Saturday, January 13, 2007

Visible minorities and slow integration

When I bought yesterday’s edition of The Globe and Mail, I read a very interesting article of Marina Jiménez, the immigration reporter. In her article, she declares that visible minorities (and their children) “identify less and less with the country (Canada)”, according to a report made by Jeffrey Reitz, a University of Toronto sociologist, and Rupa Banerjee, a doctoral candidate. The question at the centre of that report was: “what it means to be Canadian – and specifically how that identity resonates with immigrants and their Canadian-born offspring.”

In this report made with the co-operation of 40,000 respondents, Reitz and Banerjee found that visible minorities who have difficulty to integrate into the Canadian society are mostly from China, South Asia and the Caribbean. Moreover, that report also said that in general, “visible-minority immigrants are slower to integrate into Canadian society than their white, European counterparts, and feel less Canadian”. If a nuance had to be brought, let it be said that “children (even those who are Canadian-born) of visible-minority immigrants exhibited a more profound sense of exclusion than their parents.”

What makes it so hard for “visible-minority immigrants” to integrate into our society and feel Canadians, eh? Well, here’s how, through her article, Marina Jiménez responded to that tough question in her article by using the conclusions of Jeffrey Reitz and Rupa Banerjee:

The sense of exclusion among visible-minority newcomers is not based on the fact that they earn less than their white counterparts. Instead, the researchers (Reitz and Banerjee) found integration is impeded by the perception of discrimination, and vulnerability – defined as feeling uncomfortable in social situations due to racial background and a fear of suffering a racial attack.

Notwithstanding the economic condition of Canadians from visible minorities, Jeffrey Reitz and Rupa Banerjee supported well their thesis by describing the attitudes and the behaviour adopted by “visible-minority newcomers”. However, in spite of the implicit historical analysis made by journalist Marina Jiménez, Reitz and Banerjee didn’t bother to delve correctly into the annals of our nation’s History, unfortunately.

Obviously, not all English or French Canadians are ethnic nationalists nowadays. Nonetheless, ethnic nationalism is a real serious problem that should be considered. In fact, if an historical analysis has been made in the report, we, as readers, could have established a link between the past and the present of Canada.

From the 19th century to the 1950s, most English and French Canadians wanted Canada to remain “only white”. For the English Canadians, in particular, the Asians, along with the Southern and Eastern Europeans (ex: Polish, Ukrainians, Italians, Russians) were seen as being “biologically impossible to assimilate”.

In fact, from the 19th century to the 1950s English Canadians, in particular, abhorred these people who were seen as being “biologically impossible to assimilate” because of their accent, their slow mastery of English, their “unpronounceable names” and their customs, which were described as being “at odds with the culture of the Anglo-Saxon civilization”.

Given the evolution of Canada since the 1950s (for the province of Quebec, it’s since the 1960s), English and French Canadians are hopefully no longer racists nowadays. Nevertheless, the attitude of their ancestors have deeply rooted into their collective mentality (I don’t mean to generalize, mind you) a definition of Canadian nationalism based on the colour of the skin and – sometimes – the spoken primary language (i.e. English or French). Besides, did you know that before 1962, the term used in History schoolbooks was “the two founding races”?

Well, the behaviour of the “visible-minority immigrants and their children” towards the Canadian society is the internal factor of complication. As for most English and French Canadians, their attitudes constitute the external factor that complicate the integration of visible minorities. Moreover, Jeffrey Reitz and Rupa Banerjee wrote that nowadays, white immigrants and their children are really less likely to feel insecure in the Canadian society.

Both sociologists of the University of Toronto displayed passion in their report. However, it does suffer from a strong weakness. In fact, it doesn't even reveal us that most Canadians of ethnic minorities tend to regard the Canadian identity as an ethnic identity that solely belongs to white English and French Canadians. Besides, all "visible-minority immigrants" (ex: Asians, Blacks) come from countries that are self-defined by ethnic nationalism. As a matter of fact, Reitz and Banerjee also found, in their studies, that most Canadians from visible minorities are: 1) less inclined to vote at election time and 2) to trust (and respect) fellow citizens. In the end, that shows us that the Canadian multicultural policy doesn't work at all, but unfortunately, most members of the Liberal Party of Canada are virtually too stupid to understand it. Finally, I'll take the time to answer to the question asked by The Globe and Mail.


Name: Anh Khoi Do, from Montreal
Age: 19
Occupation: College student
Where were you born? Montreal. My parents were born in Vietnam and arrived in Canada in 1979.
Do you self-identify as a Canadian? Absolutely. I consider myself as a real proud and committed Canadian. Although people tend to look at me like a foreigner, being a visible minority means nothing to me, because I never had the feeling to be a Vietnamese. I feel more Canadian than anyone else, because I integrated myself into the society by choice and I strongly condemn ethnic nationalism.
Have you experienced discrimination in the past five years? Indubitably. However, I care less and less about it. I suscribe to Eleanor Roosevelt's quote: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."





Do you identify yourself as a Canadian

Immigrant

Immigrants (%)

Second
generation (%)

Third
generation and
higher (%)

Recent*

Earlier**

Whites

21.9

53.8

78.2

63.4%

Total visible minorities

21.4

34.4

56.6


Chinese

30.6

42

59.5

South Asian

19.1

32.7

53.6

Black

13.9

27.2

49.6

Other visible minorities

17.4

32.8

60.6

*Arrived in Canada between 1991 and 2001
**Arrived in Canada before 1991

Source: Jeffrey Reitz and Rupa Banerjee (2006)
Bernard Bennell/The Globe and Mail



Have you ever experienced discrimination in the past 5 years?

Immigrant

Immigrants (%)

Second
generation (%)

Third
generation and
higher (%)

Recent*

Earlier**


Whites

19.2

10.2

10.9

9.9%

Total visible minorities

33.6

35.5

42.2


Chinese

35.4

30.9

34.5

South Asian


28.2

34.1

43.4

Black

44.8

47.7

60.9

Other visible minorities

32.5

34.8

36.2

*Arrived in Canada between 1991 and 2001
**Arrived in Canada before 1991

Source: Jeffrey Reitz and Rupa Banerjee (2006)
Bernard Bennell/The Globe and Mail


Bibliography:
JIMÉNEZ, Marina. “Visible-minority immigrants and their children identify less and less with the country, report says - How Canadian are you?”, The Globe and Mail, Toronto, January 12, 2007, p. A1


Id., “Investigating what it means to be Canadian - How does multiculturalism translate for minorities?”, The Globe and Mail, Toronto, January 12, 2007, p. A5

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