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Mapping Racial and Ethnic Studies in Canada: Retrospective and Prospective Views of Canadian Ethnic Studies Chairs.


Canada has always been diverse with respect to 'race' and ethnicity. In 1901, only three decades after Confederation, the English and French comprised 57% and 31% of the Canadian population respectively (Coats 1931, 134). Thus, 12% of Canada's population were non-French and non-British with the majority being other Europeans such as German, Dutch, Scandinavian, Russian, and many others. However, guite significantly, 25% of the non-French and non-British were racialized minorities and these included First Nations, Chinese, Japanese, and Blacks. Thus, the claims and discourse of many publications in recent decades of "the changing face of Canada" are based on an imagined early Canada being white, and English and French (deux nations).

The early scholarship on Canada's already established racial and ethnic diversity essentially had a static conceptualization of ethnicity (Burnet 1976) and this was exemplified in the work of Hughes (1943) and Porter (1965, 1975). Jean Burnet's critique fostered in a more dynamic notion of ethnicity and conceptualized it in terms of social relations. In a special issue of the journal Sociological Focus, which examined studies in Canada, Burnet (1976) examined, through this dynamic lens, the policy of multiculturalism within a bilingual framework. It should be noted that this special issue also featured many other prominent sociologists who examined topics related to immigration, race and ethnicity and these included Crysdale (1976), Clairmont and Wien (1976) and Richmond (1976). That same year Palmer (1976), who was one of the early editors of Canadian Ethnic Studies, provided a comparative analysis of immigration and ethnicity in Canada and the United States. By the late 1970s and early 1980s, college and university courses on 'race' and ethnicity were standard fare with many of the popular textbooks being used with titles such as: Identities: The Impact of Ethnicity on Canadian Society (Isajiw 1977); Minority Canadians: Ethnic Groups (Krauter and Davis 1978); The Canadian Ethnic Mosaic: A Quest for Identity (Driedger 1978); Ethnicity in Canada: Theoretical Perspectives (Anderson and Frideres 1981); and Racial Minorities in Multicultural Canada (Li and Bolaria 1983). After this the floodgates were opened and the substantive area of ethnic studies started to flourish in Canada with a generation of scholars, most of whom were American- and British-trained, coming to Canada to study 'race', ethnicity, and immigration and to train a new generation of Canadian students. At the same time, the journal Canadian Ethnic Studies/Etudes ethniques au Canada was born in 1968, followed very shortly by the establishment of the Canadian Ethnic Studies Association/Societe canadienne d'etudes ethniques. In the following decades of the '80s, '90s, and 2000s, the literature in these areas exploded as scholars wrote about immigration, different ethnic/racial groups and the dynamics of their experiences in Canadian society. Over the past several decades, there has been a continual literature that examines race and ethnicity in Canada from a more general and critical perspective, and recently these include the summarizing work of Henry and Tator (2010), Hier and Bolaria (2012), Satzewich and Liodakis (2013) and Fieras (2017).

Last year, in the fall of 2018, the Canadian Ethnic Studies Association held its 25th conference in Banff, Alberta with the theme of Immigration, Ethnic Mobilities, and Diasporic Communities in a Transnational World. Within this broad theme there was an invitation for theoretical and empirically-based papers on more specific topics such as:

* The future of immigration, ethnic studies, and multiculturalism

* Intersections of immigration and race, class and gender

* Voluntary and forced mobilities: Refugees and the Canadian state

* Youth, ethnicity, and identity in multicultural Canada

* Ethnic communities, global diasporas and transnationalism in Canada

* "Homelands": Memories, reconstructions, returns and directions forward

* Citizenship and belonging in transnational spaces

* Gender, class, and ethnic intersections in transnationalism

* The future of transnational and ethnic mobilities in an unsettled world

In addressing the first topic above, regarding the future of immigration, ethnic studies, and multiculturalism, a special roundtable session was created for October 12, 2018, where current and former holders of Canadian Ethnic Studies Chairs were asked to comment on the state of the art of ethnic studies in Canada. The participants at this session, which was moderated by Vic Satzewich, included Jim Frideres, Abdie Kazemipur, Jeffrey Reitz, and Morton Weinfeld. As a follow-up to this highly successful roundtable session, the Chairs were invited to provide a brief write-up to the following questions as part of a contribution to an invited paper for publication in Canadian Ethnic Studies:

1) What are the challenges, opportunities, and lessons learned over the past 50 years for racial and ethnic studies in Canada?

