that “immigrants should give up their customs and traditions” to become more like the majority population. 51% agreed “the majority should try harder” to accept the customs and traditions of immigrants. 80% said young people should make a greater effort to preserve their families’ cultural traditions.
This is reported in “Canadians Divided on Multiculturalism: Poll” by Randy Boswell in the Vancouver Sun.
For me, the key words are that immigrants should become “more” like; and that the Canadians should “try harder”. “More like” is less than “like”. There are some core values in Canadian culture that immigrants should accept or we should be able to bar their entry. The commitment to democratic process you have been arguing is one, and no honor killing, or female circumcision, and learning English or French, depending on where you live. And “trying harder” is less than just accepting, and that is fine too. People should not be compelled, because it is the compelling in part that ensures the incomplete acceptance.
I suppose that if the world economic malaise grows worse, immigration will become less supported. Immigrants take jobs that the existing population would otherwise have. It’s interesting that last month there were 60,000 new jobs in Canada but only 100,000 in the US, which is 10x bigger. Our unemployment rate went down (7.2%?). The US rate is 9.2%, the way they count; but 16% the way we count; and as much as 22%, if you look at the regression line for workers in their economy that was steadily increasing to 2008, and then miraculously went down since.
I would expect immigration would become very unpopular in the US, if it is not already
I often wonder what it means to be a nation, and whether multiculturalism is beneficial to longer-term national identity. A nation cannot be a collectivity of ethnic or cultural enclaves–or can it? The Association for Canadian Studies is the same organization that reported concurrently about the unease of “Canadians” with Muslims (“Groups and Intergroup Relations: Canadian Perceptions”), which was reported as follows:
Muslims face negative perception in Canada, study suggests
By Randy Boswell, Postmedia NewsOctober 15, 2011
Just 43 per cent of the 2,345 people polled by the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies expressed “very positive” or “somewhat positive” perceptions of Muslims, while atheists (60 per cent) and aboriginals (61 per cent) also drew relatively lukewarm responses.
Meanwhile, seven other groups generated positive perceptions from respondents. Chinese people, who narrowly topped the results at 75 per cent, were followed by Protestants, Blacks and Hispanics/Latin Americans (all 74 per cent), Catholics (73), Jews (72) and francophones (70).
The category “immigrants” prompted positive responses from 68 per cent of those surveyed.
The results were drawn from an online poll covering a range of issues and conducted by the firm Leger Marketing between Sept. 20 and Oct. 3. The survey is considered to have a margin of error of two per cent, 19 times out of 20.
ACS executive director Jack Jedwab said the markedly more negative response to Muslims is matched by similar polling results in Britain and the U.S., making clear that the challenge of improving perceptions of the vast majority of Muslims who reject Islamist extremism is a multinational task.
“Most of these perceptions are built around images that people see globally,” said Jedwab.
The similar findings in other Western nations “suggests this isn’t a Canadian-specific issue . . . I’m not saying we shouldn’t have programs” and policies in Canada to improve general perceptions of Muslims, “but the impact of those programs is limited if we don’t have global cooperation.”
The results of the new poll echo the findings of a previous ACS survey just ahead of last month’s 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which showed that a majority of Canadians believes conflict between Western nations and the Muslim world is “irreconcilable.”
That survey of 1,500 Canadians in early September showed that 56 per cent of respondents see Western and Muslim societies locked in an unending ideological struggle, while about 33 per cent — just one-third of the population — held out hope that the conflict will eventually be overcome.
Together, says Jedwab, such surveys highlighting the widespread unease towards Muslims are forcing a rethink of the prime challenge facing Canada and other Western societies in terms of ethnocultural relations. A decade ago, he said, the prevailing view was that promoting social harmony in these countries would depend on overcoming language conflicts or easing general tensions between “whites and all visible minorities.”
Instead, “what’s emerging now is a focus on Muslims vs. non-Muslims,” he said. “The outlet for people’s prejudice has been displaced by the focus on Muslims.”
In fact, the latest ACS poll showed that while 58 per cent of respondents mustered positive views about “relations between visible minorities and whites,” barely half as many — 30 per cent — were positive about “relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.”
Canadians’ negativity towards Muslims is reflected across the country in the new poll, but most strongly in Quebec. Debates in that province about what constitutes “reasonable accommodation” of minorities — sparked partly by concerns about Muslim head scarves — have been more pointed than elsewhere in Canada.
Only 35 per cent of respondents from Quebec expressed “very positive” or “somewhat positive” perceptions toward Muslims. The results were higher in other parts of the country: Atlantic Canada (48 per cent), Alberta (48), B.C. (46), Ontario (45) and Manitoba/Saskatchewan (39).
I sometimes wonder if we forget that countries constantly evolve over time, and that national identities end up reshaped as a matter of course. State-sponsored multiculturalism may accelerate the process, and cause degrees of negative social tensions. Without state-sponsored multiculturalism, communities evolve and integrate as the nation evolves. Many people of Dutch descent don’t speak Dutch, while the majority of people of Chinese descent still speak either Mandarin or Cantonese. My abilities in French are not from my family, despite being descended from a family that was quite important at one time in Quebec history. I am 1/4 French, 1/4 English, 1/4 Irish and 1/4 Welsh. My maternal grandparents both spoke Welsh, while my paternal grandfather spoke French. What is my multiculture? Should I care, and who should I blame for what I might have lost? Should I feel differently if I am yellow, brown, black or blended?
Sometimes when I am in certain stores and I look around, because I am seeing so many colours other than my own, when I see so many clothes styles other than my own, when I see so many hijabs and other head coverings, I will catch myself when wondering “what has happened to my country?”. Remembering one day in Toronto, late 1970s, when an elderly person was trying to get onto a crowded streetcar at Dundas and Yonge. He must have been around 70 years old. Looked up at the crowded car as he strugged to get on. “Goddamn DPs”, he said. Had no idea what he meant. Looked it up: “Displaced Persons“. The post World War II changes were a source of resentment. No apparent appreciation that many on the streetcar did not entirely choose to be there; circumstantial forces, such as war, destruction and concentration camps.
Goddamn DPs today; easy to spit, at least figuratively.
I haven’t been back to my childhood home of Saskatoon for over thirty years. Expect everything to remain the same. All such childhood paradise. All such illusion. Cities change, nations change. Key seems to be to get used to the acceleration, where discomfort is generally less called for, and more self-induced.
Somehow, Procol Harum’s “Power Failure” comes to mind: