Multiculturalism & Multicultiphobia

Do you have anxiety of losing English Canada? Then it is time for a dialogue


Interview with Phil Ryan, author of Multicultiphobia, and associate professor at Carleton University


Interview & photos by Myungsook Lee







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In the interview with EMBASSY, Canada¡¯s Foreign Policy Newspaper, you said that you were disappointed because you found that the media reports on multiculturalism between 2006, 2007 and 2009 didn¡¯t differ from those in 1993-1994. What would you suggest to make media reflect diverse voices? I¡¯ve heard that media should be composed of people with diverse backgrounds, especially in the area of editorial. Do you agree?  

Phil Ryan: The newsroom, like any workplace today, should reflects the diversity of our society. Yet I don¡¯t believe that diversity in itself would do much to address the problem identified in the book. Many newspaper columnists and editorial writers today seem to feel no need or obligation to learn, to grow. The same declarations are made year after year; answers to those declarations are carefully ignored. Until that behaviour changes, I can¡¯t see the media progressing much in its handling of difficult issues. If columnists simply parrot the same tired old claims about multiculturalism, the ethnic background of the parrot probably doesn¡¯t matter much.

Douglas Todd, Spirituality and Diversity Columnist from the Vancouver Sun said ¡°Ryan doesn¡¯t show any empathy for those Canadians who wind up on the financial losing end of the country¡¯s immigration policies.¡± But we also see lots of immigrants who are highly educated and experienced in their countries but are employed in lower level workplaces in Canada. Is it the problem of the immigration policy?

Phil Ryan: The book is about how we¡¯re to live together as Canadians from many backgrounds. It really does not address the question of how wide we should open our doors for others, and how we should select others to come and join us. I know it sounds funny to separate those issues, because there are many connections between them. But they really are very different issues. So the book says very little about aspects of immigration policy that are hotly debated today: ¡°how many?¡± and ¡°who?¡±

But on the matter of empathy for native-born Canadians and for under-employed immigrants: the book repeatedly expresses my desire for a just and more egalitarian society. I believe that our ability to live well together is much more threatened by income polarization than by the diversity of our backgrounds or religious beliefs. In a just society, anyone on the ¡°losing end¡± should still be able to live a decent and meaningful life.

Have you ever had a chance to look at the recent Globe and Mail articles on Multiculturalism debates (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/time-to-lead/multiculturalism)?

Phil Ryan: I followed the Globe coverage carefully, and I was also the guest ¡®expert¡¯ for their first on-line discussion on the topic. After several days of interesting exchanges, I was astonished that the paper summed up the debate with an editorial saying that we should simply give up any hope of having intelligent discussions on the topic and ¡°strike multiculturalism from the national vocabulary.¡± For one reason or another, the Globe¡¯s editorial board has retreated into a fantasyland in which we can avoid our challenges and problems by fiddling with vocabulary.

I think you concluded your book positively saying ¡°we can build a multicultural society that is also a good society.¡± Yet you also present preceding conditions as ¡°if we are brave enough and persistent enough and generous enough¡±. What was your biggest self learning or awareness through your research for this book?

Phil Ryan: While working on the book, I came to be very appreciative and even proud of something that millions of ordinary Canadians are trying to do, often in the face of ridicule and misunderstanding from media elites: to build a new way of living together, to arrive at a relaxed and welcoming understanding of our national identity.

But I also grew to be very fearful for the future of our country, because I believe that much of what we have achieved can easily be swept away, that perhaps we may lose the ¡°bravery, persistence and generosity¡± we need to build a just and diverse society.

I continue to wonder whether our hopes and dreams are strong enough to conquer our phobias.

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DIVERSE 5th Issue

We are pleased to announce that DIVERSE 5th issue, Summer 2011 has been released.  

12 Diversity in Canadian Workplaces What are the obstacles to a better form of ¡°diversity¡± in the workplace?

- Open Door Group

- BC Workplace Diversity Inclusion Awards

6 BC¡¯s Diversity through 30 portraits



2 ThePower of Exchange A Historic Collaboration between Germany¡¯s

Premiere Art Collections and Canada¡¯s First Nations

28 Ezra Kwizera  Born in Uganda to Rwandese refugee parents, Canadian Musician and genocide  survivor speaks on the art of  forgiveness and of adapting to Canadian culture

42 Dana Claxton  

The Mustang Suite: Questioning mobility, freedom and autonomy 


24 Gung Haggis Fat Choy in Vancouver, BC: The Diversity of Canada      

38 Denise Brillon Breaking barriers in the fashion world



32 Pysanky¡¯s Resurgence

Joan Brander¡¯s contribution to the renaissance in traditional

Ukrainian egg art


10 Publisher¡¯s Note

27 Benefits of being a bilingual writer

31 Canadians come in all differences



35 News Briefs on Multiculturalism

36 Publisher¡¯s Picks


You Can Order Here.


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