Paper for the 19th annual symposium on conflict resolution semi final
The Use Of
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Mediation As A Means
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of Conflict Resolution
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on National and
[Center for Conflict Education and Research,
Department of Law At Carleton University,
Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa]
GAMAL A. ELBANNA , Business, Legal Consultant andUniversity of Ottawa
Tel: (613) 736-1631 Email: email@example.com the date]
MOHAMED D. FARAH, Editor, B.A. Honours in French, Ottawa University
My late father Ahmed M. Elbanna used to say that: “Variety is spice of life.”
His view on the world community is being complimented by the Qur’an “ O mankind!
We have created you from male and female, and made you into nations and tribes
that you may know one another, Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is
that (believer) who has At-Taqwa [i.e. he is one of the Muttaqun (the pious. See V.
2:2)]. Verily, Allah is All Knowing, Well-Acquainted (with all things). Surah 13: 49 Al-
The goals of interculture are: 1) to inform on contemporary cultures from their own standpoints on
living realities; 2) to explore issues raised by the plurality of cultures and their interaction, both at the
global level and that of specific societies; 3) to identify and facilitate communication among
institutionally-affiliated independent scholars, from all disciplines and cultures, who explore innovative
alternatives to the contemporary social crisis (Intercultural and Transdisciplinary Research). Thus culture
is a medium of interactive communication, and sometimes it loses its objectives when it interacts or is
integrated into another culture. As a result of this, conflict arouses, and it becomes difficult to manage
or resolve unless another form of cultures intervene to neutralize the situation. Two modules will be
provided to explain such theory; one has to do with the conflict between French and English Canadians;
the other one is related to the US-Iraqi conflict. In so doing, the intervention by other cultures will
represent Intercultural Mediation. History tells us so many stories about such cultural crisis and
intercultural mediation (French vs. British in Egypt; US-Iraq). In this regard, it is my opinion that the
existing Canadian Multiculturalism was the original cause of stabilizing the conflict between the French
and English population in Canada. And for this reason, the Us-Iraqi conflict requires additional force of
cultures to stabilize the situation in Iraq.
1.0 Intercultural Mediation from an Islamic Perspective with Applications in Western Societies: an
The definition of the following terms will help us to consider intercultural mediation from non-western
perspectives and particularly that of the Muslim world.
(a) What is conflict?
Broadly defined, using the definition of Wilmot and Hocker (2001), as cited in Oetzel and Ting-
Tomey (2006), conflict is “*..+an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties
who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources, and interference from others in achieving
their goals” (Oetzel ting Toomey-intro, xi) In effect, when people from different cultural
backgrounds fail to communicate their values in an effective manner, this brings about
The Use of Intercultural Mediation as A Means of Conflict Resolution Page 2
misunderstanding and leads to conflict. This type of intercultural conflict is referred to as a
“value conflict”. They specifically involve “differences in respective worldviews (attitudes,
beliefs, principles underlying one’s choices and judgments)”1, which appear to be irreconcilable.
(b) types of conflict and intercultural conflict
Daniel Katz (1965) identifies three main types of conflicts: economic, value, and power conflict.
Commenting on this statement, Fischer (1977) elaborates that an economic conflict is one
which involves scarce resources and “ each party wants to get the most that it can, and the
behaviour and emotions of each party are directed toward maximizing its gain”. As for value
conflicts, is one which involves in the incompatibility of principles, ideologies, values, etc (e.g.,
Cold War, international conflicts). And, power conflicts occur when parties wish to maintain or
maximize the amount of influence they exert in the social setting (Fischer, p. 2). Since one party
cannot be in total control groups struggle for power between each other which can result in
increased tensions. Power conflicts can occur between individuals, groups or nations (Fischer,
Intercultural conflict is defined as the experience of emotional frustration and/or antagonistic
struggle between a minimum of two different cultural parties (or identity groups) in conjunction
with perceived or actual incompatibility of values, norms, face orientations, goals, scarce
resources, processes, and/or outcomes in face-to-face or mediated context (Ting-Toomey &
Oetzel, 2001) . Intercultural conflict arises due to differences in values and traditions, ways of
thinking and principles, which lead to misunderstandings on an individual or collective level.
