Myth of Multiculturalism


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Canadian Multiculturalism and Aboriginal peoples in Canada

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Myth of Multiculturalism

  1. 1. The Myth of Multiculturalism Supporting Aboriginal Peoples in Canada by Dr. Trent Keough Evidence of multiculturalism1 can be found in social policies, legislation andlaws responding to discrimination, prejudice and racism. Multiculturalism is alsopresent when ordinary motivators of patriotic allegiance, i.e. a shared formationalhistory, common language or religion, singular ethnicity, or an internally/externally defined enemy, are either misaligned or absent.2 At the core of allmulticulturalism is an awareness of alienation and a corresponding hope forinclusion. The existence of multicultural policies and supporting law is notevidence of inclusionary practice or ethical political leadership. Multiculturalism can exist in principle only. Social policies and legislativepractices can maintain status quo discrimination and institutionalized racism. Fauxmulticultural leadership can be identified with public acknowledgement ofhistorical failures of moral arbiters and political decision-makers withoutdemanding changes to the socio-political infrastructure. Those inheriting privilegetaken from discrimination often attempt to distance the political system they alsoinherit from wrong doing by celebrating the presence of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism places an ethical imperative upon its leaders to own deniedprejudices informing Canadian national heritage and current social practices.Effective multicultural leadership challenges ownership of privilege rooted inheritage entitlements. It normally causes unease and discomfort, and is oftenreceived as a dissident leadership. Multicultural leadership must be capable ofwithstanding rejection when challenging systemic discrimination, prejudice andracism. This leadership runs the risk of attacks upon its positionality and authority.Leaders engaging in multicultural dialogue are also vigilant not to speak for‗others.‘ Every appropriation of the other‘s voice is an act of (oppressive)silencing. Multicultural leaders also exhibit self-reflexivity when identifying biasesand prejudices informing their own cultural ‗voices.‘ The emphasis on individualhumanity (both rejected and affirmed) within multicultural dialogue is a counter-measure to the dehumanization conjoint with racism.25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  2. 2. I: Dimensions of Canadian Multiculturalism Canada proclaims itself to be the foremost multicultural nation in the world.3It was a vision of hope for a defined and noble nationhood that made Canada thefirst country to ―adopt multiculturalism as an official policy. . . . The 1971Multiculturalism Policy of Canada also confirmed the rights of Aboriginal peoplesand the status of Canada‘s two official languages.‖ 4 Multiculturalism is alsodirectly written into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982.5 TheGovernment of Canada offers the following comment on assurances ofmulticulturalism in Canada: All Canadians are guaranteed equality before the law and equality of opportunity regardless of their origins. Canada‘s laws and policies recognize Canada‘s diversity by race, cultural heritage, ethnicity, religion, ancestry and place of origin and guarantee to all men and women complete freedom of conscience, of thought, belief, opinion expression, association and peaceful assembly. All of these rights, our freedom and our dignity, are guaranteed through our Canadian citizenship, our Canadian Constitution, and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 6With the passing of the Multiculturalism Act in 1988, Canada became the firstnation of the world to make multiculturalism part of its judicial system. 7 Today, in2012, Canada‘s Multiculturalism Program resides within the purview of theFederal Government‘s Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC).―CIC‘s Multiculturalism Program draws its mandate from the CanadianMulticulturalism Act (1988).‖ 8 On its website CIC defines multiculturalism in thisway: Canadian multiculturalism is fundamental to our belief that all citizens are equal. Multiculturalism ensures that all citizens can keep their identities, can take pride in their25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  3. 3. ancestry and have a sense of belonging. Acceptance gives Canadians a feeling of security and self-confidence, making them more open to, and accepting of, diverse cultures. The Canadian experience has shown that multiculturalism encourages racial and ethnic harmony and cross-cultural understanding, and discourages ghettoization, hatred, discrimination and violence. Through multiculturalism, Canada recognizes the potential of all Canadians, encouraging them to integrate into their society and take an active part in its social, cultural, economic and political affairs. 9 Why is Canada such a homeland for multiculturalism? The answer istwofold. First, Canada is a federation of distinct political ‗others.‘ We have nounity of singular space and no common, formational history. Canada is comprisedof ten provinces and three territories who participate in a parliamentary democracywith a constitutional monarchy.10 Canada‘s vast and varied topography anddiversified immigration patterns provide for many communities with distinctworldviews and unique cultural histories. Some provinces and territories had morethan one hundred and fifty years of non-Aboriginal settlement prior to the Britishlegislative formation of Canada in 1867. Individual loyalties are commonly tied tobloodlines linked to ‗colonial‘ places of origin, not the agreed upon nation createdin our confederacy.11 In short, Canada was born with a national identity crisis.Second, Canada is physically large and remains largely empty of the peoplenecessary to grow the nation. The Canadian population is built from immigrationand its capacity to attract more of these ‗others.‘ In Canada multiculturalism is part of a strategy to engage immigrants withthe responsibilities of Canadian citizenship. All Canadians are assessed as beingforeigners to this land. This vision also treats Indians as pre-Canadian immigrantsor descendants thereof. Multiculturalism teaches Canadians that there are noIndigenous peoples belonging to Canada, other than ‗immigrant Aboriginals‘:―Canada is a country of immigrants; therefore, it is important that Canada berecognized as a multicultural state. Even some of the very first people in Canadawere immigrants who came across the Bering Strait [sp] from what is present-day25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  4. 4. Russia. These first immigrants evolved over time, separated into distinct groups,and became today‘s Aboriginal peoples‖ (Heritage Community Foundation).Multiculturalism offers political means to explain how all immigrant Canadiansmight work together to live harmoniously. Multiculturalism has been a formational cause and a constructive effect ofCanada‘s national identity complex. The historical preoccupation with Canadianidentity is very much contemporary, despite the surety of its multiculturalcitizenship. In the 1996 ―census approximately one third of Canada‘s 31 million(plus) population did not choose the category of ‗Canadian‘ when asked todescribe their ethnic origin . . . . [O]nly 5 million identified themselves as solelyCanadian‖ (Hutchins).12 The one time Liberal leader ―Michael Ignatieff states:―‗The great achievement of Canada, and I think we‘re already there, is that inCanada you‘re free to choose your belonging.‘‖13 This reasoning could possiblyexplain why so many Canadians have fought and died in wars unrecognized byCanadian parliaments or marked by formal Canadian military engagement. 14Sadly, it may also explain the ‗Canadian‘ connections linked to acts ofinternational terrorism. With the exception of some five million, there are 26million hyphenated-Canadians whose first national loyalties can be assumed to lieelsewhere.15 Since WWII, and contemporaneous with the birth of a pluralism sponsoredby multiculturalism, Canada has continued to widen its open door to newimmigrants: ―According to recent Canadian immigration information, Canada has34 ethnic groups with at least one hundred thousand members each and we remainone of the countries with the highest per capita immigration rate in the world . . . .Immigration to Canada made up the vast majority of the 1.6 million newCanadians between 2001 and 2006, [also] giving the country the highestpopulation growth rate among G8 countries.‖16 The 2006 Canadian Censusidentified Canadian persons from 200 distinct ethic groupings. ―The percentagewho reported having more than one ethnic origin rose to 41%, up from 36% adecade earlier in 1996.‖17 One in five individuals or 19.8% of the Canadianpopulation is born outside of Canada. 18 Approximately 90% of all immigrants to Canada live in its major cities; themajority of immigrants settle in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. Forty percent(40%) of all immigrants to Canada live in Toronto. At last count there weresome100 languages spoken in Toronto, including the two official languages,English and French. In 2007, of the 5.5 million living in Toronto some 53.32%spoke English and 1.88% French.19 According to Leisure Trade Toronto the top25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  5. 5. five spoken languages in Toronto are not English or French but Chinese, Italian,Tamil, Portuguese and Spanish.20 Toronto is representative of other immigrantcities in Canada wherein multiculturalism is accused of engendering unilingual andisolated cultural ghettos: The Chinese of Markham have little interaction with the Indians of Brampton, or the Pakistanis of Mississauga, or the Sri Lankans of Scarborough, or the Somalis of Islington," warned [Gurmukh Singh, Canada correspondent with the Indo-Asian News Service], adding you can "forget about" integration with "mainstream white society.‖ [This same message comes from other] articulate individuals who understand the immigrant experience and their message to [their own and others‘] communities is the same -- its incumbent upon them to integrate into Canadian society, to become part of the "mainstream" and make it better reflect the true face of Toronto. 21 It would be impossible for any immigrant group to integrate into‗mainstream white‘ societies of Toronto, Vancouver, or Canada itself for thatmatter. No such mainstream is readily identifiable in the politics ofmulticulturalism. Other than, of course, appropriation of cultural values associatedwith speaking English or French. It is ironic that individuals like Gordon Chong,Gurmukh Singh, and Neil Bissoondath would call for what constitutes‗assimilation‘ into a Canadian culture-- one that is impossible to locate in ourmulticultural nation. There is clearly a yearning for a commonality of worldview todisplace what has become a defining sense of alienation through cultural sub-identification within Canada. Today the ‗Canadian‘ cultural mainstream is truly identified by racial andcultural diversity. To be ‗other‘ is to be Canadian. Canadian culture exists nowherebut in idealized visions of harmony, inclusion and democratic participation. Theinadequacy of this kind of nationalism is evident in a frustrated desire for factsdefining how ‗otherness‘ functions as evidence of cultural belonging to/in Canada.Multicultural nationalism lacks substantial evidence of being more than anintellectual exercise attempting to mirror the emotional connectivity found in an25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  6. 