Toronto Sun: Multiculturalism Trudeau's gift to Canada

by , under All categories, Enrique

Comment: Multiculturalism is a highly misunderstood concept today and on the defensive in many parts of the world except for Canada, where it was first introduced in 1971 by then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

One of the problems with the term is that it is defined differently by different groups. Far-right and populist anti-immigration parties define it as an immigration policy (sic!) that permits Muslims and Africans from moving to Europe.

Writes the Toronto Sun: “It was the first policy of its kind in the world, recognizing that while Canada had two official languages, the country hosted many other cultures.”

There are officially only three countries in the world that use multiculturalism as a social policy. These are Canada, Australia and Britain.

Finland isn’t officially a multicultural country (social policy) although Finns use the term to broadly mean a society made up of “many cultures.”

Peter Kivisto defined multiculturalism in the following way: “Multiculturalism refers to a view that ethnically or religiously diverse societies should protect and promote diversity and should be based on both individual and group rights.”

Thank you Sirpa Utriainen for the heads up!


By Sharon Lem

TORONTO – Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was a visionary about the way different cultures in Canada co-exist today,” says the CEO of the Multicultural History Society of Ontario (MHSO), Dora Nipp. As 2011 draws to a close, so does the 40th anniversary of the commencement of Canada’s policy of Multiculturalism, spearheaded by Trudeau and adopted in 1971.

Read whole story.

  1. Martin-Éric

    I wouldn’t call Trudeau’s policy visionary. Far from it. Instead, he managed to ostracise both the arboriginal nations and the French speakers of the country. His policies also resulted in a country where the incentive for immigrants to learn either French or English is essentially non-existent. Heck, I still remember a bilingual sign that was posted at the exit of the Mirabel airport’s parking lot, just before entering the expressway to Montréal, at least until the airport’s purpose was changed from international passenger flights to private charters and freight:

    Welcome to Canada! Our two official languages are English and French, but please feel welcome to speak whatever language makes you feel at home in our country.

    However, in a creepy way, Finland’s integration policy is indeed aligned with the one established by Trudeau for Canada: immigrants are discouraged from learning to speak Swedish and no mention is made of the Samé language whatsoever.

    • Enrique

      Hi Martin-Éric, I think you underestimate Pierre Trudeau and what he did to Canada through multiculturalism. Those countries where multiculturalism has been implemented as a social policy (England and Australia as well), it has played an important role in keeping the country from splintering into independent countries. Canada is a good case between the English- and French-speaking Canadians. In England we have a similar situation with Wales and Scotland. Multiculturalism is, as you know, applied differently in all three of the countries.

      Identity is a precious quality that people have. One of the ways we express that identity is through language. The issue, if you permit me to generalize, doesn’t revolve around “ungrateful immigrants who don’t want to adapt” but on the lack of mutual acceptance of diversity. My father never learned to speak English well but the United States gave him the opportunity to excel and prosper educationally and professionally.

      As you know, multiculturalism is on the defensive these days except for in Canada. Lots of people speak of “interculturalism” these days.

  2. Seppo

    “immigrants are discouraged from learning to speak Swedish”

    You are probably right, Martin-Eric, but please still tell me how is that?

    As far as I know, immigrants moving to Swedish-dominated areas are indeed learning Swedish. Where both languages are spoken, immigrants can choose whether they want to start learning Swedish or Finnish. There are cases where most immigrants choose to start taking Finnish classes in stead of Swedish in places like Hanko (languages 55% Fi – 45 % Swe) but it is quite understandable since the experience shows that many immigrants decide to eventually move from smaller towns to bigger cities out of which all are Finnish-dominated.

    In Helsinki Swedish for immigrants is offered for free by Luckan and some of my immigrant friends have indeed chosen to use this opportunity.

    The unfortunate reality is that in places like Helsinki there are very few jobs where you could manage in Swedish only and I think it is only fair to say this out loud also to the immigrants moving in.

    • Martin-Éric

      Actually, integration classes in Swedish are only offered in Närpes, nowadays. In Jakobstad and Vaasa, while they indeed try to organize one Swedish group every year, they still prefer to send people to Finnish integration classes.

      Everywhere else, including in Helsinki, no integration classes are offered in Swedish.

      The Luckan classes you are refering to (which have recently been taken over by Arbis after they became coordinators of Delaktig i Finland) are not covered by the Integration Act and therefore not paid for by the employment office; they are only voluntary general culture classes and they haven’t been free after the pilot project that was paid by Kulturfonden took place a couple of years ago. Also, they only take place a couple of afternoons per week, whereas integration classes in Finnish span 15 to 20 hours per week, which generally means four full days per week.

