Canadian Mosaic - the policy b
Title: Canadian Mosaic - the policy behind the pieces
Author: James Armstrong
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Canada has long been called "The Mosaic", due to the fact that it is made up of a varied mix of races, cultures and ethnicities. As more and more immigrants come to Canada searching for a better life, the population naturally becomes more diverse. This has, in turn, spun a great debate over multiculturalism. Some of the issues under fire are the political state's policies concerning multiculturalism, the attitudes of Canadians around these policies, immigration, the global market, and a central point is the education and how to present the material in a way so as to offend the least amount of people. There are many variations on these themes as will be discussed in this paper. In the 1930's several educators called for programs of cultural diversity that encouraged ethnic and minority students to study their respective heritages. This is not a simple feat due to the fact that there is much diversity within individual cultures. A look at the 1991 Canadian census shows that the population has changed more noticeable in the last ten years than in any other time in the twentieth century, with one out of four Canadians identifying themselves as black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Metis or Native. (Gould 1995: 198) Most people, from educators to philosophers, agree that an important first step in succe4ssfully joining multiple cultures is to develop an understanding of each others background. However, the similarities stip there. One problem is defining the tem "multiculturalism". When it is looked at simply as meaning the existence of a culturally integrated society, many people have no problems. However, when you go beyond that and try to suggest a different way of arriving at theat culturally integrated society, everyone seems to have a different opinion on what will work. Since education is at the root of the problem, it might be appropriate to use an example in that context. In 1980, the American school, Stanford University came up with a program - later known as the "Stanford-style multicultural curriculum" which aimed to familiarize students with traditions, philosophy, literature and history of the West. The program consisted of fifteen required books by writers such as Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Aquinas, Marx and Freud. By 1987, a group called the Rainbow Coalition argued the fact that the books were all written by DWEM's or Dead White European Males. They felt that this type of teaching denied students the knowledge of contributions by people of colour, women, and other oppressed groups. In 1987, the faculty voted 39-4 to change the curriculum and do away with the fifteen book requirement and the term "Western" for the study of at least one non-European culture and proper attention to be given to the issues of race and gender. (Gould 1995: 201). Because Canadian University's also followed a similar plan, even though this example took place in the United States it centered on issues that effect multiculturalism in all North America. This debate was very important because its publicity provided the grounds for the argument that Canada is a pluralistic society and to study only one people would not accurately portray what really makes up this country. Proponents of multicultural education argue that it offers students a balanced appreciation and critique of other cultures as well as our own. (Stotsky 1992:64) While it is common sense that one could not have a true understanding of a subject by only possessing knowledge of one side of it, this brings up the fact that there would never be enough time in our current school year to equally cover the contributions of each individual nationality. This leaves teachers with two options. The first would be to lengthen the school year, which is highly unlikely because of the political aspects of the situation. The other choice is to modify the curriculum to only include what the instructor (the school) feels are the most important contributions, which again leaves them open for criticism from groups that feel they are not being equally treated. A national standard is out of the question because of the fact that different parts of the country contain certain concentrations of nationalities. An example of this is the high concentration of Asians in British Columbia or Blacks in the East. Nonetheless, teachers are at the top of the agenda when it comes to multiculturalism. They can do the most for children during the early years of learning, when kids are most impressionable. By engaging students in activities that follow the lines of their multicultural curriculum, they can open young minds while making learning fun. In one first grade classroom in Vancouver, an inventive teacher used the minority students to her advantage by making them her helpers as she taught the rest of the class some Chinese words and customs. This newly acquired vocabulary formed a common bond among the children in their early years, an appropriate time for learning respect and understanding. (Pyszkowski 1994: 154) In order to give a well rounded multicultural discussion, as James Banks explains, teachers need to let students know how knowledge reflects the social, political and economic context in which it was created. Knowledge explained by powerful groups in society differs greatly from that of its less powerful counterparts. (Banks 1991:11) For example, it should be pointed out how early Canadians are most often called "pioneers" or "settlers" in social studies texts, while foreigners are called "immigrants". They should realize that to Natives, pioneers were actually the immigrants, but since the "pioneers" later went on to write the textbooks, it is not usually described that way. Another important