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Since there’s a bit of a delay for this week’s discussion posts, here’s quick reflection to help generate conversation for Multiculturalism (I). To start things off, take a look at this news segment regarding Canada’s ‘failed’ multicultural image:

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Drawing on one of the readings from this week, “The House of Difference,” Eva Mackey takes up this question of of a fictive narrative of diversity and inclusion as a mechanism of control. She begins with an argument that multiculturalism isn’t just a policy of inclusion, but a distinctly Canadian identity. It is a symbol and key metaphor for the nation-state itself. Mackey calls this a strategic nation-building project that seeks to define the characteristics of Canada so that it can be better defended and protected. She argues that this development of a pluralist national identity was a flexible strategy developed to manage diverse populations and keep them in check (Mackey 2002, 26).

While Canadian difference is often positioned in contradiction to the US, Mackey argues that its internal ‘others’, are also managed so as to reproduce the structuring of differences around a dominant culture of settler national identity – what she calls an unmarked, non-ethnic, non-hyphened, and usually white, ‘Canadian – Canadian’ identity. So that idea here, is to establish a uniquely Canadian identity, while simultaneously using this identity to make governable diverse populations. The goal is to make an ‘entire governable population’, through flexible strategies that aim to manage difference while encouraging its citizens to uphold the nation-state.

In the Global News report included above, we likewise see that although official narratives of nationhood include and highlight cultural difference, they also reproduce particular forms of white anglophone (and after the Quiet Revolution, francophone) settler national identity at the expense of Indigenous peoples and their cultures as well as other ‘ethnic’ groups that are reimagined as the ‘Other.’ Multiculturalism, as a result, ends up reinforcing images of ‘Canadian-Canadians’ as a tolerant benevolent people that bolsters a shared assumption that a nation needs a strong, bounded, and distinct national identity to work. In so doing, we see the erasure of systemic harms and racism as not indicative of a ‘tolerant’ Canadian identity.

Along this line of thought, let’s return to a key question from earlier in Mackey’s text:

“Do ‘multiculturalism’ and pluralism draw on and reinforce racial exclusions and hierarchies of difference?” (Mackey 2002, 16).

Likewise, what implications does Canada’s official policy of multiculturalism and diversity—and, by extension, its longer histories of racist policies of exclusion—have with on rising anti-Asian and anti-immigrant sentiments as a result of COVID-19?

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