6. authentic patriotism. Canadian immigrants raise millions of dollars each year forvictims of disaster in their originating countries while Canadian Aboriginalchildren continue to be raised in squalor and filth. Their Aboriginal cultures arefast disappearing. If a true Canadian nationalism existed, this would not be thecase. While Canadian geography is more or less defined, defining the Canadiancultural mainstream for nationalist purposes is a definite impossibility. Yet, wemust be careful not to confuse the lack of a mainstream culture and nationalistconsciousness with the absence of partisan political control of government and adominant cultural ideology. These latter two we definitely have in place. Politicalintegration into mainstream Canada would mean assimilation into one of either theFrench or English speaking cultures. There is no embracing Canadian politicalculture other than to start speaking one or both of the national, official languages.These have their own worldviews driven by linguistics and acculturation. Thesecultures have dominated regional and federal policy frameworks since our politicalinception. There is no definitively Canadian political heritage other than that held closein what are becoming the privileged ghettos of English and French cultures. Incontradiction, however, multiculturalism has advanced too far for a singular oreven dual Canadian cultural identity to ever maintain itself politically. The nationis currently polarized into acknowledging all cultural difference. Unfortunately, theCanadian political system has not yet matured sufficiently to be capable of thetransformation necessary to meet the needs of its multicultural population. It mayonly be through dissolution of the federal parliament that Canada finds agovernance model stripped of old prejudices and biases limiting currentresponsiveness and growth. If Canada is to survive, coalition governments will become the order of rule.Creating strong coalition governments within the existing political infrastructurecannot happen in the short term. Too much of our political infrastructure is built onpremises of majority rule in final decision making. How Canadians define theauthority of government will need to change. If the collapse of the USSR is anyindication, Canadians will need a unifying belief system to escape factionalism andanarchy. Threats to Canada‘s existing governance structure will increase as Quebec(7.5 million) steadily inches towards its own sovereignty. Others, too, are growingin numbers, and do not need a history of localized reform and resistance (e.g.Quebec‘s Quiet Revolution) to push them into demanding ‗other‘ nation statuswithin or even outside of Canada as a political and geographic entity.25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  7. 7. What is presently missing is opportunity for meaningful engagement in thepolitical definition and composition of Canada wherein proportional representationrepresents the localized interests of the varied Canadian populations. Ethnic groupsare increasing in numbers and are taking advantage of concentrated populations inthe voting processes of both provincial/territorial and federal elections. It is merelya matter of time before the old triad of Conservative, Liberal, and New Democratpolitical parties in Canada cease appealing to the 11 ethnic (ghetto) groups withpopulations over one million persons. When hyphenated-Canadians demand theopportunity to vote along ethnic, not geographical lines or boundaries, the oldpolitical parties, provinces and territories of Canada are doomed to failure and ruin.How Canadians prepare for this form of democratic representation will determineif we are truly a multicultural nation, or not. II: Multiculturalism: Where and What Multicultural places an ethical imperative upon Canadians to take fullownership of denied prejudices informing our national heritage. Effectivemulticultural leadership challenges political privilege rooted in Anglo-Francophone heritage entitlements. It unveils prejudicial heritage entitlementswritten into the fabric of ‗Canadian‘ political culture. Multicultural leadershipreveals how systemic discrimination and racism inform federal legislation andCanadian national multicultural policies. Canadians challenging multiculturalism quickly come to recognize thesacrosanct status given to it by the seated political establishment, and those whoshare in furthering its interests. Vested cultural privilege sustained by the myth ofa multicultural Canadian identity does not welcome criticism, let alone theuncomfortable probing of openly judgemental historical revisionists. Pro-multiculturalism is not itself, however, evidence of a vibrant nationalist sentimentwithin the populace of Canada. Many Canadians see no connection betweenmulticulturalism and their national self-definition. Finding and nominating acommon Canadian cultural experience is a national historical challenge (once)thought to be overcome through multiculturalism. Intolerance for personsquestioning Canadian multiculturalism stems from a conventional belief inmulticulturalism as the single national codifier of a Canadian patriotism. To attackmulticulturalism is therefore to be unpatriotic and treasonable.25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  8. 8. Multiculturalism is as much about cultivating and marketing Canada‘s imageto other nations as it is defining Canada‘s national culture from within. The twoare not the same. The external image and the national reality are not identical. Thehypocrisy of multiculturalism is identified by the distance between its idealizedexternal form and its internal Canadian reality. It is not surprising that Canadianshave varied emotional responses to multiculturalism. There are two visible camps.Those given to idealism or accepting of cultural privilege guard the externalizedmulticultural Canadian identity. Those who live the reality of Canadianmulticulturalism can challenge it as a form of institutionalized oppression. Giventhis dichotomy it is not difficult to identify the Canadian identity complex. To beCanadian is to be self-consciously aware of a national solidarity built upon anational self-consciousness of otherness within the nation. We are Canadian; weshare nothing but tolerance for difference. It is perhaps within a dialogue on multiculturalism that Canadians canfurther the evolution of a cultural identity that enables equity of citizenship andinclusion of difference. Can a Canadian cultural identity be drawn from reflectionon living experiences lived in different cultural ways? Ordinary multiculturalismembodies a worldview by exhibiting polyphony bearing witness to a sharing ofcommon cultural and linguistic experiences. Canadian multiculturalism fails todefine what it is to be culturally or linguistically Canadian. Our multiculturalismdoes serve as a forum wherein Canadians engage in articulating what they perceivethemselves not to be. Perhaps it is (un) easiness with perceived ‗otherness‘ thatinforms the real core of a Canadian national identity? We are other than othernations, and other than our Canadian selves.22 Canadians are not ever, justthemselves. We are hyphenated, attenuated, and regionally defined citizens drawnfrom a multitude of cultures. Antimulticulturalists do share a distinctly ‗Canadian‘ experience. Thisexperience contradicts the norm of acceptable nationalist response to Canadianidentity. They are the preeminent others within Canada. Perhaps here is thecommon Canadian experience that remains undefined. What has yet to besufficiently explored as the shared Canadian experience is the experientialdifference between idealized multiculturalism and its ordinary, living practice inCanada. This is the Canadian ‗otherness‘ that is common to all; it is the definingCanadian experience of alienation! Here in multicultural otherness lie the definingparameters of a Canadian cultural mindscape. Within that space of sociologicaldifference is the common cultural experience shared by all Canadians. ForCanadian multiculturalism to evolve within the socio-political sphere of Canada,and for it to contribute further to what it means to be Canadian, there needs to be25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  9. 9. public evaluation of its historical roots in a biculturalism steeped in racism, bigotryand oppression. The value ascribed to recognition of all difference, identifiable otherness, isthe ultimate measure of how effectively multiculturalism can respond toeliminating the outside circle that it creates within Canada.23 The ongoing polemicassociated with Canadian multiculturalism is indicative of its success as anembraced ism as well as its unspoken failure as social practice and legislativepolicy. In Canada we have not sufficiently paused from celebration of thepolitically correct ideal of multiculturalism to examine its real practice andcomplex historical origins. Proponents of multiculturalism who call for criticalself-reflexivity when examining the biases and prejudices informing the Canadianmulticultural voice are often the recipients of public indignation, not applause. If Canada is a true multicultural nation, where is the evidence of itscollective awareness of racism and discrimination informing its socio-politicalcultures, including its multiculturalism policies and practices? How have thehistorical political and administrative structures serving Canadians been changedby this self-awareness? The saving lie of wholesale Canadian tolerance is neithersupported by Canadian history nor proven by a current lack of discrimination andracism throughout the country.24 The (in)appropriate questions should inspire aself-reflection revealing a certain opportunity for shared embarrassment within theCanadian public. Power imbalances exist in every culture; it is what one culturedoes about imbalance that differentiates it from another. The Canadian denial ofongoing moral, ethical and legal failures engenders a cultural hypocrisy retardingnational development and cultural advancement. It is not shameful to recognizethat irrespective of one‘s race, creed, gender or class no voice is without privilegethat is inherited, arbitrarily taken, unconsciously assumed and earned by wilfulexperience. Consciousness of this vulnerability helps to defuse an anger responsetriggered in those feeling accused of owning the political sins and moral failuresascribed to historical others. Most Canadians would be unaware, for example, that the Canadiannationalist voice is built upon a premise of multiculturalism that is conjoint withformal legislative and civil law denial of: a) significant and coherent differencesbetween Aboriginal cultures, b) the uniqueness of worldviews held by Aboriginalsubcultures (i.e. tribes within nations), and c) the polyphony of Aboriginal voicesidentifying a shared formational experience with the historical governments ofCanada and original Canadian nation builders. No other Canadians have a morelengthy formal relationship with successive governments of Canada, nor a more25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  10. 