2) From a national perspective, what is the state of the art of Canadian racial and ethnic studies?

3) In the troubling and unsettling global context, what are the future directions and trajectories for racial and ethnic studies in Canada?

Three of the four Chairs from the session were able to contribute and two of them, James Frideres and Abdie Kazemipur, answered the above three questions directly. Their answers included, in part, discussions regarding the contested nature of multiculturalism and cultural pluralism and the relevance of religion in ethnic studies in Canada today. These discussions provide a segue to Morton Weinfeld's more specific discussion of culture wars and suspect minorities in Canada. What follows now are the Chairs' contributions in the following order: James Frideres (University of Calgary), Abdie Kazemipur (University of Calgary), and Morton Weinfeld (McGill University).


What are the challenges, opportunities, and lessons learned over the past 50 years for racial and ethnic studies in Canada?

When the government of Canada decided to embark upon a program to support "ethnic studies," it demonstrated a real interest in the topic shared with scholars and the general public. The challenge for the initial program by the Secretary of State (Ethnic chairs, Research projects, Scholarly exchanges) was how to allocate funding to "jump start" the program. As history reveals there was a groundswell of support for the three components and in the end, the program provided government, NGOs and the private sector with information that would lead to the introduction of the Multiculturalism Act. In short, the program provided the groundwork to develop the guiding philosophy of Canadian society for the future. The program later morphed into the "Metropolis" project that also was created and supported by government, NGOs and academics; focusing on immigration, social inclusion and intergroup relations. Moreover, the subsequent implementation of the Metropolis project and funding by government for well over a decade, created additional impetus to the study of "race and ethnic" relations. Moreover, it gave the issue international attention and allowed Canadians to review and assess programs implemented around the world.

The challenges experienced by NGOs, government and academics in the area of race and ethnicity is the continual revision of what the goal of "multiculturalism" is as well as how government supports programs to achieve that goal. The term, over time, has been defined "descriptively" as a sociological fact, prescriptively as an ideology, or politically as a policy. And, it should be noted that Quebec's definition (ideologically) differs from the other provinces as it focuses on "interculturalism." Over time the term has been operationalized differently which in turn has led to different programs funded by both federal and provincial governments; resulting in confusion by Canadians as to just what the overall goal of the program is all about. Nevertheless, all agree that the stimulus to study ethnic/racial issues has been a benefit for Canadian society.

Multiculturalism has been used as a tool for attracting talent, a source of competitive advantage for Canada. This of course means that we are a country of destination for many individuals and this is important because it can address labour shortages as well as make up for the declining birth rate in Canada. With the arrival of new immigrants, Canadians have better ideas as to how they can benefit from the new and different perspectives brought by immigrants. With the implementation of programs that promote cultural understanding and eliminating racism, immigrants can bring about cooperation, inclusion and respect that will unite the country and allow all people to take part in the economic, political and social life of Canadian society. Finally, the entry of newcomers has brought about a boost to creativity in many institutions.

The results of the research carried out over the past five decades reveal that research in the area of "race and ethnicity" must be grounded in a deep understanding of historical, social, economic and political experiences of groups as well as an analysis of the relationship among them, if the results are to be useful (Ng and Bloemraad 2015). Issues concerning the multiple ways in which groups are dealt with, operate within and contest various forms of power, needs to be the focus of research in the future. It also reveals that scholars will have to focus their research on how groups build alliances, achieve social inclusion and bring about the reduction of barriers for racial and ethnic groups, to fully understand and benefit Canadian society. Research established not only that race and ethnicity are "moving targets" that undergo mutations and evolve, but the data also recognized the complexities of the intersections of race and ethnicity with gender, class and other systems of difference and axes of power. Finally research firmly established that social structure, in addition to individual factors, was an important variable in understanding the place of race and ethnicity in Canadian society.

