Debating difference and diversity: combining multiculturalist and interculturalist approaches to integration

Much of these debates and discussions are more semantics than substantive, as the devil is in the details regarding the specific practices and policies of integration, social cohesion, multiculturalism and interculturalism:

In the UK, as elsewhere in Western Europe, issues of integration and social cohesion in relation to ethno-cultural minorities are never far from the headlines or policy concerns in one form or another. In the last year, events such as the Black Lives Matters protests, COVID-19, the Euros, and the upcoming Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, have all prompted reflection on integration. In 2019 the government published a new indicators of integration framework and the term has again been the central concern of a recent report by a prominent think tank, which notes that integration is ‘one of the slipperiest concepts in the political lexicon’.

One of the central issues to thinking about integration is what is to be done about ethno-cultural difference? Is it a problem to be overcome, a barrier to integration? Is it something positive, to be embraced and celebrated? Should it be overlooked in favour of what we all, as individuals, have in common, or should it be the ground we build a more equitable sense of belonging from?

The term integration can be not just slippery but the site of antagonistic and at times heated debate. These two properties of antagonism and slipperiness are well exemplified in debates between two alternative camps on how to manage and think about integration and ethno-cultural diversity: multiculturalism and interculturalism. Whereas the former emphasises respect for difference and hyphenated identities, the latter emphasises contact, mixing and what is shared or common against difference.

The two have frequently butted heads in academic debates, with multiculturalism under fire from interculturalists as in need of replacement, something reflected in political and policy discourse. For instance, the government’s 2018 Integrated Communities Strategy stated that ‘multiculturalism has too often encouraged communities to live separate lives – reinforcing distinct cultural identities to the detriment of efforts to draw attention to what we have in common – and is defunct’. Multiculturalists have responded by pointing out how these arguments misrepresent or caricature multiculturalism.   

In a new research project, PLURISPACE, we ask if this antagonism must necessarily be the case. We’ve found that integration as it exists in government policy as well as policy advocacy from civil society organisations more often combines these two opponents in various ways, and this is where the slipperiness comes in. Peeling back from political rhetoric and academic theory debates, what might we learn from the slipperiness?

While policies that are consistent with an intercultural position have become central, through increased emphasis on contact and mixing, as well in discourse around fundamental British values, the term itself is found nowhere in policy documents or parliamentary debates themselves (unlike, for example, in Spain or at the EU level). Moreover, these interculturalism gains have not been to the detriment of multicultural policies, which have also shown an increase over the last few decades. This begins to point to types of complementarity between different approaches, which forms the focus of the PLURISPACE project. But what different forms does such complementarity take in practice?

From an analysis of documents produced by prominent civil society organisations, supplemented by interviews, we can point to three main types of complementary form in which multiculturalism and interculturalism are combined in the UK, reflected in alternative emphases on the idea of integration. The first two represent what we might call a principled multiculturalism, complemented or qualified by interculturalism to different extents.

The first variation is broadly multiculturalist in emphasis. It wants to preserve the importance of difference between ethnic, cultural, and faith communities whilst developing a sense of multicultural nationhood that can include these differences. Integration is thought about as relations between communities and across difference, but which adds to this the need for contact and mixing between people of different ethnicities and faiths and a simultaneous emphasis on what is held in common if it is to be successful. Here, integration is very much a ‘two-way street’.

The second variation represents a more equal mixing of multiculturalism and interculturalism. It is more cautious of stronger statements about group rights but with a significant feature; its underlying premises can be said to be more multiculturalist than interculturalist. That is, underpinning interculturalist features is a stronger sense of the need to recognise and respect difference as a fundamental way in which equality is thought about. As one report puts it: ‘If integration is not about everybody, it is not integration‘. Interculturalist emphases from this position are important, but bound to fail if not substantively underpinned by thicker multiculturalist sensibilities and policies when it comes to identifying and addressing discrimination and positive recognition.

Across these two positions features of interculturalism are seen as extremely important but also as inadequate and ineffective if not underpinned by more substantive approaches to equality consistent with multiculturalism.

A third position is one we might call critical interculturalism. This adopts a broadly interculturalist stance, but is qualified in significant ways (and ways that some interculturalists would reject) by multicultural emphases. It emphasises contact and mixing, and is oriented foremost around individual rights and the centrality of ascribing to fundamental British values, and of minority integration into these values. It stresses general laws and policies that apply to everybody, rather than differentiated policies and stronger forms of group recognition. Yet, different expressions of this broad position also emphasise the national level as significant in setting the tone for equality and integration; some emphasise that group targeted policies might be necessary in order to address patterns of discrimination and disparities in policy areas such as employment, education and so on, even if they are not necessarily ideally desirable and one day might not be necessary. We might see this as a kind of stop gap multiculturalism.

