Multiculturalism a failure?

Last year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared multiculturalism a failure, saying newcomers must integrate. British PM, David Cameron has agreed, saying that the UK’s “multicultural experiment” a failure. Most recently, French president Sarkozy declared multiculturalism a failure. See link:

On the other hand, Russian leader Medvedev has recently implied that multiculturalism is essential to the Russian identity. See link:

In Canada, the Quebec legislators recently declared the Sikh kirpan, inadmissible in the House of Assembly on the grounds that it was weapon, and not a religious symbol as previously declared by the Supreme Court of Canada. In Winnipeg, Manitoba, immigrants have mounted a challenge to their kids participating in Phys Ed and music class on religious grounds. see link:

Are the European politicos being sincere, or are they trying to capitalize on a rising ride of xenophobia? Is multiculturalism an admirable attempt to accommodate immigrants’ divergent belief systems, or is it triggered by newcomers’ disrespect for the native culture of their new country? Is “culture” based on nationality or religion? What is multiculturalism? And how does LingQ fit in to it all? :slight_smile:

I will comment later, but it is worth noting that in Russia there are a number of nationalities who have lived in the territory of present day Russia, or Czarist or Soviet Russia as long as the Russians. Russia is a multi-ethnic or multinational state, like Canada or Belgium or Spain amongst others.

The issue surrounding multiculturalism in Europe and Canada, is to what extent newcomers, immigrants, should be expected to integrated with one of the dominant established national groups, or conversely to what extent they should be officially encouraged to form essentially separate cultural communities, with separate values and practices, and to what extent these separate values and practices should be accommodated.

I saw an excerpt from Mr. Cameron’s speech at this recent high profile conference in Munich in which he criticised political correctness in Britain, now Steve would have loved that one. He basically said that in Britain they don’t dare to speak out against the Muslims community, no matter what in fear of a liberal backlash. Furthermore he complained that the public indignation threshold is much lower for provocative statements from the right than from the left or from immigrant communities.

What is multiculturalism?

"Multiculturalism has a number of different meanings. At one level the term means the appreciation, acceptance or promotion of multiple cultures . . . In this sense multiculturalism approximates to respect for diversity.
The term may also describe people who have more than one culture in them . . . .
In a political context the term has come to mean the advocacy of extending equitable status to distinct ethnic and religious groups without promoting any specific ethnic, religious, and/or cultural community values as central.
Multiculturalism as “cultural mosaic” is often contrasted with the concepts assimilationism and social integration and has been described as a “salad bowl” rather than a “melting pot.”

If we want to talk about multiculturalism, we should define its meaning, or treat different aspects separately.

In Vancouver, I take public transport everyday and hear at LEAST 2 non-English languages everyday. I also find people unfailingly polite on the transport.

Canada has had a policy of multiculturalism since 1982. We have cultural problems… many immigrants are unable to learn English (or French), there is the odd court case about some kind of religious ornament or practice being disrespected or obstructed… but at least in Vancouver, to all appearances, these are the exceptions, not the rules.

On the other hand, many foreign students (ages 18-25, probably mid to upper middle class, with university or college) where I work are very disappointed when they find that their “Canadian” homestay family is not of northern European ancestry. And when teaching them I find a lot of their beliefs are very bound up in cartoonishly simple ideas about race and religion. I think their Canadian-raised peers are usually a bit more nuanced in their thinking.

“I also find people unfailingly polite on the transport.”

People being polite in Canada? Get outta here! I don’t believe you.

It is very multicultural here in Toronto, and for sure we have a lot of cultural problems. People are not as polite as in Vancouver though, but I love the multicultural concept.

It is like a small united nations here. If I want to go for some authentic foods, I know where to go, and believe me, they are really authentic. If I want to learn some languages and mingle with the people, I have places to go.

A few months ago, I was invited for a dinner. There were about 10 people from about 5 different countries, most could speak 3 languages or more.

To me, a lot of cultural issues here are related to religious believes. Otherwise, people are generally opened to look into other different cultures.

To the extent that people of different cultural backgrounds live side by side, a society may be called multicultural, but this need not be an ideology, just a fact. I find that that description applies to much of the Western world.

Canada has had a policy of “official (ideological) multiculturalism” which is described enthusiastically by its promoters as “celebrating the differences”. The government subsidizes cultural activities by Indians, Chinese, etc. (hoping to win votes from these communities), and promotes the idea that the more diverse our society, the better. In the long run this just leads, and in Canada is leading to, ghettoes.