This type of conflict between cultures involves difference face-loss and face saving behaviours.
Conflict is charged with emotions which poses a threat to the self image of one or both parties.
‘Face’ then refers to a claimed sense of desired social self-image in a relational or international
setting (Ting-Toomey, 2004). Face loss occurs when one is treated in way such that elements on
his/her identity are challenged or ignored. It can occur both at the individual and group level, or
(c) What is conflict resolution?
James Schellenberg (1996) defines conflict resolution as a “marked reduction in social conflict as
a result of a conscious settlement of issues in dispute. He further highlights that this type of
resolution may occur through “self-conscious efforts to come to an agreement” or by other
means such as environmental change, victory of one party and the influence of a third party
(Scellenberg, 1996, p. 9).
(d) Methods of conflict resolution
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The valued outcome of win-lose scenario is to have a victor who is superior, and a vanquished
who withdraws in shame. This is can be done through socially acceptable means (e.g., majority
vote, a judge’s orders, etc.) or intimidation and “under-the-table” ways such as threats,
In lose-lose, conflict is “smooth-over” by reaching the simplest of compromises and different
creative approaches to conflict resolution are not explored. Members of conflict parties view
conflict as being “inevitable” so settle for whatever they can get and are OK with partial-
The win-win approach is a conscious and systematic attempt to maximize the goals of both
parties through collaborative problem solving. The conflict is seen as a problem to be solved
rather than a war to be won. The important distinction is we (both parties) versus the problem,
rather than we (one party) versus they (the other party). This method focuses on the needs and
constraints of both parties rather than emphasizing strategies designed to conquer.
1.2 Intercultural conflicts and their resolution
(a) levels and types of intercultural conflict: Kim’s model of intercultural conflict
Intercultural communication expert Young Yum Kim identifies three levels of intercultural conflict :
Figure 1.2 Kim’s model of intercultural conflict
Macro (individual) level Intermediary-level Micro-level
- history of subjugation - segregation/contact - cognitive
- ideological/structural - intergroup salience
inequalities - ingroup bias
- status discrepancy
- minority group - insecurity/frustration
- divergent behaviours
The micro-level of intercultural conflict refers to each individual’s unique attitudes,
dispositions, and beliefs he/she brings to the conflict. The Complex rigidity/simplicity at the
individual level refers to the fixed ways (laden with stereotypes) in which people conceive other
cultures. As for ingroup bias it refers to the “degree to which the persons involved in the
The Use of Intercultural Mediation as A Means of Conflict Resolution Page 4
conflict are ethnocentric”; as for insecurity/frustration, it is the degree of fear (insecurity) one
has about outgroup members (for example, cultural group x will steal “our” jobs) and, finally,
divergent behaviour refers to the natural behavioural patterns of individuals, which clearly
differentiates from outgroup members (eg., speech patterns, accents, etc.).
2 – Intermediary level
The intermediary levels involves the location/context of the conflict (e.g., at workplace, school,
neighbourhood, etc.) Segregation/contact is “the extent to which cultural groups of the
individuals interact on a regular basis” and one of the most basic conditions for intercultural
conflict is interaction between cultural groups on a day-to-day basis (Neuliep, p. 326).
Intergroup salience social and physical differences between groups involved in the conflict.
Such cultural markers include physical or behavioural differences such as race, language, and
speech patterns. Status group is also a factor within the intermediary level in that to the extent
in which clear differences exist between conflicting cultural groups, the communicative skills of
the less powerful will clash with those of the majority. Status discrepancy, then, refers to the
“degree to which conflicting parties different in status along cultural lines; such status inequality
has lead blacks in America, for instance, to critique the cultural asymmetry of American culture
which disadvantages minority groups such as theirs (p. 326).
3 – Macro-level
The macro- (societal) level deals with factors that are outside of the realm of individual contact
and emphasizes the influence of the society on individual situations and behaviours. The history
of subjugation is at the root of many intercultural conflicts. For example, the history of
subjugation of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, through assimilation efforts, mission schools, etc.
has lead to a lot of deep-rooted tension between the indigenous communities of Canada and
the dominate White culture. Ideological/structural inequity has to do with societal differences
regarding power, prestige, and economic reward (p.327). As for minority group strength, it
varies with respect to the state of a group’s language within the society, the sheer numbers of
members in the group and forms of societal support (e.g., governmental services designed
specifically for the group) (p. 327). Thus a minority group is strong in so much as its language is
protected, its constituent members are sufficient in size and it receives ample support and
resources to ensure its well-being by the society at large.