10. sordid history of being dishonoured by them. Ordinary Canadians are oblivious tothe facts that: a) Aboriginals have been denied the status of human persons inCanada; b) Aboriginals have been excluded from the enjoining privileges ofordinary citizenship in Canada; and c) Aboriginals have been refused the historicalrecognition of being identified as Canadian charter builders. While these failuresremain denied within Canadian cultural consciousness, they exist as the guiltridden political inheritance of all Canadians. All Canadian governments arecomplicit in these denials of Aboriginal privilege. Why? The affirmation of difference and the recognition of transgression ofimmutable individual and group rights are the only means for celebrating a renewalof human values within our Canadian political heritage. Multiculturalism shouldenable us to accomplish this goal. All Canadians have not been and are notcurrently equally valued by the political system. Even with rights and privilegesguaranteed by rule of common law, Canadian multicultural policy is built fromlegislative practices tied directly to British culture and its imperial values.25 Britishcultural imperialism not only discriminates against all Aboriginals, it exhibits anequally negative valuation of all other cultures, particularly its historical arch rival,the Catholic French. Canada has an English/French language-bias, and anEnglish/French cultural conflict, at its historical and political cores. The story of an idea called multiculturalism begins in Canada, where the nation‘s primal divide into Francophone and Anglophone civilizations [sp] produced ―biculturalism[.]‖ Canada used bicultural policy to accommodate the ― two solitudes ‖ of its colonial provenance in order to, among other things, abate the rising power of Québecitude and Québec‘s independence movement. When the indigenous ―first nations‖ (Inuit, Innu, Cree, Iroquois, and other groups) and immigrants challenged the implicit assumption that only two cultures required formal recognition within its borders, multiculturalism emerged as a more progressive articulation of the original policy. (Perovic)25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  11. 11. There has been no significant structural change in governance attitude orpolitical infrastructure since the Province of Canada became the Dominion ofCanada then later the Canadian confederate nation, or since the advent of Canadianmulticulturalism as a formal policy initiative in the 1960s. In Canada, persons,government departments, and political parties who inherit and enjoy privilegestaken from acts of oppression attempt to create distance from past wrong-doings bypromotion of multiculturalism. For example, a federal government sponsoredwebsite maintained by the Heritage Community Foundation offers the following inreference to the Canadian government‘s ownership of this duality: ―The Canadiangovernment is committed to its policy of multiculturalism and is attempting not tobe hypocritical (saying one thing and doing another). The Canadian government istherefore apologizing and trying to redress racist policies of the past. While thepast cannot be changed, these actions show that the government today is dedicatedto multiculturalism‖ (Heritage Community Foundation). The Canadian government‘s focus on the idealized present, not the ignoblepast still reflected in current practices, is an indulgent self- distraction dependingon collective denial for its continuance. Permissive denial is fashionable whenpolitical leadership is challenged to identify systemic changes intended to disruptan historical pattern of bad and intolerant behaviour. False ignorance of thehistorically determined present moment removes both political and socialobligations to implement revisions to the historical systems sustaining currentdiscriminatory practices. It is no irony that the existence of Canadian multiculturalpolicies and supporting law do not authenticate inclusionary practice or presentethical political leadership associated with true multiculturalism. Both areimpossibilities until revision takes place. When a culture‘s social policies andlegislative practices maintain status quo discrimination solidifying institutionalizedracism, multiculturalism is subordinate to other political objectives and isobviously failing, false. Faux multicultural is evident in the political expediencies taken from publiccondemnation of past discriminatory activities in Canada. From thedisenfranchisement of Indians to the Chinese Head Tax to the internment ofJapanese Canadians, the acts of government requiring national apologies areponderous not just by the delay in making the actual apologies themselves but forthe absolute lack of any reflection on current government practices. The Canadiangovernment consistently fails to hold itself accountable, i.e. by evidence of force ofsystemic revision, for wrongdoings. For example, Canada‘s (weak) commitment toan Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2 June 2008)did not even raise the spectre of changing the root cause of this suffering, the25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  12. 12. political systems addressing the ongoing needs of Treaty Indians. The fall ofapartheid instigated and precipitated a critical review of the principles ofgovernance in South Africa. In Canada, even after acknowledging multipleinstances of institutional racism, the government does not hold itself accountableover and above paying financial and symbolic restitution. After the federal government moved to initiate the Indian ResidentialSchools Truth and Reconciliation Commission there was no public outcry inCanada for changes to how the federal government directly manages TreatyIndians. Mistreatment of Chinese immigrants and Japanese Canadians broughtsimilar non-responses from the nation. There was no national demand for thedissolution of the federal government departments responsible for these cruelties.Why not? No critical self-reflection was undertaken by government; the matter wasindirectly attributed to past racism of government officials, a racism sponsored bythe Canadian public who elected them. Would a politician expecting to be re-elected tell a nation that it needs to reflect on its racist heritage? Would tolerant and non-bigoted Canadians appreciate hearing that theirforebears were complicit in racism and benefited economically from discriminationagainst Indians? Would the 15 million immigrants who came to Canada in theyears since 1945 have any ownership of this political and cultural lineage, beyondthe boundaries outlined in their rights and obligations in becoming Canadiancitizens?26 One can easily imagine a reasonable defensive: ‗As a Canadian I feel noresponsibility for the Indian Residential Schools. I became a citizen in 2010; I haveno history with this issue. If Canada has that racism in its past, it is not my sharedCanadian past. That racism is no part of mine or my family‘s citizenship in thiscountry. It never will be.‘ The capacity to choose what parts of being Canadianvalidates one‘s sense of being Canadian is at the heart of our current nationalistidentity. Canadian identity does not make the individual subordinate to nationalcultural values overriding individual preferences or obligations. There is little wonder why government apologies for structuraldiscrimination have caused no change in Canadian culture or its politicalinfrastructure. There is no advantage to the political machine to excise itself fromthis guilty past. Nearly half of the citizens of the nation have no historical ties todiscriminatory activities linked to Canada‘s nation building activities. Neither theynor their ancestors were Canadian citizens when Indians were neither people,citizens, nor allowed to vote; they were not here when Chinese coolies linked thenation from shining sea- to-sea; and, they never knew the Canadian fear of BritishColumbia‘s Japanese salmon fishermen and business persons during WWII. These25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  13. 13. ‗new‘ Canadians own no part of this embarrassing Canadian history; they are in noway accountable for its political failings or the culture permitting it to occur. Thisreasonable denial of historical ownership of discrimination, however, is not anexcusable denial when owning a Canadian passport. A lack of personal history does not exempt Canadian citizens fromresponsibility for addressing existing discrimination, particularly that with deepnational roots. Contemporary Canadian citizens cannot ignore our politicalbeginnings in cultural imperialism. We cannot deny a contemporary CitizenshipOath pledging allegiance to ―Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada,Her Heirs and Successors.‖ Nor can we deny the existence of the contemporaryversion of the Indian Act of 1867: Bill C-31, An Act to Amend the Indian Act(1985). Bill C-31fails to address real cultural differences among First Nationspeoples by classifying them as being Aboriginal. Further, Bill C-31 fails torecognize the ethno-cultural differences reflected in the Indigenous status of bothTreaty and non-Treaty Indians, and it does not differentiate Indians fromAboriginal Métis. Métis are original to the country of Canada, but they are notindigenous to the land Canada now occupies. To use Aboriginal to refer to Indiansand Métis is to deny the privilege of both charter and Indigenous status to Indians,as the one true ‗original‘ peoples of the lands claimed by British imperialism. The many contradictions evident in the differences between idealization ofcurrent practice and its daily realities reveal a deeply entrenched hypocrisyinforming Canadian multiculturalism. To perceive the contradictions one mustbecome knowledgeable of how and why multiculturalism comes to exist inCanada. Evidence of Canadian multiculturalism27 can be found in our socialpolicies, legislation and laws responding to discrimination, prejudice and racism.Canada lacks the ordinary motivators of patriotic allegiance. Canadian politicianshave used multiculturalism to define a cultural consciousness sustaining ournational sense of belonging.28 At the core of Canadian multiculturalism is a mutedawareness of socially sanctioned exclusions and discriminations. There is also theexpectation that Indians can make no claim for special status when respected as butyet another piece of the Canadian cultural mosaic. This intentional exclusion anddenial of difference is contradictory to multiculturalism. III: The Contradictions of Failed Multiculturalism25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  14. 