Multiculturalism is a Great Canadian Asset
Surrey, Vancouver, March 7, 2011
Occasionally, Canada’s multiculturalism comes under attack from one or more quarters. The recent events in Europe have prompted European leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister David Cameron to state that multiculturalism in their respective countries has failed. Unfortunately, these statements had some impact here as well. In this context we need to recognize that the concept of multiculturalism here in Canada is much different than the one in Europe. Canada’s diverse population of more than 34 million people is of a very different nature and mix than that in Europe.
People from every corner of the world representing more than 200 communities call Canada their home. A vast majority of them appreciate what this country has to offer. A large majority of immigrants –old and new – consider this as their home. They make every effort to fit in and be productive members of Canadian society. However, it doesn’t mean that our form of multiculturalism is perfect. Certainly it has a lot of flaws and shortcomings. We need to make every effort in addressing these drawbacks.
It is rather unfortunate that certain individuals and groups tend to have their own way. That is fine and good unto some extent. However, when there is a conflict between their beliefs, customs, culture or traditions and those of accepted norms in Canada, they need to be more open and accepting of Canadian values and traditions. As a matter of fact, we should be proud of our heritage and culture. However, at the same time we should also be proud as Canadians. In order to do so, we need to be open minded to adjusting/adapting to mainstream Canadian values and traditions.
Confining ourselves to our own self imposed silos may have some short term advantages. However, in the long run, this kind of approach/attitude is likely to make it very difficult for such individuals/groups to adapt/adjust to what is already in place and working well in Canada. Immigrants, whether they have just come off the plane or have been here for generations should make every effort in embracing core Canadian values.
In this context, learning at least one and both, if possible, official languages of Canada-English and French-is a must. If a person knows one of these languages he/she is more likely to integrate easily into the Canadian mainstream. Language is a very powerful tool not only in building ones self confidence but also in opening up a whole new world. The responsibility for this should not be left unto the state only. The individual as well as his/her family should also be an active participant in this process.
Each one of us, regardless of our culture, religion or background, should make every effort in reaching out to others. Learning about others certainly enriches us. This is an excellent way to reach out to people of different cultures, traditions and backgrounds. Active participation in celebrations of different faiths, cultures, communities and groups is another way to connect with and appreciate each other. This, in turn, is bound to enhance inclusiveness and a common identity as citizens of this great country. Multiculturalism is one of Canada’s greatest strengths. The onus is upon all of us to not only make it work but also to strengthen it.
(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist. He is a recipient of the Order of British Columbia and one of Top 25 Canadian Immigrants for 2010)