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Postulations on the fragmentary effects of multiculturalism in Canada.


Multiculturalism has been the subject of substantial debates in Canada during the past four decades (Wilson 1993; Abu-Laban 1994; Sugunasiri 1999; Fleras and Elliot 2002). Such debates have intensified during the most recent decade largely as a result of the attention devoted by the media to, among other things, the large influx of immigrants and refugees who are members of visible minorities, the claims for and responses to what is now being termed reasonable accommodations, and the actual and potential acts of terrorism. The debates have focused primarily on what Fleras and Elliott (2002, 108) have referred to as the "dialectics of multiculturalism" regarding tive sets of positive and negative effects of multiculturalism public philosophy and public policy (i.e., divisive vs. unifying, essentializing vs. hybridizing, marginalizing vs. inclusive, hoax vs. catalyst, and hegemony vs. counter-hegemony), the myths and fallacies of multiculturalism (Burnet 1979; Peter 1981, Fleras and Elliot 2002, 112-116), and what have been described as real and perceived contradictions related to multiculturalism (Saul 2005).

One of the central questions in such debates has been whether multiculturalism contributes either to harmony and integration or conflict and fragmentation within the Canadian polity. The question applies to the effects of both the public philosophy of multiculturalism (i.e., the normative framework that values the co-existence and perpetuation of diverse cultures) (1) and the public policy of multiculturalism (i.e., the actual policy and program initiatives undertaken by various orders of government designed to deal with the co-existence and perpetuation of diverse cultures) (Kallen 1982). (2) That question has generated a set of postulations proffered by postulators who believe that multiculturalism philosophy and policy have fragmentary effects within the Canadian polity. (3)

This article has two central objectives: first, to provide an overview and analysis of the postulations regarding the fragmentary effects of multiculturalism philosophy and policy articulated during the past forty years in books and journal articles within the Canadian literature written in English; second, to provide some observations regarding the importance that policy makers should attach to those postulations and the type and degree of attention that they should devote to them.

This article is based on a content analysis of a select set of publications on Canadian multiculturalism public philosophy and public policy written between 1965 and 2005 largely by social scientists and a few other prominent authors and analysts. The goal was to identify some, rather than all, publications that articulated various postulations. Thus, the dozens of publications profiled in this article constitute only a representative sample of a potentially larger set of publications that articulate the various postulations. The publications were selected through a combination of a library and web-based bibliographic search and a scanning of the bibliographic references contained in the publications located through the library and web-based bibliographic search. The key words used for the searches were "Canadian multiculturalism" and "criticisms of Canadian multiculturalism" The postulations that are the focus of this article were identified through a content analysis of the select set of dozens of publications that dealt with the fragmentary effects of Canadian multiculturalism public philosophy and public policy. More specifically, they were identified by grouping comparable arguments regarding the fragmentary effects of multiculturalism public philosophy and public policy, and then producing a descriptive title and description of the postulation embodied in each group arguments.

Before providing the overview and analysis of the postulations, three important caveats and some information regarding the methodology are in order. First, the differences between some of the postulations are relatively subtle; indeed, some of the postulations are interrelated and overlapping. Nevertheless, for analytical purposes it is useful to discuss them separately. Second, the identification of the commentators who articulate those postulations is selective or exemplary, rather than comprehensive or exhaustive. Third, it should not be assumed that all of those who articulate any of the postulations are necessarily against multiculturalism either as a public philosophy or as a public policy. Indeed, as noted in a subsequent section of this artide, some of them are supportive of either or both of those, but they want to see some clarifications or correctives to those that they perceive as problematical in achieving any one or more of the desired goals.


Postulation 1: Multiculturalism promotes the creation of segregated racial and ethno-cultural enclaves

The first postulation is that multiculturalism policy, in combination with immigration policy, creates segregated racial and ethnocultural enclaves within local communities (Brotz 1980; Ogmundson 1992; Paquet 1988; James 1996; James and Shadd 2001; Stoffman 2002 and 2004). The postulators maintain that whereas immigration policy facilitates the concentration of the bulk of immigrants with similar racial or ethnocultural backgrounds into a few major cities and, in some cases even a few neighbourhoods therein, multiculturalism policy promotes and supports the creation of ethno-specific secular and religious institutions to serve the needs of each major ethno-cultural community. They add that some racial and ethno-cultural groups are able to achieve and maintain a substantial degree of institutional completeness that, in turn, accentuates segregation and social distances between members of those groups and members of other groups.