Overall, these different forms of complementarity are suggestive of the important contestations and differences there are when it comes to questions of what integration should mean and look like. But what they also show is that out of the shadows of academic debates and political rhetoric, syntheses and hybrids are occurring on the ground, and this has lessons for theory and politics alike. It also shows that behind the rhetoric, multiculturalism is not only alive but a multicultural sensibility is a significant feature of how we should think about equality and belonging.

Thomas Sealy (@SealyThomas) is Lecturer in Ethnicity and Race in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies at the University of Bristol.

Source: Debating difference and diversity: combining multiculturalist and interculturalist approaches to integration

Government multiculturalism-related definitions

As part of its instructions to departments in providing their input to the annual multiculturalism report, Canadian Heritage provided the following instructions to departments, with pages 6-10 providing relevant definitions to assist them.

Not a bad list but interesting that reasonable accommodation is not one of the terms highlighted:

Canadian military works to define ‘hateful conduct’ to help it detect and discipline extremists

Coming up with agreed definitions in a government context is harder than it appears given the range of potential situations beyond the more clear cut cases:

Canada’s military is still defining the term “hateful conduct” as it grapples with how to better detect and discipline white supremacists in its ranks.

In a recent wide-ranging interview with CBC News, military leaders said they have identified areas of improvement and are working toward change. They hope to announce details in the coming months.

“I do understand that sometimes from the outside we might look opaque, but that is due to privacy reasons that we can’t divulge specific information,” Brig.-Gen. Sylvain Menard, the chief of staff operations for military personnel, said at DND headquarters in Ottawa.

“I think the fact that we’re here today trying to demystify and explain what we’re doing is our attempt to say, ‘No, we are open and transparent.'”The military has been grappling with a prominent example of extremism in its ranks, following the high-profile arrest of Patrik Mathews, a former Manitoba-based reservist, as part of an FBI undercover operation into a violent white supremacist group called The Base.

Last month, a federal grand jury in Maryland indicted Mathews, 27, and two U.S. men on firearms- and alien-related charges. His next court appearance there is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.

Mathews is also facing additional counts in Delaware. If convicted, he could face up to a maximum of 90 years in U.S. prison.

In court documents, prosecutors say Mathews videotaped himself advocating killing people, poisoning water supplies and derailing trains.

They also allege that Mathews and two other co-accused had been planning to violently disrupt a gun-rights rally in Richmond, Va., in hopes of inciting civil war.

The Canadian military began investigating Mathews in the  spring of 2019, after someone reported comments “incompatible with the Canadian Forces.” At the time, he was a former combat engineer with the 38 Canadian Brigade Group in Winnipeg, with training in explosives.The military fast-tracked his request to be released from the reserves. That officially came through on Aug. 30, 2019.

“It takes a while to conduct these investigations. We have to follow due process, every Canadian has the same right, where innocent until proven guilty, and at the time of release, we just didn’t have enough to do anything about Mr. Mathews,” Menard said.

Brig.-Gen. Sylvain Menard says the military has ‘zero tolerance’ for hateful conduct and describes the Canadian Armed Force’s code of conduct. 1:56

“I think it’s a success story that we were investigating the member, even though we did not have a chance to fully close the loop.”

Defining ‘hateful conduct’

Part of the problem is that the military is still defining and codifying the term “hateful conduct,” something that has to be done in conjunction with the military justice system, Menard said.

Until that’s done, it is hard to discipline members and keep good statistics, he added.

Right now, hateful conduct is lumped into a category of behaviour that doesn’t measure up to expectations. Every year, the military reviews about 200 cases. Of those, approximately half of those are released.

“We have to evolve just as Canadian society evolves,” said Brig.-Gen. Yvonne Thomson, who is responsible for military careers and discipline.

“Adjusting our language is part of the issue we’re trying to solve.”

Brig.-Gen. Yvonne Thomson describes the range of disciplinary and administrative options available for anyone accused or found to be engaged in racist or discriminatory behaviour. 3:01

But retired Col. Michel Drapeau said it’s taking too long.

“You’ve got to have the definition,” he said from his law office in Ottawa.

“Just as an aside, it took them almost a couple of years to define sexual harassment. They didn’t know what that was. …There is no excuse in 2020 for not knowing this. Get on with it.”

However, the military maintains that even without a formal definition of “hateful conduct,” it is taking action.

