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.