14. Will multiculturalism provide for the eventual ruin of Canada‘s confederatedemocracy? The answer lies in the differences between Canadian multi-culturalism‘s conception and its practice. Naturally the differences betweenmulticulturalism‘s ideal leadership and its realities can be stark, and unintended.Oftentimes political apologists reference so-called unintended outcomes. Thedisconnections between an idealized practice, historical application, and currentreality are evident when examining the multicultural vision seeding a Canadiannationalism denying Aboriginal charter status within the context of charterprivileges taken by English and French Canadians. The historical and presentrealities of multiculturalism in Canada are rife with contradiction flowing from theauthority of nation building. ‗Canada,‘ the self-acclaimed preeminent multiculturalnation, is an idealized myth built upon a foundation of economic and culturalimperialisms. Regardless of its oppressive origins, Canadian nationalistmulticulturalism is verily tangible in law, legislation, and social policies. Culturaldiversity is touted as an identifying characteristic of our many urban communities.Canadian multiculturalism is also identified with classic dissident activities thoughtto provoke political and social decision-makers into making systemic change: a) Enabling ‗dialogues of dissonance,‘ specifically those owned by ostracized, marginalized or peripheral ‗others.‘ b) Supporting hurtful disclosures by accepting national ownership of historical, social wrong doings. Even if the findings reveal a guilty heritage belonging to the otherwise, personally innocent. c) Identifying entitlements based on heritage, ethnicity and economic power structures established for maintaining oppression and inequity. d) Undertaking historical revisionism that reveals the currency of systemic prejudice traceable to an ongoing cultural/economic imperialism.That these are proven activities for undercutting discrimination, racism andprejudice is not coincidental to Canadian nationalist multiculturalism. Sadly, theco-opted multicultural dialogue of Canada continues to be vigorous and robust. Debate assessing the effectiveness of multiculturalism in Canada often hidesfrom the most revealing of questions: Why multiculturalism and not anotherformational nationalism? The answer to why authentic multiculturalism comes toexist as a national legend, not a Canadian reality, is found in the historical, politicaldefinition of Canada. Multiculturalism is the nationalist binding celebrated in the25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  15. 15. Canadian antithesis to the cultural melting pot: the Cultural Mosaic.29 It isinextricably tied to historical efforts directed at establishing a nationalconsciousness. The public naming of disempowered ‗others‘ while denying theirempowering difference is central to Canada‘s historical political formation. Sowhile the Chart of Rights and Freedoms secures Aboriginal Rights by law, it doesnot privilege Aboriginal status by making it equal to those of the English orFrench. Canada claims to be a nation formed by cultural diversity but there are onlytwo heritage ‗others‘ considered in the history of Canadian nation building: charterEnglish and charter French. The ongoing denial of Aboriginal charter status iscontrary to all theoretical elements of the Government of Canada‘s multiculturalpolicy, but not its legislative practices. This dual impulse can be traced inlegislative legacy to the Royal Proclamation of 176330 wherein Aboriginal rightswere first acknowledged so that they might later be extinguished.31 Today, thesecontradictory impulses manifest themselves as structured discrimination andinstitutionalized prejudice against ‗Indians‘ in the political infrastructure, socialsupport systems, and cultural fabric of Canada‘s cultural mosaic. Multiculturalismhas been used to build a Canadian identity denying the authenticity of Aboriginalcharter ‗otherness.‘ This same multiculturalism is used to maintain political andeconomic oppression flowing from a political infrastructure based on a racialsuperiority identified with colonization. Aboriginals will not be able to engage as (regional or territorial) Canadiansso long as they remain excluded from the ideology defining Canadian nationalismas merely ‗heritage‘ multiculturalism. The extent of Aboriginal disengagementwith ‗Canada,‘ the nation, is visible in the Government of Canada‘s: 1) ongoing financial support for Aboriginal welfare cultures 2) encouraging emotional dependency by celebrating Aboriginal victim status well past times necessary for healing or actions enabling appropriate accountability, legal reprisal or financial restitution 3) promotion of illiteracy by placing restrictions on Aboriginal mobility in educational funding formulas targeting reserve status 4) failure to privilege Indigenous peoples as charter Canadians by focussing on legal obligations outlined in Treaties25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  16. 16. 5) defining ‗Aboriginals‘ to include Métis as an autochthonic people of Canada 6) simplification of cultural complexity by utilization of ‗Indian‘ and ‗Métis‘ for diverse peoples with little or no commonality of cultures or evidence of singular nationhood 7) maintenance of government departments and agencies associated with documented cases of murder, sexual abuse, physical torture, acts of emotional depravity, and psychological abuse of Aboriginal peoples and their children 8) celebration of failures within Aboriginal communities to affirm historical stereotypes of dependency, violence, and dissolution 9) advancing incompetence and promoting corruption by continually enabling family ‗mafias‘ to control Band funds 10) spot-lighting ‗apple‘ Indian role models who serve as social critics of Indians while promoting assimilation 11) maintenance of the ‗Indian Industry‘ supporting the jobs and pensions of thousands of non-Aboriginal employees, who are (or have been) predominately French, within the federal bureaucratic machine.32Such statements about the Government of Canada reflect poorly on all Canadians,past and current. But does the government intentionally seek to do these harms toAboriginal peoples and their cultures? Sadly, government‘s complicity in criminalactivities has been validated; acceptance of social responsibility for these crimes isnot often welcomed as it presupposes accountability in the present can happen. Thesad truth of government‘s activities can lead to a dialogue that disintegrates intocelebration of national guilt, racist comments couched in promises of telling thetruth, claims of post-colonial academics inflicting intellectual terrorism upon thenation, or draw the sad familiar nod to our unearthing the old skeleton, the nationalidentity/guilt crisis within yet another self-depreciating context. The excess in anticipated defensive response is not unreasonable orunexpected. Canadians truly want to believe that we have a healthy national self-image built from an honourable history defined by ethical politics and moral25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  17. 17. political leadership. It is the ‗saving lie‘ informing all of our nationalist fervour.On 1 July 2009, Canada Day, Prime Minster Stephen Harper said to Canadians:―‗We celebrate the most peaceful, prosperous and enduring democracy the worldhas ever known . . . . We must never forget that our country, our way of life, didnot happen by accident. We are a product of diverse peoples committed tocommon values, a country that cherishes freedom, democracy and justice, acountry proud of our past and confident in our future[.]‘‖33 Without question, Canadians want to own a mature, vibrant nationalconscious, one that is admired by the world. But there is also much darkness inCanadian political history. There is little in Harper‘s words that couldn‘t betransposed to any ‗democratic‘ nation of the world. The Prime Minister iscelebrating an ideal form of democracy; he is not acknowledging the reality of ourCanadian democracy. Like other politicians and all Canadians, Prime MinisterHarper cannot know ‗what‘ Canadian culture is, even though Canada can belocated on a map. This lack of certainty leads to the celebration of Canadiannationalism as an idealized multiculturalism: ―Citizenship, Immigration andMulticulturalism Minister Jason Kenney celebrated Canadian MulticulturalismDay and reflected on how Canada‘s cultural communities have contributed to thecountry‘s rich and diverse heritage. ‗Since Confederation, more than 15 millionimmigrants have arrived in Canada and our multicultural model of unity-in-diversity, which gives our country such strength, has taken shape[.]‖34 In the stylized world of multiculturalism, emphasis on the theorizedstrengths of plurality is often matched with denial of the historical realityundercutting it. When waxing patriotic about the 2006 opening of a ChineseCultural Centre in Calgary Andrew Mah writes: ―That, to me, is the Canadianidentity. Not stone monuments or a venerable historical catalogue of events. It‘sthe people who come here with open hearts, embracing their new home, all thewhile bringing with them values and traditions from their diverse homelands. It‘s anation that takes the best part of these and makes them its own. We have the luck,the great fortune, to have not only a history, but a history of histories: embodied inthe pride and ancestry of the people who live here.‖35 A truth of Canadian multiculturalism is the seeming denial of any nationalhistory that recognizes the privileges taken by charter Canadians. Canada‘s historyhas never been written as a ‗history of histories.‘ Denial of multiple histories is aCanadian political convention. True Canadian history cannot exist until asignificant historical revisionism takes place. We have legislation and policy in ourdemocracy from which no national pride can be taken. We condemn the effects25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  18. 