Multiculturalism should be celebrated not shunned
Beware the person who ‘tells it like it is.’
This is usually the same individual who claims to say what everyone else is thinking.
The opinion expressed is usually somewhat controversial and often graced with more than a hint of ‘truthiness.’
But laying claim to saying what everyone is thinking? That’s dead wrong. Always.
As a member of this diverse society, I’ve listened to the debate since a Vancouver commentator – a member of the 2010 Olympics committee – spoke on his radio segment last month about the need for immigrants to “shut up and fit in” and that if they “don’t like the rules,” they should go back to where they came from.
I’ve listened as his words angered some, were defended by others and increased the unending divide in our multi-cultural society.
And I’ve tried to understand.
Part of me wonders if overstating his point was an attempt at a ratings-grab. I guess only he and his handlers – yes, I’ll refer to those who sign his contract as handlers – know for certain.
Regardless, many pointed to a certain accuracy in his words. People do move here from other places and try to alter our culture to accept theirs.
And I’m OK with that.
In fact, I urge all residents of Canada – whether indigenous, eighth generation or new arrivals – to speak up, if they don’t feel our culture is inclusive of theirs.
If some traditions or religious beliefs hurt others, our lawmakers should be savvy enough to say no.
But if the objection is only that some feel their own culture is threatened, I have to wonder why we need to protect any culture from the evolution of society. Active cultures are alive. They change. They grow.
After all, any culture that has remained stagnant has been relegated to the history books.
The arguments in favor of the broadcaster’s view inspired me to ask a question. Some of you might have noticed it on our editorial page a couple weeks ago – “Does it bother you to overhear languages other than English in public settings?”
Judging from the reaction in letters to me, some found the question offensive.
Yet I could not think of a better question that gets to the heart of why people are disrespectful towards another’s culture.
Sadly, 30 responded yes.
I’ve travelled a fair amount over the years, mostly through Europe, and my limited comprehension of other languages was embarrassing. But it cost only me.
If somebody wants to move here and not learn English – either by choice or by lack of ability – it costs them.
Financially, you could argue it costs all of us, as our governments strive to communicate in the languages of its residents, irrespective of our having two official languages.
Again, I’m OK with that. My taxes go for all sorts of things I see no personal benefit from. What would motivate me to leap on this issue?
One alternative to our multicultural identity is to employ a melting-pot system, best exemplified by our neighbours to the south.
Rather then celebrate their differences, U.S. residents are urged – some would argue ‘compelled’ – to assimilate into the semblance of a proud American. While arguably as successful at this as we Canadians are at multiculturalism, the differences are pronounced.
I favour our system.
I like hearing other languages, learning different customs, faiths and ways of life.
The Peninsula has become a more interesting place to live, since those from other regions have found us.
Whether you agree or disagree, I offer this advice: Don’t shut up. Share your views with those who will listen. And, in return, listen to them.
We are a democracy in which those who organize the biggest majority are able to make the rules.
And if you don’t like the rules, change them.
Lance Peverley is editor of the Peace Arch News.