This postulation was cogently articulated and popularized by Neil Bissoondath who suggested that multiculturalism has the effect of "... ensuring that ethnic groups will preserve their distinctiveness in a gentle and insidious form of cultural apartheid" and will "... lead an already divided country down the path to further social divisiveness" (1994, 82-83).

Those who proffer this postulation suggest that such distancing contributes to the fragmentation of the populace and that possible negative effects include matters discussed in subsequent sections of this article. The most notable of such effects are: the diminishing of the fundamental unity of the Canadian state and society (Brotz 1980, 44); the growth of ethnocentrism and segmentation and the resurgence of racism under a different name (Paquet 1988, 10-11; Sugunarisi 1999, 57-75, 109-114); and ultimately the disintegration of the Canadian polity (Ogmundson 1992, 52).

Postulation 2: Multiculturalism creates multiple social and political identities and divided loyalties

The second postulation is that multiculturalism creates multiple social and political identities and divided loyalties. This postulation was originally articulated in the mid-1960s by John Porter who suggested that one of the key problems with Canada was its fragmented social and political structures. Such fragmentation, he argued, creates a strong emphasis on ethnic differentiation that, in turn, creates dual loyalties--one to the various groups and one to the country--that prevent the emergence of a singular Canadian identity (Porter 1965, 558).

Porter's postulation was echoed in the early 1990s by several authors who suggested that multiculturalism contributed to the emergence of multiple nationalities, divided loyalties, and the fragmentation of Canadian identity. Bibby argued that, contrary to what its proponents argue, multiculturalism does not really achieve the stated goal of "harmonious existence" (1990, 7-8). Gairdner concurred with this and went so far as to suggest that multiculturalism, along with bilingualism and immigration, contributed to the silent destruction of English Canada (Gairdner 1990, 389-420). Ogmundson argued that, contrary to what its advocates suggested, multiculturalism policy was not needed to reduce social inequalities (1992, 50-51), and added that, since Canada has a "balkanized culture and a paucity of nationalism," the federal government must concentrate on building a singular national identity and a stronger primary loyalty to the country. Many critics of multiculturalism go even farther in postulating that multiculturalism has "undermined national unity" (McRoberts 1997, 131) and that multiculturalism does not square as well as multinationalism with Canadian federalism (McRoberts 2003, 105).

In recent years, this particular postulation regarding the effects of multiculturalism on identities and loyalties has also been articulated by other analysts. HowardHassmann for example, notes that despite many salutary effects of Canadian multiculturalism policy in conveying the message that this is a progressive and welcoming country, it tends to encourage "individuals to think of themselves, and identify themselves, in terms of their ancestral ethnicity" and renders it "difficult to instill a sense of Canadian identity in the population at large" (1999, 525). She adds that the heavy influence of what she terms group-based "illiberal multiculturalism" espoused by some newcomers tends to accentuate the existence of members of ethnocultural groups with attachments to their ancestral origins from other countries and negates the existence of members of ethno-culturally hybridized group, which she refers to as "ethnic Canadians," who do not have such attachments. She concludes that what she terms "liberal multiculturalism," which focuses on a broader set of diversities and the rights of individuals, rather than groups, is much more relevant and constructive for the evolving nature of the Canadian policy, than the illiberal group-based version.

In a similar vein, Mirchandani and Tastsoglou (2000) note that, ironically, multiculturalism's drive towards "tolerance" actually contributes to fragmentation by profiling and accentuating group differences. Similarly, Barry suggests that multiculturalism contributes to the "politicization of group identities" (2001, 5) and creates a majority-minority duality and enhances the notion of "otherness" (11-15) that leads racial and ethno-cultural groups and their members to develop and act upon their group identities within the political sphere. Barry criticizes proponents of Canadian multiculturalism philosophy and public policy such as Kymlicka (1998) and Tully (1995), whom he disparagingly refers to as an "itinerant band of likeminded theorists," for their unwillingness to acknowledge that the development of such group identifies and the actions that flow from them are problematical, rather than salutary, for the Canadian polity.