From a national perspective, what is the state of the art of Canadian racial and ethnic studies?

As the 20th century dawned, there was little concern about "racial and ethnic" issues. As Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier, in 1907, argued, Canada must insist that the immigrant that comes to Canada is willing to become a Canadian and is willing to assimilate our ways. There was only room for English or French and all other languages would be unacceptable. Later, Mackenzie King noted (in 1947) that the population of Canada was becoming more diverse and argued that there was general agreement with the view that the people of Canada do not wish, as a result of mass immigration, to make a fundamental alteration in the character of our population. He went on to say, for example, that any large "oriental" immigration would give rise to social and economic problems.

However, with the creation of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (1963-69), there was an impetus for Canadians to discuss language and "ethnicity," and this Commission is often referred to as the origin of modern political multiculturalism. This Commission brought Canadians out of the old way of thinking that Canada was comprised of "two founding nations"--French and English. By 1971, the government of Canada publicly acknowledged that the policies of bilingualism and multiculturalism would be implemented across the country. This acknowledgement was followed by the "Green" paper (1975) on immigration and population and further supported the government's policy of "participatory democracy" leading to a "just" society. After the Canadian constitution was patriated in 1982, the charter of Rights and Freedoms stipulated that the rights identified in the document are to be interpreted in a way that supported the "spirit of multiculturalism." The implementation of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988 solidified the concept into law and in practice. The subsequent implementation of the Broadcasting Act in 1991 further entrenched the concept into the hearts and minds of Canadians. As a result, Canada has become a post-national multicultural society. The issue of "race" and"racialization" emerged in the late '70s as Canada's immigrant population became more and more diverse, and Canada began to accept immigrants from countries around the world; not on the basis of their nationality (and traditionally from Western European) but rather on merit or humanitarian basis.

The world has changed in the past half century. We have become a nation that understands that we do not become full human agents and cannot define our identity in isolation from others because our identities are formed dialogically (Taylor 1995). As a result, we are a nation in which cultural membership plays an important role in people's self-identity (Kymlicka 2007). We understand that cultural identity provides people with an anchor for their identity and the secureness of belonging. This realization has led to the growing concern about racial and ethnic identities and it continues to grow more nuanced and complex. Young people reject conventional singular racial/ethnic categorization through identifying with multiple identities. Finally, Canadians argue that multiculturalism begins from the value of "freedom of domination" (Bachvarova 2014; Lovett 2009).

An example of the impact of multiculturalism policy is reflected in a recent Wall Street Journal survey (Weber 2013) which found that students majoring in Ethnic Studies showed high salaries and low unemployment. They were among the one percent of the highest graduate earners. Employers from a diverse perspective see the value of hiring people trained to work effectively with diverse communities and cultures. Graduates can integrate knowledge about ethnicity and race across a variety of work contexts touching on educational, business, medicine, social work and legal sectors. In the end, we find that multiculturalism fosters national identity, promotes cultural differences and modernization and assists in the incorporation of cultural and racial minorities.

In the troubling and unsettling global context, what are the future directions and trajectories for racial and ethnic studies in Canada?

Today, well over 80% of immigrants to Canada come from Asia, Caribbean, Central and South America, Africa and Oceania. Moreover, nearly 75% of the immigrants who have arrived since 2006 could be considered "visible minorities." In addition, most recent immigrants live in census metropolitan areas and have tended to reside in ethnic enclaves when they first arrive but move afar once they settle in.

Nevertheless, there have been critics of multiculturalism that argue that there are no group rights, only individual rights and by granting groups special protections, the state oversteps its rights and undermines individual rights of association (Kukathas 1992). Others argue that the existence of racial and ethnic diversity reduces social trust and solidarity (Putnam 2007). As social scientists study the impact of racial/ethnic issues across many issues, from the way economic scarcity can influence perceptions, attitudes and action, to issues of law enforcement and criminal justice, to the way race/ethnicity can shape policy and politics focusing on racial and ethnic groups, their results have brought about fundamental change in how the state deals with different ethno/racial groups. However, research results are often "trumped" by emotions and political strategies.

