Cardozo: Ontario needs a serious multiculturalism policy and minister

Answer: All of them.

In terms of the specific recommendations, some are more concrete and likely to have an impact, some less so. And a number are already happening to a certain extent:

Is the role of the Minister of Multiculturalism a throw-away gig or an entry-level job? Is it primarily to help the party in power recruit ethnocultural voters for the next election?

Or is it a portfolio that can address important and complex societal issues that are becoming increasingly critical in Ontario, Canada, and elsewhere?

I am going to argue the last option. That is what Ontario needs today.

Over the last 50 years, various ministers have been responsible for multiculturalism, usually under another guise such as citizenship or anti-racism.

In 2022, here are 10 clear steps that the minister and ministry should be taking.

The minister should promote a general policy of respect for the cultural, racial and religious diversity that is the reality of Ontario, especially in its cities, big and small.

The minister should develop an anti-racism policy to help Ontarians address discrimination and inequality. (This policy existed under the previous Liberal government but was cancelled by the Ford Progressive Conservatives.) It must address rapidly increasing online hate and polarization, plus bullying, violence and overt hate groups. Anti-Semitism has reached new depths where Jews avoid wearing a kippah on the subway. Anti-Black racism is only too evident in policing and elsewhere. Islamophobia is on the rise.

Generally, the minister should work with many other ministries to ensure they all do their bit to advance equality and inclusiveness and eliminate polarization and hate.

The minister should lead a cabinet committee of key minsters to address the issues across government. Members could include the attorney general and solicitor general, plus the ministers of education, colleges and universities, health, social services and environment.

The minister should expanding the number of minorities appointed to boards and commissions.

The minister should include reconciliation with Indigenous peoples as a key part of diversity, addressing historical wrongs and ongoing discrimination.

The minister should address challenges faced by women from various minority communities.

The minister should work with TVO and TFO, the province’s educational networks in English and French, to ensure they broadcast diversity in meaningful ways

The ministry should work with cultural agencies such as the Ontario Arts Council, the Ontario Art Gallery, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Ontario Trillium Foundation to ensure they reflect and fund the diverse reality of Ontarians and create dialogues on diversity.

The ministry should working with the business community, labour and NGOs to advance a better understanding of diversity and a sustained campaign against racism.

Let’s have legislation that codifies what provincial ministries should be doing: an Ontario Multiculturalism Act. Make it the law.

And now we see the new minister is the rookie MPP, the Premier’s nephew, Michael Ford. Oy vey!

These are complex and sensitive issues that require listening, building, funding, explaining and encouraging. The post requires a strong seasoned leader who can engage Canadians of all backgrounds in a serious dialogue. This is not about sending the kid out to the festivals to keep the ethnics happy!

Whether he is up to the sensitive and courageous job is the second issue though. The first is whether his uncle wants to get serious about what a good multiculturalism policy has to offer Ontario.

Note to the mainstream media corps at Queens Park: Please, please, please don’t write this off as the minister for recruiting ethnic voters to the PC Party (and I’m not sure Michael Ford the needed charisma or experience for that role).

Rather, please report on the issues that are tearing our society apart as well as the many attempts to make things better.

Ironically, as a right-of-centre semi-populist white guy, Doug Ford may have the unique ability at this time in our history to address these issues and convince everyday folks that diversity can be beneficial to all, that getting along may be better than the culture wars of fear and excluding the other. He managed to avoid the anti-vaxxers’ rancor. Maybe he can do it here too.

Andrew Cardozo is president of the Pearson Centre and co-editor of The Battle over Multiculturalism.

Source: Cardozo: Ontario needs a serious multiculturalism policy and minister

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: