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Multikulti ist absolut gescheitert

Categories: Food for thought

Posted on 01-13-11 at 2:58 p.m.

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The call sounded from Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel, in a well-planned speech, declared that multiculturalism in Germany was a total failure and had led to the ghettoization of immigrants.

This statement had a lot of power due to the size of Germany. However, it echoed the thinking of many nations like the Netherlands, who have embraced the path of multiculturalism and are now questioning that choice.

In England, which is to some extent the cradle of multiculturalism, this method of living together is also being questioned. The bombings of July 2005 shocked the English because they were committed by terrorists who were born in England, had studied in good schools and had benefitted from a favourable economic climate.

Other countries, such as France and Greece, have taken a different path. They promote integrating immigrants into a strong national culture. Similar events in these two countries have caused racial and social tensions. In Clichy-sous-Bois in 2005, two teenagers were killed after having been chased by police. This event triggered riots that broke out in many French suburbs. Despite these tensions, French politicians have not questioned their policies, although they face similar challenges such as exclusion and ghettoization. On the contrary, they seem to have hardened their attitude, which is supported by public opinion.

Globe and Mail editorial: Strike multiculturalism from the national vocabulary

In Canada, in a very thorough series of articles, The Globe and Mail recommended discarding the term multiculturalism. For the average Canadian reader, it was as if the National Post announced that Canada is not ″Socialist″ enough. Or if The Gazette printed an editorial stating that Quebec’s language laws should be reinforced. For the Canadian intelligentsia in general, and particularly for Torontonians, this charge against multiculturalism would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Moreover, the current mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, clearly differentiated himself from his opponents during the election campaign by making a statement against rising immigration levels.

For many countries, multiculturalism constitutes a policy of integrating immigrants. In Canada, it is at the very heart of its identity. This policy is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, article 27.

In Quebec, this famous article is far from unanimously accepted. It caused the crisis on reasonable accommodations. The Supreme Court judgement on the right to wear the kirpan in schools triggered discontent among many Quebecers who viewed it as a breach against Quebecois identity, contrary to Quebecois communal values. This crisis allowed a third party (the ADQ) to take power. To calm the storm, the Charest government announced the establishment of the Bouchard-Taylor commission to investigate the issue. Their answer was interculturalism, which Charles Taylor has admitted is very close to multiculturalism (″multiculturalism with a twist″ was his answer to a journalist who asked him the difference between multiculturalism and interculturalism). Daniel Weinstock, expert advisor on the commission declared that ″Therefore, I don’t think that interculturalism and multiculturalism are all that different (...) The difference lies more in nuances than in fundamental principles″. In fact, Jean Charest, who ordered the report, even admitted that the report is very complex and difficult to understand for those of us who do not earn a living examining such questions.

In fact, these questions lead to our relationship with another issue: that of religion (or secularism) and citizenship.

Beyond intellectual reflections and political agendas, what do Canadians think of these questions? Thanks to CROP’s Panorama (formerly known as 3SC), our unique tool to measure social values, we have been measuring these perceptions since 1983.

Of course these beliefs contain many nuances, but we wanted to reduce them to their most simple form for the purpose of this report. As a result, we have divided the possible attitudes regarding new immigrants into three positions.

The anti-immigrationists: you are not welcome here

These Canadians perceive immigration in a negative light, notably because it threatens the idea of purity. They agree with the statement, ″On the whole, there is too much immigration and it threatens the purity of the country″. With regard to values, they clearly believe that their country is superior to others. They are cynical, and they prefer social Darwinism and are allergic to progressiveness, social measures, the implication of government and the mixing of cultures. Consumption plays a very big role in the construction of their identities. There are more of this type of people in Quebec and Alberta and less in the coastal regions of Canada (the Maritimes and British Columbia). The majority of them have little education and live in small communities.

The multiculturalists: welcome to our country, do as in your country

At the other extreme of the spectrum, there are Canadians who believe that the host country should do everything possible to adapt to immigrants. They disagree with the statement ″Immigrants from other races and ethnic groups should put aside their culture and try to adapt to Canadian culture″. In the psychological sense, they are very flexible, very open to new types of families, to new gender roles, to others and to cultural mixing. They are not deeply rooted in the sense that they are not very concerned about their own history, customs and traditions. They experience life through their emotions and their relationships with others. Their relationship with the state is complex, because they want the state to implicate itself to an extent but at the same time they rather distrust it. They are concerned about the environment and they distrust large corporations. Finally, they feel in control of their lives and are neither fatalistic nor cynical. From a sociodemographic point of view, multiculturalists are more common among the well-educated, people under the age of 35 and women. They are proportionally more common in the Maritimes and less common in Quebec.

The pro-integrationists: welcome to our country, do as in our country

This group has a favourable opinion of immigration, as long as new immigrants integrate themselves within the host country. They agree with the affirmation that ″Immigrants from other races and ethnic groups should put aside their culture and try to adapt to Canadian culture″. They are pragmatic people, moderates who value certain ethics. They are Canadians who believe that citizenship brings rights but also responsibilities. They cultivate and value their own traditions.


In 1995, close to one out of two Canadians (45%) were against immigration. This proportion rapidly diminished by the end of the 1990s, stabilizing at around 35%.

Multiculturalist Canadians were at 29% in 1995 and their proportion rapidly increased around the turn of the millennium, reaching 40%. This period was a tipping point in public opinion. We witnessed a quick and drastic change from a state of tension regarding immigration to a completely open position.

Then the events of September 2001 changed the figures. While temporary, the 2002 rate revealed a return to a closed attitude toward immigrants. We must recall the climate of that era to truly comprehend this result.

However, from 2005 to today, we have observed an erosion of support of multiculturalism and an increase of people who advocate integrating immigrants into a strong culture. This position has been constantly increasing since 2005. Today, almost one in three Canadians place themselves in this category (32%) while it was only one in four (26%) in 1995.


In their 2010 annual report on immigration, the Canadian ministry of Citizenship and Immigration announced that Canada will receive about 250,000 new immigrants in 2011 (between 240,000 and 270,000 to be more precise). Therefore, over the course of the next five years, we will welcome more people than the population of Manitoba. In Quebec, the established immigration threshold is 55,000. For a country such as Canada, with an aging population and a low birth rate, immigrants constitute an increase to the active population and an economic boost as well. The major urban Canadian cities already have very high immigration rates. For example, in 2006, 52% of Toronto inhabitants were not born in Canada.

The success of immigration depends on the ability of immigrants to find a place for themselves within the host country and also for society to welcome the immigrants. From this point of view, the main danger would be if public opinion began to view immigration in a negative light. As we have shown, this is not the case; negative views regarding immigration have remained stable for the last decade or so.

However, Canadians increasingly want immigrants to adopt Canadian values. Is this in response to activism among certain religious groups? Is it because certain Canadians who were born here have the impression that they are minorities in their own communities? It is dangerous to abstract upon this sentiment as it might lead to an increasingly tense attitude toward immigration. If Canadians feel that they are only being offered a choice between multiculturalism and anti-immigration, many will choose the latter.