The challenge for race and ethnic groups is a "political retreat" by many lobbying groups and racists against immigration, e.g., Australia, USA, that argue there is no success of such a policy that fosters the integration of racial and ethnic groups into mainstream society. There is an emerging belief about the lack of social unity and increased tensions among the diverse groups in society (Bissoondath 1994) and multiculturalism as well as certain ethnic and racial groups are to blame. For example, the UK prime minister David Cameron (2011) argued that "under state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream." In Canada, Maxime Bernier (Lum 2018) has accused the Prime Minister of advocating for a society that is "infinitely diverse" and will in the end, endanger Canada's core identity. The fears about terrorism and security are now linked to migration and ethno/racial groups and it has also renewed concerns about the limits of past efforts to integrate newcomers and their descendants.

The rise of the far-right political parties in Europe and in the USA and their anti-immigration publicity campaigns, coupled with some media outlets that uncritically accept these campaigns, all have led to greater intolerance of immigrants (racial and/or cultural), and diverse religious and cultural groups in Canada. Sweden (Swedish Democrats), France (Front National) and Germany (National Democratic Party) have all taken strong anti-racial and ethnic positions, arguing that no immigrants should be allowed. With this ideology, there is the argument that multiculturalism is incompatible with liberal values, is a burden to state welfare, and it challenges existing national identities (Joppke 2004).

In Canada, the anti-immigration party has not yet established itself partially due to the impact and practicality of the policy of multiculturalism. Moreover, a singular political party with strong, articulated nationalist ideas seems to be weak. However, as more refugees and migrants continue to settle in Canada, the prospects of a nationalist party may gain a foothold in domestic politics. In addition, there is less certainty as to what skills will be needed in the labour force to enhance the economy in the future. The potential role of technological change in our labour market and the need for immigrants is influencing major uncertainty. Immigrants now account for nearly one quarter of the Canadian workforce. As such, Canada will need to develop a coherent immigration policy with data-driven decision making using a human capital lens and adequate newcomer settlement programs (El-Assai and Bajwa 2018). However, if immigration is competitive and attracts those with high human capital, certain unskilled groups will be disadvantaged in Canada in entering the labour market, thereby raising anti-immigration rhetoric.

The internationalization of Canada's population could lead to xenophobic and anti-foreigner actions of Canadians. It could lead to a re-examination of what it means to be Canadian in terms of rights, privileges and status as procured by the government to its citizens. A focus on the lack of social integration may produce discriminatory actions against certain racial and ethnic groups. As such, we should not dismiss or disregard public discontent as a potent factor in bringing about social change. A "Canadian first" argument may emerge over issues of work, education and other access to services and programs.


What are the challenges, opportunities, and lessons learned over the past 50 years for racial and ethnic studies in Canada?

Over the past few decades, the thinking on Canadian ethnic dynamics--whether in academia or in policy-making circles--has been largely influenced by a notion of Canadian exceptionalism. This has often been illustrated, in contrast to the situation in Europe and the USA, through Canada's open and non-discriminatory point-system for admitting immigrants, the wider acceptance of immigrants in broader Canadian society, and in the nation's Multiculturalism policy as a way to accommodate the immigrants' post-migration settlement. While this may have very well been the case that Canada has indeed been different from other western immigrant-receiving countries, the deep-rooted nature of the perception of Canadian exceptionalism has created its own problems, including: a) a widespread sense of immunity from the social ills often associated with other immigrant-receiving nations; and b) a certain degree of disengagement from serious investigations into what might have contributed to this exceptionalism, beyond the possible influence of a national character (factors such as the absence of illegal migration, a less intense competition over vital resources due to a smaller population, etcetera). There are some signs that this situation may have been changing, or has already changed, in the post-9/11 era.

Three developments are particularly important in the post-9/11 years. The first is the change in the easiness with which the political discourses on ethnic groups and immigrants can now travel from one national context to another--sometimes almost overnight--and can present themselves as relevant narratives. As a result of this, we can easily start seeing the situation in Canada through the conceptual lenses created in and for an entirely different context. Second is the presence of a global right-populist wave on the horizon (see Norris and Inglehart 2019), which can swing the general political climate in Canada to the right--as partially reflected in the emergence of the Conservative Premiers block--with great implications for the nature of ethnic inter-group relations and for immigrant/non-immigrant relations. Third, there is a sudden rise in the salience of religion in the Canadian ethnic landscape, for which the research community is not well prepared, either conceptually or in terms of data. The last point, I think, is of particular significance, so let me elaborate on it somewhat further.

