Thursday, March 4, 2010

"Hey, I just said that!"

Do you ever have those moments when you're reading or watching the news or talking with friends and you hear something that sparks a sense of deja vu? I was reading an article today by Canadian and UofT scholar (he's actually in my department) Rinaldo Walcott about multiculturalism in Canada and instantly thought, "Hey, I just said that".

And, indeed I had in this blog about "Real Canadians". It actually also pertains at least remotely to last my last blog post, the letter to Mr. Ignatieff.

Here's some of the article.

Walcott states "Official [Canadian] policies of multiculturalism... exacerbate the problem of belonging (89)

Walcott quotes Ignatieff's Massey Hall Lecture where Ignatieff describes Canadian multiculturalism as seeking to protect the cultural rights of as many people as possible. Sounds good right?

But where do collective rights fit into this Liberalist schema of individualism? What about the cultural groups whose identity is firmly embedded in the collective? Group rights pose a major problem for Canada's version of multiculturalism, denying any collective rights to groups.

Walcott goes on to examine how the English and French are excluded from these ideas of multiculturalism based on their status as "Founding Nations" - their identity is beyond question, beyond the need for 'protection' by multiculturalism policies - They are "Real Canadians". He quotes Eve Mackey who says, "Canadian-Canadians are assumed to be white, disinterested in seeking special status of any sort, and certainly their cultures (if they claim a culture at all) are neither funded nor supported by the government apparatus" (92).

Not only does this echo my previous post but show how government focus on funding multiculturalism creates more separation. "Real Canadians" don't need funding or special privileges.... mostly because we are already given these things anyways through other channels. Heritage becomes a specifically non-white discourse that needs to be enacted and re-acted through parades, national costumes, cultural celebrations, etc... Non-white Canadians are positioned as outside of Canada and are "allowed" into Canada through government multiculturalism.

Despite disagreeing with many aspects of his article, it's always nice to hear someone else voicing the same things you are - makes you think you're not alone in left field!

Despite these recognitions of cleavage in Canadian society, we as voters are presented with dismal options. On one side is Liberalism which champions multiculturalism as the way - except that their version is predicated on individual right which only seek to fragment cultural groups and assimilate them into a homogeneous Canada and which creates "Real Canadians" and "hyphenated Canadians"; and on the other side are the Conservatives who can't even be bothered to put on the facade of multiculturalism or inclusiveness in completely ignoring any issue that is not white, straight, upper class, and male. Uggggghh.

Especially after such national fervor that the Olympics inspired, it is hard to see how Canada or its people could be accused of racism - Hell, we let the Natives dance! Our medals has Native motifs and so did our hockey jerseys! It's easy to say that racism is in the past.

Dionne Brand says, "Only the brazen can say, "I was not here, I did not do this and feel that." One hears that all the time in Canada; about what they feel they are and are not responsible for. People use these arguments as reasons for not doing what is right or just. It never occurs to them that they live on the cumulative hurt of others. They want to start the clock of social justice only when they arrived. But one is born into history, one isn't born into a void" [italics mine] (A Map to the Door of No Return, 82).

Beyond this, not only is Canada built on the exploitation of others it still continues today in less explicit (sometimes) ways. It's impossible to choose impartiality or neutralism as a position.

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