Questioning Canadian Multiculturalism

Debunking the Fragmentation

Critique of Multiculturalism

Essay by Lloyd L. Wong    Photos by Myungsook Lee




Dib, Kamal, Ian Donaldson and Brittany Turcotte. 2008. Integration and Identity in Canada: The Importance of Multicultural Common Spaces. Canadian Ethnic Studies, 40, no. 1: 161-187.

Corbella, Licia, 2006a. Dangerous Disconnect, Calgary Sun, 11 June.

Corbella, Licia, 2006b. Sociology Prof Warns Multiculturalism Creates ¡®Nations within Nation¡¯, Calgary Sun, 19 June.

Hartmann, Douglas and Joseph Gerteis. 2005. Dealing with Diversity: Mapping Multiculturalism in Sociological Terms. Sociological Theory 23, no. 2: 218-240.

Huntington, Samuel, 1993. The Clash of Civilizations? Foreign Affairs, 72, no. 3: 22-49.

Huntington, Samuel, 1996. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Jedwab, Jack. 2005. Neither Finding nor Losing Our Way: The Debate over Canadian Multiculturalism. Canadian Diversity 4 no.1 Winter: 95-102.

Kirkham, Della, 1998. The Reform Party of Canada: Discourse on Race, Ethnicity and Equality. In Racism & Social Inequality in Canada, ed. V. Satzewich, 243-267. Toronto: Thompson Educational Publishing.

Kunz, Jean. 2007. Multicultural Canada in the 21st Century: Harnessing Opportunities and Managing Pressures, Cultural Diversity, http://www.policyresearch.gc.ca/page.asp?pagenm= rp_mult_bkg [accessed May 11, 2008]

Metropolis. 2007. Metropolis Phase III (2007-2012) Annexes A-L, Memorandum of Understanding Between Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Citizenship and Immigration Canada, http://canada.metropolis.net/policypriority/citizenship_e.htm [accessed February 18, 2008]

Wong, Lloyd. 2008. Multiculturalism and Ethnic Pluralism in Sociology: An Analysis of the Fragmentation Discourse. Canadian Ethnic Studies, 40, no. 1: 11-32.

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In spite of the lack of evidence of major fragmentation in Canada some of the critics of multiculturalism in Canada still want to believe fragmentation exists so this debate is reduced to the level of debating what is meant by ¡°fragmentation¡±. Other critics of multiculturalism, while acknowledging that there is no current evidence of fragmentation, posit the argument that in the future multiculturalism still allows for the potential for fragmentation. This position can also easily be debunked.

Those who argue that fragmentation is inevitable basically have a simplistic and naïve view that is one-dimensional. Their position is a dichotomous and binary one where one assumes that you either have 1) assimilation and thus unity and social cohesion; or 2) multiculturalism and thus fragmentation and clash of cultures.

It is easy to move beyond this problematic one-dimensional framework. There are several ways to conceptualize a framework that provides alternative visions of multiculturalism in Canada. For example, there have been ¡°visions of difference¡± developed in the sociological literature that run along two dimensions. One dimension is where there is a cultural basis for social cohesion involving both substantive moral bonds and procedural norms while another dimension involves ones¡¯ basis for association, either at the individual level or the level of mediating groups. (Hartmann and Gerteis 2005, 222-224). As Figure 1 illustrates there are two other models or visions of multiculturalism aside from the fragmentation position or model. These are cosmopolitanism and interactive pluralism, however, space here does not permit for an elaboration of both so only the latter will be discussed.

While earlier it was mentioned that a significant minority of Canadians are opposed to multiculturalism polls show that more Canadians agree that multiculturalism helps rather than hinders integration. Yet only one-half of Canadians believe that multicultural policy helps people from various backgrounds and religions to fully integrate into Canadian society (Jedwab, 2005, 96). So it makes sense for governments at all levels (municipal, provincial and federal) to promote a vision of multiculturalism in Canada that is integrative and promotes interactive multiculturalism. This approach also means recognizing that diversity and difference does not mean fragmentation and lack of social cohesion. To move to an interactive multicultural vision there needs to be a civic component and this is where the importance of multicultural common and public spaces should not underestimated. Dib et al (2008, 162) define these common spaces as locations in time and space where multicultural, multi-racial, and multi-religious populations can meet and interact. These spaces are precisely where a lot of interaction among individuals and cultural groups can and will occur and lead to greater social cohesion in Canadian society. These spaces range a full gambit of Canadian life from very formal political institutions to informal voluntary organizations in the arts, culture, recreation, and sport. Interactive multiculturalism should not only be promoted but perhaps even mandated and, moreover, public funding should be used to facilitate it. For years now Canadian public-policy works have included catch-words and phrases like ¡°two-way street¡±, ¡°inclusive citizenship¡± and ¡°identity¡± (Metropolis 2007, Kunz 2007) so it is now really a question of whether we have the political will to ensure an interactive multiculturalism. (The end)

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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


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