There are at least two areas in which the existing data are pointing to a sudden jump in the salience of religion: one in the economy, the other in the broader community. Illustrating the economic domain, Figure 1 shows the trendlines for the impact of religion on incomes of a cohort of immigrants who arrived in Canada in 2001. The economic performance of these immigrants over the next fourteen years have been followed through two extremely rich sets of data: a) the Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Canada, which surveyed these immigrants three times between 2001 and 2005, capturing a range of attitudinal and social attributes including their religious backgrounds; and b) the IMDB data, which combines immigration and taxation administrative files, allowing an examination of the changes in the incomes of this cohort over time. The data reported in Figure 1 are the Beta Coefficients for the variable religious backgrounds in a regression model in which a wide range of other relevant variables are controlled for, including education, immigration category, age, gender, country of origin, place of residence, social ties, and economic sector. The trendlines show that, up to roughly around 2011, religion was losing its influence on determining these immigrants' incomes. The relative convergence of the trendlines around 2011 shows that both the religious groups that had an advantage and those who had a disadvantage were losing their distinctness and were becoming like each other and the reference group, the Catholics. Around 2011, however, except for one group, a sudden change of direction occurs for all other groups; and, this change shows a downturn in the values of the Beta coefficients; that is, the negative impact of a religious minority status on income of these immigrants has become more pronounced.

The nature of social ties in the communal arena is the second area in which religion is becoming more influential. Figure 2 reports the changes in the patterns of residential segregation of people from different religious backgrounds in Canada's major CMAs. The numbers reported are the Dissimilarity Index values, which vary between 0 and 1, corresponding with no and complete segregation, respectively. These numbers are calculated for both 2001 and 2011, using Statistics Canada's Census Profiles data. The values of the DI reported in Figure 2 show that, with the exception of the Sikhs, the magnitude of religion-based residential segregation has increased for all other groups in all major CMAs during the 2001-11 period. This means that religion is playing an increasingly greater role in cutting down the probability of interaction between people of different religious backgrounds at neighbourhood levels.

From a national perspective, what is the state of the art of Canadian racial and ethnic studies?

The bulk of the academic research on ethnic dynamics in Canada shows the general traits of many other social scientific research: it is critical; it is state-focused; and it uses a language that is almost exclusively rights-based. Despite their significant influences on our knowledge development, these traits have created their own blind spots as well. The principle of being critical has drawn attention, disproportionally, to the problem areas or things that have not worked; hence, less energy is spent on the positives and the success stories. While creating the needed awareness of the problems, this bias contributes less in the finding of solutions to those problems. The state-focused trait, similarly, has directed a disproportionally greater deal of energy towards public policy; hence, a dearth of research on non-state players such as the market forces or the broader community. The heavy use of a rights-based language has served well for challenging the mainstream forces, but falls short in creating solidarity and consensus.

In the troubling and unsettling global context, what are the future directions and trajectories for racial and ethnic studies in Canada?

I believe there are a number of areas in Canada's ethnic research landscape in which some re-thinking and/or re-centering may need to happen. I will briefly list them as following:

a) Along the lines with what was mentioned earlier about the rising salience of religion in the Canadian ethnic landscape, there is a need for an increased attention to religion in the future research. This means two things, in particular: the improvement in our conceptual and theoretical toolboxes, and the generation of more data on religion. The long dominance of secularization assumption in social scientific circles has created a shortage of interest and a deficit in the theoretical sophistication of Canadian social scientific research in dealing with religion, particularly the minority religions of many immigrants and non-mainstream ethnic groups. This has also resulted in a weaker sense of need for data on religion; a reflection of which is the fact that in the Canadian census, religion is the only variable that is included not in every census but in every other census.

