Progressive Conservative Prime Minister (1957–1963) John Diefenbaker loved the Union Jack and the British Commonwealth but strove to build a more inclusive, pan-Canadian democracy. His post-war slogan “unhyphenated Canadianism,” however, came to sound like bulling rather than an assertion of equality by a German immigrant’s son in a predominantly WASP society.
After his defeat in 1963, Canadian leaders tried another approach: official multiculturalism. Making multiculturalism a constitutionally recognized national policy was something we could do that Americans emphatically wouldn’t. In doing so we demonstrated, at little expense, that we’re different.
America’s extraordinary melting-pot continues to make Americans out of immigrants from every corner of the globe. However, according to the prevailing Canadian narrative of the last forty years, that social phenomenon is strictly American. For most of our history, Immigrants to the Dominion of Canada became British subjects, with a difference. Today, on our more subtle side of the border, we practice multiculturalism—a social dynamic more self-consciously respectful of collective/group identities and less charged with small-liberal enthusiasms.
But, are we really different? Do we respond differently to immigrants, minority communities, and the stresses of social change? Angus Reid reported last week that we’re rather divided on whether we believe our own slogan and kind of like America’s.
Across the country, 55% of respondents think multiculturalism has been good for Canada, while 30% believe the policy has been bad. British Columbians (65%) express the highest level of admiration for multiculturalism, while Quebecers (49%) are at the bottom end.
More than half of respondents (54%) believe Canada should be a melting pot, while one third of Canadians (33%) endorse the concept of the mosaic. The melting pot is particularly attractive for Quebecers (64%), Albertans (60%) and respondents over the age of 55. The mosaic gets its best marks among British Columbians (42%) and respondents aged 18 to 34 (47%).
Angus Reid Public Opinion, “Canadians Endorse Multiculturalism, But Pick Melting Pot Over Mosaic,” from November 2 to November 3, 2010