Canadians are more tolerant: Michael Adams

Written by  //  November 21, 2007  //  Canada, Immigration/migration, Rights & Social justice  //  Comments Off on Canadians are more tolerant: Michael Adams

21 November 2007

The Bouchard-Taylor hearings aside, Canadians are more tolerant
There is a growing backlash against suggestions we are not accommodating
MICHAEL ADAMS, Freelance, The Gazette

“I have often regretted my speech, never my silence,” Greek philosopher Xenocrates said. One wonders whether, when the Bouchard-Taylor commission on reasonable accommodation has aired the thoughts of every Quebecer who chooses to take the microphone, the province (and indeed the rest of Canada) will feel satisfaction or regret.
There is certainly a segment of the Canadian population that believes it has been silent for too long. These Canadians believe that their country has failed to proclaim its values, principles and demands to the quarter-million immigrants who arrive in this country each year. Wimpy Canadian tolerance has ceded the field to robust foreign zealotry.
No more, these agitated souls say. They will no longer be kept silent by the tyranny of political correctness. They will give voice to their simmering anger – and the real voice of Canada (and/or Quebec) will finally resound.
… Environics polling finds that there has been a recent spasm of concern about the integration of newcomers into Canadian society. Between 2005 and 2006, the proportion of Canadians believing that “Too many immigrants do not adopt Canadian values” jumped to 65 per cent from 58 per cent. This is not a trivial finding, but nor is it the whole story.
Canadian attitudes toward immigrants remain overwhelmingly positive, and when viewed in international perspective are truly exceptional. Canada has the highest immigration rate in the world, but when asked if this country accepts too many immigrants, most of us say no. And when Canadians are asked to name in their own words the biggest problem facing the country, diversity issues don’t even make the list.
Canadians are by far the most likely of any G8 country to say immigrants are good for the country, and that immigrants help the economy grow rather than take “jobs from other Canadians.” In naming things that make them proud to be Canadian, more Canadians say multiculturalism than hockey or bilingualism.
On all these questions, Canadians have been growing increasingly open and welcoming over the past 15 to 20 years. The broad trend in this country is toward openness and respect for minority groups, including those who arrive in Canada as immigrants. This is not to say that Canadians of various backgrounds are not concerned about the integration of newcomers into Canadian society. Canada has the highest immigration rate in the world and the second-highest foreign-born population share. There are bound to be some challenges – and some charged debate about how to respond to those challenges.
But Canadians should not allow the squeaky wheels at the Bouchard-Taylor hearings or the edicts of the Hérouxville town council to loom too large in their perceptions of how diversity is working in this country. Instead of relying on the residents of Hérouxville, a rural community of 1,300 (whose residents, according to the census, are so diverse that they are 100 per cent French-speaking, 96 per cent Roman Catholic and 0.7 per cent foreign-born) to tell us how things are going, why not listen to the residents of Canada’s largest cities, cities which are among the most diverse urban centres on the planet?
Residents of Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver are invariably the most supportive of immigration and the most positive about the contributions immigrants make to Canadian society. These are the people living the experience of the diverse society, and they say it’s working.
…Canadian idealism has a spine. It is made of our laws, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, an unwavering commitment to gender equality, and a belief that under conditions of fairness, dialogue and – yes – accommodation, people who are different from each other in some ways can share a harmonious, prosperous society. Complete article
Michael Adams is president of the Environics group of companies. His latest book, Unlikely Utopia: The Surprising Triumph of Canadian Pluralism, was released this month.

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