(b) Western/Non-Western approaches to conflict Resolution
One popular approach to intercultural conflict resolution is that of John W. Burton, a former Australian
diplomat who developed “problem-solving workshops”, which are based on what he terms as
“controlled communication. Controlled communication refers to the role of facilitators to
control communication (in order to) create a nonthreatening atmosphere in which the participants can
examine their perceptions and misperceptions about the conflict and about each other, and then jointly
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explore adventures for analyzing and resolving the conflict, partly through the development of common
functional interests (Fisher, 1997, p.27, as cited in Oetzel and Ting-Toomey, 2006, p. 632).
Burton considered conflicts as rooted in fundamental human needs, e.g., security, recognition, justice,
etc, and that underlying motivations need to be explored in order to resolve the conflict (p.632 Oetzel &
Ting-Toomey). Sessions often begin with a presentation by each party of its position on the conflict.
Next, panelists usually direct the discussion by seeking clarifications, providing insights about the
conflict, and questioning misperceptions they hear (p.632). Thus scholars bring knowledge from their
different disciplines in an attempt to help the participants analyze the conflict and view it that needs to
be solved together and by better understanding the needs of the other (p.632).
Non-Western approaches to conflict resolution
A) Methods of Conflict resolution in India
India is a vibrant and multicultural nation composed of several distinct religious and cultural groups and
thousands of languages. Being a Hindu majority nation, India has struggled through the challenges of
having minority Muslim and Christian populations who have felt disadvantaged in comparison to the
dominate Hindus. The caste system and its implications of social hierarchy within the Indian society has
also been a source of tensions among natives of the country. Upward mobility, for instance, poses
numerous dialectical tensions for persons belonging to lower castes (Mallick, 1997 as cited in Oetzel p.
504). Given the complexity of India’s religious and ethnic make-up and each groups’ desire for
recognition and equal rights, deep-rooted conflicts have surfaced in this populous nation.
Various methods exist in India to quell tensions between disputing factions. These include third party
mediation, the advice of respected elders, and intervention of religious/political authority figures and
mediation through corporate authority figures. That being said, the “respected elders method” is a
traditional form of conflict resolution in India. It is adapted to the reality of joint families; Indian Joint
families share resources, interests revolve around the whole family (sometimes articulated by the elder
head of the family), and primacy is placed on the identity of the family. Mediation in this scenario, thus,
emphasizes the family’s needs and their being able to recognize the needs of the other and be able to
come to a compromise of some sort.
B) Islamic approaches to conflict resolution
Conflict in pre-Islamic Arabic (prior to 622 CE) often resulted in violence and tensions between rival
tribes and extended families (hama’il) (Abu-Nimer, p. 115, 2003). Rigid patriarchal social structures
emphasized the connection of the individual to the collective “based on criteria such as age, gender,
clan, tribe, religion, ethnicity, race, and region” (p. 116). Other major cultural values that influenced
conflict behaviour among Arab groups were “face saving” concerns (karama), preventing shame, and
restoring respect. The term face represents an individual’s self image in the context of social
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interactions, which has to do with cognitive elements, behaviour and emotion (Ting-Toomey & Kurogi,
Therefore, conflict between individuals automatically became conflict between larger groups, and even
marital conflict could quickly escalate into conflicts between families or even between tribes. Personal
power was relevant only in relationship to one’s group affiliation and position.
The traditional tribal structure for dispute resolution, which is practiced even today, allows both the
victim and offender to attempt exiting the vicious circle of violent retribution and revenge (Abu-Nimer,
2003). A first step is for the offender’s family to offer a sum of money (atwah) to the victim’s family as
a guarantee of seeking resolution. If the atwah is accepted, revenge subsides for a truce (hudnah) to
allow mediation and investigation to take place. A process of reconciliation between the feuding
families (sulh) ensues and agreements for payment take place. The sulh culminates with public
ceremony (sulhah) in which the parties to the conflict share food together and make public their
declarations of communal harmony and peace. The Arabs also use the traditional practice of musayara
when negotiating conflict ( Griefat & Katriel, 1989). Musayara uses empathy to reduce the intensity of
interpersonal conflict by expressing self-humiliation and by not asserting one’s position of power.
