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



Since the announcement of the 2031 outlook on population by Stats Canada: About one - third of Canada¡¯s population will be a visible minority by 2031 and anxiety has been expressed in the media.

DIVERSE is very interested in reviewing Multicultiphobia because of its timely response to this complicated issue of Multiculturalism. We believe the book has very comprehensive analysis of the comments from critics. And it helps us understand the debate on multiculturalism.

This book will be beneficial, not only to those who are in academic fields, but also those in practical areas such as media, cultural institutes, art centres and parliaments.

In the interview with Phil Ryan, author of Multicultiphobia and associate professor at Carleton University, we ask him about the comments and reviews from readers about the book including Vancouver Sun¡¯s columnist Douglas Todd and University of Toronto Professor Jeffery G. Reitz. We also want him to expand on questions we raise.

We believe that it has a significant role in increasing the momentum of constructive dialogue about multiculturalism issues.

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I am interested in how your readers have been responding to your book, Multicultiphobia, since you published it on June 2010.

Phil Ryan: I¡¯ve heard from many readers who tell me they enjoyed the book. One professor using it for a course told me that the book was sparking good debates in her classroom, which I was particularly pleased to hear.

But there¡¯s also been another reaction: some people who have not read the book are very angry about its title. One posting on the Globe and Mail web site, for example, complained that the title dismisses anyone who questions ¡°politically-correct orthodoxy¡± as a ¡°Racist hick.¡± The assumption seems to be that I am claiming that all opposition to multiculturalism is a bit crazy. That¡¯s not my argument at all, but I can understand how the title might lead to that interpretation.


You say in your introduction that the book is ¡°an exercise in listening to multicultiphobia.¡± Why did you choose the word ¡°phobia¡±?

Phil Ryan: A phobia is an irrational fear. But this fear may be of something that is in fact potentially dangerous. Let¡¯s say you suffer from acrophobia, fear of heights. Well, being careless in high places is certainly very dangerous. The problem with a phobia, though, is it can prevent you from dealing constructively with dangers and challenges: watch someone with acrophobia in a high place, and you realize their fear makes them more likely to hurt themselves, not less.

In the same way, the problem is not that many Canadians, including some political leaders and influential people in the media, dislike multiculturalism. The problem is that they attack it in such an indiscriminate and extreme way that it is difficult to have a serious discussion about the challenges we face. And this, like acrophobia, can create new dangers. Thus, the knee-jerk assumption of many critics that things like the so-called ¡°Toronto eighteen¡± plot should be blamed on multiculturalism, could lead us to change our policies in ways that create more serious problems for Canadian society.


Jeffrey G. Reitz, a Professor of Ethnic, immigration and Pluralism Studies at the University of Toronto, pointed out that ¡°Ryan tends to dismiss immigrants¡¯ problems as not being the fault of multiculturalism, and this gets in the way of assessing their significance, or what should be done about them if multiculturalism as it stands is not enough. Opportunities to improve policy are missed.¡± Could you share your comments with us?

Phil Ryan: Reitz manifests that very old dream of many policy analysts, to ¡°win a place at the decision table.¡± Analysts should comprise an elite caste that offers up ¡°policy improvements¡± to political leaders. But I believe that durable and just policies can only emerge and be sustained by ongoing dialogue among citizens. Before that can happen on issues surrounding multiculturalism, however, a lot of misconceptions must be cleared out of the way.

Many critics of multiculturalism, for example, blame it for fostering the rise of ¡°ethnic ghettos.¡± My book uses a variety of evidence to show that this claim is simplistic. This certainly does not mean that I ¡°dismiss¡± the challenges of immigrant integration, as Reitz claims. I take those challenges very seriously, and believe we can only talk about them when we get beyond the simplistic rhetoric of many critics.

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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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