Canada, Ethnic Studies and the World

By Stanly Lee

“Diversity is Canada’s Strength”

How many times have you heard it from the beloved Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honorable Justin Trudeau?

It sounds great to have our leaders playing this message on tape recorder, but are they really putting their money where their mouths are?

Let’s take a look.

Here’s the Federal Government’s Definition of “Multiculturalism”

“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.

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 other 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.

Our diversity is a national asset. Recent advances in technology have made international communications more important than ever. Canadians who speak many languages and understand many cultures make it easier for Canada to participate globally in areas of education, trade and diplomacy.”

Department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

According to the federal government, all ethnic groups are protected by The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, The Multiculturalism Act, and The Official Languages Act. Heck, “multiculturalism” is a historical part of the Liberal Party of Canada brand.

Let’s examine reality.

How well served are the immigrant communities who predominantly speak poor English?

Yes, you would argue that immigrants coming here should do their best to integrate into this society. That said, many of the senior immigrants coming here have more difficulty learning the English or French language and getting used to how the society works here. This is expected. You should cut them some slack.

That said, when they need services rendered, taking care of them makes sense. If you speak a language other than English or French, I challenge you to pick up the blue pages section of the phone book and call an agency.

Granted, government agencies don’t have the obligation to serve in languages other than English or French. That said, given sufficient demand, providing such service would increase efficiency from guessing what each other is saying. Many local governments, utility, and private sector companies have already caught onto this, but more resources could be deployed.

How much value do employers place on Asian cultural and language skills given the geographic proximity to the Asian Pacific?

Just go to Craigslist and take a look.

How many job postings do you see in the “Retail / Wholesale” section where Asian cultural knowledge is requested as a key job skill given their business with the Asia Pacific or demographic nearby their store? Heck, how many job postings do you find saying “language skills other than English or French being a big asset”?

English Training…or Lack Thereof

Governments of different levels used to (well, still are) bragging about the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada program, also known as LINC.

That said, LINC service providers like ISSofBC, S.U.C.C.E.S.S., and Mosaic already have wait lists of up to one year, with hundreds of newcomers waiting for English classes.

They are facing significant shortfalls in funding as well. For example, the Immigrant Services Society of B.C. alone is facing a $300,000 shortfall, equal to a nine per cent cut to its LINC classes.

In Surrey, where a large number of refugees are settling, the wait list at S.U.C.C.E.S.S. for English classes currently sits at 1300 people.

At Mosaic’s North Vancouver LINC program, the wait list has more than 700 names on it.

Is there any wonder why you’re not seeing the desired level of societal integration with these groups?!!

Why else do you think many of them are stuck in minimum wage back-breaking survival jobs? Speaking a completely foreign language when you approach them? Scouring the Food Banks?

“But They Should Be Speaking Perfect English Before Coming In”

I have news flash for you – Canada is practically competing with everyone for this pool of immigrants.

However, given the real incentives of the business community and politicians, compromises are made. English-speaking ability appears to be one of them given what I see on the streets.

While there are government funded English training programs here, albeit inadequate, expecting older immigrants to improve their English enough to survive here isn’t realistic. This poses challenge to them when they need services from any agency – unless their children or grandchildren miss out on work or school in order to assist them.

These agencies often complain they can’t find anyone to help them service in an in-demand language. The talent pool is out there, but the internal hiring structure typically keeps the outsiders they really need from providing the service.


At the end of the day, given what’s actually happening in the society, “Diversity is our strength” and “multiculturalism” are really just neoliberal buzzwords to promote mass-immigration to benefit certain politicians (in terms of electoral posturing and tax revenue) and the elite rich (cheap labor supply who are too scared to stand up to abuse).

To every other Canadian mass-immigration has been a cancer so far – especially given the increased competition we have for scarce housing, public education, and health care resources. Also, the immigrants tend to suffer from lengthy separation of families, workplace bullying, and wasting talent they have back home to fight for table scraps here. It’s also easy to smile and nod our heads at different cultural festivals, but it’s a different matter when it comes to tackling difficult problems…