If you are a child of the immigrant experience in Canada, as I am, you will notice some bizarre contradictions about the Canadian Identity. First, some Canadians are more equal than others. On the top rung of our Jacob’s ladder squat those of British Anglo-Saxon stock; on the second rung, the francophone. Hanging precariously on the last step are Canada’s Indians. All wrung out, somewhere betwixt and between, are the peoples of the prayer shawl, the egg roll and the perogie— Third Force Canadians in the official press releases of Multiculturalism Canada, third-place ethnics to the rest of the country.
In the land of the Maple Leaf the Anglo and the Franco are the real Canadians. The ethnic is hyphenated, an exotic whose spicy foods, virile dances and congenital happiness bring Disneyland delight to all the repressed puritans. Not only is the Canadian ethnic hyphenated from and unequal to our two founding peoples, but in no way is he central to the myth-making and historical processes of this country; the ethnic’s economic contribution has been strictly proletarian, his political clout, pure parish-pump. The United States welcomed millions of Slavs, Italians, Jews, Germans and Irish. Through its Tammany Halls, ethnic America controlled the statehouses and mayors’ chairs of the United States’ biggest cities and states; soon their votes controlled the presidency. There was nothing unequal and hyphenated about the American ethnic—he was at the very centre of the American Dream.
The Canadian Dream boasts no Tammany Halls. The teeming masses who came to Canada were, for the most part, displaced Ulstermen, Lancashiremen, Scotsmen or Americans. These immigrants never became hyphenated or unequal. These so-called Canadian immigrants didn’t need the reassuring myth of the sturdy East European peasant, wife in harness, battling the elements in 40 dialects, to sustain them. These newcomers of British stock left the pitiful shards of that hollow fable to the Canadian Slavs, Jews and Germans who were small in number and, consequently, politically and economically weak.
In Canada nativism, not newcomers, was the order of the day. Herein lies the most bizarre irony of all: the Canada that barred, hyphenated or put down its ethnics in the past is today in a frenzy to spend millions in multiculturalism grants to put the sheepskin back into ethnic coats. Millions more are spent on human rights commissions to determine whether “honky” is more offensive than “limey” or “frenchie” or as offensive as “kike” and “dago.” If Winston Churchill were alive and well in Canada today, he could no longer call Germans “huns”; his ringing oratory could only embrace the acceptable human rights phrase, “members of the Teutonic persuasion.”
In the Miracle Mart of multiculturalism the Canadian taxpayer watches as, in the name of “heritage” programs, he pays for Polish and Swahili Canadians to be taught in Polish and Swahili in the supposedly all-Canadian public school, and during the regular school day to boot. Few people ask whether Swahili or Polish are spoken in the home; if they are, why then teach them in public schools? If not, the public school lessons
How is it that-, in a country like ours, so many people have to pay so much to preserve the culture of so few?
are a waste of time. Nor does anyone suggest that ethnic children attend private ethnic community-run schools to learn their heritage as literally thousands of ethnic children before them, like myself, have done for decades.
In the land of the nonethnic, multiculturalism is everywhere. State-licensed multicultural TV stations, between Leave It to Beaver reruns, broadcast in everything from “Laplandese” to Siamese. WASP liberals who wouldn’t know a Bessarabian from a regular Arab now have excellent jobs as ethnic folk communicators in multicultural ministries across the country.
How is it possible that, in a country like ours, where the foreign and immigrant experience is truly alien to the culture, so many people have to pay so much money to preserve the culture of so few? Could it be that if we subsidize our ethnics to stay ethnic, we can keep hyphenating them and keep them tongue-tied and impotent in their ghetto enclaves? Or are we doing penance with multiculturalism for our past sins to our ethnic brothers and sisters?
Multiculturalism is downright dangerous to the survival of the Canadian culture. While Quebec has kept its culture, its history and its sense of itself by squeezing the Anglos and saying non to ethnic cultural dominoes, English Canada is in danger of having its old, familiar British North American culture half bludgeoned to death by the cast-iron balalaikas of multiculturalism. This same culture is simple and has been available to all Canadians of whatever racial origin on a fair and fully participating basis since 1763. By that culture I mean: constitutional monarchy, the supremacy of Parliament, the rule of the law, the richness of the English language and culture, good manners and equal rights for all.
Today’s official multiculturalism leads to the worst of demagogueries; for example, John Diefenbaker promising to liberate the Ukraine, and all this for a handful of Ukrainian-Canadian seats; Joe Clark moving embassies for a fingerful of Jewish seats; and Pierre Trudeau tiptoeing through the ethnics with multiculturalism gifts of ethnic TV stations, government ads in the ethnic press and ethnic Senate appointments.
Multiculturalism does not even do what it most promises to do: instil ethnic self-pride. Nor does it do much for Anglo-ethnic relations. Multiculturalism may make Anglo-Canadians stuff themselves on holobochis and sauerkraut but it doesn’t make the EnglishCanadian swallow government-sponsored cultural apartheid and ethnic ghettos. Nor can the English-Canadian hide his bitterness and anger at government-subsidized multiculturalism programs that he feels encourage or underpin double loyalties, in which love of Canada comes a poor second to love of motherland.
Multiculturalism is the most divisive idea to dance on the Canadian boards since separatism. A person’s ethnic heritage is as sacred as his personal identity; the state has no business aiding and abetting it. In the name of justice and good citizenship we must dehyphenate ethnic Canadians rather than de-Canadianizing them through multiculturalism. Get multiculturalism off the streets and back into the unsubsidized private ethnic homes where it belongs. Few people will miss it—except, of course, politicians and political ethnics. Their loss just has to be our gain.
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