Multiculturalism is bad for immigrant children

National Post columnist George Jonas examines what he terms the Canadian “multiculturalism fallacy” and finds that the notion of promoting diversity (vs. tolerating it) creates “outsiders”. This is, in Jonas’ view, particularly harmful for immigrant children. Ethnic and religious minorities are tolerated in good societies, such as Canada and persecuted in bad ones, such as the Third Reich, says Jonas. 

From the article: “Diversity is no organizing principle: it’s a fact of existence. It’s part of the human condition. It’s neither to be swept under the carpet nor to be run up the flagpole. It’s neither the solvent of nationhood nor its glue. For immigrant nations such as Canada it’s a reality to cope with, accept and turn to advantage if possible. It isn’t something to aim for, celebrate, cherish or try to etch in stone”.

 “We accept being outsides in someone else’s country more easily than in our own, and we regard the country in which we’re born as ours. That’s why if unassimilated “diverse” communities produce misfits, malcontents, traitors or outright terrorists, they’re more likely to produce them in the second or third generation. The jihadist is the native son rather than the immigrant father”.

Jonas concludes: “Emphasizing diversity over integration bequeaths a legacy of civil conflict to one’s children”. Read the full article here.

Call for reviews: International Journal of Multicultural Education

Taken from the National Association for Multicultural Education (NAME) listserv: “The International Journal of Multicultural Education (IJME) is soliciting reviews of multicultural children’s books for its fall issue on Indigenous cultures to be published in December. Reviews can be done for picture books, easy readers, transitional readers, chapter books and literature for young adults.

“IJME is a peer-reviewed open-access journal for scholars, practitioners and students of multicultural education. Committed to promoting educational equity, cross-cultural understanding, and global awareness in all levels of education, IJME publishes two issues a year on various multicultural education topics. 

“The review should consider the text from a multicultural perspective, paying attention to multicultural and monocultural themes, civil rights, cultural normativism, intercultural exchange, hybridity and so forth. Some questions might be: How does the author represent relationships between characters of different races or ethnicities? Does the text advocate for multicultural ideals in terms of political correctness or of civil rights? Are its representations of culture authentic or pejorative? Is this book likely to change the minds of its readers? Will it strengthen the convictions of those readers who share its perspective? How does this book compare with similar books on this theme?

“For picture books, additional questions might be, does the artist create authentic individualistic representations, or are they generic or stereotypical? Do the illustrations enhance the value of the text or are they superfluous? Do they possess pedagogical value in themselves, pointing toward traditions or unusual modes of representation”?

Submissions should be sent to More information can be found at the IJME website. Deadline is December 1, 2008.

Call for papers: Canadian women and multiculturalism

Canadian Women’s Studies/les cahiers de la femme (cws/cf). CWS/cf’s Fall/Winter 2008 issue is committed to an exploration of women and Canadian multiculturalism. Twenty years after the Canadian Multicultural Act was passed in 1988, this journal aims to provide a space to reflect critically on the issues related to Canadian multiculturalism for the last two decades in specifically feminist terms. …

While multiculturalism is often touted as a reason to celebrate Canadian identity, our approach is premised on the understanding that multiculturalism is in fact a contentious concept. As a policy, multiculturalism is embedded within gendered-racialized discourses of national identity, that variously urge tolerance or assimilation in response to deep anxieties about the loss of national identity.

Possible topics of interest to visitors:

  • immigration policy and patriarchalization of immigrant communities/families
  • 1st generation, 2nd generation, 1.5 generation experiences
  • Québec v. federal policies (interculturalism v. multiculturalism)
  • new policies and laws, Bill C-50
  • multiculturalism and education.

For more information, contact CWS/cf by telephone: 416-736-5356 or email:

Deadline: September 30, 2008.

Conference on ‘reasonable accommodation’

From Sept 25-26, 2008 the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice will host the conference Reasonable Accommodation and the Role of the State: A Democratic Challenge, in Quebec City, QC.

No specific sessions on young children and/or families, but a section on “Education Services” includes consultants Bergman Fleury and Zanana Akande.

Related link: The Bouchard-Taylor Commission on Reasonable Accommodation.

Canadian Multiculturalism Day

The federal government is bundling a series of days (June 21 – National Aboriginal Day; June 24 – Saint Jean Baptiste Day; June 27 – Canadian Multiculturalism Day; and July 1 – Canada Day) as the Celebrate Canada! initiative.