18. devolving from government practice and action but never address the root cause ofembarrassing failures. Mah‘s overtly simple view of Canada as a cultural cannibaltaking the best from other nations is a Canadian denial of the ugliness that exists inother cultures, and our own historical, national charter. The ugliness of Canada isthis: Canadian multiculturalism is an ideal form imprisoned within a national heartof darkness.36 To appreciate the stark failure of multiculturalism in Canada one mustunderstand the relationship between the federal government‘s definition andcontrol of Aboriginal peoples and how Canadian citizenship has evolved in thesocio-political landscape of our now mosaic nationalism. By achieving this insightwe can reflect on why the Indian Act (1876) is an unacknowledged corruption atthe core of Canadian multiculturalism. Multiculturalism has done little to engageor include Aboriginal peoples of Canada. At its most mercenary extreme, Canadianmulticulturalism is a political maneuvering used by the (‗white,‘ British heritage)political establishment to maintain decision-making power. The historical andongoing exclusion of Aboriginal peoples stems from a racial superiority complexidentifiable in British colonial governance activities central to the formation ofCanada. A legacy of imperial legislation and discriminatory historical practiceinforming current policies dooms the federal government‘s ability to address racialprejudice through multicultural policies and practices. A reflection of the duality of Canadian politics is that federal politicians, likeformer Minister of Indian Affairs, Jane Stewart, actually acknowledge these factsbut never embrace owning institutional prejudice within their departments oradvocate for wholesale changes to eliminate systemic racism in government: ‗Sadly, our history with respect to the treatment of Aboriginal people is not something in which we can take pride. Attitudes of racial and cultural superiority led to a suppression of Aboriginal culture and values. As a country, we are burdened by past actions that resulted in weakening the identity of Aboriginal peoples, suppressing their languages and cultures, and outlawing spiritual practices. We must recognize the impact of these actions on the once self-sustaining nations that were disaggregated, disrupted, limited or even25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  19. 19. destroyed by the dispossession of traditional territory, by the relocation of Aboriginal people, and by some provisions of the Indian Act.‘ 37 (1998)Stewart‘s willingness to separate ‗some nasty provisions‘ of the Indian Act fromthe whole is indicative of government‘s forced apology and its holding to historicalprejudices. Despite its own recognized abuses of Aboriginal peoples, to this daythe Canadian government continues to advocate that its multiculturalism policy isan antidote to racism, prejudice, and discrimination. This opinion is contradictedby Aboriginal leaders like former National Chief, Assembly of First Nations, PhilFontaine: ―‗As far as Aboriginal people are concerned, racism in Canadian societycontinues to share our lives institutionally, systematically and individually. TheAboriginal Justice Inquiry in Manitoba, the Donald Marshall Inquiry in NovaScotia, the Cawsey Report in Alberta and the Royal Commission of AboriginalPeople all agree.‘‖38 Certainly not every Canadian views multiculturalism as a veneer coveringinstitutionalized racism traceable to a colonial past. But critics of multiculturalismoften share a prejudicial notion that cultures can be weighted in value making onegroup of human beings more preferable, valuable, than another. For example,American Victor Davis Hanson posts this comment on the ―Doctor Bulldog &Ronin: Conservative News, Views and Analysis of Events‖ website:―[M]ulticulturalism insisted that Western culture was the culprit for globalinequality and the cosmic unhappiness of the individual. We all are to embracedistinct and different cultures, none of them inferior to any other, all meriting equalconsideration and worth. No one dare suggest a foreign practice inferior, anothercountry less successful than our own—especially given our supposed history ofassorted sins.‖ 39Barbara Kay, a columnist for the equally conservative Canadian National Post,offers a typical example of insisting on cultural superiority in contradiction toracial equality: The underside of multiculturalism is its ideological root in West-bashing. Sometime around 1960, it was determined by a few French intellectuals (whose unintelligible gibberish other intellectuals pretended to understand) that the greatest criminals25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  20. 20. against humanity in the history of the world weren‘t the Nazi and Communist murderers of 100 million people. Rather, it was European colonialists, who imposed their cultural values on their captive audience. Multiculturalism is idealistic in theory, but its real effect has been the entrenchment in our intellectual and cultural elites of an unhealthy obsession with a largely phantom racism amongst heritage Canadians that no amount of penance or cultural self- effacement can ever transcend. 40Kay‘s words reveal the conventional defensive posturing which occurs when theprivilege of (‗White‘) entitlement gets challenged. She writes from the position ofassumed privilege: ―In its ideological insistence on the equal value of all culturesother than ours (ours being the sole inferior one), multiculturalism‘s main‗accomplishment‘ has been to instill self-loathing in heritage Canadians, a sense ofresponsibility-free entitlement in identity groups, and the suffocation of criticaldiversity in the public form‖ (Kay). Who are these heritage Canadians Kay writesof? Any depiction of structural racism as a ‗phantom racism‘ is classic evidenceof denial within the empowered status quo. John Porter‘s seminal work VerticalMosaic: An Analysis of Social Class and Power in Canada (1965) demonstratedthat heritage Canadians, those originating from the French and British elites, haveprivileged positions not shared by other ethnic groups, least of all Aboriginals.41Frank G. Vallee writes: “Since 1965 several studies have shown that the picturesketched by Porter has been modified only slightly, [i.e.] there has been somelessening of the economic gap between ethnic groups, and people of French originare better represented in the political and bureaucratic spheres. The economic elite,still dominated by those of British origin, has changed very little.‖42 His opinion isshared by many others, including the late CBC journalist Larry Zolf : ―Canada is avertical mosaic. The top rungs of the mosaic are filled by the Anglo Saxons andFrench Canadians. The bottom rungs of the mosaic are filled by Canadas ethnicgroups. Multiculturalism does little to provide a level playing field.‖43 Since its legislative inception Canada has been defined in terms ofcontributions and battles between charter French and charter British. These two25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  21. 21. immigrant groups populated the Province of Canada (1841-1867)44 prior to the firstBritish North America Act of 1867.45 The Act of Union (1840), passed July 23, 1840, by the British parliament and proclaimed by the Crown on February 10, 1841, merged the two colonies by abolishing the legislatures of Upper and Lower Canada and replacing them with a single legislative assembly. While this new legislature maintained equal representation for both of the former colonies, the democratic nature of Lower Canadas elections was fundamentally flawed. Despite the francophone majority in Lower Canada, most of the power was concentrated on the anglophone minority, who exploited the lack of a secret ballot to intimidate the electorate.46The truth of multiculturalism in Canada is irrevocably tied to legislative actsattempting to preserve its British political linage and the maintenance of traditionalpower (imbalances) structures within the country. The Durham Report of 1839,with its recommendations leading to the union of the Upper and Lower coloniesinto the Dominion of Canada, endeavoured to address the French challenge toEnglish sovereignty through an assimilation strategy: Durham recommended that Upper and Lower Canada be united into one province, which would give British Canadians a slight advantage in population. He also encouraged immigration to Canada from Britain, to overwhelm the existing numbers of French Canadians and hopefully assimilate them into British culture. The freedoms granted to the French Canadians under the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Quebec Act of 1774 should also be rescinded; according to Lord Durham this would eliminate the possibility of future rebellions. The French25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  22. 22. Canadians did not necessarily have to give up their religion and language entirely, but it could not be protected at the expense of what Durham considered a more progressive British culture. 47 Durham, of course, was wrong and the assimilation of French culture has notbeen achieved. French cultural resistance became so entrenched in Canadianpolitics that it truly defined the national consciousness until the 1960s. TheEnglish/French duality continued to dominate the national identity crisis untilpoliticians struck upon the notion of multiculturalism. As envisioned by the 15thPrime Minister of Canada, Pierre Elliott Trudeau (1968-1979; 1980-1984), multi-culturalism was advanced to disengage Canada, and international gaze, from thegrowing intensity of the French separatist movement: ―Many in Quebec protestedthat multiculturalism was designed to undermine Quebec nationalism. Ottawa, theycharged, would use multiculturalism to thwart Quebecs aspirations by equating itwith ‗other‘ ethnic groups in Canada. Others feared that multiculturalism woulderode the rich British heritage of English-speaking Canada.‖ 48 Each of the two ‗others‘ feared both what multiculturalism would bring to it,and what advantages it could give to the other or more threateningly ‗the others.‘Regardless of the original political fears, the threat of Quebec rebellion remainsever at play in Canadian politics. In 1980 and again in 1995 Quebec heldreferendums seeking electoral support to separate from Canada; in 1995 ―themotion to decide whether Quebec should secede from Canada was defeated by avery narrow margin of: 50.58% "No" to 49.42% "Yes‖[.]‖ 49 With a mere 1.16% ofthe population standing against Quebec sovereignty it will/could only be a matterof time before French Separatists/Nationalists take Quebec from the Canadianunion. Very close to the majority of Quebec citizens do not see multiculturalism asa means to celebrate their Canadian inclusion. Until the 1960s, English and French Canada were (and to a large extentremain) two cultural solitudes fundamentally disinterested in any national dialoguesuggesting other ethnic claims on ownership of Canada‘s geography, contributionto an identifying cultural identity, shared rights to national belonging, or inclusivedefinitions of cultural nationhood. It remained that way until the findings of the1963 Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.50 The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism held hearings across Canada.25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  23. 