The Globe and Mail recently posed a question to their readers regarding the state of multiculturalism in Canada, with a thought-provoking title: “Multiculturalism: celebrating our differences, or what we have in common?”
As one of their eight topics of discussion in its “Our Time to Lead” series, the multiculturalism piece in particular left me, for one, without a resolved idea. When you hear “multiculturalism” you immediately think of words like “tolerance”, “accommodation”, and “acceptance”. But are these catchwords any clearer? Or do they just promote the idea that there are “bad” or “unusual” things to tolerate, accommodate, and accept?
I recently heard someone say—and I quote—“Some Americans have friends who are Muslims.” The gentlemen thought he was being inclusive and accepting. But I think he forgot that some Americans are Muslims.
And it’s true of Canadians too, of course. Especially in our country, especially in our province, especially in our city, especially on this campus, nothing says that Canadians are a certain group of people, who are so nice, tolerating, and so forth. Just the opposite, in fact—“diversity” is part of our identity. So when do we acknowledge that? Is UTM just a campus where “some students” have friends who believe different things, come from different places, or speak different languages?
Well, to be honest, I don’t know. I want to hear from you. I could try to theorize about multiculturalism or give you a definition based on the three or four that I’ve heard in classes throughout my years of studying political science and gender studies, but everyone has a different expectation and multiculturalism means something different to everyone.
There is an unspoken “fear of the unknown” that I’ve seen at UTM. For example, the Muslim Students Association (MSA) is the biggest student club on campus—but how many non-Muslim members do they have? And how many non-Muslim students feel comfortable attending the events they host? I know for a fact that the MSA tries to dispel myths about Islam, but does it work? Is anyone really listening? Do they want to? If not, can we really call ourselves multicultural?
Is our campus just a cluster of cultures tolerating each other? And as the Globe asks, are we celebrating our differences, or what we have in common?
You tell me.