b) Much of the attention of Canada's ethnicity research has been spent on issues related to political/policy and the cultural developments, at the expense of research on the social. The macro nature of state policies leaves little room for engagement with the grassroots forces and the dynamics of the day-to-day realities on the ground. The cultural focus also reinforces the notion of cultural essentialism and undermines the agency of many social forces and players. The incorporation of the social can enrich many of the existing debates, for example, those on the effectiveness of Multiculturalism.

c) Partly as an extension of the above shift to social, there needs to be more attention given to local vis-a-vis national dynamics. There are many studies that show the presence of local variations in the ethnic trends; but such variations have not yet found their proper place in theorization and thinking about ethnic dynamics in Canada.

d) The academic community, including the community of ethnicity researchers in Canada, has a generally liberal bent. This has resulted in two things: the disproportional focus on negative developments, and a particular sensitivity towards maintaining the principle of political correctness. While both of these elements are necessary ingredients for any area of social scientific scholarship, a heavy and one-sided emphasis on them can undermine our ability to find solutions for problems and to detect some of the unpleasant and undesired realities on the ground. As an illustration of this possibility, for instance, one may ask why some of the most extreme, inhumane, and brutal attacks on religious minorities in the west--e.g., the attacks on Muslims in Quebec City (Canada) and Christchurch (New Zealand) mosque shootings; and the attacks on Jews in the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, and the anti-Semitic rallies in Charlottesville--have happened in the countries that they were least expected to and with no sign of any overt Islamophobia and/or anti-Semitism, at least in comparison to Europe where there is much higher doses of both. Could this unexpectedness be related to the possibility that the dominance of political correctness has prevented the hostile signs from surfacing earlier? Or, even worse, could the political correctness have contributed to those attacks, by not allowing the weaker dosages of the hostile views to surface and be dealt with earlier and before they gained full momentum? I feel that the social scientific research has to begin critiquing and conceptualizing political correctness as a variable in inter-group relations dynamics, and that from a left-of-centre perspective and with concern for social justice, to undermine the current monopoly of its critique by the right.


Between Culture Wars and Suspect Minorities in Canada

It is challenging, and for me nearly impossible, to try to analyze the entire field of Canadian racial and ethnic studies as it has developed over the past five decades. So I would rather like to present some reflections about the issue of cultural pluralism, a narrower topic indeed, as it has evolved. I will touch on developments in Canadian society (and beyond) and also on our field's response to those developments. There have been articles and reviews of relevant books in the pages of Canadian Ethnic Studies that make important contributions to this task (e.g., Wong and Guo 2018). And of course there have been book length treatments as well (e.g., Guo and Wong 2015).

Roughly 45 years ago, John Porter published a chapter in a book edited by Nathan Glazer and Daniel Moynihan (Porter 1975). Porter mounted a strong cultural critique against what we would now understand as multiculturalism. He died in 1979, but would have certainly opposed Section 27 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This aspect of Porter's thinking was not as strongly present in The Vertical Mosaic published in 1965, and also in recent evaluations of that seminal work (Jedwab and Satzewich 2015).

Porter felt that many of the traditional immigrant cultures were not well suited to success in a modern industrial and post-industrial society. They were not sufficiently rooted in the more modern cultural values of science, reason and social progress. These cultures had value and interest to be sure, but belonged more in museums than as guides to daily life. He asked, "Can cultures of the past serve societies facing the coming of post-industrialism?" (Porter 1975, 303.) His answer was a resounding no. He felt that to endorse such cultures by the state might also serve to impede the social progress of minority groups, and his much valued goal of socio-economic equality. He feared the mosaic might remain vertical. In addition, excessive celebration of diversity, or cultural pluralism, would inevitably lead to hierarchical rankings, and indeed to racism. It might also prevent the general societal integration of minority groups. Porter called himself, and his views, "liberal assimilationist."

In the 1920s, assimilation as reflected in the Chicago school of sociology in fact had many progressive elements to it. The idea in the Park race relations cycle was that minorities would and could assimilate (Park 1950) and become American. This meant that there were no fixed barriers of race that could prevent this process, and so immigration need not be feared. Thus assimilation was anti-racist, at least as applied to the waves of immigrant groups arriving in the United States, and the rising xenophobia of that time. Of course times have changed. Assimilation is now seen largely as reflecting a Eurocentric form of cultural racism.