Let’s revisit the Proclamation that, in 2002, established Canadian Multiculturalism Day:

“Whereas multiculturalism is a fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage; Whereas Canadians of all backgrounds have made and continue to make valuable contributions to Canadian society; Whereas it is considered appropriate that there be, in each year, a day to mark and celebrate those contributions and to recognize Canadian diversity;  And whereas, by Order in Council P.C. 2002-1869 of October 31, 2002, the Governor in Council has directed that a proclamation do issue declaring June 27 of each year as Canadian Multiculturalism Day, a celebration of the contributions of Canada’s diverse people to Canadian society; Now know you that We, by and with the advice of Our Privy Council for Canada, do by this Our Proclamation declare June 27 of each year as Canadian Multiculturalism Day, a celebration of the contributions of Canada’s diverse people to Canadian society”.

How relevant is official multiculturalism in Canada today? What’s the impact for immigrant children and families? 


Recent research/reports on immigration

Policy Options“, the publication of the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP) has several stories on immigration and immigration policy in their June 2008 issue. We are pleased that 2 of the reports touch on issues related to immigrant children and families, although slightly disappointed in an article by Robin Sears.

Sears writes on the history of immigration policy in “Canada: If you build it, people will come” and notes that Canada received thousands of “guest children” during WWII in order to provide them with “safe haven”, but neglects to report on the shameful accounts of the 100,000 “home children” who were brought to Canada to serve the nation’s workforce needs. 

Nik Nanos provides analysis on a recent poll in “Nation building through immigration: Workforce skills come out on top” and reports that “four Canadians in five thought family reunification  was important or somewhat important”.

Call for proposals: Canadian studies as a field of interdisciplinary inquiry

The Centre for Canadian Studies at Mount Allison University invites proposals for its 3rd Alternatives conference.

The Centre is seeking proposals that “explore the current state and future trajectories of Canadian Studies as a field of interdisciplinary inquiry” and that “explore different approaches to Canadian Studies”.

Among other topics, and of interest to the Canadian Coalition for Immigrant Children and Youth, the Centre is interested in receiving proposals that address transnationalism, transculturalism and Canadian Studies and the cultural politics of diversity.

For more information, see the Centre website or contact Dr. Andrew Nurse at or 506.364.2350.

Deadline for submissions is November 30, 2008.

Multicultural to intercultural: Libraries connecting communities

The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) is holding a satellite meeting Aug 5-7/08 in Vancouver BC (prior to their 2008 Conference and Congress, Libraries Without Borders, in Quebec City).

The satellite meeting theme is Multicultural to Intercultural: Libraries Connecting Communities. See the site also for a call for papers.

Visit the IFLANET site to learn about how libraries and other institutions come together to meet the needs of culturally diverse populations. Here you’ll find strategic plans, work schedules, publications and more.

Authentic identities: Immigrant children and multiculturalism

The May 8th editorial in the Calgary Herald is titled Caught Between Two Worlds and lightly touches on immigrant children’s identity development: the Canadian way or the way of the child’s family and culture of origin. “Forging an authentic identity in Canada is not an easy task” concludes the editor. reports Sat May 10th that Governor General Michaelle Jean, during her trip to France, called upon the people to remain “ever vigilant in the face of the slightest sign of intolerance, and to use every means possible to counter the lack of understanding by some that too often leads to the exclusion of others”.

For children, inclusion and identity and inextricably linked.

Media coverage of Jean’s official visit was rife with comments on the success of Canadian multiculturalism. Is (official) multiculturalism the best way to support forging authentic (Canadian) identities for immigrant children?

A reading of the most recent report in the Bernard van Leer Foundation’s series on Early Childhood in Focus, blogged on below, provides a useful framework for this discussion. From the preface, “Traditionally, identity formation has been perceived as mainly as being about processes of development, socialisation and enculturalation, with child-rearing experts offering wide-ranging views on how these can best be achieved. One prominent view has seen the young child as immature, unformed and dependent. Acquiring identity has been understood as a gradual process of embedding into the norms, values and social roles of the parents’ culture, shaped by the training offered by parents and others. An alternative view has seen the child’s identity as largely preformed and maturing through play and exploration in the protected spaces offered by caring adults.

