The current state of multiculturalism in Canada and research themes on Canadian multiculturalism 2008-2010

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) commissioned Professor Will Kymlicka (Queen’s University) to synthesize the results from six regional reports and write an overview of the current state of multiculturalism and research themes on Canadian multiculturalism that would form the focus for the Multiculturalism and Human Rights Branch of the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Each regional report identified up to eight themes: a total of 48 proposed themes. Kymlicka synthesized ten research themes on Canadian multiculturalism:

1. Adapting Multiculturalism to Religious Diversity
2. Racism and Discrimination
3. Labour Market Integration
4. Immigration Beyond the Metropolis
5. Implications of Security Issues for Multiculturalism
6. The Future of Multiculturalism
7. Relating Multiculturalism to Aboriginal Peoples
8. Vulnerable Groups: Women and Youth/Second Generation
9. Patterns of Ethnic Community Formation
10. Multicultural Readiness in Service Delivery

Our interest at is, of course, children and families, and we are delighted to see children and families referenced in the report, including:

“The children of immigrants have better educational outcomes in Canada than in any other Western democracy. Indeed, uniquely among Western countries, second-generation immigrants in Canada actually outperform children of non-immigrant parents (OECD 2006). Moreover, this is not solely due to the higher socio-economic background of immigrants in Canada. On the contrary, immigrant children from lower socio-economic backgrounds also do better in Canada than in other countries….

“At the institutional level, we also have new evidence of the role that multiculturalism plays in creating more inclusive and equitable public institutions. For example, the massive OECD study that established Canada’s comparative advantage in educating immigrant students emphasized that a crucial factor in this success was the presence of specific policies to address issues of cultural and linguistic diversity in the school population – policies that, in the Canadian context, have emerged under the rubric of multiculturalism (OECD 2006). These diversity policies help to explain why the children of immigrants do better in Canada, even when one takes into account the skills, education and income of their parents….

“Some commentators have pointed to the persistence of illiberal practices among some immigrant and minority groups as evidence that they are failing to integrate into Canada’s liberal-democratic norms. This issue emerged, for example, in discussions of Aqsa Parvez’s case – the December 2007 “honour killing” of a Muslim girl by her father for not wearing the hijab. But here again, we need to get beyond isolated cases to look at the general trends. Cases of honour killings, coerced marriages or female genital mutilation can be found in every Western democracy, whether or not it has multiculturalism policies. There is no evidence that this problem is worse in multiculturalist countries (i.e., countries that do have formal multiculturalism policies and laws in place) like Canada than in non-multiculturalist countries like France or Germany….

“In any event, the occurrence of such cases should not be taken as evidence of any general trend toward the rejection of liberal-democratic values. On the contrary, a recent study shows that immigrants in Canada, regardless of their religious affiliation, converge toward the Canadian norm on what the authors call “Charter values,” including the rights of gays and women (Soroka, Johnston and Banting 2007). Indeed, as I noted earlier, what immigrants are most proud of in Canada is its democratic norms (Adams 2007). There is simply no evidence that immigrants and their children in Canada are not internalizing liberal-democratic values. The question of how best to prevent and prosecute such crimes is a very important one, but we will go badly off course if we misinterpret these individual acts as evidence of a general failure of political integration among entire ethnic groups….

“Vulnerable groups: Women and youth/second generation. As I noted earlier, several of the regional reports suggested replacing the broad research theme of “social inclusion” with more focused themes that examine specific patterns of exclusion. Two groups in particular were seen as vulnerable to exclusion – women and youth/second generation – and several reports recommended devoting research themes to them.

“Here again, a number of more specific research questions were raised. In relation to youth and the second generation, these included research on (a) whether the declining economic attainment of newer immigrants is being passed down to their children (i.e.,whether the second generation is exhibiting declines in education, employment and income); (b) whether the risks of social exclusion are leading to lower feelings of belonging and identification with Canada; and (c) whether more specific programs are needed to help youth at risk”.

The full report is here.

Call for papers: Diversity, equity and excellence in education

A call for papers for the 2012 International Conference hosted by the Korean Association for Multicultural Education (KAME) on May 11-12, 2012 at Hanyang University, Seoul, Korea. The conference theme is Diversity, Equity and Excellence in Education.

