Bob Mok’s column on Canada’s multiculturalism has revealed many flaws and challenges that have left the policies of the multiculturalism being distorted from its original intentions. He is calling for a system overhaul in his seventh article in the series.
Let us recap on the concepts of multiculturalism and examine its original intentions:
The Multiculturalism Act was created to allow citizens to practice their religions and keep their identities without the fear of persecution. Of course, it is meant to be practiced in an “open environment” and cultures are to be shared with other Canadians.
For too long, the multiculturalism program was comatose. The government's official review of the policy resulted in a draft document titled "Multiculturalism: Renewed Program Design. Public Document for Discussion with Stakeholders" that was released to community leaders in December 1996. On April 15, 1997, the Secretary of state for multiculturalism unveiled the federal government's "renewed Multiculturalism Program". Since then, nothing of significance was ever initiated on this subject.
The “renewed Multiculturalism Program” was supposed to focus on such areas as fighting racism; encouraging the full and active participation of all Canadians; and helping public institutions respond to cultural diversity by breaking down barriers and supporting the involvement of communities in public decision-making."
Since 1997, Canada’s immigration pattern has shifted significantly and diversity has changed accordingly. Many of the newcomers want to retain their customs and religious practices even if they infringe on the rights of other fellow citizens. New immigrants are also more willing to challenge the discontent of those who are infringed upon, using the Charter of Rights and Freedom Act as their protective shield. At present, Canada’s Multiculturalism Act needs new directions and an overhaul to allay the fears and anxieties of many of its citizens.
Any changes must start with a review of the Multiculturalism program, in conjunction with the Charter of Rights and Freedom Act and the Canadian Citizenship Act to examine their contents that are interacting or interfering with multiculturalism.
In the case of the Charter of Rights and Freedom Act, the government should take on a more active role and provide resources to help those citizens whose rights are infringed upon by the others’ religious or freedom practices allowed under the Act. Political correctness should not be a factor or deterrent in identifying infringements of citizens’ rights. Before any problem can be dealt with, it is paramount that they can be identified and discussed in public!
Dual citizenship weakens the integration of new immigrants into Canada’s social fabric. The policy for allowing dual citizenship should be revisited. It would also be helpful if the residence requirements in Canada can be lengthened and modified to deter the “astronauts” from traveling back and forth between Canada and their country of origin. Such revised policy will serve to accelerate integration into main stream society and decrease the total number of “Canadians of Convenience”.
Before government grants are handed out for cultural events, there must be safeguards and requirements to ensure a much boarder range of advertising on such events across the entire spectrum of ethnic populations. The event organizers must be encouraged to share their cultural activities with as many others outside of their own group as possible.
Canada’s cultural diversity is changing and its Multiculturalism Policies must be synchronized. It cannot be left to run and stay on its current course any more.