Neither of these views accord with contemporary theories of identity formation, which respect children’s unique identity at birth and their role in constructing and reconstructing personal meaning within cultural contexts. There is also increasing recognition that children negotiate multiple, shifting and sometimes competing identities, especially within complex, multi-ethnic and multicultural contexts”.

The Bernard van Leer Foundation asks us to consider “as children move into group care and education, further sensitive support is needed to enable them to forge new identities which do not conflict with the family and cultural identity they have acquired at home”.

One more excerpt from this excellent report:

” When considering identity development in migrant families, the traditional view has led to seeing migrant children and adolescents as having to bridge two cultures or value systems. In this dominant tradition, it was believed that many children either reject their home culture in favour of the dominant culture (assimilation), or on the contrary reject the dominant culture and cling to the traditional beliefs and values of their origins (separation), although the ‘ideal’ situation would be the integration of both worlds recognising children’s multiple identities….Educational practices that foster children’s multiple identities need to avoid two pitfalls: colour-blindness and tokenism. Colour-blindness is the denial of differences, very often out of an honest concern to treat ‘all children equal’. In practice this means that parents and children from minority communities are welcomed, but receive the (unintentional) message that they need to ‘adapt’ as soon as possible to what is considered ‘normal’ within the dominant culture.

Tokenism on the contrary involves teaching the ‘culture’ of a child’s home life as fixed and static. Parents’ and children’s identities are thereby reduced to their origin by assuming there is something called ‘the Magreb culture’, ‘the Asian way of doing things’ or a ‘typical lesbian family’. In practice this means that special, yet stereotypical, events or displays are set up for children and families (such as a festival celebrating Iraqi new year with traditional clothes and food). Such activities risk being both patronising and stimatising, in that they overlook the complexities of children’s personal histories and family cultures and ignore socioeconomic and other differences.

An important way to avoid these pitfalls is to build real and symbolic bridges between the public culture of the early childhood centre and the private culture of families, by negotiating all practices with the families involved” (Michel Vandenbroeck, Senior Researcher, Department of Social Welfare Studies, University of Ghent, Belgium).

Call for expressions of interest: Ontario region of Canadian Heritage

The Ontario Region of Canadian Heritage is calling for expressions of interest that align with the recently released guidelines for funding from the Multicultural Program.

The Multicultural Program in Ontario will focus on initiatives that promote:
– Civic participation
– Cross-cultural understanding
– Institutional change.

Projects should align with the following priorities:
– Support the economic, social and cultural integration of new Canadians and cultural communities
– Facilitate programs such as mentorship, volunteerism, leadership and civi education among at-risk cultural youth
– Promote inter-cultural understanding and Canadian values (democracy, freedom, human rights and rule of law) through community initiatives with the objective of addressing issues of cultural social exclusion.

Funding preferences will be given to projects that involve multiple partners and that:
– Focus on action and measurable results leading to sustainable and lasting changes
– Involve the broad community (community-based, neighourhood-based and/or coalitions that are inclusive)
– Include other sources of funding, including cash and in-kind contributions.

Interested parties are invited to submit a pqa1 by Fri. May 23/08 to or to the attention of Rocky Serkowney, Program Officer, Department of Canadian Heritage, Ontario Region, 150 John St., Suite 400, Toronto ON M5V 3T6.

Need more info? In the GTA, contact Rocky Serkowney at 416.952.2651. Outside of the GTA, contact Mimi Lo at 519.645.5190.

Poll on demographic data and visible minorities

The Globe and Mail and CTV commissioned a poll through the Strategic Council on demographic data and visible minorities/immigrants. Dated April 14/08.

Some of the findings:

Question: Is accepting new immigrants of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds a defining and enriching part of our Canadian identity?

  • 30% agreed that “Accommodating so many new Canadians of such diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds means we have less in common as Canadians and that this weakens our sense of national identity”
  • 61% agreed that “Having all this diversity is actually a defining and enriching part of our Canadian identity and strengthen our sense of national identity”.

Question: Do Canadians feel new immigrants hold on to their customs and traditions for too long?

  • 45% agreed that “New Canadians hold on to their customs and traditions for too long when they come to Canada”.
  • 47% agreed that “New Canadians integrate into Canadian life at a natural and acceptable pace”.

& other findings:

  • 28% strongly agree that Canadians make too many accommodations to visible minorities in Canada
  • 22% strongly disagree that Canadians make too many accommodations to visible minorities in Canada

See more at the Strategic Council website.