Postulation 3: Multiculturalism hinders the production and perpetuation of a singular "Canadian civic culture" with a "Canadian moral centre"

The third postulation is that multiculturalism hinders the production and perpetuation of a singular Canadian civic culture with a Canadian moral centre. This position, initially articulated by Porter (1965), has been echoed during the past two decades by several analysts (Bibby 1990; Bissoondath 1994; Roy 1995; Esses and Gardner 1996; Gwyn 1996; Granatstein 1998; Kay 1998). The general concern among these analysts is that multiculturalism inevitably leads to the emergence of multiple and divergent normative frameworks that are likely to intensify intolerance and conflict. Several of them have noted that two problems stand in the way of the production and perpetuation of a singular Canadian civic culture. The first is that multiculturalism fosters a reluctance to identify and proselytize a singular set of Canadian values and norms. The second is that within the multiculturalism paradigm there is no imperative for ethno-cultural groups to espouse one set of Canadian values or practices and to assimilate. Instead, it encourages and supports the efforts of a wide range of such groups, with different cultural and religious backgrounds, values, and practices to maintain and perpetuate their distinct cultures (Esses and Gardner 1996). This, they argue, creates a normative relativism that compromises efforts to develop a set of widely shared set of norms and values (Porter 1965; Granatstein 1998).

According to Bibby, for example, multiculturalism has compounded the fragmentary effects of contemporary liberalism ideology by privileging individualism, pluralism, and relativism over hegemonic social and political norms shared by the majority of the population. Bibby thinks that pluralism establishes choices and that relativism declares those choices valid. He maintains that excessive "relativism has slain moral consensus" and has "stripped us of our ethical and moral guidelines, leaving us with no authoritative instruments at the national level with which to measure social life" (1990, 14). He makes it clear that he is not opposed to individualism, pluralism and relativism, but to what he considers the excesses that they have spawned (10).

This postulation is also evident in an article by Gregg in which he argues that the secular humanism and liberalism that underpin immigration, settlement, and multiculturalism policies in Canada have resulted in an increase in the number of people without allegiances to the Canadian nation or state or with due appreciation and respect for the prevailing values, some of whom are willing to undertake radical political action, including actual or attempted acts of terrorism comparable to those witnessed in many countries prior to, on, and after 9/11. Gregg suggests that there may be some validity to suggestions that Canada's multiculturalism experiment may have gone wrong, and that the time has come to review it and possibly reform it (2006, 47).

The postulation that multiculturalism hinders the production and perpetuation of a singular Canadian civic culture with a Canadian, or at least a western, moral centre is also articulated by Kay. In explaining the backlash against multiculturalism, he notes that one of the major problems is that the accommodation of the distinct values of various minority groups leads to an unacceptable and problematical normative relativism that confronts and challenges the moral and social fabric of the country (1998, 31). He adds that the prevailing view is that whenever there is a conflict between any such values and fundamental liberal principles like freedom of speech and equality before the law, those values are not acceptable within the parameters set for multiculturalism (32-33). He concludes by siding with conservatives who suggest that there is, and that there must be, a limit to the degree of tolerance and accommodation for values that are not commensurate with western cultural values that prevail in Canada and other liberal democracies.

Postulation 4: Multiculturalism hinders the development and delivery of a singular "civic education"

The fourth postulation is that multiculturalism hinders the development and delivery of a singular civic education (Brotz 1980). Granatstein (1998) maintains that the irrational and unexamined assumptions of what he terms "multiculturalism mania" contributes to fragmentation within Canada in two ways. First, multiculturalism has seriously compromised the content and quality of teaching many important aspects of Canadian history. Second, the propagation of multiculturalism has produced a misallocation of governmental resources needed for the integration of newcomers. He argues that resources that are being devoted to supporting multiculturalism policies and programs should be devoted both to turning immigrants into citizens as quickly as possible and also to educating both those seeking Canadian citizenship and those who already have it about Canada's history, its shared civic culture, and the importance of the perpetuation of that civic culture to provide the social and political glue needed to secure not only a singular Canadian identity but also the optimal degree of solidarity and unity.

Postulation 5: Multiculturalism hinders the construction of a shared civic citizenship or intercultural citizenship

The fifth postulation is that multiculturalism hinders the construction of a shared civic citizenship or intercultural citizenship. This postulation is articulated by several academic analysts who believe that there is a fundamental difference between the multiculturalism and interculturalism paradigms, and who favour the latter over the former. Hutcheon, for example, states that the latter should be privileged over the former because there is a "dark side to multiculturalism" (1994, 1). She argues that whereas multiculturalism emphasizes the retention of group identities and differences that foster social distance and segregation, interculturalism emphasizes the breaking down of such identities and differences as "all citizens (longtime as well as new) are nourished by an ever-expanding general culture" (ibid.). In a similar vein, Gagnon suggests that Canada's multiculturalism model is more problematic than Quebec's interculturalism model. He argues that in Canada social fragmentation is the result of accepting the existence of cultural groups as distinct and self-contained entities "... without any expectation that they may contribute to the overall direction of the larger society in an evolutionary interplay of ideas" (2000, 21). He adds that the principal virtue of Quebec's interculturalism model is its ability to establish a balance between the requirements of unity by providing everyone with a shared identity (i.e., as francophone Quebecois) and the recognition, understanding, and appreciation of different cultures.

