Adrienne Clarkson on why Canada’s multiculturalism works – And my review from Embassy Magazine

As she delivers her Massey Lectures, this interesting vignette from Montreal:

She rejects the notion, however, that belonging means excluding others.

Clarkson’s assertion was put to the test after she delivered her first Massey Lecture in Montreal, when an audience member pointed out that excluding others is precisely how many political leaders define the identity of the group they profess to represent.

The audience member pointed to some extreme opinions expressed during the Quebec Charter debate, and how right-wing leaders in Europe score political points by openly vilifying Muslims and immigrants.

“It’s basically racist,” was Clarkson’s answer. “And in France, I’m afraid, you still do hear things that I heard in Canada in the ‘40s as a child, about Jews and so on.“

I think that fear and ignorance and bigotry and so on should be always met head-on.”

Adrienne Clarkson on why Canadas multiculturalism works – Canada – CBC News.

And excerpt from my take:

Her praise for what the Aga Khan calls a “cosmopolitan ethic,” where we need to continuously engage in conversations with those of different backgrounds, loyalties, religions and ethnicities, further reinforces this need for ongoing dialogue and understanding in a complex multicultural society such as Canada.

Belonging: The Paradox of Citizenship provides a welcome antidote to so much of the excessive fretting that occurs around Canadian citizenship and multiculturalism.

But Clarkson’s reliance on behaving “as if” things are working well, wishing it were so, can be as risky as the alternate “as if,” that Canadian citizenship and multiculturalism are not working.

Certainly, compared to most countries, we have been remarkably successful. Political differences are at the margins, we have no political parties opposed to immigration and all political parties actively pursue ethnic community votes.

But we do have serious challenges from the perspective of equity, discrimination and representation.

By provoking discussion implicitly on what kind of “as if” we should employ to help shape the ongoing evolution of Canadian society, Clarkson has posed the fundamental question on what kind of Canada we want and how we should behave to help it come into being.

A relentlessly upbeat take on citizenship

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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