aspect students need to realize is that knowledge alone isn't enough to shape society. The members themselves have to be willing to put forth the time and effort and show an interest in shaping their society in order for it to benefit all people. There certainly is no easy answer to the problem of multicultural education. Proponents will continue to argue the benefits that unfortunately seem to be too far out of reach for our imperfect society. The hard truth is that it is impossible for our public school system to fairly cater to hundreds of nationalities that already exist, let alone the hundreds more that are projected to arrive during the next century. In order for us to live together in the same society, we must sometimes be willing to overlook parts of our distant past in exchange for a new hope in the future. Our countries sense of nationalism and identity is based in our attitudes toward multiculturalism. This is one thing that separates us from the Americans or any other westernized country. In 1991 the Department of Multiculturalism and Citizenship were contracted to provide public opinion information that was to be used for developing policy, public educations and communications initiatives. (N.S.R. 1991: 2) The research objectives were to: Study the values and view shared by Canadians on Canadian identity, citizenship and ethnic diversity. To measure the degree of public understanding, acceptance and support of the government's multiculturalism policy and of the distinctive elements of that policy. To establish the current character of public attitudes related to the ethnocultural diversity, racial discrimination and multiculturalism policies, as well as their role in Canadian nation building. To identify the key demographic, social and psycho-social factors which have an impact on perceptions of citizenship, multiculturalism and race relations within Canada...and to identify the thrusts for long-term public education initiatives in support of the government's multiculturalism policies. (N.S.R. 1991:3) The survey found high levels of Canadian values and identity. 89% of those surveyed identified with being Canadian while only 6% did not. Six in ten described a "deep emotional attachment to Canada" and 95% believe they can be proud of being a citizen as well as being proud of their ancestry at the same time. There is much ethnic diversity in Canada and there are four out of five citizens that live in neighborhoods with some or many persons of different ethnic or racial backgrounds. In fact, 40% of people surveyed said they have family members of different ethnic or racial backgrounds. 79% said they believed "multiculturalism is vital to uniting Canada and 90% believed that promoting equality among Canadians of all origins regardless of racial or ethnic origin was important. (N.S.R. 1991:26) One of the biggest steps forward in achieving a ethnically diverse country is the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. It was passed unanimously by the Parliament of Canada in 1988. The Preamble declares that its aim is to preserve and enhance multiculturalism by promoting the recognition of Canada's ethnocultural diversity: ...the Government of Canada recognizes the diversity of Canadians as regards...national or ethnic origin, colour and religion, as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society, and its committed to a policy of multiculturalism designed to preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of Canadians while working to achieve the equality of all Canadians in the economic, social, cultural and political life of Canada...(C.M.A. 1988:3) Our growing ethnocultural diversity requires making certain adjustments to ensure that all Canadians can participate fully in our society. The policy enables the integration of minority Canadians while encouraging our institutions to remove discriminatory barriers. (Blackman 1993: 29) On similar lines with the Multicultural Act is the Employment Equity Act because both involve dealing with minorities. The Employment Equity Act was proclaimed in 1986 to achieve equity in employment. Employers covered by this Act must ensure that members of four general groups achieve equitable representation and participation in the work force. These four groups are women, Aboriginal people, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities. This concern with members of visible minority groups and Aboriginal people, among the other groups, means that the Employment Equity Act also arises from the fact of Canada as a multicultural society. Both policies seek to gain the commitment of federal institutions to employ, manage and serve all Canadians fairly and equally. This, too, may account for some of the confusion. However, there are several important distinctions between the policies: Employment Equity focuses on the workplace, whereas multiculturalism policy, which has strong social, cultural, political and economic dimensions, has a wider scope and focuses on the whole of society. Multiculturalism addresses all Canadians, not just ethnocultural communities. Employment Equity focuses on four designated groups: women, Aboriginal people, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities. Employment Equity has an enforcement or regulatory aspect. Thus organizations that do not comply with its provisions can be penalized. Multiculturalism policy, on the other hand, is persuasive and has a political accountability mechanism, which is the annual report on implementation that is tabled before a House of Commons committee. (Blackman 1993: 105) The government has a broad frame-work of Acts, Bills and Amendments that each draw strength from the others. The preamble of the C.M.A. puts the act within the middle of this broad frame-work. Some of the other pieces of legislation and policy that the C.M.A. draws upon are: The Citizen Act (1947) ...