If all societies in the world were similarly diverse all cultures would be the same and would lose their originality. I prefer to see Canadian culture dominate in Canada and Chinese culture, or Indian culture dominate in their countries of origin.

The school system encourages youngsters to identify with their “heritage culture”, and a whole industry of “multicultural and anti-racism” activists get funded by government to organize meetings and put out brochures with the message that mainstream Canada is “systemically racist” and that any member of a designated victim group (“people of colour”) can claim racism whenever they feel like it. The thought that all humans are inclined to prefer their own, and that racism in mainstream Canada is probably less pronounced and certainly no more prominent than in most of the source countries of our immigrants, or among the immigrants themselves, is deliberately ignored.

In fact, most Canadians, despite the pervasiveness of the pro-multiculturalism propaganda, do not favour “celebrating the differences” and in poll after poll prefer that immigrants assimilate to mainstream culture rather than maintain their culture of origin. (A higher percentage than in the US). However, when asked if they favour multiculturalism higher number will say yes, because the question has been interpreted to mean “are you tolerant of people of other origins in Canada”. I believe these attitudes are changing.

I find Americans just as polite as Canadians. Some are and some aren’t.

I am not in favour of official multiculturalism because I am well aware of how this policy is used by ethnic activists to promote cultural separation. People should be allowed to do what they want, culturally, but the government should not, in my view, promote "the differences’, not in their propaganda and not with tax-payers money.

I hope Cameron’s views influence Canadian policy. A large percentage of British-born Muslims favour sharia law for the UK. A survey of Toronto Muslims showed wide support for the Muslim terrorist cell recently arrested in that city.

I have been on two Mandarin language TV shows, where we discussed whether Mandarin should be an official language of Canada, and whether Chinese new year should be an official holiday. Of the 30-40% of the callers who phoned in to support the idea, the reason usually given was that “after all Canada is a multicultural country”. I think it is time to push back in favour of the mainstream culture.

1 Like

@ Doo:

"I think their Canadian-raised peers are usually a bit more nuanced in their thinking. "

I second it. Canadians seem to me more tolerant (than the people in average I grew or lived among, and than the immigrants in the average) to the difference in race and religion. Maybe the multiculturalist education as such is not a bad thing. The bad thing is a failure to striking the balance. However I agree with Tora, that there are few meanings amd sides of it, and wait for someone to define what we are talking about:-)

@ commansplice:

“People being polite in Canada? Get outta here! I don’t believe you.” - just in the USA the people seem to be even more polite. The exceptions are also noticed :slight_smile:

I did not see the post of Steve before I posted mine - that Steve have already started to define what we are talking about :slight_smile:

Our president Václav Klaus criticising multiculturalism aswell. He doesn’t like European union too. I agree with him but it is other topic. :slight_smile:

@ Doo’s: "On the other hand, Russian leader Medvedev has recently implied that multiculturalism is essential to the Russian identity. See link: "

And the link says, among other things:

“Medvedev said Russia should not yield to such ideas” [ the ideas that the policy of multiculturalism has happened to be a failure].

I am sad to think that multiculturalism is NOT essential to the Russian identity. I am afraid Medvedev is saying just empty words. In Russia, unfortunately, there nearly never has been a policy that would remind multiculturalism. Although it is true, as Steve noticed, that many nationalities have been living on the area of Russia since before ages.

Leave aside the zharist’s Russia (which one Marxist’s classic, maybe Lenin, called “a Prizon of Nations”). Stalin, ethnically not Russian, had actually made a bet on the strengthening of national feeling of the ethnic Russians. Some people justify it as being useful during the war. I do not agree. Anyway, during all my life, education and work in the former USSR and later Russia , two things coexisted: the hypocritical words that every USSR nation is free and equal , and the populist cult of the Russian nation as an “Elder Brother”. The other ubiquitous wordings were, and still are “The Great Russian People” and “Much-Suffered Great Russian People”. The latter often conveying a populist implication that some other nation have inflicted the suffering.

For a foreign reader I must notice that in our language the word “Russian” means the Russian nationality, rather than any citizen of Russia or the Soviet Union.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union, and the plummeting living standard that fallowed, have added to the feeling that *the Russian people have been humiliated by * [choose one: the American Imperialism, Estonia, the Jews, all of the above.]

The result of that policy of the ‘Elder Brother’, combined with the fact of the rising Chechen Terrorism (Islamic Fundamentalism ?) is that now, in my opinion, forming from Russia the most nationalistic society in Europe. I draw this conclusion from reading the Russian blogs and watching, sometimes, Russian TV, as well as speaking to immigrants that come from Russia.

