Thursday, May 25, 2006

Shrub Goes After Minorities


So it didn't take very long for Shrub to go after one of the old Reform Party's favorite targets: immigrants. While he made a minor promise using unrealized tax dollars (the lowering of the landing fees), he immediately showed immigrants and minorities what they really mean to this middle-aged, white-male-dominated government...

Among Harper's first neo-Con moves was to kill the Multiculturalism Ministry. This "good 'ol boy" move is an insult to immigrants and other minorities. One of his early next moves was to reduce immigration numbers. Thanks to the war he's running with the press gallery little of this is actually being given much attention.

10 years ago we vividly recall the very same Western MPs who now sit as Conservatives in Ottawa attack the very idea of multiculturalism - as well as taking pot-shots at Sikh's turbans (in the RCMP), First Nations, and Quebec. Back then, these very same individuals were sitting as Reform MPs. The public needs to realize they haven't changed.

As Liberals, it is crucial for our party to address the needs of some of our most loyal supporters. For many years recently, we've almost taken these groups for granted. New Canadians have been a stalwart of our support, and a big reason for our strong showing in urban areas. Recently, Harper has been making some overtures to these groups - often targeting "hot button" causes that are agreeable to Conservatives.

To reinstill minority group confidence in our party, we need to be very vocal about the Conservative dismantling of the Multiculturalism Ministry and reducing immigration numbers. Some of our leadership hopefulls have voiced strong support for multiculturalism - including strong supporting facts about the side-benefits of increased success in foreign trade, etc. Michael Ignatieff recently delivered a strong speech in Calgary focused on the value of multiculturalism - especially with the recent emergence of countries like India and China as world economic powers. We need to ensure our party continues to speak loudly for multiculturalism. If we don't, we'll start to see our urban numbers decline...

2 comments:

A.K. said...

"Among Harper's first neo-Con moves was to kill the Multiculturalism Ministry. This "good 'ol boy" move is an insult to immigrants and other minorities."

As a card-carrying Liberal, I reject this notion. If by "multiculturalism" you mean the welcoming of newcomers from all different corners of the globe to this country in the interest of making our society more diverse and pluralistic, then bravo. But the idea that we, the immigrant communities of Canada, somehow need paternalistic government largesse in order to maintain our cultural connection with our countries of origin is for the birds.

I am a proud second-generation Trinidadian-Canadian. My parents arrived in this country in the 1960s, several years before Pierre Trudeau was even elected, let alone brought in the official multiculturalsim law in 1971. I grew up very closely in touch with my Caribbean roots, and for this I am eternally grateful--I wouldn't have given it up for the world. But this had not a God-blessed thing to do with "official multiculturalism" as such. No government subsidies, vaguely worded laws or cheesy, boiler-plate political blandishments at formulaic ethnic festivales contributed anything to my powerful personal sense of Trinidadianness. On the contrary: it was strictly because of my upbringing, my home life and the cultural milieu of the West Indian community in Montreal--as well as my own personal initiative--that did the trick.

I have for a long time rued the lack of a strong, clearly definable Canadian cultural identity for me to relate to as a politically and socially conscious young man growing up in one of the most politically balkanized democracies in the world. Official multiculturalism, to my way of thinking, has unwittingly hindered the development of such an identity, or at least the integration of newcomers to this country into it. How am I supposed to feel truly Canadian if my government keeps telling me I am really something else, all under the guise of "tolerance"? Not to mention that multiculturalism has had little impact on my cultural development one way or another.

The bottom line is that immigrants to Canada don't need Ottawa to tell them they come from rich, diverse backgrounds. Nor do they need to Ottawa's help to remain true to those backgrounds if they wish to do so. Andrew Coyne's recent column on multiculturalism and its possible effects on the development of homegrown Islamic fundamentalism said it best: for most immigrants, multiculturalism is an irrelevance.

I currently attend university in the United States. One thing this experience has taught me over the past several years is that America, while at least somewhat deserving of the moniker of "melting pot", is manifestly not the cesspool of cultural intolerance and assimilation its Canadian detractors imagine it to be. The visible minority students I go to Princeton with have no trouble whatsoever in proudly maintaining their Puerto Rican, Mexican, Indian, Chinese or Italian heritages, even in the complete absence of any federal "Department of Multiculturalism" in Washington to sustain them. What is it that makes immigrants to Canada so dependent on government largesse that to abolish the figurehead Ministry of Multiculturalism is an insult to us? Our counterparts south of the border--in many cases our own extended family members, as in the case of my own family--get by so swell without it. None of them feel insulted that their cultures of origin are not so lavishly pandered to. What makes us so needy?

A.K. said...
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