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Multiculturalism & Interculturalism: Lost in definition… POST 1 of 3 (#180)

The last couple of posts spoke of some fairly complex issues – which, for the most part, seem to be lost on many people owing to their fuzzy nature.

This will be the first of three posts.  Let’s take a couple of steps back and give a bit of background information which can help to make sense of the last couple of posts.

  • This post will look at what multiculturalism and interculturalism are.
  • The second post will look at more controversial aspects of multiculturalism and interculturalism (click HERE for the second post)
  • The third post will discuss the relevance of multiculturalism and interculturalism with respect to Québec’s place in Canada. (click HERE for the third post)

The purpose of these posts do have a role to play in bridging the Two Solitudes, considering that multiculturalism and interculturalism often takes the form of a very public debate in Québec.


Multiculturalism is an official government policy which several countries around the world have enshrined in laws.  But it can mean different things in different countries.

In Canada, there is a law called the Multiculturalism Act The Canadian definition is applicable everywhere in Canada, including Québec, and is equally applicable to all of us.  According to the Multiculturalism Act, multiculturalism:

  • allows Canadians to keep their cultural heritage (as they see fit)
  • allows anyone, regardless of their cultural heritage, to fully participate in Canadian society, without discrimination.
  • recognizes communities which contributed to building Canada, and to helps to enhance those communities’ development.
    • (In practical terms, this might mean federal funding of a monument to the Irish who died in the sinking of the Empress of Ireland passenger steamliner in Québec, the funding of the Ukrainian cultural village in Alberta, the funding of the Upper Canada historic village in Ontario, or the funding of various ethnic food or music festivals around the country, etc.).
  • enhances the use of English and French by everyone, while allowing cultural communities to retain their own language, should they so desire
    • (This is why we see federally funded language programs to provide English or French lessons to immigrants – with the understanding that immigrants will use the language of the majority at work & school, as will their children as they grow up in Canadian society. This is also why our government institutions such as hospitals, schools, courts & offices operate only in English and French – and why official interactions with the public are in these two languages and none others, with some cursory exceptions on trivial matters).

In a nutshell, that’s that covers the majority of what multiculturalism deals with.  It’s actually not complicated.  There’s not really anything sneaky, and the vast majority of what it deals with is not controversial at all.   We basically allow people to simply live their lives as any normal people would — just as we, and our neighbours naturally wish to live our daily lives.

For the vast majority of immigrants and their descendants, what it means in practical terms is that when they move to Canada, nobody holds an unjust law against them for wanting to live life how they desire.  It means that extreme measures will not be unjustly used against immigrants should they wish to retain aspects of their own cultural identity (by extreme measures, I mean the government cannot threaten immigrants with fines, jail, or even worse measures for practicing innocent and harmless things such as speaking their own language amongst themselves, or retaining normal, harmless cultural traditions).

It also means we don’t tell our immigrants they must abandon their customs, and where we can, we will accommodate their customs because we recognize that they too have a role in building Canada.   This can include very simple, easy-to-accommodate measures which really don’t cost anything or are not a burden to anyone.  Examples might be to allow cities to provide building permits for a Sikh temple, to allow Chinese immigrants to celebrate Chinese New Year’s in a social hall, to allow school cafeterias to provide pork-free food options to Muslim students, etc.   All such measures are very simple, very easy, very reasonable – and very natural.

You may say that the above measures are no-brainers.   But you have remember that in some countries (actually in many countries), these sorts of very basic freedoms are not allowed.  In some countries, Muslims are not allow to pray and are force-fed pork meals in prisons or schools, minorities are forbidden by law to speak their language in the streets or within schools or hospitals (or to even learn their own or other languages in grade school or university), people are forbidden to convert to Christianity or any other religions, building permits are not afforded to anything which can be considered cultural or religious, and minority ethnic groups are not allowed to assemble as a group for ethnic activities (no ethnic food festivals, no music festivals, no holiday festivals, nothing).   In such countries (including some of which are Canada’s very close “allies” and “strategic partners”), such people can be fined, jailed, or even worse if they’re found doing any of this.   You, as a Canadian, could also be subject to such penalties if you travel to any of these countries and you engage in innocent activities such as gathering with other Canadians to celebrate something as simple as a Christmas meal, share a beer, or wear an innocent style of clothing which is popular back on the streets of Canada.   So in a nutshell, there’s nothing bad or offensive about what we’re doing with “multiculturalism” – it’s simply allowing others to be treated how you would like to be treated if you were to spend time in another country.  In one word, it is “freedom”.

Where things become a bit blurred, and where the public hears there are “issues” with multiculturalism is when isolated and rare issues arise.  Such issues are not things which involve the vast majority of immigrant minorities in Canada.  However, because they involve more rare events, the media sometimes gives them disproportionate attention.  This is how minor and harmless matters can instantly (and unjustly) takes on sensational proportions – to the point that some people use media examples to claim that multiculturalism is broken.