23. The commissioners heard about more than just English and French relations. Ethnic spokespersons everywhere argued that the old policy of assimilation was both unjust and a failure. . . . . To the surprise of many, the Commission seemed to agree. In Volume IV of its Report, the Commission presented the government with sweeping recommendations which would both acknowledge the value of cultural pluralism to Canadian identity and encourage Canadian institutions to reflect this pluralism in their policies and programs. When the policy was announced, it was one of multiculturalism within a bilingual framework.51In truth, the rush of immigrants after WWII saw previous leaders grappling withcitizenship demands from the growing numbers of non-English and non- French.These immigrants, once settled to comfort, turned to politics and wantedengagement opportunities. The increasing numbers of immigrants disenfranchisedfrom the conventional political power bases, and the lack of overt protection forcivil rights in a country denying its own racism and bigotry, was brought to theforefront of Canadian politics by the Royal Commission on Bilingualism andBiculturalism. Another politically sanctioned yet disempowering ‗otherness‘ wasformalized with the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Bilingualismand Biculturalism: the ‗pluralist Canadian.‘ Euphemistically referred to as the‗hyphenated-Canadian‘ this otherness reveals the incapacity of multiculturalism toprovide cohesion to the Canadian populace outside of making platitudinousgestures to motherhood statements valuing democratic principles. Multiculturalism has led to higher rates of naturalization than ever before. With no pressure to assimilate and give up their culture, immigrants freely choose their new citizenship because they want to be Canadians. As Canadians, they share the basic values of democracy with all other25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  24. 24. Canadians who came before them. At the same time, Canadians are free to choose for themselves, without penalty, whether they want to identify with their specific group or not. Their individual rights are fully protected and they need not fear group pressures.52Very early, Canadians recognized the threats such a diluted nationalism couldbring. Early critics of multiculturalism, Larry Zolf and Laura Sabia, identify astructured disenfranchisement: I remember [,Zolf writes,] when Pierre Trudeau introduced multiculturalism in the 1970s. I wrote two pieces in Macleans magazine and did a CBC program condemning multiculturalism. I argued that multiculturalism made me, the son of an immigrant, inferior to Anglo Saxons and the French Canadians. Multiculturalism was putting me into a ghetto and was defining me as a Jew rather than as a proud and fully committed Canadian. I said I preferred a Canadian melting pot to multiculturalism. 53 I was born [, says Sabina,] and bred in this amazing land. Ive always considered myself a Canadian, nothing more, nothing less, even though my parents were immigrants from Italy. How come we have all acquired a hyphen? We have allowed ourselves to become divided along the line of ethnic origins, under the pretext of the "Great Mosaic[.]" A dastardly deed has been perpetuated upon Canadians by politicians whose motto is "divide and rule"... I am a Canadian first and foremost. Dont hyphenate me.5425 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  25. 25. For the hyphenated-Canadian, Neil Bissoondath writes, ―[o]nes sense of belongingto the larger Canadian landscape is tempered by a loyalty to a different cultural orracial heritage.‖55 The confusion caused by this division of national loyaltybecame a way for entrenched political parties to use ‗cultural recognition‘ as adistraction to undermine true political engagement within Canada. 56 Multi-culturalism became a way to include growing numbers of ‗others‘ withoutchanging the existing hegemony within a traditionalist English/French federalistpolitical infrastructure. The framework for multiculturalism laid by the Royal Commission in 1963was essential to opening the immigration floodgates defining the presentdemography of Canada and with it our notion of the Cultural Mosaic took laterlegislative form. But this Canadian Mosaic did not include Aboriginals, then, ornow. Just six years after the Commission, in a 1969 White Paper (a policy proposaldocument), the Minister of Indian Affairs, Jean Chrétien (later Prime Minister from1993-2003), put forward the most aggressive assimilation strategy since the IndianAct of 1876.57 The federal government ―proposed the abolition of the Indian Act,the rejection of land claims, and the assimilation of First Nations people into theCanadian population with the status of other ethnic minorities rather than [as] adistinct group.‖ 58 The languages of the heritage groups were protected, yetmulticulturalism was being used to unseat/destroy the definitive ‗otherness‘ givento Aboriginals by Treaties. Clearly, the Government of Canada viewed Indians asbeing outside the ‗otherness‘ ascribed to non-English or French immigrants as itattempted to make Indians equivalent to them. What has never been embraced by the Canadian public is this: ―rather than[as] a distinct group‖ meant not with a heritage or charter group status.59 Due toAboriginal backlash, as evinced by the 1970 Citizens Plus (better known as theRed Paper) counter, the Trudeau government rescinded the White Paper in 1971(Helin 100) and reluctantly moved away from its overt position on assimilation in1973. The White Paper exists as evidence that the formal political denial of thelegitimacy of Aboriginal charter ‗otherness‘ was coterminous with the governmentsanctioned birth of the Canadian cultural mosaic. This fact remains unchanged tothis day even with the existence of revised or new land claims settlements withnon-Treaty Indians and Inuit. The Canadian Constitution has not been renewed toidentify Indians and Inuit as heritage partners in the Canadian Confederation. The rise of a Canadian multicultural nationalism, i.e., the Canadian Mosaic,while set in counterpoint to French separatism, maintained a traditional denial ofAboriginal heritage claims to forming a Canadian identity, but also provided25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  26. 26. Trudeau era politicians/nationalists opportunity to differentiate Canada from theUSA.60 Much of Canadian nationalist fervour has been historically directed attelling ourselves that we are not ‗American.‘ As counterpoint to the national mythof the American cultural melting pot, the Canadian Mosaic was heralded as themore democratic of nationalisms, and decisively home-spun Canadian. Yousurrendered noting of your original ethnic identity by becoming Canadian. Finally,we had the ability to create our own national myth; and, it spelled the end of ourhistorical Canadian identity complex. Or so we thought. With political selfishness at its historical core, i.e. that is the preservation oftraditional political parties and provincial power bases, it is not surprising thatmulticulturalism has not advanced Canadian identity beyond the aspirations ofnational self-hood forged in the Canada Act of 1982.61 There are clear indicatorsthat we have regressed into an absolutely nonviable Canadian national identity, onesignalling decentralized partisanship and eventual dissolution. Canadianmulticulturalism has spawned a national identity found only on a passport ofconvenience. This weakness is but one of the four gifts of Canadianmulticulturalism to the (our) nation: a) Factionalism: creating and enabling ghettos claiming empowerment in what is structured cultural alienation, and political suppression.62 2) Idealization: misplacing tolerance and appreciation for diversity as nationalist sentiments sufficient to create political and cultural uniqueness in the world. 3) Mythologizing: privileging the unequal ‗other‘ with words unsupported by systemic change so as to maintain institutionalized racism and inequality. 4) Disintegration: multiculturalism is the forefather of emergent micro- nationalisms wherein affluent political groupings (e.g. Quebec, Western Canada, specifically Alberta and British Columbia) can rationalize and command increased degrees of political and economic separation within the Canadian Confederation. Aboriginal peoples rank ninth (1,172,790) of the 11 ghetto groups withgrowing presence in the Canadian political scene. 63 One can be mislead by theirsheer numbers and the statistics associated with them. In truth, many Aboriginalpopulations of Canada are diminishing and some will exist as small, invisibleminorities into the future. Yet we accept the falsehood of growth of ‗Indigenous‘25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  27. 27. peoples in Canada. Why? There is a huge difference between definition ofIndigenous peoples and Aboriginal peoples in Canada. According to theGovernment of Canada, Aboriginal populations are the fastest growing in Canada,specifically in the western provinces. From 1996-2006 Aboriginal populationsincreased by 45%; the non-Aboriginal population grew only by 8%. But―Aboriginal languages, many of which are unique to Canada, are spoken by lessthan one percent of the population, and are mostly in decline.‖ 64 This loss oflanguage sustaining culture is the result of the federal government‘s historical andongoing assimilation strategies. A reasonable forecast would predict thatimmigrant Chinese have better chances of representing their languages in futureparliaments of Canada than present or future Aboriginals of Canada. The reasoningfor the prediction is complex but the underlining cause is straightforward: Becauseof Canadian legislation and law, ‗true‘ Aboriginal Canadians have not been (arenot) as free to practice their cultures and languages as other immigrants andresidents in Canadians. Institutionalized Aboriginal inequality can be traced to the very definition of‗Aboriginals‘ in Canada. When referencing Aboriginal peoples in Canada we arespeaking of three broad groupings representing more than 700 uniquecommunities. 65 These Aboriginals can be identified as First Nation or FirstNations (698,025) 66 which include all North American Indians in Canada, but notthree other Aboriginal groups of Canada, the Inuit, Métis, and the Metis who arenon-Métis. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC;formerly Indian and Northern Affairs Canada; ), one of 34 federal governmentdepartments providing services and programs to Aboriginals, defines Indian, Inuitand Métis as ‗Aboriginals‘ for official government purposes. AANDC‘s definitionof ‗original peoples‘ as Aboriginals is very problematic. The crux of the problemresides in a rather simple question. Are these peoples ‗original‘ to politicalagreements forming Canada or are they original to the lands (and are thereforeIndigenous to) forming the nation of Canada? The distinctions have greatconsequences impacting both Canadian history and future re-definitions ofCanadian nationhood and charter status. The first contradiction in definition of Canadian Aboriginals comes with thegovernment identification of the Inuit. The northern, arctic Inuit (50,485) signed nohistorical Treaties with Canada and are therefore excluded from the Indian Act of1876, and its subsequent amendments. The same is true for many First Nations inBritish Columbia. The Inuit have also been called Eskimo despite the culturaldifferences between some Inuit and ‗Eskimo‘ peoples.67 While the term Inuit ispromoted as an acceptable cultural label for those once pejoratively identified as25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  28. 