I’d prefer the evils of the most distorted and unbalanced multiculturalism to this.

@ MaKacenko:

"Our president Václav Klaus criticising multiculturalism aswell. He doesn’t like European union too. I agree with him but it is other topic. :slight_smile: "

I would be very much keen to know what and why. I believe it’s OK that it’s another topic. What I have written about Russia is also another topic, not having actually much to do with the Canadian and European multiculturalisms. Who cares? :wink:


Is living standard in Russia better than before? I mean living standart under Brezhnev’s and Gorbatschow’s government. Are Medvedev and Putin better? When it comes to Czech republic, our living living standart is much better under democratic government than under cummunistic one. Is democracy in Russia really democratic?


You answered to my question with your question :slight_smile: Is it already a multicaltural feature?

To be fare I must say that I do not live in Russia now and that you’ d hardly find two Russians having the same opinion. Nevertheless, the two parents of our daughter’s in law pay frequent visits to Toronto from Peterburg and report me :slight_smile: )

I believe the average living standard in Russia, after going through a prolonged downs during Gorbachev and then Eltzin, has improved, and now it must be significantly better than during the Brezhnev’s time. If compared with the Brezhnev’s era, there is MUCH more freedom and democracy now than back then, when there were none.

The first reservation to do is probably a HUGE enequality and corruption in Russia. Russia’s living standard can be roughly divided into Moscow and Peterburg and everything else. In the two cities, esp. Moscow, the percentage of extermely rich people is much higher then anywhere else.

Don’t forget that Russia is, potentially, an extremely rich country, with the natural gas and oil, and other valuable resources not to be compared to that of the Czech Republic, nor any European country. And all this enermous resourse is now controlled by a tiny group of extremely rich Russians, residing mostly in Moscow. Many other less rich but still rich much above the average are said to be working for a highly corrupted government, and regulary take bribes.

As to Putin and Medvedev, I might opinionate more later. The current highly corrupted “vertical of power” in Russia is attributed directly to Putin. Medvedev might begin to function more autonomously latre, but it is unlikely. He was choosen by Putin, and his elections were never wone, but obviously staged by Putin. As soon as Medvedev became president he changed the constitution, allowing Putin, potentially, to become a president for 12 additional years (after Medvedev term ends), The most close school friends of Putin are believed to have become billioners during the Putin’s presidential terms. In my view Eltzin was by far “more democratic” president than Putin. Still, quite enough people in Moscow have improved their living standard during the presidency of Putin. Putin is currently keeping the highest political rating in the polls.

For me, multiculturalism just means that people can choose the degree to which they integrate. I don’t know if it’s true that multiculturalism produces ghettos more than assimilationist policies. There were ethnic and religious ghettos before official (and unofficial) multiculturalsim.

But what we’ve got now across the Western world is a perhaps slightly new situation. There are areas with large immigrant populations that have not assimilated at all into the mainstream society. Steve has talked about the Chinese community in Vancouver as an example of this. My gut instinct is to think that these populations with integrate over time, but maybe that is not the case. But anyway, my suspicion is that once the original immigrant generation has passed away, the kids will be pretty well integrated. People often give the example of Turks in Germany as a group that has not integrated, but I believe most of them came in the 60s and later.

There’s also the issue of how willing the host country/culture is to let people integrate. We shouldn’t only blame immigrants for failing to assimilate.

Coming back to Canada, I agree with Steve that the government here should better NOT fund, promote and ‘celebrate diversity’. However, I fail to see how it could ever happen that the politicians would not try to attract (more cinically - buy) the immigrant votes.

I also do not know, was it the division between the French and English Canada, or the influx of the immigrants, that originally stimulated the policy of ‘celebrating diversity’?

Like Bortrun, I am not sure about multiculturalism as creating ‘ghettos in the long run’. Maybe any immigration, no matter what-culturalism, creates a sort of ghettos. The best things that may happen to an immigrant, in my opinion, is an economic boom in the new country and a week bureaucracy. Canada has strong bureaucracy.

@ Bortrun: “There’s also the issue of how willing the host country/culture is to let people integrate. We shouldn’t only blame immigrants for failing to assimilate.”

What I have heard about the immigration to Europe, it is believed to much easier assimilate in Canada than in Europe. Canadians are great in that respect.

Israel turns out to be a country of very successful assimilation. The quater! of its poulation are the recent immigrants (the peak of the ‘recent’ falled on 1990). The percentage of the immigrant employment, and of the corresponding immigrant income, is now exactly the same as the average over the country. But it an economic and a hightech boom now in Israel.