- Revisiting Multiculturalism in Canada: Theories, Debates and Issues ed. by Shibao Guo and Lloyd Wong
2016 was the 45th anniversary of Canadian Multicultural policy. That anniversary passed with barely a political whisper. Perhaps this is understandable. Canada had lots of other issues to consider in late 2015 and early 2016. The media was obsessed with whether Senators were fiddling with their expenses in order to make a few extra dollars at the public trough. With a hotly contested election in the fall, 2015 quickly led to the country becoming obsessed with the Syrian refugee crisis and whether the Liberals were going to be able to live up to their commitments to resettle 25,000 by the end of the year. As a new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau and his new Cabinet had a steep learning curve, and so it is not that surprising that the celebration of the sapphire anniversary of this policy fell through the political cracks. Yet, despite this silence, ‘multiculturalism’ casts a long shadow, and is highly relevant for the many issues the country is currently facing.
Shibao Guo and Lloyd Wong’s edited collection of essays in Revisiting Multiculturalism in Canada is a refreshing examination of the meaning and implications of the policy in the country today. Such an examination is particularly appropriate because, as the editors note, over the past decade several high profile political leaders in other Western countries have publically distanced themselves from their iterations of the policy. Canada seems to stand alone in its continuing commitment to the policy, and for the relatively widespread public support the policy still garnishes. The main aim of the volume is to expose readers to the broad range of “theoretical issues and debates with critical analysis of multiculturalism” (8). But and more importantly, the collection also presents specific case studies that are organized around thematic topics related to multiculturalism, such as policing, diaspora communities, divided loyalties and education.
The volume contains eighteen chapters and is organized into five sections. Will Kymlicka’s essay on ‘The Three Lives of Multiculturalism’ nicely sets the tone for Section I (‘Theorizing and Debating Multiculturalism’) by arguing that there have been three stages to multiculturalism. He identifies three historical logics to the policy—ethnicity, race and racialization, and now religion. The issues underlying these three logics have varied, and Kymlicka’s chapter is devoted mainly to how multiculturalism can help our [End Page 175] society work through faith-based claims for representation and recognition. John Berry’s chapter on ‘Intercultural Relations in Plural Societies’ is a good overview of the empirical research on the nature of intercultural relations and focuses on the level of empirical support for what he terms the multiculturalism hypothesis, integration hypothesis and contact hypothesis. Chapter three, titled ‘A Canadian Anomaly’ by Elke Winter, examines the relationship between Quebec nationalism and multiculturalism, the factors that account for the consolidation of multiculturalism as the dominant discourse of national identity in the 1990s, and the ways in which the policy is now being rearticulated to promote a pan-Canadian identity. Lloyd Wong’s chapter on ‘Multiculturalism and Ethnic Pluralism in Sociology’ is a critical analysis of the sociological literature that views the policy as a source of social fragmentation. Sourayan Mookerjea’s chapter ‘Multiculturalism and Egalitarianism’ focuses on what the reasonable accommodation debate and the Herouxville affair tell us about the way multiculturalism and racism are changing in Canada. The final chapter, by Ho Hong Leung, titled ‘Canadian Multiculturalism in the 21st Century’ explores how the policy ought to move forward to take into account ethno-religious diversity in the wider context of the country’s commitment to democracy and equality.
Section II, ‘Multiculturalism, Ethnicity and Belonging’, begins with a very interesting chapter by Shibao Guo and Yan Guo on how multicultural policy is implemented on the ground. They focus on the tensions between immigration, ethnicity and minority rights through an investigation of two organizations—one in Calgary and one in Edmonton—that were initially formed to help Chinese...