28. ‗Eskimo,‘ Inuit is also being used by government officials to reference Innu, whoare not Inuit. The Inuit peoples‘ traditional lands were expropriated after 1870when the Northwest Territories were formed.68 The Inuit began land claimnegotiations in 1970s. In 1999 they were given ‗ownership‘ of the federal Territorythey named Nunavut69 (Our Land). This newest federal territory was defined in theNunavut Lands Claims Settlement Act 1999. The territory is the largest of any otheror province of Canada; it‘s about the size of Western Europe. AANDC/INAC officially references all First Nation peoples as Indians anddivides them into two categories.70 The sub-grouping defines them as either Treatyor Status Indian or Non-Treaty, non-Status ―Indian.‖ 71 The lack of specifiedcultural recognition as it relates to tribes, clans and bands is first perceived as amatter of efficacy and expediency; you cannot be Treaty without one or the otheraffiliations of tribe, clan or band. The problem, however, is the lack of recognitionfor cultural differences and uniqueness within the Indian populations. Indiansmore readily conform to cultural stereotyping when presented as a homogenousgrouping of uncivilized savages belonging to primitive or welfare culturestraceable to colonial Treaties. The Indian Act (1867), outside of recognizing Treaty signatories forassignment of reservations and entitlement to federal benefits, is indicative of howdeep racial profiling inculcates the legislative and bureaucratic systems. The use of‗First Nations‘ by Indian leaders is set as a counter measure to an Indian Status thatdenies their cultural differences and rich diversity as not one but many peopleswith rightful heritage status. 72 For AANDC/INAC, there are only two kinds of‗Indians‘ to be considered, Status and non-Status, regardless of there being morethan 600 registered Bands and Councils. Why has there been denial of the‗otherness‘ representing diversity within the First Nations communities? Theanswer lies in the complexity of how ‗otherness‘ is used to isolate, and excludefrom the inner circle. The inverse is also true, of course. ‗Otherness‘ can be a markof political and aesthetic distinction wherein the conventional position ofpowerlessness is inverted to a place of empowered privilege. For example, Kay‘sheritage Canadians are ‗other‘ than immigrant Canadians; and, identically, Zolf‘sJewish-Canadians are lesser than heritage English/ French Canadians. ‗Indian‘ hasfunctioned similarly. More pernicious than discrimination against non-heritage Canadians is thefact that denial of Indian ‗otherness‘ in Canadian multiculturalism originates fromhistorical practice targeting physical destruction (assimilation) of First Nations‘cultures and (Treaties anticipated genocide) peoples. There has been, and still25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  29. 29. exists, a palpable fear of formal recognition for Indian charter presence inCanadian nation building. Historical knowledge of the validity of this charterpresence is evident in the very colonial legal system used in attempting toannihilate and assimilate Indian peoples in Canada. The Canadian Indian Register(1951) 73was first a business ledger identifying those Status Indians entitled toTreaty benefits. On no occasion has the Indian Register been used to promote orprotect Indians; its historical purpose was to enable Indian Agents and governmentofficials the ability to track individuals for enfranchisement purposes, measure theeffectiveness of elimination of bands/tribes and clans by reduction of membership,and weigh the overall effectiveness of assimilation practices. Like the word‗Indian,‘ ‗Aboriginal‘ also carries a high degree of denied socio-politicalcomplexity in Canada. "Aboriginal peoples" is a collective name for the original peoples of North America and their descendants. The Canadian constitution recognizes three groups of Aboriginal people: Indians (commonly referred to as First Nations), Métis and Inuit. These are three distinct peoples with unique histories, languages, cultural practices and spiritual beliefs. More than one million people in Canada identify themselves as an Aboriginal person, according to the 2006 Census. AANDC/INAC74But, there are in fact more than three distinct peoples as the word ‗Indian‘ deniessociological and heritage differences. Like Indians, not all Métis75 come from thesame heritage or share customary beliefs. Most Canadians, including its politiciansand bureaucrats writing legislation, would not be able to identify ―Metis‖ culturedue to the label‘s lack of definitive status.76 Moreover, use of the phrasing ‗originalpeoples‘ is coming under increasing opposition. Métis are the fastest growing of the three Aboriginal groupings (389,785)identified by AANDC/INAC. 77 There is a strengthening disagreement as to theprominence of French ancestry in the definition Métis culture: ―The Métis peoplesof Canada are descended of marriages of Cree, Ojibway, Algonquin, Saulteaux,Menominee, Mikmaq, Maliseet, and other First Nations to Europeans, mainlyFrench.‖78 The Métis of Canada have neither Federal Treaty nor Federal25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  30. 30. Territorial status. The Province of Alberta79 is the only location in Canada wherethere are reserved provincial lands with dedicated financial resources for MetisSettlements. And in Alberta, by evidence not just taken from the Queen‘s Printer,there is no imposition of French culture origins on ―Metis‖ as the French spellingof Métis is eschewed in the formal government legislation recognizing them. 80From this distinction it is clear that the Government of Alberta references a distinctMetis group as opposed to the federal government of Canada‘s use of French‗Métis‖ to cover all those with a ‗Metis‘ heritage. The federal government does nothave a Métis Registry; it does not issue Status Identity Cards to Métis; INAC doesnot even attempt to define Métis status yet references them as a distinct andoriginating people. This challenge of cultural definition has been left to theCanadian legal system. Various Métis organizations throughout Canada use thedefinition of a recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling ( 2003)81 to proofMétis/Metis status: a) self-identification (with no quantification of bloodlines), b)affiliation with a Métis community (community identifiers not defined), and c)acceptance by the Métis community as being Métis (does not anticipate shunning). While one often sees reference to the Metis Nation of Alberta or the MétisNation of Labrador, the Government of Canada does not recognize either as aheritage group, nor does it appear to understand that they are not one nation. Muchlike the INAC use of Indian, Métis is a catch all label for a rich cultural diversity.There is belief that Bill C31 of 1985 anticipates the loss of Treaty Status for themajority of Canada‘s Indians and the ultimate elimination of reservations. In time,through intermarriage of Treaty with non-Treaty Indians, Métis, Metis, or others, itis possible for Indians to lose Treaty Status but nevertheless legitimately claim tobe Métis or Metis. Of course, this activity is not supported by either the MétisNation of Labrador (who claim no singularly French origins) and the Metis Nationof Alberta (some of whom do possess Red River ancestry) who purport to bedistinct in cultures from Indians and Inuit. On Friday . . . [June 30, 2009] the Alberta Court of Appeals issued a very interesting ruling regarding Albertas Metis Settlement[s] Act: Cunningham v. Alberta (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development), 2009 ABCA 239. Under the statute as it stood, most people who were registered Indians or Inuk could not become members of a Metis settlement and those members who became registered Indians or25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  31. 31. Inuk82 would lose their settlement membership. The case arose out of local politics in the Peavine [Metis] Settlement, but the implications seem much broader. The effect of the decision, should it stand, is to remove any statutory bar to Indians and Inuk to be members of a Metis settlement due to their Indian/Inuk status alone and the exception to that bar of specific council by- laws or General Council policy. In other words, the Province can no longer explicitly deny Metis settlement membership based on an individuals Indian/Inuk status, nor can an individual settlement council, on a whim, remove or instate members based on their Indian/Inuk status. The court rejected both a s. 25 Charter argument and a request to delay the effect of the act. (James Muir) 83 As Métis use the legal and legislative systems to gain increased access tofederal Aboriginal funding, seek land claims settlements in courts, and exerciseland use rights previously held exclusive by Indians, whether Status or not, there isincreased anxiety over ongoing federal financial obligations unanticipated in theIndian Act. 84 Moreover, the thought of non-Status Indians and Treaty Indiansbecoming Alberta Metis, in a place where the historical cry has been ‗Indians areAlbertans, too!‘, is indicative of disagreement between federal and provincialjurisdictions over funding obligations to Metis/Métis and Status, Non-StatusIndians in Alberta. There is growing resentment between Indians and Métis inCanada as Indians see Métis threatening exclusive Treaty rights by accessingfederal dollars once used exclusively for their ‗Aboriginal‘ peoples. The strengthof the Métis lobby as well as its numbers is increasing with time and they willeventually outnumber Status Indians into the near future. The impact of the growth of Metis numbers, within the existing definition ofMétis, might not as drastically impact Indians as indicated. Not all current ‗metis‘are themselves Métis. Métis were first identified as the offspring and cultureproduced by unions between French culture Catholics and plains Cree in Manitoba.Their cultures and languages melded and developed unique and distinguishingattributes from either of their progenitors. They were and are the Red River Métis.Independent of Cree nation leadership, though certainly not without Cree aid and25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  32. 