Retired Col. Michel Drapeau, now a lawyer in Ottawa, says the Canadian reserves are a ‘back door’ for extremists to get into the military, and they do it for weapons training. 1:35

Menard pointed to reports by the Military Police Criminal Intelligence Section on white supremacy in the armed forces. Between 2013 and 2018, there were 16 identified members of extreme hate groups in the Canadian military, and another 35 engaged in racist or hateful behaviour.

As of Dec. 5, 2019, no wrongdoing was found in eight of those cases. Fifteen members still with the CAF received interventions ranging from counselling to disciplinary measures. Three people were discharged because of hateful conduct. Seven investigations are still underway.

Salvaging careers

There is a range of disciplinary and administrative options for anyone accused or found to be engaged in racist or discriminatory behaviour, and Thomson maintains they are effective.

For example, if someone has a problem with alcohol abuse, they could be warned and offered counselling. If they are drunk and get into a fight, they could be charged under the Code of Military Discipline and then offered remediation.

In both cases, the military will give the member an opportunity to correct their behaviour.

“If we can salvage somebody’s career then we’ll take the steps that we think are necessary,” said Thomson, who is responsible for military careers and discipline.

“The punitive issue is the visible signal to the rest of the folks in the unit that this is counter to our behaviour and it needs to be stopped. The administrative measures can be sometimes more quiet and more — I don’t want to say behind closed doors — but they naturally will unfold and they can be more sensitive in nature.”

Administrative measures can ultimately lead to a member’s release from the military, she added.

‘Oh shit. Not again’

The Mathews case has also raised questions about whether the reserves are what Col. Drapeau characterizes as a “back door” for white supremacists to get into the Forces.

“If I were chief of [Canadian military] personnel my first comment, ‘Oh shit. Not again,'” Drapeau said.

“You are a prime target for people who want to come and join and become members of the armed forces. … They have to be more diligent and more alert to a vulnerability in there,” he said.

Tony McAleer agrees.

As he watched the arrests in the U.S., McAleer wasn’t surprised to hear Mathews and a co-accused had ties to their respective militaries.

“Due to the nature of the military and the wide range of people it attracts, I think it always is a problem, but I think as the organizations like The Base or Atomwaffen [Division] become more and more militant, the need for vigilance is heightened,” McAleer said recently from his home in Vancouver.

“You know there’s fine lines between patriotism and nationalism and ultra-nationalism. There’s overlap,” said the former skinhead and organizer for the White Aryan Resistance. He has since de-radicalized, co-founded a nonprofit organization called Life After Hate, and written a book.

Tony McAleer is a former white supremacist who joined the reserves for weapons training. He has some advice for how to identify extremists in the military. 1:37

McAleer knows what he’s talking about. He joined an airborne infantry reserve unit in the 1990s and encouraged other white supremacists to do the same.

“I first joined the reserves infantry for the weapons training. That was the attraction. …  I think the military has always had to guard itself against people joining for the wrong reasons,” McAleer said.

However, there are already steps to identifying recruits with extremist views for both the regular forces and the reserves, said Brig.-Gen. Liam McGarry, the commander responsible for recruiting.

They include an aptitude test, reference and conduct checks, security screenings, and a personal interview.

Recruiters look through social media and even tattoos. If someone has body art deemed to be part of a hateful-conduct organization, that would make them unsuitable, McGarry said.

“Having a level of vagueness or mystery to the whole process actually prevents everyone from ultimately being able to game or have a detailed plan to get through everything. The expectation should be anything that you have done … chances are it will come to light throughout the process,” he said.

Of the 45,000 applications for regular forces last year, 370 were rejected for a category of unsuitability, of which 28 fall under what could be considered hateful conduct. There are no similar statistics for the approximately 15,000 reserve applications every year.

McGarry maintained the Forces are becoming a much more diverse group every year, better reflecting Canadian society and creating a more inclusive atmosphere.

Getting outside help is suggested

In light of what’s become an embarrassing and ongoing problem, Drapeau and others are urging the CAF to get outside help in de-radicalizing members exhibiting hateful conduct.

In Quebec, the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence, trains organizational leaders to prevent radicalization rather than just reacting to it.

“Even if it’s not a huge number of people that might be connected to violent extremism or who might get radicalized, just a few individuals can actually represent a strong threat because of the training that they have had in the military, and also just a few people can actually really destroy the reputation of the Canadian Forces by just being associated with an extremist group,” research manager Benjamin Ducol said.

Military leadership is acutely aware of that.

It’s why Menard has this message to any extremists currently in CAF ranks:

“You have no place in the military,” he says.

“We have zero tolerance for such behaviour for anything that is discriminatory in nature … and we will get you out of uniform if you don’t correct your behaviour.”

Source: Canadian military works to define ‘hateful conduct’ to help it detect and discipline extremists