Social divergence

A dramatic departure from the strictly positive course of the late 1990s and 2000s has been the key reversal in cultural trends. This is something that has been underway for many months. This "social divergence" has been an underlying trend in our social moods. When spirits are rising, there follow feelings of social brotherhood and acceptance of various races. The converse, low morale, leads to a tide of discontent and, among other things, hostility toward outsiders, other races, and groups, typical of a general state of mind in a weak economy.

Society in Canada over the post-war decades has become increasingly multicultural, accommodating many culturally distinct groups.  Most people here hitherto have accepted that change, and were justifiably proud of our diverse population.

Few people like change, so it is understandable but inexcusable that new immigrants add to our anxieties about the composition of our community. More than two-thirds of immigrants over the past year have come from China, India, and the Philippines, and the immigration from the Caribbean area also has soared. The resulting multiculturalism has become a matter of some controversy. Negative attitudes have been accentuated by a sliding economy.

The rising tide of gang violence in our major cities has heightened tensions on this issue. Some advocate racial profiling, as they attribute the recent incidence of gang "warfare" to immigrants from those unfamiliar sources. That is most unfortunate, as the problem is not the ethnicity of the troublemakers, but rather the unavailability of economic opportunities coupled with the lack of adequate training.

There are several reasons why anti-multiculturalism is wrong. First, left to their own devices these "different" immigrants are hard-working and law-abiding. Teachers report that these new immigrants are better behaved and more conscientious than the general population.

Then too, multicultural critics tend to focus on easy targets, such as the requirement that female voters be unveiled or the right to wear certain clothes as members of the RCMP. What this says is that the rest of the population needs improved cultural preparation. Long ago there was antagonism toward Roman Catholics, but that eventually was dissipated. Similarly, discrimination against those with certain sexual preferences is diminishing, notably among young people. To avoid any ruckus, more understanding will help avoid prejudices.

Also, there should be an appreciation of the contributions that multiculturalism has brought about in our economy. All immigrants are consumers and they fill jobs that many are reluctant to take. Their pay helps to maintain social insurance and pensions as viable.

The only caveat here is that our immigration officials must try to dispel the feeling that there is an aversion to accepting immigrants from traditional countries, such as European ones. Widespread rumours about that should be quelled. Then multiculturalism would be accepted by almost everyone, as an excellent example of the best in Canada.



Bruce Whitestone