When I hear about a horrific crime, I don’t immediately bolt my doors, hiding for fear that the same crime will then happen to me. It’s not in my nature. And it doesn’t make sense. When an incident happens, I don’t necessarily see a larger pattern; very specific instances are not the best points on which to make a stand.If I cut myself shaving, it doesn’t mean that all razors will therefore cut me every time I shave. It’s pretty basic logic, but it’s lost on some.
I bring this up in order to counter a prevailing argument that multiculturalism is a threat to our society. The argument is almost always based on some fear-induced argument using specific examples of rare occurrences. A recent editorial in a certain well-read publication is a good example, but I won’t dignify it with a mention.
Did you know that Muslims are allowed to pray in a cafeteria in a school in Ontario? Yeah, me neither. I don’t agree with religion in school in any form, but I hardly think this is an example of a larger problem. I also don’t think saying something like the premier of Ontario almost allowed Sharia law into the family court system in that province has anything to do with anything. Something almost happened, but it didn’t because it wouldn’t be right? Well now, there’s a story!
It’s been 40 years since official multiculturalism was introduced to Canada and some would like you to think that we’re coming apart at the seams. I may sometimes overlook the odd armpit hole in my sweater or fail to notice a loss of structural integrity in the crotch of my jeans, but I’ve been taking a hard look at this country and I fail to see where it’s failing (aside from a certain crime bill and jet fighter purchase).
Canada has always been a country of immigrants. With those immigrants comes elements of their culture. What doesn’t come is some erosion of some fundamental elements of our society — secularism, tolerance and the rule of law.
Somehow there’s always the threat of Sharia law everywhere. Where? I don’t know, but it’s almost always there everywhere.
There’s talk of honour killings (there have been 13 alleged cases in Canada since 2002), as though they are the result of culture while the plain old-fashioned murder of women by Canadians is simply a crime. Alberta has the highest rates of domestic violence in the country and some of the highest rates of domestic murder, but that’s not cultural, so it doesn’t indicate an erosion of anything, right?
The reason why people move to this country is because of its apparent tolerance, its freedom and its economy. They move here for a better life, mostly for their children. I doubt many move here for the weather. I doubt many people move their entire lives and livelihoods to struggle in a strange land so that they can break or change the laws, or somehow undermine our cultural norms.
But the naysayers will say that that’s exactly what they’re doing. Or at least the Muslims — people who don’t like multiculturalism really don’t like Muslims. Somehow we’re supposed to believe that cultural considerations are hollowing out our judiciary, our political system, our schools and our ability to conduct ourselves as we see fit in public.
There’s only one problem: the same cultural norms that say we are all equal, and that critics use to argue that all cultural values from “outside” will be given as much credence as “our own,” are the same ones that prevent that from happening. The argument has an inherent contradiction. Do critics really think that women will be devalued (any more than they already are) because a certain religion or culture doesn’t afford the same rights to women as we do? Do they think that practices that contradict entrenched Canadian legal precedent will triumph? Bullshit.
These are the same kind of people who, oddly, get up in arms when a justice of the peace with a religious bent is “forced” to marry a same-sex couple, arguing that someone’s beliefs trump the rights of individuals who haven’t chosen to be who they are. The fact that the state ensures the rights of the would-be bride and groom (or is that groom-groom, bride-bride?) is another indication of the strength of our society and its “values.”
At a recent roundtable discussion on this subject, one participant suggested the term made her angry because what we’re really talking about is ethics and law. The term itself is what creates conflict and confusion. Well, fine. We want to build an ethical, tolerant society that is respectful of enshrined legal precedents. Wait, that kind of sounds like what we’ve already got. Seems like “Canadian values” are doing just fine.