The conference will provide a platform for researchers, policy makers, and practitioners in the field of multicultural education to share ideas and research findings and develop a worldwide network of scholarly discussions.

KAME invites submissions of manuscripts (or extended abstracts which are detailed enough for the organizers to judge the merits of the paper). Any presentation pertaining to the conference theme or related topics dealing with research agendas and policy issues in the field of multicultural education are welcome.

Submit manuscript or extended abstract electronically with a short curricular vitae to by November 10, 2011. The KAME will inform the authors of whether the submitted paper is accepted by December 10, 2012.

Teaching to difference, a call for papers

From the NAME listserv (National Association for Multicultural Education), a call for papers for an edited volume, entitled Teaching to Difference. The collection will examine pedagogical issues in the classroom across ethnicities. Chapters are to be based on experiential (point of view) analysis.  Topics may include, but are not limited to the following questions:

  1. How do you connect the (national/state) curriculum to the lived experiences of your students?
  2. If you as the teacher are the minority in your classroom (e.g., white teacher teaching predominantly racial/ethnic minority students or you are a racial/ethnic minority teaching to white students) how do you connect to students?
  3. What are the challenges and opportunities of diversity in the classroom in terms of the way you teach?
  4. How do you reconcile or navigate the gap/imbalance between diversity and multicultural public discourse from school and classroom practices?
  5. Pedagogically, how do you deal with the normalised practice of streaming minority students into special education, alternative schools and behavioural management programs?

Abstracts of less than 250 words and a brief bio of max 100 words to Nicole E. Johnson by August 7, 2011 with Teaching to Difference in the subject line. (Final papers, if selected, are due Oct 31, 2011).

Children on the move: The impact of voluntary and involuntary migration on the lives of children

A special issue of Global Studies of Childhood (Vol 1, No 2, 2011) on the impact of migration on the lives of children has been released. Edited by Ada Lai and Rupert MacLean, the issue includes the following articles:

Ravinder Sidhu, Sandra Taylor & Pam Christie. Schooling and Refugees: Engaging with the complex trajectories of globalisation.

Su-Ann Oh. Rice, Slippers, Bananas and Caneball: Children’s narratives of internal displacement and forced migration from Burma.

Rajeshwari Asokaraj. Resisting Bare Life: Children’s reproduction of quotidian culture in a Sri Lankan camp.

Antonina Tereshchenko & Helena C. Araujo. Stories of Belonging: Ukrainian immigrant children’s experiences of Portugal.

Celeste Y.M. Yuen & Rosalind Wu. New Schooling and New Identities: Chinese immigrant students’ perspectives.

For information on the journal, see the Global Studies of Childhood website.

Muslim prayer in the Toronto District School Board

There is discussion in the media today about the complaint brought forward by the group Canadian Hindu Advocacy about the Toronto District School Board‘s religious accommodation policy – and practice in one its schools. See, for example, Kelly McParland’s piece in today’s National Post.

Thought I’d quickly share resources that may be useful in understanding this issue:

The Ontario Ministry of Education Policy/Program Memorandum 119 which provides “direction to school boards on the review, development, implementation, and monitoring of equity and inclusive education policies to support student achievement. Our schools need to help students develop into highly skilled, knowledgeable, and caring citizens who can contribute to both a strong economy and a cohesive society”.

Here’s what the PPM says about religious accommodation:

School board policies on religious accommodation must be in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code and the requirements stated in Policy/Program Memoranda No. 108, “Opening or Closing Exercises in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools”, and  No. 112, “Education About Religion in the Public Elementary and Secondary Schools”. As part of their new or revised equity and inclusive education policy and implementation plan, boards will include a religious accommodation guideline in keeping with the Ontario Human Rights Code, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of creed (includes religion) and imposes a duty to accommodate. Accordingly, boards are expected to take appropriate steps to provide religious accommodation for students and staff.

The EDU states that school boards have 4 years to develop and implement policies.

The Toronto District School Board‘s policy, Guidelines and Procedures for the Accommodation of Religious Requirements, Practices and Observances “Explains in detail the religious accommodations that are necessary in schools in the Toronto District School Board. Many religions’ prayer, diet, attire, and holiday laws and observances are explained in order for schools to make appropriate accommodations for students”.

Also see : The Ontario Human Rights Code.