Diversity, Belonging and Shared Citizenship

Keith Banting, Thomas J. Courchene and F. Leslie Seidle | September 18, 2007

Diversity is one of Canada’s defining characteristics. Yet here, as in other Western democracies, diversity policies are being called into question by developments such as the growing salience of identity, race and religion. Do minorities really feel they belong to the country? Is discrimination still a reality? Is social cohesion being strained?

In Belonging? Diversity, Recognition and Shared Citizenship in Canada, leading scholars from Canada, Europe and the United States explore two broad policy agendas: first the multicultural agenda, which focuses on recognizing cultural differences, helping minorities express their distinct identities and practices, and building more inclusive conceptions of citizenship; and the second, the integration agenda, which seeks to bring minorities into the mainstream, strengthen the sense of mutual support and solidarity, and reinforce the bonds of a common community.

The authors of these 15 chapters and 8 commentaries examine these question from a range of perspectives, which a focus on ethnocultural minorities and indigenous peoples. In their concluding chapter, the editors discuss priorities that emerge from the analysis and relate them to the objective of strengthening belonging and shared citizenship.

For immediate distribution – September 18, 2007

Montreal – Across the country, and now especially in Quebec, there has been considerable reflection about how Canada accommodates its growing diversity. While dialogue such as that provided by the Bouchard-Taylor commission in Quebec offers an opportunity for people to share their concerns, the IRPP publication being released today argues that we must keep a balanced perspective. Overreaction and drastic changes to policies would be as bad as inaction.

In the final chapter of Belonging? Diversity, Recognition and Shared Citizenship in Canada, the book’s editors, Keith Banting, Thomas J. Courchene and F. Leslie Seidle, conclude that Canada does not need to make a U-turn in its approach to multiculturalism and diversity. They nevertheless warn that problems could result from rising levels of immigrant unemployment, lower income levels for recent arrivals, greater instances of perceived discrimination felt by newcomers and slower social integration of visible minority immigrants.

Banting, Courchene and Seidle posit that policy changes should aim to strengthen “the three equalities that underlie shared citizenship”: namely, human rights and nondiscrimination, socioeconomic equality, and political equality. Quoting Pearl Eliadis, one of the contributors to the volume, the authors say, “when multiculturalism is unhinged from equality, it tends to careen off in unpleasant directions.”

The following are some of the warning signs the authors identify:

Unemployment: Statistics Canada recently reported that, at 12 percent, the unemployment level of immigrants who arrived in Canada between 2001 and 2006 was more than double that of the
Canadian-born population.

Immigrant income: On average, recent immigrants’ income is lower than that of earlier groups. Nearly 20 percent of immigrants who arrived between 1992 and 2000 had a low income (as measured by Statistics Canada) during at least four of their five years in Canada.

Discrimination: The 2002 Ethnic Diversity Study revealed that 32 percent of Blacks and 30 percent of Muslims reported experiencing discrimination sometimes or often during the preceding five years
(the survey covered people born in Canada as well as immigrants).

Social integration: In terms of trust in others and sense of belonging, second-generation immigrants may have a weaker sense of social inclusion than their parents.

The IRPP volume also covers Canada’s Aboriginal people. In their concluding chapter, the editors note that progress has been made on Aboriginal self-government, particularly in the North. However, they decry the gaps in life chances between Aboriginal people and other Canadians, which they label “a national disgrace.”

The authors present a number of proposals for change directed at the different levels of government and, in some cases, nongovernmental organizations. They also suggest it may be time for more targeted responses to disadvantage in Canada.

“Diversity, Belonging and Shared Citizenship,” by Keith Banting, Tom Courchene and Leslie Seidle, can be downloaded free of charge from www.irpp.org

Belonging? Diversity, Recognition and Shared Citizenship in Canada was published February 2007 as part of the IRPP’s Art of the State series. Edited by Keith Banting, Thomas J. Courchene and F. Leslie Seidle, the volume sheds light on Canada’s approaches to recognizing and accommodating diversity, including instruments of shared citizenship, their effectiveness to date and their capacity to respond to new pressures and concerns. Analysis of the approaches of certain other countries and the critiques that have emerged provide a comparative perspective.

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Founded in 1972, the Institute for Research in Public Policy (IRPP.org) is an independent, national, nonprofit organization based in Montreal.