One example which came up a number of years ago was when the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) allowed a Sikh to keep his turban.  The RCMP found a way to integrate it into the uniform.  Does it do any harm?  Is it impeding any professional function?  The answer is no to both questions.   Does it ruffle feathers?  For the majority of Canadians, the answer would be no, but for some people it does.  Why it ruffles feathers for a minority of people is an issue I’ll leave to psychologists to explain (after all, they are the ones who study why certain things perturb certain individuals).   But the RCMP recognized the idea of “treating others as you would like to be treated”.  Therefore the RCMP’s decision to allow turbans as part of uniforms was within the spirit of the Multiculturalism Act.  The fact of the matter is this:  an individual who is Sikh happened to respond to a call of duty, and said that he would be honoured to fully participate in Canadian society, as a Canadian, and join the RCMP to protect my and your lives.  He agreed to possibly sacrifice his own life if necessary, in the line of duty, for the safety and protection of Canadians.   He simply asked if he could keep his turban in the course of such an act – and we said yes.  It’s actually quite touching that he felt he could participate fully in society, as a Sikh, and that we recognized this, and accommodated it.  In this light, it shows that multiculturalism works.  Such policies allow us to come together – all of us – as one country.


The government of Québec has an official policy named “interculturalism”.  It’s the provincial take on similar federal multiculturalism issues.   It’s very similar to multiculturalism, with the only major difference being that it is packaged with a slightly stronger emphasis on integration, along with a different name.   The government of Québec’s definition is also quite simple and short.

In brief, interculturalism :

– invites minority groups to conserve their heritage in Québec,

– invites minority groups to express and live their own values in Québec,

– encourages interactions between ethnocultural minorities, and also with the majority francophone culture in Québec,

– affirms that French is (and will remain) the public language of Québec.

That’s it.  It is very straight forward, very uncomplicated, and very open.

Similarities between multiculturalism and interculturalism: 

– Because Québec is a Francophone society made up of people of many different backgrounds, immigrants need to abide by the Québec Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which was actually a model for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – they are very similar).  It implies that immigrants contribute to building Québec (in a social sense, regarding language and customs) by cooperating with Québécois people.

– When multiculturalism in practised in Québec, it works in tandem with Québec’s interculturalism.  Thus, the two ideologies do not clash (there has been no proof to show they clash).

– Both embrace pluralism.

– Interculturalism, like multiculturalism, does not have a forced assimilation policy (nobody is holding the threat of fines, jail, or worse against immigrants to compel them to reject what they hold dearest about their own personal identity in the name of becoming exactly the same as Québécois or Canadians).

Differences between multiculturalism and interculturalism:

– Canada, outside Québec, does not have institutionalized language learning programs with which to expressively integrate immigrants into society.  But Québec does have institutionalized language learning programs for integration (English Canada has optional English programs such as LINK.  But as Andrew Griffith pointed out in the comment section of my last blog post, immigrants in English Canada traditionally self-integrate with English as their societal lingua-franca.  However, in Québec it would not necessarily be the case that immigrants would integrate with French as their main societal lingua-franca, thus Québec requires immigrants to undergo French language training in certain circumstances). 

– interculturalism seeks to counter the attraction of settling in Québec solely based on the attractive forces which federal multiculturalism holds for immigrants.  Therefore, interculturalism contains a more expressive and attainable integration component, separate from other elements which are shared by both multiculturalism and interculturalism.   But this integration component of Québec’s interculturalism does not go as far as “assimilation”, nor is it as “loose” as multiculturalism.

– multiculturalism allows for bilingual integration, whereas interculturalism funnels immigrants towards French language integration (with no funneling towards English).

– interculturalism seeks “language security” for Québec in the various aspects of life (work, education, and government), whereas such policies are not needed (and do not exist) in multiculturalism because elsewhere in Canada, English does not need “security”.  This is because English is not perceived to be under threat in the absence of language protection policies.

If we were to look at some of these comparisons in visual and very abstract terms, they may look something like this:

Graph 1:  On a parallel scale, the following graph can give you an idea of how multiculturalism and intercultural are similar and compatible:


Graph 2:  On a parallel scale, the following graph can give you an idea of where multiculturalism and interculturalism may share areas of immigrant integration policies:


Graph 3:  On a parallel scale, this graph can give you an idea of how governments have flexibility to decide what emphasis they can allot to integration, as a policy, within multiculturalism and interculturalism.


A few days ago, in my post entited “Multiculturalism Redefined?”, you may have read Andrew Griffith’s comments and feedback to my post (his comments are at the bottom of that post).  Andrew is actually one of Canada’s foremost published experts on multiculturalism.  I appreciated his comments, and I would encourage you to read his blog, Multicultural Meanderings.  It makes for very interesting reading.