The hindrance that state-sponsored multiculturalism policy has posed for a shared civic or intercultural citizenship has also been articulated by others. Day (2000, 3-4), for example, suggests that this "state-sponsored attempt to design a unified nation has paradoxically led to an increase in both the number of minority entities and in the amount of effort required to 'manage' them." To overcome this problem, he proposes what might be termed a libertarian or anarchical laissez-faire multiculturalism model wherein the policy role of the state would shift from the proactive management of multiculturalism to a passive or even non-existent one. This would entail the abandonment not only of the current multiculturalism policy, but also of what he depicts as an unrealistic and unhealthy fixation with a type of group harmony and unity that is simply not attainable. He summarizes his libertarian or anarchical laissez-faire position as follows (225):
 Instead of the nation-state being wielded as a tool to build
 a pre-designed nation, the Canadian state's role would be to
 create a space of free play. It would be seen not as a
 guardian of a perfect, yet fragile order, but as providing
 a minimal field of structure out of which almost anything
 might emerge, and where even this minimal role would not
 have essential content, but would itself be subject to
 ongoing revision. Not a static, solidified order, but a
 dynamic and fluid chaos.

Postulation 6: Multiculturalism frustrates the aspirations of Quebecois nationalists and Aboriginal nationalists

The sixth postulation is that multiculturalism frustrates the aspirations of Quebecois nationalists and Aboriginal nationalists. The postulators posit that Canadian multiculturalism has created uneasiness and even resistance among many nationalist Quebecers and Aboriginals because it recognizes the existence of a multiplicity of groups and views all groups as essentially the same in terms of claims and rights (McRoberts 1997; McRoberts 2003, 105).

The criticism of the adverse effects of multiculturalism for the aspirations of Quebecois nationalists has been articulated by analysts such as Breton (2000), Gagnon (2000), and Gagnon and Iacovino (2002). They point out that while some of the Quebecois nationalists share the view that multiculturalism has an adverse effect on the national and linguistic duality valued by Quebecois who subscribe to the "two founding nations theory" of Canada, others share the view that multiculturalism is contributing to the loss of community within the Quebecois nation because the existing communitarianism is being superseded by excessive individualism, cultural relativism and deepening diversity.

A substantial critique of the adverse effects of multiculturalism on the Quebecois nation and to some extent also on the Aboriginal nations has been provided by Gagnon. In his view, the multiculturalism paradigm is flawed because, "while seemingly respectful of differences on the surface, [it] is actually homogenizing (in a federal context) due to its failure to distinguish between 'ethnic' minorities and 'national' communities" such as the Quebecois nation and the Aboriginal nations (2000, 20). He concludes that any benefits that the Canadian government hoped to achieve by establishing this comparability or parity between immigrant ethnic communities and national communities is more than offset by the antipathy that it creates among Quebecois and Aboriginal nationalists who are inclined to view multiculturalism as a Machiavellian strategy designed to negate two conceptions of those communities within the Canadian polity which they value very highly. The first is the negation of their respective conceptions that they are distinct nations and, in the minds of some of them, even relatively sovereign nations within a multinational Canadian polity. The second is their respective conceptions of the fundamental nature of federalism within that polity, which for Quebec nationalists is the "dual-nation federalism" model in which the English and the French are the two founding nations, and for Aboriginal nationalists it is the "treaty federalism" model in which Aboriginal nations are also party to the original and continuing compacts that led to the construction of a Canadian polity.

Postulation 7: Multiculturalism facilitates the importation and perpetuation of ethnic and religious conflicts from other countries

The seventh postulation is that multiculturalism facilitates the importation and perpetuation of ethnic and regional conflicts from other countries. Those who articulate this postulation suggest that liberal immigration and multiculturalism policies in recent decades have accelerated and increased not only the diversity of Canada's population, but also the level of inter-group and intra-group conflicts via political and cultural transnationalism. Field (2003, 397), for example, maintains that such conflicts exist because ethnic groups bring with them legacies of conflict from their countries of origin. This postulation has gained greater prominence in recent years as a result of the increased linkages of ethnocultural communities in Canada and their Countries of origin resulting from at least two major factors. One factor is the particularistic form of transnationalism that fosters affinities and connections across national boundaries between members of a particular nation or ethnocultural group. The other factor is extensive news coverage of the various types of linkages among members of such groups in supporting, among other things, resistance and liberation movements, rebellions and revolutions, and acts of terrorism. Kay (1998, 31) has suggested that this postulation is rooted more in the public perception, than in reality. He maintains that regardless of the empirical evidence on this matter, when some people think of multiculturalism, they generally think of immigrant groups importing conflicts into Canada. Other analysts have added that the perception of imported conflict is fostered not only by people's preconceptions of the effects of multiculturalism policies, but also by the goals and rationales of government policies produced in response to problematical situations, such as those enacted for security purposes in the wake of 9/11 (Kruger and Korenic 2004, 72-78). This last point is an important reminder regarding the need to take careful stock in selecting policy responses to problematical situations.