Literally, musayara means to go along with the other or travel together and is “designed to enhance
commonalities rather than differences, cooperation rather than conflict, and mutuality rather than self-
Examples of musayara can be verbally praising and elevating the status of the other, bringing gifts, and
extending favours or service to an adversary. The Prophet Muhammad himself recommended such
As the Arabs accepted the Qur’anic message of Islam, principles of new religion began to transform Arab
cultures and the way Arabs approached conflict. The Qur’anic revelation gradually enhanced the
integration between the local Arab culture of the 6th Century and the universal principles of
monotheistic Islam. The new religion taught the Arabian tribes the message of the universality of
humankind and about the special status of humankind in God’s creation. (Abu-Nimer, 2003). Humankind
is created as one community that encompasses different tribes, nations, races, languages, and culture
codes ( Qur’an, 49:13 & 5:48). However, Islam did not suppress Arab cultures but enhance them morally,
socially, and politically. For example, the Qur’an emphasized the norm among tribes of avenging death
through equal measures but gave precedence to mercy, forgiveness as approach to conflict, preventing
shame, and peace as being more praiseworthy (Qur’an, 2:178, Abu-Nimer, 2003). Patience (subr) has
subtly varied meanings, most of the related to difficulty and to the attitude one use adopt in difficult
situation (Abu-Nimer, 2003). The Qur’anic guidance is, “O you who believe, seek help through patience
and prayer, surely God is with the patient one” (2:153). Through patience one may transform a situation
of conflict into an inner process of peace, growth and self-control that will allow healing through
negotiation and reflection, and to allow time for forgiving and forgetting.
In Arab social context, “loyalty to one’s extended family and larger ‘in groups’ take precedence over
individual needs and goals: (Feghali, 1997, p. 352). Therefore, conflicts are usually dealt with in public,
The Use of Intercultural Mediation as A Means of Conflict Resolution Page 7
rather than individual settings. In addition, dispute resolution in the Arab world was traditionally dealt
with through third-party arbitration; this was the case before Islam penetrated the region as well as
during the early Islamic period. The Prophet Muhammad, for instance, arbitrated in intertribal disputes
before and after receiving prophethood. Arbitrators, according to the Islamic tradition, “may be
required to have the correct family and tribal affiliation either to ensure objectivity and trustworthiness
by belonging to a neutral group or by being related to a disputant so as to exert influence toward
resolving the conflict”
But within Islam, conflict resolution is not solely related to the responsibility of the collectivity but also
that of the individual. Muslims are responsible, in front of God for their own words, actions, and
thoughts. A Muslim’s behavior within a dispute is thus inseparably linked to his level of Taqwa – God
consciousness, as represented a hadith in which the prophet Muhammad highlighted that, at the time of
a dispute, even as the apostle of God, he may at times be swayed by the eloquence of one disputant and
judge in his favour (even though this person may be incorrect in his behavior); and similarly, he may at
times, inadvertently not give the oppressed party the rights they deserve. That being the case, the
Muslim ideal is that justice should be self-administered and conflict resolution should be voluntary.
1.3 Culture and Conflict in action
1.3.1 The Case of Iraq
Most of the population are Muslim Arabs, divided religiously into the Sunnis of central Iraq and Shiites
of the south. The Kurds, who inhabit the north , are the principal minority. Arabic is the official language
in most of the country; Kurdish is official in northern sections; Assyrian and Armenian are spoken by
some. And that cause conflict between the existing cultures.
The cost for rebuilding Iraq was estimated by Bremer in late 2003 to be as much as $100 billion over
three years. Meanwhile, U.S.-British failure to find biological or chemical weapons led to charges that
Anglo-American leaders had exaggerated the Iraqi threat to international security.
