THE 6 DEGREES DICTIONARY: A civic conversation redefined

This is an interesting exercise by 6 Degrees, developing a pro-immigration interpretation of commonly used terms to help change the tenor of immigration discussions and debates. Of course, those with concerns over immigration could develop a version with a more negative slant.

My take, for what it’s worth, is that the wording chosen (e.g., “noble term,” “ferociously loyal”) overstates the more complex reality and mix behind each of the definitions.

It is surprising that they denigrate the word “integration” which was so seminal in the development of the Canadian approach to multiculturalism and diversity in making the distinction with “assimilation,” as expressed so eloquently in the 1960s Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism Volume IV, The Cultural Contribution of the Other Ethnic Groups 5:

Integration, in the broad sense, does not imply the loss of an individual’s identity and original characteristics or of his original language and culture. Man is a thinking and sensitive being ; severing him from his roots could destroy an aspect of his personality and deprive society of some of the values he can bring to it. Integration is not synonymous with assimilation. Assimilation implies almost total absorption into another linguistic and cultural group. An assimilated individual gives up his cultural identity, and may even go as far as to change his name. Both integration and assimilation occur in Canada, and the individual must be free to choose whichever process suits him, but it seems to us that those of other than French or British origin clearly prefer integration.

And their definition of inclusion is overly open-ended, as there are limits to what should and can be included, although these evolve over time.

As a discussion tool among the like-minded, it provides some key messages for use in immigration conversations and discussions. I am less confident, however, how effective a discussion tool it would be to engage those with concerns about immigration numbers and the values of newcomers (a consistent concern in polling):

IMMIGRANT / noun. [From Latin immigrantem, “to go into, to move in,” origins in Latin emigrantem “to move away,” first used in English in 1794.]

1. An individual who leaves one country to become the citizen of another.

2. A noble term describing someone with the courage, decisiveness and consciousness to wish to change their lives by changing their country.

3. An individual whose qualities enrich their new society through public structures, culture, politics and economics.

4. On average, more comfortable with risk than those born in the country.

5. Tends to be more ferociously loyal to their new country and its ideas of justice than those born there.

6. An immigrant is to engagement what a citizen is to marriage.

-John Ralston Saul


MIGRANT / noun. [From Latin migrat- “to move, to shift.”]

1. A bird, animal or butterfly with a regular and circular pattern of movement.

2. In practice, an underpaid industrial or agricultural worker who is expected to return to their home in the off-season.

3. In common usage, a label intended to exclude, marginalize, patronize and dehumanize.

4. As in, “When you’re finished picking our strawberries, go home.”

5. A term that is never self-applied, only imposed on others.

6. Not to be confused with expats or snowbirds.

7. Used to justify withholding citizen rights from immigrants for one or more generations.

8. Europe’s bogeyman.

-John Ralston Saul


CITIZEN / noun. [From Anglo-Norman French citezein; based on Latin civitas “city.”]

1. Athens! The French Revolution!

2. The source and guarantor of legitimacy of any nation-state, democratic or not.

3. Under constant attack and denial by those with power, whether public or private.

4. Not to be confused with a taxpayer.

5. The opposite of stakeholder, a Mussolinian term which reduces an individual to membership in an interest group.

6. Volunteerism is a manifestation of the engaged citizen, not a sector.

7. The citizen cannot be a client of government services. The citizen owns the state.

-John Ralston Saul


REFUGEE / noun. [From French réfugié “gone in search of refuge;” From refuge.]

1. Someone who flees their home to save their life.

2. Not simply persecuted by others, as the legal definitions insist.

3. Victim of everything from war and prejudice to drought and economic collapse.

4. As in, a victim of calamity, human or nature-made. It could be you.

5. Or an identified enemy of the state, for example, someone who speaks up. It could be you.

6. In both cases, an attempt by those with power to dehumanize those without. It could be you.

7. Requires courage.

8. More popular than asylum seekers. Refugees may appeal to everyone’s fear of suffering, but an asylum seeker is a refugee looking for a place to live next door to you.

9. One who escapes despair, walks across the Sahara, is abused, raped, beaten, used as slave labour and finally risks their life on a boat only to be categorized by Europeans as economic migrants. A form of persecution.

10. You don’t want to be one.

-John Ralston Saul


INTEGRATION / noun. [From 1610s, to mean “act of bringing together the parts of a whole,” from French intégration, from Late Latin integrationem “to make whole.”]