Postulation 8: Multiculturalism creates conflicts within ethno-cultural groups

The eighth postulation is that multiculturalism creates conflicts within ethno-culrural groups. At the core of this postulation is the notion that ethnic groups are not as homogenous and essentialized as the multiculturalism paradigm suggests. There are differences of values and preferences within groups on an array of matters, and conflicts are particularly acute when there are fundamental differences in cultural and religious values between what are commonly referred to as the "orthodox fundamentalists" and the "modernists." In addition to creating intra-group problems, such differences could potentially result in the establishment and operation of intragroup tyrannies that impose particularistic normative frameworks that conflict with the norms and values of the national civic culture. To ensure that this does not happen, such critics argue that it is imperative for the state to set limits to such particularistic normative frameworks that not only run counter to the norms of the national civic culture, but actually harm others either within or outside the ethnocultural group. Cohen-Almagor, for example, asks what the limits should be in the face of increased cultural fragmentation in tolerating individuals and groups who are importing norms and practices that run counter to those espoused by the majority in host countries such as Canada. He argues that some things lie beyond the limits of toleration of liberal democracies and that "democracy cannot endure norms that deny respect to people and that are designed to harm others, although they might be dictated by some cultures." He asserts that the reason for this is that the right of a group against its own members is not absolute (2001, 83). For this reason, and "to prevent the likelihood of coercion and abuse," he argues that it is important that liberal democracies such as Canada set limits to multiculturalism that result in the stretching of accepted norms and practices (90). Those who share this view tend to emphasize the importance of either or both a greater commitment to the appreciation and application of a "rule of law" that applies to all groups and individuals regardless of their ethnocultural or religious background and the adoption of and conformity to the values of a national civic culture.

Postulation 9: Multiculturalism fosters competition and inequality between groups

The ninth postulation is that multiculturalism fosters competition and inequality between ethnocultural groups as well as within ethnocultural groups. Paquet (1988, 11) expresses concern regarding the potential dangers of multiculturalism in fostering inequality of ethnocultural groups, and cautions that the idea that each ethnocultural group can be different but equal is an illusion because, ultimately, an ethnic hierarchy will emerge. Some have suggested that this inequality results from the political dynamics between the relationships of the leadership of ethnocultural groups and some political parties whereby the former seek political status and financial resources to advance the group's and personal interests and the latter seek various forms of support to win elections (Brimelow 1986, 142-143; Gairdner 1990, 392-396). In a similar vein, Ogmundson (1992, 52) suggests that eventually multiculturalism will have dire consequences for Canada because it fosters group competition and "after some period of struggle a very clear group hierarchy will emerge" and thereafter "life chances will again be a direct consequence of ethnic background" Moreover, he disputes the claim that multiculturalism is needed to combat ethnic stratification because, in his words, "Serious and competent work has shown that ethnic stratification is minimal (ethnicity explains only two percent of the variance in socio-economic status), is declining, and looks good in an international perspective" (50).

Postulation 10: Multiculturalism hinders the mobilization of activism for progressive policies in achieving an equitable distribution of economic and social benefits

The tenth postulation, and closely related to the ninth, is that multiculturalism hinders the mobilization of activism for progressive policies in achieving an equitable distribution of economic and social benefits. Multiculturalism is viewed as reactionary and anti-egalitarian because it tends to preserve an existing hierarchically ordered socio-economic class structure that favours some ethnocultural groups over others (Bannerji 2000). A related critique of this feature of multiculturalism policy is that it offers members of ethnocultural groups "... an illusion of cultural freedom, while denying them any real power" (Peter 1981, 8) within the political and economic systems.