In Oct., 2003, the UN Security Council passed a British-American resolution calling for a timetable for
democratic self-rule in Iraq to be established by mid-December. Events, however, led the United States
to speed up the process, and in November the Governing Council endorsed a U.S.-proposed plan that
called for self-rule in mid-2004 under a transitional assembly, which would be elected by a system of
caucuses. However, many Shiites objected to this because it would not involve elections; they feared a
diminished voice in the government and greater U.S. influence if caucuses were used to choose the
assembly. Hussein was finally captured by U.S. forces in Dec., 2003.
In Jan., 2004, U.S. arms inspectors reported that they had found no evidence of Iraqi chemical or
biological weapons stockpiles prior to the U.S. invasion; the asserted existence of such stockpiles had
been a main justification for the invasion. (Subsequently, a Senate investigation criticized the CIA for
providing faulty information and assessments concerning Iraq’s weapons. In addition, U.S. inspectors
concluded in Oct., 2004, that although Hussein never abandoned his goal of acquiring nuclear weapons,
Iraq had halted its nuclear program after the first Persian Gulf War. An interim constitution was signed
by the Governing Council in March, but many Shiites, including nearly all those on the council, objected
to clauses that would restrict the power of the president and enable the Kurds potentially to veto a new
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In the Jan., 2005, elections for the transitional National Assembly, which would write a new constitution,
the United Iraqi Alliance, a Shiite coalition supported by Ayatollah Sistani, won nearly half the vote. A
Sunni, Hajim al-Hassani, became speaker of the National Assembly; a Kurd, Jalal Talabani, became
president; and a Shia, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was chosen as prime minister. The constitution was strongly
endorsed by Shiites and Kurds and as strongly rejected by Sunnis, who voted in larger numbers this time.
The formation of a government, however, became protracted, when Sunnis and Kurds objected to the
Shiite religious parties’ selection of Jaafari as prime minister. Finally, in Apr., 2006, Jaafari stepped aside,
and Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a long-time aide of Jaafari’s, was chosen for the post.
In Aug., 2007, there was an outbreak of fighting between Shiite militias. Despite these events and other
continuing violence, the overall level of violence appeared to be decreasing as the second half of 2007
progressed. Also in the second half of 2007, Turkey became increasingly confrontational in its calls for an
end to the presence of Turkish Kurdish (PKK) rebel bases in Northern Iraq. The PKK forces, whose
presence was, at a minimum, tolerated by Iraqi Kurds, had mounted increasing attacks in Turkey. Both
the Iraqi and U.S. governments pressured Iraqi Kurds to close the bases; Turkey mounted raids and
shelled Northern Iraq in October, and threatened to invade the region.
Iraqi Kurds aided U.S.-British forces in 2003 in their war to oust Saddam Hussein from power. In Turkey,
Kurdish guerrillas began fighting the government in the mid-1980s, and in 1992 Turkey mounted a
concerted attack on the rebels. In 1995 Turkish forces invaded Northern Iraq in an attempt to destroy
guerrilla bases and supplies. The head of the Kurdish guerrillas was arrested by Turkish officials in 1999
and sentenced to death for treason; in 2000 the guerrillas announced they would end their attacks.
Some 23,000–30,000 people may have died in the 15-year war. There was fighting in the early 1990s
between Turkish and Iraqi Kurds as well and Kurdish unrest in Syria in 2004, and Syria and Iran in 2005.
In 2007, Iran shelled Kurdish positions in Iraq in retaliation for Kurdish rebel operations in Iran.
As we can see the conflict in Iraq is due to various cultures, religions and political interest which make
the situation unbearable by the use of armed forces by the British-US troops. The invasion of Iraq has
never settled the imbalance of power that exists in Iraq along with the fact that it has never addressed
the interest of foreign nations such as Turkey, Syria, Iran, Us, Britain, Israel, Japan, Russia, China and the
only resolution of that is the enforcement of multinational body comprised of those and other nations
mandated by the UN to engage various factions in Iraq in a collaborative dialogue to give voice to
powerless Iraqi people in the way governance in Iraq should be. The introduction of new multicultural
body of nations will not only balance the power in Iraq but also stabilize the situation through effective
negotiation, intercultural communication and mediation as explained above.
1.3.2 Egyptian Culture as a Stabilizing force between French and British Empires in Egypt
Nor was the French attempt to establish a colony in Egypt in 1798–1801 successful. On the other hand,
enduring cultural links were established between France and Egypt which greatly impacted on the
development of Arab nationalism. Egypt also adopted the Napoleonic Code.