32. shared sympathies as the Frog Lake Massacre suggests,85 Red River Métis engagedin armed conflict against the Dominion Government of Canada86 first in what wasto become Manitoba and later Saskatchewan. These are known as the Red River(1869-1870) and North West (1885) Rebellions.87 Under the leadership of LouisRiel88 the Red River Métis fought for land ownership rights and rights afforded byordinary citizenship, including freedom to use language and Catholic religiousexpression in education. These Métis had a recognized historical status, as a groupdistinct from French, English and Cree, prior to the Rebellions and the legislativeformation of Canada itself.89 They engaged in what was a war for civil rights,albeit a conflict relegated to the status of rebellion only, against the governingforces of the time to protect their rights of citizenship, and belonging to the land. It was in part due to the recognition of the Red River Métis as a people thatthe word métis was used as a slur and a derogatory for identification of ‗half-breeds‘ without the identifying French/Cree cultural origins of the Red RiverMétis. Today, some would prefer that métis, without the capitalization, apply tothose not drawing lineage from the Red River Métis. Yet, by definition of theCanadian government these ‗métis‘ are also Métis; those who trace their bloodlinesor cultures to the French/Cree originating Red River Métis. The federalgovernment‘s use of the term Métis may simply be a recognition of historical fact(one with unintended consequences due to lack of insight) and a heritage gesture toQuebec French in acknowledging that their ancestry is evident in the Métis. Utilizing the same government logic, however, the Métis could never claimthe indigenous status of Indians or take any greater hold on contributions tofounding Canada than the militarily beaten and twice sold French citizens of theformer British colonies founding Canada.90 Canada‘s wars against the French,Indians, and Métis were won by the British establishment and those victories wereinherited by their varied descendants who established the ruling English culture ofCanada. Yet, a former Federal Minister of Indian Affairs, Jane Stewart, inannouncing ―Gathering Strength - Canada‘s Aboriginal Action Plan,‖ (7 January1998) claimed that the Métis existed as a people prior to the arrival of Europeans inNorth America. The factual inaccuracy is predicated on the underlining assumptionthat Métis are merely half-breed Indians, not a culturally distinct group of people:―The ancestors of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples lived on this continentlong before explorers from other continents first came to North America.‖91Perhaps the comment is just a gratuitous nod to Métis peoples‘ cultural originspredating the political formalization of Canada; a sloppy, historically inaccuratecomment at best, but one rife with Canadian contradiction. Minister Stewart‘scomments also reveal the muddled, ‗half-breed‘ thinking at work when25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  33. 33. AANDC/government speaks of Métis status. For the Métis to have residencystatus prior to the arrival of European explorers they would be Indigenous half-breeds, of Indian cultural contexts alone, and therefore are irrevocably original.Before the arrival of European French, and others, there was no Métis/Metisancestry as Métis/Metis are by self-identification not Indians. Metis/Métis have noancestry in North America prior to the arrival of persons from other continents asthey did not exist as a people or culture, let alone nation, prior to those arrivals. Is it possible that the federal government actually sees the Red River Métisas a charter group influencing the formation of Canada but is denying this heritagestatus by including non-heritage Metis in the same grouping? Regardless ofStewart‘s intended purposes, Aboriginal status flowing from the use of Métisdesignation is not without further contemporary legal and intellectual challenge.There is perhaps implicit Federal Government recognition of the Métis as aculturally diverse ethnic group without any connection to formational, and charterFrench heritage. In preaching its bilingual multiculturalism government has todeny the privilege commanded by charter status as it demands the rewriting ofCanadian history. Further, recognition of charter status itself proves to be a barrierto the supposed equality shared by ethnic groups within Canada. Consideration ofcharter status also draws attention to how the political infrastructure of Canadaevolved while perpetuating this denial through discrimination and prejudice.Failure to publically recognize massive differences within the Métis groupingmaintains an historical segregation based on promoting the simplicity oruniformity of Aboriginal cultures, and supports one dimensional views of these‗others.‘ Representing all Métis as one cultural grouping is not unlike the federal useof ‗Indian‘ to describe all North American Indians in Canada, other than the Inuit.Why hasn‘t the government privileged the Red River Métis (who would qualify asa nation using the United Nations‘ definition) as a Canadian charter group differentfrom other Metis? The manoeuvring has to be strategic as it contradicts historicalfact and reasonable interpretation. For example, one can see evidence of culturaluniqueness amongst Labrador Métis92 who originate from unions betweenEuropeans and Inuit peoples. But Labrador Métis (whose cultural lineage likelypredates the birth of the very first Red River Métis by at least one hundred years),now also references a bloodline tied to Innu, not Inuit ancestors, some of whom areeither the cultural offspring of Newfoundland and Labrador Naskapi and Innu93and Newfoundland English/French cultures or Quebec French/English and Innu,non-Innu cultures of Quebec.94 Labrador Metis came to use Métis for politicalexpediency, only. Métis also references urban Ontario and rural British Columbia25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  34. 34. Métis with or without French linage, contemporary French and English Red RiverMétis, and the Metis living on Kikino, Buffalo Lake and Fishing Lake MetisSettlements in Alberta. The latter grouping can take their origins from Blood, Creeor Dene tribes (and others) mixed with English, French, Ukrainian, Italian,Lebanese, and other resident and non-resident Alberta cultures, plus the Red RiverMétis. According to affiliation with the various settlements, these are AlbertaMetis not necessarily the federally recognized Métis. Or are they? Perhaps a focus on Métis difference is merely the effect of a rhetoricalargument focussing on grammatical error, or an appropriation of a FrenchCanadian word into English Canadian language? The latter seems plausible, but ithardly explains the complexity evident in historical and contemporary culturaldifferences. Cynics of wholesale Métis Aboriginal status legitimately ask: How aremixed blood lines and cultures of contemporary ‗Métis any different than othermixed, community-based (or not) unions in a nation where mixed culturalmarriages are rising?95 ―The 2006 Census recorded a 33% rise since 2001 in thenumber of mixed unions (marriage or common-law) involving a visible minorityperson with either a non-visible minority person or a person of a different visibleminority. This was more than five times the increase of 6% for all couples.‖96When asking the question in the context of Métis Aboriginal status and the specialrights, privileges and services given to Aboriginals in Canada we can anticipatethat Canadians will force a clearer definition of Métis as the financial obligationsof taxpayers increases with growth in Métis numbers. Not surprisingly, for many Canadians Métis has come to represent thosepersons with documented North American Indian and ‗other‘ bloodlines. There isresentment in Canada that Métis have wholesale Aboriginal status without alimiting definition of culture. While the Red River Métis seem to have solidified aonce denied place in the charter formation of Canada, i.e. by their presence in theRed River and the North West Rebellions, there is little to suggest that theLabrador Métis, for example, are any more or less a charter group than theoffspring produced by union of First Nations and the Chinese who built theCanadian National Railway. Ancestors of these current (mythical?) Chinese/Aboriginal Métis were instrumental in joining Canada ‗From Sea to Sea.‘ TheLabrador Métis became Canadian citizens, by default, when Newfoundland joinedConfederation in 1949. We‘ll also note that the official title of the province didn‘tinclude Labrador until 2001.97 So, perhaps the Labrador Métis were rightfully anation unto themselves prior to that time. Are Labrador Métis born before 1949pre- Canada ‗original people‘? And, if so, are they not then ‗indigenous‘ relative toCanadian history and its geography? These are not playful conundrums but serious25 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough
  35. 35. inquiries influencing historical revisionism of charter history in Canada. Our socialwelfare system will inevitably pay for what lawyers must invariably decide: Whatare the Aboriginal rights of non-Treaty Aboriginal peoples? There is a crisis emerging over the cultural authenticity of self-identificationof Métis, outside of Alberta. For those without racial prejudices, it identifies acultural belonging; but, not one warranting access to taxpayer dollars once fundingonly Treaty obligations. For others, the term still references half-bred sociallydependent communities unable and unwilling to take responsibility for their owncommunity and individual dependencies. Most Canadians are oblivious as to thecultural sophistication and diversity of Métis peoples. When defined by FederalGovernment policy and action, Métis have no uniquely identifying languages (i.e.Michif) 98 and no cultural practices that would make them a single grouping. Likethe failure to differentiate between Indians as belonging to clans, tribes or nations,the acknowledgement of the Métis in Canada does not give them accuratedistinction or establish them as diverse communities. The effect is to consciouslydevalue cultural richness by ignoring its complexity. Moreover, it is clear that theCanadian public will demand a clearer definition of Métis as Aboriginals into thefuture. Métis, therefore, are Aboriginal but are certainly not any more distinct, i.e.meaningful to Canadian history, than other cultures in the Canadian mosaic. The placement and naming of Aboriginals within the Canadian confederacyhas been at best awkward, contradictory and discriminatory. Pre-Confederationlegislators and their British counterparts did not see Aboriginals as being worthy ofthe rights of citizenship prior to the formation of Canada, or afterwards. Thisexclusion was made on the basis that Indians were not considered as persons. TheIndian Act stipulated ―the definition of ‗person‘ which was in the statute until 1951as: "an individual other than an Indian." 99 Until 1947 all citizens of Canada,except non-enfranchised Indians,100 ―were defined as British subjects‖ (cf. Dewingand Leman) including the French of Canada.101 There was no legal status of beingCanadian until the passing of the Canadian Citizenship Act 1946 in 1947. In 1947enfranchised Indians became, by default, Canadian Citizens but were held as wardsof the federal government nevertheless: ―In June 1956, Section 9 of the CitizenshipAct was amended to grant formal citizenship to Status Indians and Inuit,retroactively as of January 1947.‖102 No Indians, despite their being madeCanadian Citizens in 1947 and again in 1956, could exercise the right to vote infederal elections until 1960; changes made to the Indian Act in 1927 made it apunishable crime for an Indian to seek or retain legal counsel or have legalrepresentation in court.10325 February 2012 Trent Keough copyright by Trent Keough