Porter articulates this notion in his discussion of the perpetuation of the vertical mosaic in Canada. He argues that the vertical mosaic is perpetuated not only because within the Canadian polity some groups are privileged over others, but also because segregation within Canada's polyethnic society perpetuates certain occupational choices among members of various ethnocultural groups. The reason for this, according to Porter, is that when ethnic groups are closely knit, as they are in Canada, certain occupational choices are encouraged while others are discouraged. In effect, he is arguing that tightly knit ethnocultural geographic enclaves create ethnocultural occupational enclaves. This type of occupational enclaving or clustering, he argues, contributes to the difficulties faced by members of some ethnic groups to move from a lower into a higher socio-economic class (1965, 558).

Similarly, Mazurek (1992, 21) suggests that multiculturalism policy does not contribute to progressive politics and policy largely because not all of the original goals of that policy were being pursued to the same extent. He argues that rather than focusing on improving the material well-being of members of multicultural groups, too much attention and too many resources were devoted to facilitating the nurturing, perpetuation, and social acceptance of diverse cultures.

One critic of Canadian multiculturalism philosophy and policy argues that multiculturalism is anti-egalitarian in the economic domain because "the politics of multiculturalism undermines the politics of redistribution" (Barry 2001, 8, 11-12, 317). He believes that the tendency of the politics of multiculturalism to produce particularistic policies aimed at ethnocultural groups, rather than the population as a whole, is especially problematic.

A similar critique regarding the adverse effects of at least one facet of multiculturalism policy on equity in the context of the arts sector is articulated by Li. He notes that funding for the arts in Canada consists of a dual system--"one for [the] formal legitimized high-status art world of mainly white Canadians, and the second is a marginal, folkloric, and low-status multicultural circle reserved for immigrants and made up largely of visible minorities" (1994, 366). The central theme of his critique is that "... the Canadian state, through its role as a sponsor and patron of [the] arts and minority cultures, creates the unequal infrastructural conditions which are conducive in developing two types of arts and culture. In this sense, dominant arts and subordinate minority cultures are at least partly perpetuated by state intervention" (366-367).


The ten postulations highlighted in the previous section regarding the fragmentary effects of multiculturalism and the literature devoted to them have some notable features that are noteworthy for the purpose of advancing both the analyses of and discourses on multiculturalism public philosophy and public policy in Canada.

First, the postulations identified in this paper can be grouped, albeit somewhat roughly, into the following four general themes:

* multiculturalism segregates the population in Canada (postulations 1, 2, and 3)

* multiculturalism is problematical for the Canadian, Quebecois, and Aboriginal cultures, identities, and nationalism projects (postulations 3, 4, 5, and 6)

* multiculturalism perpetuates conflicts between and within groups (postulations 7 and 8)

* multiculturalism hinders equity and equality in society and the economy (postulations 9 and 10)

Second, generally the postulations are presented as propositions that have been proved, rather than what they are--propositions that have not been proved, but which postulators believe are self-evident. There is a tendency for the postulators to comment on the fragmentary effects of multiculturalism public philosophy and public policy more on the basis of what they believe, rather than on the basis of facts produced by any systematic research and analysis. Moreover, generally, the postulators do not concede that producing facts either on the fragmentary or unifying effects of multiculturalism is very difficult, if not impossible, due to the challenges of establishing clear causal relationships and producing reliable measurements. This situation is not unique to multiculturalism public philosophy and public policy; most, if not all, other public philosophies and public policies are confronted with similar challenges in generating facts regarding causes and effects. This is an important point that should not be lost on any of the protagonists involved in debates regarding causes and effects either in the multiculturalism sector or in any other policy sector.

Third, the postulations are generally based on an inadequate distinction between multiculturalism public philosophy and multiculturalism public policy. The postulators tend to comment on the problems of multiculturalism without explicitly specifying either whether it is the public philosophy or the public policy that is problematical, or which particular facets of either of those is problematical.

Fourth, the postulations are generally based on an inadequate acknowledgement that either the public philosophy or the public policy of multiculturalism and the fragmentation problems attributed to them evolve over time. Instead, the postulators tend to discuss the philosophy, policy, and problems as if they are all immutable phenomena. This tendency may be explained, in part, by the fact that most postulators focus on those matters as they are at the time they are writing, and do not take a broader historical perspective in their respective analyses and commentaries.

Fifth, the postulations are not very precise regarding the magnitude of the fragmentation that is attributed to multiculturalism public philosophy or public policy in the social, political, and economic spheres. Instead, the discussion usually entails some inference that either there is an incremental movement toward a critical fragmentation threshold or that the threshold has already been reached or surpassed.