The brief French invasion of Egypt led by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798 had a great social impact on the
country and its culture. Native Egyptians became exposed to the principles of the French Revolution and
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had an apparent chance to exercise self-governance. A series of civil wars took place between the
Ottoman Turks, the Mamluks, and Albanian mercenaries following the evacuation of French troops,
resulting in the Albanian Muhammad Ali (Kavalali Mehmed Ali Pasha) taking control of Egypt, where he
was appointed as the Ottoman viceroy in 1805. He led a modernization campaign of public works,
including irrigation projects, agricultural reforms, and increased industrialization, which were then taken
up and further expanded by his grandson and successor, Isma'il Pasha.
In 1869 the Suez Canal was opened under Napoleon III, linking the Mediterranean with the Indian
Ocean. The Canal was at first opposed by the British, but once open its strategic value was recognized
quickly. In 1875, the Conservative government of Benjamin Disraeli bought the indebted Egyptian ruler
Ismail Pasha's 44 percent shareholding in the Suez Canal for £4 million.
Although this did not grant outright control of the strategic waterway, it did give Britain leverage. Joint
Anglo-French financial control over Egypt ended in outright British occupation in 1882. The French were
still majority shareholders and attempted to weaken the British position, but a compromise was reached
with the 1888 Convention of Constantinople. This came into force in 1904 and made the Canal neutral
territory, but de facto control was exercised by the British whose forces occupied the area until 1954. A
joint force of British and Egyptian troops defeated the Madhist Army in 1896, and rebuffed a French
attempted invasion at Fashoda in 1898.
When the French first arrived to Alexandria, Egypt, via the Mediterranean Sea, the Egyptian welcomed
them because the French showed interest in the Egyptian culture and welfare of its people. They
introduced the printing, books, French cultures, and the benefit of building the Suez Canal to the
Egyptian people, most of the Egyptians appreciated the French culture. But when the French attempted
to colonize Egypt, the Egyptians collaborated with the British to defeat the French to the point that was
forced Bonaparte who was married to Egyptian lady to abandon his troop and depart to France. When
Egypt becomes a British colony, most of Egyptians sent their children to French schools as a mean of
rejecting the British presence in Egypt.
The attractions of Egypt for France were many: to restore French trade and influence in the Levant; to
undercut Britain's eastern trade round the Cape of Good Hope by opening the shorter Red Sea route;
and to establish a base for a military attack on British India.
In 1956, Nasser unilaterally nationalized the Suez Canal. The response of the new British Prime Minister,
Anthony Eden, was to collude with France to engineer an Israeli attack on Egypt that would give Britain
and France an excuse to intervene militarily and retake the canal. Eden infuriated his US counterpart,
President Dwight D. Eisenhower, by his lack of consultation, and Eisenhower refused to back the
invasion. Another of Eisenhower's concerns was the possibility of a wider war with the Soviet Union
after Nikita Khrushchev threatened to intervene on the Egyptian side. Eisenhower applied financial
leverage by threatening to sell US reserves of the British pound and thereby precipitate a collapse of the
British currency. Though the invasion force was militarily successful in its objective of recapturing the
Suez Canal, UN intervention and US pressure forced Britain into a very humiliating withdrawal of its
forces, and Eden resigned. As we can see the integration of the Egyptian culture into the British and
French have resulted into the cooperation and stabilization of the conflict between the two empires.
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1.3.3 Canadian Multiculturalism as a Stabilizing Force in English-French Relations
Multiculturalism was a reality in Canada by the mid twentieth century. According to the available data,
in 1971, approximately one-quarter of all Canadians were neither English nor French in origin, and
Canadian urban centers became culturally heterogenous (Edwards & Saltman, 2000). Moreover, this
demographic reality set the stage for a “new vision of Canada, in which immigrants *…+ were encouraged
to retain their cultural traditions and ethnic identity and language, even as they were supported in their
engagement with a local, regional, and national life (Moodley, A. Kogila, as cited in Edwards & Saltman,
This has affected English-French relations in Canada in that it has quelled tensions relating to linguistic
and cultural identities of the two main groups in Canada. As mentioned earlier, the various cultural
groups who immigrated to Canada were not asked to give up their cultural traditions in order to
assimilate into a “monolithic” Canadian society but rather to retain their own heritage. This, in turn, set
the precedent for Canadian policy makers to rethink relations between English and French and to
proudly embrace Canada’s bilingual and bicultural heritage. It was no coincidence then that in the late
sixties to early seventies, around the same time that Canada was experiencing an influx of immigration,
the Canadian government adopted the official languages act (1969), as well the liberal government’s
policy on multiculturalism released in 1971.
