Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Integration vs Assimilation

We have a debate going on in our country right now. Some people feel we should not grant immigration to people who cannot speak functional English. Their argument for this is that immigrants without English language skills are unable to understand our country or converse well enough to function in daily life. As well because these immigrants lack these skills it is believed that they are more likely to cost the country money and less likely to contribute to our country. What those purporting to support this have forgotten is that our country is bilingual having French as our official language as well as English.
The Parti Que'be'cois, a separatist political party that advocates national sovereignty for Quebec and secession from Canada, has not forgotten however and they are promoting a policy that would see non French speaking Quebec residents denied the right to vote simply because they cannot read or write French functionally and are therefore incapable of understanding the issues that face the people of Quebec well enough to cast a vote.
Two very similar views for very similar reasons? Could it be that the Parti Quebecois is demonstrating prejudice towards English speaking Canadians in the same way that some English speaking Canadians are demonstrating prejudice towards non English speaking immigrants?
One of the things I have always liked about Canada is it's diversity. As a child it was thrilling to come to China town and see all the shops with dried herbs and teas and Chinese lanterns. I still remember eating at Ho Inn's right in the heart of China town and having servers who spoke little or no English, but worked hard and served us with dignity and pride even taking time to write the kids names on napkins in Chinese. We would treasure these scraps of paper fascinated by the Chinese characters and trying desperately to copy them ourselves. When, as a young woman I had the opportunity to move to this city and work I liked nothing better than to head over to the Italian district on the Drive on my day off and buy sausage,breads and cheese all sold to me by a vendor who spoke poor English, but managed to bring smiles to everyones face.
The lower mainland is filled with people from other countries who have different cultures, different religions, different types of dress, different foods and yes different languages, but that is exactly what our country has always been about diversity.
For me celebrating that diversity with people from other countries has brought me great joy. It has allowed me to learn more about the world and the people in it than any books or classes could ever have taught me.
Living in a country with two official languages, one of which I can't speak, has been a challenge. However when I visited Quebec this past winter I began to understand the rich culture and way of life that the francophone s are trying desperately to hang on to.
What I think both groups have lost sight of is that this country is big enough to handle the differences between all of us.


  1. I absolutely agree, I think diversity is wonderful. My only gripe in our country is that America seems to be catering to the immigrants more than its own citizens. When you call a company and you have to press a number to hear a recording in ENGLISH, that is a problem. English should be assumed in America, while the other languages are still supported.

  2. What scares me Lorelei is that they say we are becoming a racist country here. We never used to be so much like that. I know what you mean about the other languages. Here by law we have French on everything you buy and you have to speak both languages to be hired by the federal government. All government agencies speak both languages.

  3. Well, I just wrote someting and my computer freaked out on I apologize if you get this lets see...what did I say, oh yeah.

    I hadn't given this issue much thought until my neice's son started school this year. She's having trouble making friends with the other parents because only one of them speaks English. It's the same with the kids in his class, eventho they were born in Canada.

    The principal said that they have 43 differnt languages being spoken by the parents of the school, which is causing a problem because there's a lack of community. When everyone gets together there's a real sense of segregation. I've seen this happen in work places as well. I think diversity is great, but not when it separates us.

    My niece's husband is from asia and English wasn't his first language, but his parents knew the importance of learning English in order for their kids to have opportunities. Plus the parents learned as well. But it doesn't seem to be that way with many of those immigrating here now, which I think is only going to separate us even more.

  4. I wonder if you can say some more about what you mean by "diversity"? The one thing that multiculturalists do NOT love is cultural diversity. They certainly are appalled by female circumcision practiced in some cultures, the treatment of women in by far the majority of countries, the status of gays in just about every culture, and the cultural practices of just about every historical culture. In short, multiculturalists love diversity as long as everyone acts like white, urban, western, liberals. Since, contrary to appearances, it is not cultural diversity that multiculturalists love, what then are they professing to love? After removing all these horrible cultural practices that multiculturalists find so offensive, what is left to "celebrate"? All we are left with are a remnant of cultural features that are acceptable to multiculturalists: food, music, and dancing are acceptable as far as cultural diversity goes. In short, multiculturalists love to be fed and entertained, to have their beloved monocultures feed and entertain them—multiculturalism is cultural parasitism par excellance.

  5. Well, thank you for commenting on my post. I think that freedom to practice their religion to wear their traditional clothing, to celebrate their holidays and to speak their own language is a given. What I do not believe is that they should be free to break the laws of our country and the laws in our country forbid child abuse, child mutilation, spousal abuse either emotional or physical. In many of the countries where people have immigrated from that held these beliefs and practices have themselves made these illegal. Recognizing that just because it was done in the past does not necessarily make it right.
    Most people come here for a better life not the same one.