1. Probably better than assimilation, but a poor second to inclusion.

2. Unfortunately assumed to be a benign process by which someone is incorporated into a society.

3. A step, once understood as the only one necessary for dominant groups to deal with others.

4. Assumes a list of adjustments that newcomers must make to become acceptable.

5. Views societies as static and brittle that will crumble upon contact with difference.

6. Provokes fear under the guise of stability.

7. Discourages innate human curiosity.

8. Denies happy human complexity.

9. Totally wrongheaded.

[See: inclusion, migrant]

-Adrienne Clarkson


INCLUSION / noun. [From 1839, to mean “that which is included,” from 1600s, to mean “act of making a part of,” from Latin inclusionem “to shut in, to enclose.”]

1. The act of including, the state of being included, with unhelpful Latin roots.

2. Actually, the process of creating an authentic space for belonging, regardless of who you are or how long you have been here.

3. Once established, best left to grow on its own and shape itself.

4. Dead in the water if reduced to government policy.

5. Complicated by realistic expectations on an unrealistic timeline.

6. Essential for gauging a society’s fairness and spiritual health.

7. Ultimately, about learning how to live together.

-Adrienne Clarkson


BELONGING / noun. [From Old English langian- “to go along with, to pertain to,” from late 14th century, meaning “to be a member of,” Germanic origin.]

1. The fundamental human need to be a part of something larger.

2. Once understood as a necessity for survival, now a sign of psychological well-being.

3. Thrives on co-operative sharing and balanced relationships with others.

4. A necessary ingredient for social, cultural, political and economic resilience.

5. I belong, therefore I can.​

-Adrienne Clarkson


MULTICULTURALISM / noun. [From Latin multus “much, many” + cultura “growing, cultivation.”]

1. An Indigenous concept that balances difference with belonging.

2. A policy devised to explain how people from culturally distinct and diverse backgrounds can live together.

3. A Canadian invention supporting – in theory at least – notions of equal rights, recognition and opportunity for all, regardless of their roots.

4. An example of how confused and blissfully optimistic policy-making can become a strength.

5. Misunderstood, to put it politely, by Europeans and Americans. And some Canadians.

6. On paper, the opposite of interculturalisme. In practice, identical.

7. An important step on the road to pluralism and inclusion.

8. A rare unapologetic Canadian mic drop.

-Adrienne Clarkson


POWER / noun. [From 1300s, “ability to act or do, authority, strength,” from Anglo-Norman French pouair, from Old French povoir, “to be able,” from Latin potis “powerful.”]

1. The possession of control, authority or influence over others.

2. An incontrovertible fact, present in all human interactions.

3. Can be found in right hands and wrong hands alike.

4. Historically housed in states, governments, armies and religions.

5. Now being challenged by new actors who seek to wield their own power to affect their desired outcomes outside these institutions.

6. For all that, still predominantly held by white men.

[See: agency, democracy]

-Charles Foran and Scott Young


AGENCY / noun. [From medieval Latin agentia “effective, powerful,” from 1650s to mean: “active operation,” from 1670s to mean: “a mode of exerting power or producing effect.”]

1. Action personified. A grand aspiration of young Westerners in the early 21st century.

2. An ethical belief that the misdistribution of power must be corrected.

3. The determination to let silenced voices be heard.

4. An ability limited or amplified by structural factors, including class, age, gender, religion, education and ethnicity.

5. Often burdened by high expectations.

6. Frequently used by frustrated individuals driven to fury by political orthodoxy.

7. Tends to underestimate the power situated in legislatures, global institutions, corporations and their bureaucracies.

8. Claimed, not given.

[See: democracy, power]

-Charles Foran and Scott Young


COMMUNITY / noun. [From Old French comunité “community, everybody,” from Latin communitatem “society, fellowship,” from communis “common, public, shared by all.”]

1. A group of individuals with shared commonality.

2. A self-declared body with collective religious, political, professional, social or even national affiliations.

3. A way to belong.

4. The experience of empowerment, legitimation, solidarity and security.

5. Gone wrong, a force of atomization, largely unintentional.

6. A term so overused it has triggered skepticism about its intentions.

[See: belonging, citizen]

-Charles Foran and Scott Young


DEMOCRACY / noun. [From French démocratie, from Medieval Latin democratia, from Greek demokratia “popular government,” from demos “common people” + kratos “rule, strength, power.”]

1. In trouble in 2018.

2. An expression of the citizen as the source of legitimacy of the state.

3. An idea that has steadily expanded to enfranchise all adults, including women, people of colour and Indigenous peoples.

4. A system once naively declared to be the endpoint of humanity’s political evolution.

5. Not as parochial as many believe, with roots in many places not named Greece.

6. For some, merged and acquired by private interests over the last half-century.

7. For others, pace Churchill, the least bad of all systems.

8. A form of government built on credible institutions but dependent on engaged citizens. One requires the other.

[See: agency, citizen, power]

-Charles Foran and Scott Young

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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