Sixth, the postulations are based largely on Canada's national multiculturalism public philosophy and public policy, and generally devote almost no attention to provincial and municipal multiculturalism philosophies and policies of varying scope and importance (Garcea 2006; Poirier 2004). There tends to be a conflation of national, provincial and even existing and emerging municipal multiculturalism philosophies and policies, all of which are treated as a single undifferentiated whole. The only exception to this is the attention given to Quebec's interculturalism public philosophy and public policy.

Seventh, the postulations are potentially problematical. The reason for this is that, ironically perhaps, the postulations regarding the fragmentary effects of multiculturalism philosophy and public policy generate debates that are potentially fragmentary in their own right. This is particularly true when the debates become highly rancorous and confrontational (Burnet 1979). In some instances, such debates emerge not only because of fundamental differences between the protagonists regarding the value of multiculturalism philosophy or public policy, but also because of the conceptual ambiguity that surrounds both multiculturalism philosophy and public policy (Abu-Laban and Stasiulis 1992; Li 1999; Padolsky 2000; Stoffman 2002 and 2004). Evidence of such debates is found in the views expressed by one analyst who suggests that multiculturalism both at the societal and policy levels in Canada is an illusion. At the societal level he asserts that, although Canada is culturally diverse, it is not truly multicultural because there is a dominant or hegemonic culture. Canada's multiculturalism policy is not highly cosmopolitan and accepting of diversity because people who exercise some of their cultural values or traditions are likely to fmd themselves arrested for doing so (Stoffman 2002; Stoffman 2004). The ambiguity surrounding multiculturalism is also articulated by another analyst who notes that "...the disagreements over multiculturalism policy do not necessarily represent divergent opinions on a universally accepted version of multiculturalism since such a version does not exist; rather, they often indicate different emphases attributed to multiculturalism" (Li 1999, 148). He adds that "the multiculturalism debate can never be resolved as long as the content and meaning of multiculturalism are left ambiguous to suit the interest of individuals and social groups in Canada" (ibid.). While there is some merit to this suggestion, the notion that the phenomenon of institutionalized ambivalence (Tuohy 1992) accounts for some of the unity and harmony in the Canadian polity would suggest that it is the search for clarity at the policy, statutory, and constitutional levels that should be pursued judiciously by policy makers.

Eighth, the postulations are rooted in three major perspectives regarding alternative policy options, namely the anti-multiculturalism perspective, the laissez-faire multiculturalism perspective, and the reformist multiculturalism perspective. These perspectives differ either on the value of the multiculturalism public philosophy and public policy or on the potentially fruitful directions for reform to them. They provide alternative policy directions that may be placed on a continuum consisting of radical departures from the current paradigm at one end and minor adjustments at the other end.

The anti-multiculturalism perspective is articulated by analysts who are opposed to multiculturalism both as a philosophy and as a public policy (e.g., Porter 1965, Bibby 1990, Barry 2001). There are at least two sub-categories of the anti-multiculturalism perspective--one that advocates monoculturalism over multiculturalism (e.g., Bibby 1990; Bissoondath 1994; Esses and Gardner 1996; Gwyn 1996; Granatstein 1998; Kay 1998), and another that advocates interculturalism over multiculturalism (e.g., Breton 1986; Hutcheon 1994; Gagnon 2000; Gagnon and Iacovino 2002). The fundamental difference between the monoculturalism perspective and the interculturalism perspective is that, unlike the former, the latter is open to diversity management initiatives driven by state or societal actors designed to recognize and reconcile cultural diversity within the polity. In some instances, however, it is difficult to distinguish between the monoculturalism and interculturalism perspectives. This is particularly true when the latter assumes a form that privileges a particular culture based on language, social norms, religious norms, or nationhood within the context of diversity management.

The laissez-faire multiculturalism perspective is articulated by those who support multiculturalism as a philosophy, but oppose state intervention in both the construction and propagation of multiculturalism philosophy and public policy (e.g., Day 2000; Ogmundson 1992). Those who espouse this perspective believe that the state should not engage either in articulating a vision of cultural co-existence or in managing diversity. Instead, the state should leave it to societal forces and dynamics to construct and reconstruct cultural identities.

The reform multiculturalism perspective is articulated by those who support multiculturalism both as a public philosophy and as a public policy, but are critical of some aspect(s) of the precise substantive content of either the philosophy or the public policy (e.g., Li 1994; Li 2003; Cohen-Almagor 2001; Howard-Hassmann 1999; Sugurasiri 1999; Mirchandani and Tastsoglou 2000). They believe that more could and should be done to improve the multiculturalism public philosophy and/or the multiculturalism public policy for the purpose of better managing diversity to minimize or eliminate fragmentation.


