Sunday, June 11, 2006

Multiculturalism's true signifiance

Actual policies associated with multiculturalism mean very little and if the associated programs disappeared tomorrow not much would change. That said, the importance of multiculturalism does not lie there. Over the years it has morphed into a founding story of who we are. Indeed it is the antithesis of what conservatives, such as Travers, drone on about.

Travers: “In pursuing multicultural tolerance, Canada has been negligent in reinforcing essential, common-denominator values. Most of those are self-evident: human rights, the rule of law and the understanding that one person's freedom ends where another's begins.”

For Travers et al, we need to lay down a number of core principles for what it means to be Canadian. For Travers et al, ambiguity is a dangerous thing. Nothing is specifically ruled out and so everything is permitted. Such thinking is old world and is not suited to any country (basically any Western country) dependent on immigration for its very survival. Most Western nations have a fairly good sense of themselves, but far from being a strength such fixed notions of what it means to be French, German or Polish, for example have proved to be obstacles to integration. Canada has not had as nearly a difficult a time. One reason for this is that Canadian identity, as signified and legitimized by official multiculturalism, is not a fixed set of precepts, but rather a byproduct of existential engagement, bounded by certain legal framework to be sure, of peoples from all over the globe.. It has severed as an anticoagulant, preventing a crust from forming on top of the Canadian melting pot. Canadian identity is, as it should be, a work in progress. There is no Canadian dream as there is an American dream. We are not limited that way. We do not believe in passing down a script of what it means to be Canadian down from one generation to the next. We leave it up to each generation to decide who they are through existential engagement. The process only allows a generation to do decide who they were by retrospectively looking back; for Canadians as for Hegel, the Owl of Minerva only flies at night. For those who are still in the sunshine of their lives, they simply say want they know they are not, viz., Americans.

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