I make no apologies for extolling the virtues of Canadian multiculturalism
Stabroek News
March 8, 2002

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Dear Editor,

I refer to a letter captioned "Multiculturalism in Canada" [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] (1/3/2002). I am fully aware of the plight endured by First Nations and Aboriginal Peoples. I have resided and worked in Northern Ontario, a location I still visit every summer. I am, therefore, fully aware of the experience of First Nations Peoples in places such as Wa Wa, Sault Ste. Marie, Thunder Bay, White River, Blind River, Sudbury, Batchewana, and Timmins. I am slso well aware of what happened in Oka, Quebec, and has been happening in Nova Scotia, Edmonton, and Prince Edward Island.

It is precisely because of my familiarity with these matters that I make no apologies to anyone for extolling the virtues of Canadian multiculturalism. I state, with equal force, that it was Archbishop, Edward Scot, a Canadian who headed an Eminent Persons' Commonwealth Group to racist South Africa. Their work was crucial to the dismantling of apartheid. The person who played a very significant role in the formation of that Group was ex conservative Prime Minister, Mr. Brian Mulroney. He was steadfast in his commitment to economic scantions against the White supremacist regime. At the Federal level, Canadians are not unfamiliar with the work of a Department of Native Affairs and Multiculturalism. The latter was once headed by Dr. Hedi Fry, who has not abolished her Caribbean heritage.Nor has Jean Agustine, who arrived in Canada as a domestic, rose to a senior administrative position in the Ontario school system, and served as Prime Minister, Jean Chretien's special parliamentary assistant.

Mulroney, Agustine, and Fry have dispensed their reponsibilities in a society pervaded by multiculturalism which is fewer than fifty years old.While they have stood resolutely against efforts to balkanise Canada, they have not been so naive as to assume that Canadian multiculturalism is a panacea for the riddles of racism or ethnocentrism. Parliamentary democracy is much older than Canadian multiculturalism. So are communism and other socio political arrangements within many societies. Dare I say that in these societies, people of the same races and ethnic groups kill each other? Further, while performing their gruesome acts in the name of ethnic nationalism, perpetrators are quite committed to knowing "atrocities of their past history." I am referring to societies researchers would not have considered as possible candidates for the category, "best" country.

It is in the "best" country that Herb Dhaliwall, Federal Fisheries Minister, has been responsible for dealing with the problem of fishing rights. Minister Dhaliwall is of Sikh heritage. So is Ujal Dosanjh, who was once Attorney General and Premier of British Columbia.Mr. James Bartleman, the person recently appointed to the post of Lieutenant Governor, Ontario, is of First Nation background. I do not wish to forget Madam Clarkson, Canada's current Governor General. The list can go on and on, not because I want to sing the praises of liberal integrationism. Countless other individuals of South Asian and South East Asian backgrounds have benefited from the validity of Canada's multicultural diversity and have been making remarkable contributions to the progress of their new country. I can make the same case on behalf of individuals from the Anglo Caribbean who are not just located in the political field.

Unlike the writer, I do not recline within those troughs of hope where other things are expected to "heal some very nasty wounds". The contributors noted above have been using their creative talents to ensure that legacies left by the man for whom the writer shed tears are not squandered. I have no doubt that they have done their research on multiculturalism. I did mine, several years ago, and am still doing it. Liberal multiculturalism is merely one version of multiculturalism. There are other versions: racial essentialism, corporate multiculturalism, as well as radical democratic multiculturalism, which I have been careful to recommend for the post colonial Anglo Caribbean. In a global setting where much vaunted talk about connections among meritocracy, diversity, formal and substantive equality is publicised, there is ample room for ascertaining the validity of Canada's example to the rest of the world. I urge the writer to explore this expanse.

Yours faithfully,

Dr. William H. Walcott, F.R.S.A.