The postulations regarding the fragmentary effects of multiculturalism should not be dismissed as insignificant. The reason for this is that many of them have considerable support among intellectuals and members of the general public, and are likely to continue to have in the near future. Regardless of their validity, they tend to be quite significant in providing critiques of multiculturalism public philosophy and public policy. For this reason policy makers engaged in managing diversity should be cognizant of those postulations, along with those related to other multiculturalism dialectics (Fleras and Elliott 2002, I08), and they should be prepared to address them both whenever there is any discussion of multiculturalism public philosophy or public policy and also in undertaking any policy analysis and reform initiatives in managing diversity.

The postulations should be assessed to determine which of them point to real problems and which of them point to perceived problems both in relation to the multiculturalism philosophy and the multiculturalism policy. The aphorism that "perception is reality" serves as a reminder not only that differentiating between these two types of problems is by no means easy, but, more important, that perceived problems may be as significant as, and possibly even more significant than, real problems.

Furthermore, in identifying real and perceived problems, special attention should be devoted both to the symbolic and the substantive dimensions of multiculturalism philosophy and policy. The reason for this is that both dimensions are important, especially given that, as Breton (1986, 27) noted in his analysis of the relationship between multiculturalism and nation-building, people have symbolic as well as material interests. Thus, the symbolic dimensions of multiculturalism philosophy and policy may be as important as, if not more important than, the substantive dimensions.

After differentiating between real and perceived problems at the substantive and symbolic levels, policy makers should assess the relative tractability of the various problems associated with existing multiculturalism philosophy and policy to determine, among other things, the proper sequence in which to tackle them, the nature and scope of the initiatives that will be required to deal with them, and, insofar as possible, the positive and negative effects, if any, that those changes might have. In identifying and implementing any such initiatives, policy makers should consider very carefully the current and potential roles and responsibilities of key actors in the governmental, non-governmental, educational, research, and media sectors.

Regardless of precisely what they focus on and what they do when dealing with various symbolic or substantive aspects of multiculturalism philosophy and policy, policy makers should ensure that neither the efficacy nor the morality of the Canadian management of diversity is adversely affected. It may well be that greater efficacy and morality in diversity management is to be found either in a modified or reformed version of the current multicultural paradigm or hybridized multiculturalism/interculturalism paradigm that has emerged at the national level during the past two decades, or in a substantially different paradigm. However, that is a matter that should be the subjected to very careful analysis before any radical changes are made to the status quo.

Given that Canada is a liberal democracy that ostensibly is committed to respecting and protecting the rights of individuals and minorities, it must operate within the parameters of the multiculturalism and interculturalism paradigms because they embody the values of that particular aspect of liberal democracy (Kay 1998, 33). Thus, so long as Canada wishes to remain a liberal democracy, the critical question is not whether Canada should or should not operate according to either the multiculturalism or the interculturalism paradigm. Instead, the critical question is according to what particular configuration of either of these two paradigms, or some hybrid version of the two, it should operate.

In answering that question, the differences between the multiculturalism and interculturalism paradigms should not be overestimated. The two public philosophies, which invariably are not conceptualized in a very precise manner, have much more in common than is generally acknowledged. The explicit or implied distinction commonly made between multiculturalism and interculturalism to the effect that the former is somehow more segregationist and the latter is more integrationist is highly questionable. This is especially true in the Canadian context where the general consensus is that an integrationist modus vivendi is more desirable than a segregationist modus vivendi. The prevailing Canadian political culture is much more favourably predisposed to building bridges than to building walls. The most important policy task is to ensure that this virtuous aspect of Canadian political culture is perpetuated.


The author would like to express his appreciation to Dr. Anna Kirova and Dr. Lloyd Wong, as well as to his research assistants for their respective contribution in the preparation of this article. This article was produced with research assistance funded by Canadian Heritage and the Prairie Metropolis Centre.


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(1.) The concept of "multiculturalism public philosophy" is influenced by Manzer's (1985, 13) conceptualization of public philosophy.

(2.) What is referred to as "multicultural public philosophy" in this article is generally referred to as ideology (Moodley 1983), and what is referred to as "multiculturalism public policy" in this article is commonly referred to as official multicultural policy.

(3.) For the intents and purposes of this article, a postulate is a proposition that is not proved or demonstrated but considered to be self-evident, and a postulator is someone who articulates such a proposition as the basis of an argument.

JOSEPH GARCEA is an associate professor in the department of Political Studies at the University of Saskatchewan. His research and publications focus on immigration, citizenship, diversity management, and multilevel governance.
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Author:Garcea, Joseph
Publication:Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal
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Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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