1.3.4 Multiculturalism as a driving force for conflict resolution in Canada
Although nobel and forward looking in their goals, the federal government’s multiculturalism policies
have been viewed with suspicion and hostility by many Canadians. One of the chief criticisms, of course,
is that the policies are used shamelessly by politicians to buy votes at elections, a valid point
underscored by the well-known Canadian columnist Richard Gwyn who bluntly described the program
as a “slush fund to buy ethnic votes.”
Above and beyond that, the program has attracted vocal opposition from Quebec, where many
observers regard it as injurious to the French cultural communities. Quebec sociologist Guy Rocher
argued that Canada could have reaped large cultural gains if it had retained the idea of two main
cultural communities around which the other ethnic communities could cluster and derive support.
Most Canadians who object to the perceived policies of official multiculturalism, however, base their
opposition on the belief that these policies divide rather than united Canadians. In the opinion of the
Citizens’ Forum on Canada’s Future, which released its report in early 1991, multicultural programs are
divisive because they remind Canadians of their different origins rather than of the symbols of Canadian
society and the future that they share. Even some members of the ethnic communities themselves
reject the policies, claiming that they accentuate the differences between various ethnic groups, ignore
the tougher issues of racism and bigotry, and prevent “ethnics” from moving into mainstream society.
These agreements are supported by some scholars, who claim the policies serve to buttress the
dominance of the Anglo-Saxon community by diverting the attention of the non-English and the non-
French into cultural activities and away from political and economic affairs. Such criticism ignores the
fact, however, that the limited government funding for multicultural activities is no longer, as it once
was, devoted almost entirely to promoting cultural pursuits. When visible minorities started to
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concentrate in large Canadian cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver, and race riots erupted in cities in
Britain, the federal government began to change the focus of its spending.
Where once it concentrated on the retention of cultures and languages, it now began to stress equality,
and ethnic and racial harmony. No longer is it correct to identify official multiculturalism with just the
three Ds dress, diet, and dance). In fact, for years multiculturalism has moved well beyond the so
called song-and dance approach to focus on ending discrimination and integrating immigrants into the
“evolving mainstream” of Canadian society. Shifts in the funding for multicultural initiatives confirm
this. If properly explained and implemented, multiculturalism policies can do much to help eliminate
racism, and to forge a Canadian identity and reality in which Canadians of every ethnic and racial origin
can see themselves reflected. Indeed, increased racial tensions in various Canadian cities underline the
need for effective multicultural policies. And all indications are that this need will grow. For Canada
faces and will continue to face a major challenge in funding ways to prevent conflict between different
racial and cultural groups as the total number of Third World immigrant and their descendants
As we can see from the above facts that introduction of Multiculturalism has given the power to various
ethnic minorities across Canada to get involved in the decision making and keeping of public policies and
the direction the federal government should consider when it enact its foreign policies. Despite the fact
that the diverse ethnic cultural groups in Canada have created conflict, it reduces tension on the other
hand between French-English Canadians during the time of struggle. So, during the Quebec’s
Referendum, Canada’s ethnic minority forget their tensions and gathered their efforts and voted
against the Referendum that caused Jacques Parizeau, Former Premier of Quebec, to blame Canada’s
ethnic minorities especially in Quebec to destroying the future of independent Quebec. The leaders
of these ethnic minorities went further to mediate the conflicting viewpoints between the French and
English speaking across Canada, especially in Quebec, to stabilize their historical differences demanding
the inclusion of their voices, languages and cultures as part of the founding and building nation of
Canada. In this regard, the use of intercultural mediation will continue to be the vibrant means of
conflict resolution in Canada and elsewhere.
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