Porter's perspective as described above now seems harsh. As a result, these cultural questions were, for a long time, muted in Canadian society and scholarly discourse, given the wide acceptance of the multicultural idea, and thanks to the anthropological insights of cultural relativism.

Yet some of these cultural issues, along with racism more generally, have recently resurfaced. This has been fueled by decades of non-European immigration to Canada, and the rise specifically of Islamophobia. Much of the cultural concern has emerged regarding the perceived oppression of women in these traditions. Islam is seen as a cultural threat and as a potential national security issue. This worry about immigration and traditional cultures has been found among new right-wing populist and nationalist movements, as well as among more educated and liberal elements in the John Porter vein.

The debate on reasonable accommodation in Quebec has been perhaps the most acute form in which this issue has been joined in Canada. The report by Gerard Bouchard and Charles Taylor (2008) opened Quebec doors to the resolution of this issue in the public square. Various Quebec governments have attempted to solve "the problem" of the religious challenge to secularism. In June of 2019 the CAQ government passed its controversial Bill 21, the latest iteration in this ongoing saga. This Bill would, inter alia, prohibit the wearing of visible religious signs of any group by a variety of public sector employees, including elementary and secondary public school teachers (Quebec 2019). These religious cultures were seen as "suspect" in that they challenge the secular foundations of western societies. Bill 21 seemed to have majority support among the Quebec population, and indeed, significant support elsewhere in Canada. Poll data also suggest that support for this bill was linked to Islamophobia (Magder 2019).

The recognition of Canadian immigrant groups as transnational and diasporic in Canada is an important new perspective in the field (Wong and Satzewich 2006). It has added another dimension to conceptions of some such groups as" suspect," in this case as threats to national security. Historically this fear reflected a charge of dual loyalties, whether to hostile countries as in the two world wars, or as to dangerous ideologies, mainly those of the left (Avery 1979; Massa and Weinfeld 2010). Some Canadian citizens with citizenship or family ties to other countries may now also be seen as suspect, and a security threat, suffering from dual and conflicting loyalties (Arat-Koc 2006; Baron 2009; Bramadat and Dawson 2014; Satzewich and Liodakis 2013, 274-75). Thus the issues of securitization and radicalization emerge as controversial subjects for investigation by scholars in racial and ethnic studies. Moreover, lines between religion and ethnicity/race are becoming blurred in social life and in the public square, especially given the dual cultural and geo-political elements to such allegedly suspect minorities. It might be worth considering adding religion to ethnicity and race as a third category for the research agenda of our field.

In a sense the idea of minorities as being geo-politically dangerous--rather than mainly inferior--is a more accurate foundational rendering of the origins of our contemporary othering of minority groups. It has been undergirding both anti-Semitic and Islamophobic conspiracy theories. We seem to be reverting to the tribal sense of the "other". One of the first, if not the first, recorded "reasons" for minority oppression in the Western canon can be found in Exodus 1:10 in the Bible. Why did Pharaoh enslave the Hebrews? "Come let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and it come to pass that when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up our of the land." A suspect minority with potentially dual loyalties.

It seems that the forces of globalization will continue, as will the response of growing xenophobia to many of those forces. It is difficult to predict the future, and the record of the social sciences is not good. There were very few predictions of the rise of feminism, the civil rights movements, the baby boom and the baby bust, the rapid collapse of the Soviet Union, etcetera. Certainly the idea that history has ended at the turn of the last century, with the triumph of liberal democracy was, to say the least, premature (Fukuyama 1992).

Still, at the present moment and into the future it seems the Canadian culture wars will be fought and studied along many dimensions. There are value differences which will continue to test the limits of reasonable accommodation. There are also recurring debates about cultural appropriation, free speech vs. hate speech, and micro-aggressions (Fieras 2016). These issues will continue to roil Canadian campuses, as they do at present. And at the same time global population and resource pressures, international migration, and indeed increasing international tensions, may well lead to increasing challenges for the Canadian state to manage competing claims among groups of citizens.

