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Citizenship and Multiculturalism in Canada

Summary

Canada has developed into a modern, post-national, and multicultural society. The Canadians have accepted the fact that their diversity, as well as their two international languages, act as a source of innovation and continuing creativity. The same can also be considered a comparative advantage against other states. Will Kymlicka’s writing represents a discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of the multicultural policy in Canada.

Basing his arguments on the fact that Canada was colonized by two European powers, France and British, Kymlicka states that the country is a multinational rather than a binational state. He argues that referring to it as a binational state will ignore the role played by the Indigenous people who were at the territory where the country was built. Thus, its development incorporated three nations – Indigenous people, the French, and the British. Furthermore, he argues that it is also a multi-ethnic state since it accepts people from other cultures as immigrants, who are expected to integrate into their public institutions. Similar to any other country, Canadian history has its own share of prejudice, oppression, and intolerance in managing the differences exhibited by its citizens. However, the author notes that the application of the principle of true equality is not sufficient for the accommodation of all Canadians. Even though the government adopted the multiculturalism policy, it is ambiguous because it preserves national distinctions rather than promotes assimilation into society.

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The federal government does not offer immigrants equal rights. According to Kymlicka’s work, they are treated as some nations within the country, therefore supporting the development of institutionally complete cultures. He concludes by stating that there are some common rights of citizenship that are accommodated only and if the members have iris Marion Young Calls, otherwise referred to as differentiated citizenship. The federal measures taken for these specific rights are stated to be the most controversial and distinctive. The three forms of differentiated citizenship intended to accommodate national and ethnic differences include special representation, self-governing, and accommodation rights. The latter promote integration into the larger society while the self-governing ones give the Indigenous people a sense of self-determination. Ultimately, the author believes that Canada has a unique and flexible system accommodating different groups with few drawbacks.

Discussion

Probably, the most controversial idea of Will Kymlicka’s writing is the postulate that multiculturalism policy does not promote equality. In practice, the opposite is true because the Canadian government, guided by its Supreme Court, operates under the principle of true equality and difference accommodation amongst its citizens (Canadian Multiculturalism). Various ways and attempts of creating novel mechanisms to accommodate the differences have been developed (Kymlicka 21). As such, a distinctive conception highlighting the relationship between identity and citizenship has been established. Protection of the political and civil rights of individuals is a major mechanism of accommodating the differences in the country. The freedom of association, religion, political organization, mobility, and speech have enabled citizens to maintain various groups and associations that establish a civil society, allowing them to adjust to the changes. However, the Canadian government adopted the policy of multiculturalism as opposed to assimilation.

Multiculturalism allows the immigrants to keep several aspects linked to their ethnic heritage. Thus, the multicultural aspect of Canada may be construed in distinct ways: prescriptively as an ideology, as a sociological fact by description, and politically as a policy. Ideologically, multiculturalism includes a comparative set of ideals and ideas, which pertain to the festivity of the Canadian culture. Descriptively, it denotes the fact that there exist different individuals who originate from varied ethnic and racial backgrounds. Finally, politically it promotes the organization of diverse formal actions, which are incorporated in the municipal, provincial, territorial, and federal domains.

The federal multiculturalism policy has been developed through various stages, including the incipient, formative, and institutionalization ones. The incipient stage was an era of gradual recognition of diverse ethnicity as essential to the society of Canada. Based on the cultural and symbolic sense, nation-building replicated the British Society. Ethnically, the economic, political, and social institutions of Canada were simulated by the same. Until the Citizenship Act was passed in 1947, every citizen in Canada was well-defined as a British subject. However, after the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted in 1982, the multi-ethnic heritage of Canadian citizens was documented and accepted in the constitution. Thus, multiculturalism was placed in a wider framework of the society in the country. It gives the courts the power to consider the country’s multicultural reality when they are making decisions. The policy is based on the principle that every citizen is equal under and before the law and should benefit equally from the law, without any kind of discrimination

Connection to the Current Event

The current challenge posed by immigrants on a country’s political scene complements Will’s argument on the inequality of the multicultural policy. In August 2019, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada announced a shift in the platform, calling for a 50% cut in the annual number of immigrants admitted. The reason for such a change of perspective lies in the immigrants not integrating due to the lack of governmental incentives.

Immigration is another way of incorporating more consumers into society without charging them. They resemble the goods that arrive in a country without a price tag. The truth is that most immigrants come to Canada from different developing countries with religious-cultural baggage, which includes archaic values on tribalism, racism, superstitions, and casteism (Fatah). As such, they have little or nothing to do with the values that have so far shaped Canada in the years of western civilization. Keeping the culture of origin influences and changes a society. Although they become Canadians, they remain different from the natives.

A state should have a sense of belonging, of contributing in a national project, having and sharing the same values, and being distinct from the world. Politics based on ethnicity have become part and parcel of the Canadian political parties. Instead of talking to Canadians, the immigrants address their ethnic voting blocs. The end result is that the foreign policy is basically dependent on the appeal to the prevailing ethnic political clienteles. Therefore, the Multicultural Act does not address equality amongst all cultures and should therefore be revoked.

The adoption of the multicultural policy has helped Canada remarkably succeed in the integration of its diverse population and immigrants. However, various challenges to the policy exist, as highlighted in the discussion above. The success is mostly driven by the incorporation of true equality and accommodation of differences in the country. The Supreme Court consider the country’s multicultural reality when significant decisions are made.

References

“Canadian Multiculturalism.” Parliament of Canada. n.d. Web.

Fatah, Tarek. “Problem with Multiculturalism in Canada.” New Delhi Times. 2019. Web.

Kymlicka, Will. “Citizenship, Communities and Identity in Canada.” Canadian Politics, edited by James Bickerton and Alain-G. Gagnon, U of Toronto P, 2014, pp. 21–44.

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