  3. Seppo

    OK, doesn’t sound good. But is it really that “they still prefer to send people to Finnish integration classes” or that the people actually prefer to choose Finnish classes? Not a good thing from the point of view of the Swedish language in Finland, but I understand the immigrants who make this choice.

    • Martin-Éric

      As repeatedly found when surveyed by the Swedophone media and by Helsinki Times, most immigrants would prefer to go the easy way and learn Swedish first, if they were given a choice, if only because it’s easier to learn if someone comes from a Western language.

  4. justicedemon

    I have a firm recollection of a Somali friend from Jakobstad who was extremely pissed off at his administrative exclusion from 98 per cent of the Swedish-speaking labour market (and 99.9999 per cent of the English-speaking labour market as well). His Swedish was fluent enough to participate actively in local party politics and he was otherwise highly qualified academically.

    It’s like training a busload of students for the occupation of piloting a Martian expedition, while knowing all along that there will only ever be one vacancy for course graduates in their lifetime.

    Swedish is fine for those who have access to all of the Nordic countries, but immigrants face various artificial administrative obstacles that prevent or penalise travelling.

    • Martin-Éric

      More to the point, refugees face artifical obstacles to their mobility within the Nordic area. Other types of immigrants generally have more leaway.

      However, true enough, formal knowledge of Swedish is, as far as Finland is concerned, a corner-case skill that is mostly useful in the rare case that someone aims for a career in the public sector or, in the private sector, in export sales for the Nordic territory. The former is indeed akin to your Martian expedition training metaphor, since landing any significant position in the public sector already is considered quite an achievement even for Finns. However, the later is a somewhat more common type of occupation for which expats, at the very least, tend to have a natural inclination.

  5. justicedemon


    The artificial obstacles that I was primarily thinking about are the statutes governing naturalisation in various countries. At least in principle these are the same for all immigrants, including those whose mobility within the Community has been enhanced by Treaty Guarantees and recent EU Directives.

    The problem is that an applicant for naturalisation may suffer an administrative penalty for exercising a Community mobility right. This is a genuine difficulty in which Member States must find an effective compromise between the right of immigrants to access the common labour market and the reasonable requirements of the State concerning the degree of individual immigrant integration.

    We have attempted to find such a compromise in Finland, but in my view we remain a bit too reliant on assumed indicators of integration (length of continuous residence, marriage), as opposed to directly measurable evidence of integration (e.g. language competence, social involvement).

    My personal view is that after a certain standard of language competence is achieved it should at least be possible to apply aggregate residence and not continuous residence as a naturalisation criterion, and also to allow for factors such as geographical location of the family home.

    It should also not be beyond the wit of the Nordic Council to introduce rules that liberate immigrants to travel more freely within the Nordic zone for the purpose of employment.

    • Martin-Éric

      Oh, the punitive nature of Citizenship Acts against conreticized mobility indeed has to be reviewed (heck, I should know; I personally suffered from it one too many times), but you’ll likewise notice that given these enlarged Community rights, the need for someone holding a permanent resident status to acquire citizenship is much smaller than it was.

  6. getgln

    Enrique, how would one find out what the social policy is for a country? How do we know that the U.S. does not have multiculturalism as a social policy? Is it just based on one official national language vs. more than one official national language?

    • Enrique

      Hi Glenn, great to hear from you and thank you for the good questions, which highlights much of the confusion and debate concerning what multiculturalism is. As you know, another problem with assessing multiculturalism in those countries where it is an official social policy (Canada, Britain and Australia) is that it is applied differently in each of those countries.

      At a seminar we asked if Finland is a multicultural country since politicians, policy makers and even the public use the term. Even if the constitution Finland and its laws promote and defend diversity there is no mention that we are a “multicultural” society in these laws.

      I asked a question at the seminar: “If the term multicultural were mentioned in our Constitution and laws as an adjective would we be then that type of a society?”

      There was no answer.

      What does the U.S. define itself as a society? Is it a mosaic? Does it call itself officially a multicultural society? If so, based on which model? Are politicians, like the far right in Europe, defining the term as an immigration policy that lets in too many Muslims and Africans? Or does multiculturalism mean a country “where many cultures coexist?”

      Would you call the U.S. a mosaic of cultures? Taking into account the role of the Spanish language in California, that would place integration policies of the state far from Canadian multiculturalism.

  7. Allan

    USA is based on the principle of “freedom” so for example USA doesn’t have an “official national language”. Along the lines of “freedom” – USA has “diversity” rather than “multiculturalism” as the key element – you can be as diverse as you want, as long at the end of the day you are “American”.