Interculturalism: A View from Quebec by Gérard Bouchard (review)
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Reviewed by
Gérard Bouchard. Interculturalism: A View from Quebec. Translated by Howard Scott. Foreword by Charles Taylor. University of Toronto Press. xi, 224. $27.95

This book presents an understanding of how the challenges posed to democratic societies by cultural and ethnic pluralism should be met in Quebec. Bouchard occupies the Canada Research Chair in Collective Imaginaries at the Université du Québec á Chicoutimi and co-chaired with Charles Taylor the Bouchard-Taylor Commission in 2007–2008. Quebec is a minority nation within Canadian federalism and a cultural minority in North America. Its Francophone culture is continually threatened by the cultural influence of larger Canadian and American English-speaking populations bordering it. Globalization has increased the number and the cultural and religious diversity of immigrants entering it. This has led to a liberal concern with the rights of individuals being matched by a concern for the collective right of Quebec as a nation to preserve its unique identity. A key question is how to balance these concerns. Interculturalism is Bouchard's answer to how Quebec's distinctive Francophone culture can be maintained along with an openness to the cultural contributions of ethnic minorities.

Bouchard argues that a society's guiding ideals emerge from its history, but that societies are also human projects, shaped partly by the collective decisions their populations make in light of these ideals. He understands Quebec's Francophone culture to be a dynamic reality able to maintain its identity and ethos while being enriched by other minority cultures in its midst. Interculturalism has evolved since the Quiet Revolution to become the de facto approach to cultural pluralism in Quebec, as an alternative to federal multiculturalism. It is an integrative pluralism, which balances the promotion of French language and culture as foundational to Quebec with recognition of the rights of ethnocultural minorities within this larger whole and their contribution to it. Interculturalism intends that the Francophone majority culture and the minority cultures of Quebec, while remaining distinct, interact to produce a third shared culture. The state should intervene to ensure that French is the language of this shared culture and that fundamental civic values are maintained, but its interventions must not violate citizens' basic rights.

Bouchard compares interculturalism with Canadian multiculturalism, which he argues is becoming similar to the former. He then defends interculturalism against various criticisms, presenting it as a golden mean based on a principle of double recognition – the need to a) protect Quebec's majority culture and b) recognize the rights and contributions of cultural minorities. Bouchard argues that interculturalism includes opposition to unjust power relationships and economic inequality and exclusion, as these [End Page 147] create divisions in society. Interculturalism seeks an egalitarian as well as an integrated society.

Bouchard's interculturalism affirms an inclusive secularism. Here religion is understood broadly to include moral ideals and basic convictions concerning reality. As a society's guiding ideals emerge from its history, it is impossible to firmly separate religion from culture in a society like Quebec, where Roman Catholicism was once a major social influence. Accordingly, some Christian practices, symbols, and artifacts are part of Quebec's cultural heritage. Inclusive secularism recognizes this, yet also seeks to accommodate religious diversity within the fundamental values of Quebec society. Such values include the equality of women and men and basic human rights. This warrants both freedom of religion and some limitation on its practice.

Interculturalism is an articulate, insightful, well-reasoned, and upbeat book. Bouchard argues that the outlook for what he proposes is promising, both in Quebec and in other societies with majority/minority cultural relationships. Hopefully history will prove him right. This translation of his book offers English Canadians an insightful and important window on the ethos and debates on cultural matters in Quebec, from a moderate but resolute Francophone perspective.

Don Schweitzer
Department of Theology, St. Andrew's College
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