As of 2019 Canada seems to be doing relatively well in the challenges of negotiating appropriate spaces for its diverse non-white immigrant minorities. But this is no reason to be smug. Racism remains a core feature of Canadian society (Satzewich and Liodakis 2013). Any Canadian comparative advantage may be due in large part to protective features of Canadian geography, which has so far reduced levels of illegal migration. Selective migrant selection has avoided perceived negative economic impacts of immigration. But should that change, and should cultural conflicts and geopolitical tensions, real or imagined, increase, then Canadian support for multiculturalism will likely diminish (Kymlicka 2005). The challenge remains unresolved.


The immediate future of ethnic studies in Canada will likely continue to examine ethnic, ethno-religious and racial conflict. This scholarship will continue to address issues of ethnic discrimination, racism, and Islamophobia given their continuation and persistence in Canadian society. Complementing these substantive areas, the field of ethnic studies in Canada will continue to examine immigration, immigrant/refugee settlement, integration, multiculturalism and cultural pluralism. Over the past decade and a half, ethnic studies in Canada has increasingly included work on ethno-religious issues (Kymlicka 2015) and this trend will likely continue as the three Chairs of Ethnic Studies have pointed out. For example, increasing anti-Muslim sentiments and hostility in Canada has been reflected in the fact that the topic of Islamophobia has been addressed in many articles over the past decade in the journal Canadian Ethnic Studies/ Etudes Ethniques au Canada. Finally, since the early 2000s, the older and traditional notions of ethnicity as a nationally bounded, localized, and essentialized concept has increasingly been challenged by the transnationalism and diasporas paradigms and associated empirical studies. This challenge will likely continue in the ethnic studies research going forward.


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Avery, Donald. 1979. Dangerous Foreigners: European Immigrant Workers and Labour Radicalism in Canada, 1896-1932. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.

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JAMES FRIDERES is Professor Emeritus at the University of Calgary. He was a member of the Sociology Department and held the Chair of Ethnic Studies before retiring. After retirement he worked in Indonesia, Afghanistan and the Philippines. He has published extensively in the areas of immigration and immigrant integration.

SHIBAO GUO is Professor at the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary. He specializes in citizenship and immigration, Chinese immigrants in Canada, ethnic and race relations, and comparative and international education. His latest book is Immigration, Racial and Ethnic Studies in 150 Years of Canada: Retrospects and Prospects (Brill|Sense, 2018, with L. Wong). He is past president of Canadian Ethnic Studies Association. Currently he serves as co-editor of Canadian Ethnic Studies.

ABDIE KAZEMIPUR is Professor of Sociology and Chair of Ethnic Studies at the University of Calgary. His research is on the socio-economic integration of immigrants in Canada. As well, he studies the socio-cultural trends in the Middle East. In 2015, he was the recipient of John Porter Award by the Canadian Sociological Association for his book, The Muslim Question in Canada (UBC Press, 2014). In 2018, he received the Metropolis Researcher Award from the Metropolis Canada.

MORTON WEINFELD is Professor of Sociology at McGill University, where he holds the Chair in Canadian Ethic Studies. Among his many publications are the second edition of Like Everyone Else but Different: The Paradoxical Success of Canadian Jews (McGill-Queens University Press, 2018), and Old Wounds: Jews, Ukrainians, and the Hunt for Nazi War Criminals in Canada, with Harold Troper (University of N. Carolina Press, 1989). In 2013 he received the Marshall Sklare Prize from the Association for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry. His current area of research and teaching interest deals with "suspect minorities" in Canada.

LLOYD WONG is the co-editor of Canadian Ethnic Studies. His research interests include multiculturalism, transnationalism, mobilities and citizenship. Recent books include Trans-Pacific Mobilities: The Chinese and Canada (UBC Press, 2017) and an edited volume (with Shibao Guo) entitled Immigration, Racial and Ethnic Studies in 150 Years of Canada: Retrospects and Prospects (Brill|Sense, 2018). Recent journal articles appear in Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies, Canadian Public Policy, and Journal of Chinese Overseas.
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Author:Frideres, James; Guo, Shibao; Kazemipur, Abdie; Weinfeld, Morton; Wong, Lloyd
Publication:Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Jun 22, 2019
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