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(Published in the Chilliwack Times week of Oct. 22, 2007)


Reasonable Accommodation


  By John Martin

We’ve been hearing an awful lot about reasonable accommodation for different ethnic and religious groups lately and the tone is starting to get nasty.  A committee is traveling Quebec to gather input on the extent to which we should review policies and legislation to accommodate newcomers’ customs and traditions.  Surveys show 77 percent of Quebecers oppose the idea of accommodation.

Some high profile incidents involving hijabs on the soccer fields and veils in the voting booths have stirred a controversy that has been simmering for quite some time.  And now the Governor General, Michaelle Jean, has suggested similar hearings be held across the country.  Bad idea.  These things tend to attract fringe voices and cause a lot more harm than good.  The Quebec hearings are ugly and we don’t need to put this sideshow on national tour.

Welcoming new immigrants is important – but so is this country’s heritage, traditions and identity.  Unfortunately, politicians, especially the federal Liberals, long ago figured out there is more political capital in chasing the ethnic vote than there is in recognizing and celebrating Canada’s history.  The Liberals have done remarkably well over the years by favouring and bribing certain ethnic groups at the expense of others.  They somehow managed to pass themselves off as the party most attuned and responsive to immigrants when any objective analysis clearly shows nothing more than crass politics at play.  Our policy of official multiculturalism was very much crafted for Liberals to secure the support of this demographic at election time.

Canada was multicultural way before Trudeau and the Liberals started pandering to the immigrant vote.  The men and women who immigrated to this country from all over the world during the pioneer era were the embodiment of different cultures and nationalities working and living together.  They built roads, churches, schools and communities.  There was no ministry of multiculturalism and there were no government grants. 

Since government got into the multiculturalism business we’ve seen communities segregate themselves into cultural self-isolation, ethnic ghettos and a disturbing increase in the number of new immigrants who want nothing to do with Canadian society, it’s language or institutions.

Immigrants aren’t to blame.  It’s the failed policy of multiculturalism that promises prospective new comers that they can carry on living just as though they were still in their homeland.  Official multiculturalism actually encourages and funds immigrants to live apart from the rest of Canadian society.  Seldom has such a wrong-headed idea seen the light of day in modern times.

This country has been reasonably accommodating new immigrants from day one and will continue to do so.  The ugly moments where overt racism helped form government policy happened long ago.  Overall, one would be hard pressed to identify a country that has been as accommodating as this one to the circumstances of new immigrants.

But to think this means we must ban Christmas trees and remove pork from the school cafeteria menu is nothing short of madness.

John Martin is a Criminologist at the University College of the Fraser Valley and can be contacted at

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