Andrew Griffith’s blog, Multicultural Meanderings, contains a very informative chart which shows a comparison of various elements between multiculturalism and interculturalism.   It’s a chart which Andrew and his organization worked on with Gérard Bouchard, who conducted a very public inquiry in Québec, the Bouchard-Taylor Commission, on the matters we’re discussing (special thanks to Andrew for the use of this chart):

Click chart to enlarge


In my last post, Andrew commented that the Conservative government is according a higher degree of integration policy within the realm of multiculturalism (refer to Graph 3).   As you read in my last post, it appears that Justin Trudeau, based on his own definition of multiculturalism, is prepared to accord a higher degree of integration policy within multiculturalism (his definition is very similar to the Conservative government’s policy).   This higher degree of integration is not incompatible with Québec’s own stance, as applied within interculturalism.  I believe that the Conservative government’s and Justin Trudeau’s Liberal stance, which leans heavier on the integration side, makes is so Canada’s federal multiculturalism is now much more compatible with Québec’s interculturalism, perhaps more so than at any point in the past.

In my last post I also made a very specific point of stating that the difference between Canada’s multiculturalism and Québec’s interculturalism is not very big.   A person can think of them both as being quite complimentary – both working together to meet the needs of Québec.   In areas where multiculturalism may not meet all the needs of Québec’s society, interculturalism is then applied by Québec’s government to add an additional layer which facilitates a more specific type of integration – unique to Québec’s societal needs.

The next post will look at more controversial aspects of multiculturalism and interculturalism (they both share the same controversial aspects).  It will also look at something called “reasonable accomodation” which gets a fair deal of media attention in Québec, and sometimes elswhere in Canada also.

See you soon!




Multiculturalism Redefined? (#179)

This is a translation of yesterday’s post in French, but in a somewhat abridged format. I often browse books of societal and political interest (of all political colours).

Out of curiosity, I was leafing through the new book written by Justin Trudeau, “Common Ground”.  I was very curious what such a thick biography could contain, considering he is only 43 years old.   I read it in French, so references below are translations.

There were a few things in the book which caused me to raise an eyebrow.  But one subject in particular grabbed my attention more than anything else – that of Justin Trudeau’s definition of multiculturalism (which, I should say, would probably become a definition adopted by a Federal government should the Liberals ever be elected – after all, J.T. is the party leader).

To start, in Québec a notion of interculturalism is “practiced” (or at least preached).  In Canada as a whole, on a Federal and legal level, multiculturalism as practiced.  But honestly speaking, on a global level from 1 to 100, the difference between our version of federal multiculturalism and our version of Québec’s interculturalism would likely not be any greater than a figurative 83.4 versus an 84.9.   I say this with my own experiences of having been an immigrant in another country outside Canada for several years.  When I immigrated to Asia, I was subjected to the concepts of conformity and “the majority’s cultural projections” towards immigrants who they welcomed.  After having lived that experience, I can sincerely tell you that the difference between the two concepts we have here in Canada are not nearly anywhere as large as many in certain political camps (or in certain aspects of Québec society) would have you believe.

With that said, the dynamics and partisan debates over the past 40 years have highly politicized the subject of multiculturalism versus interculturalism – to the extent that you could easily get the impression that the difference between the two is 60 to 90 on a scale of 1 to 100, rather than an 83.4 versus 84.9.  But the reality and intensity of the debate (which has already gone way past the realm of true facts) has given the 1.5 point difference the illusion of being a symbolic and abstract 30 point spread.  Regardless, the exaggeration and distortion of the differences between the two ideologies is now the reality with which we all have to contend (be it Canadians outside of Québec, Québécois themselves, or certain political or societal camps within their respective jurisdictions when they battle it out among themselves).

This brings me back to the definition of multiculturalism, and the one which Justin Trudeau has recently offered. Before going on, I want to make it clear that I am not in the process of taking a political stance or making a statement regarding multiculturalism or interculturalism.  I read J.Trudeau’s book just as I would read a book on Bernard Landry, Brian Mulroney or Jack Layton – and I simply found what he said to be very interesting, and surprising. His own definition is one which I have never seen before.  If I’m not wrong, I would even go as far as to say it looks like he is redefining, or modernizing the concept of multiculturalism.  It is different from the earlier definition which constitutes Canada’s current definition… one which dates from having been hashed out in the 1970s and 1980s.

But what I find highly intriguing is that his redefinition seems to narrow the ideological gap between the old definitions of Federal multiculturalism and Québec interculturalism (and by extension, it could bridge the ideological trench which caused arguments and tensions between those who vigourously carry the torch of either ideology).  In this sense, I’d almost venture to say that his definition could “reconcile” and “harmonize” these two concepts in one single definition which could work for both Canada and Québec, work for their respective needs, and work for the adherents of either ideology (a give-and-take if you will).   It is in this scope that I find the notion to hold fascinating possibilities for further discussion.

When speaking about multiculturalism or interculturalism, we often speak of its implementation with respect to first generation immigrants… therefore keep this concept in mind as you read the rest of this post.

Considering that J.T. is taking on a matter as core to the Canada as the definition of multiculturalism itself, he would be differentiating himself from his father in no small way… one which made me do more than one double-take when I first read his definition.

Here is what he said (I’m translating from the French version of his book, but I’ll try to keep it as exact as possible) :

Multiculturalism p. 220 (of the French version of his book) It is the presumption upon which society accepts forms of cultural expression which do not impede the fundamental values of our society.  This includes the rights of a Jewish person to wear a kippah, a Sikh to wear a turban, a Muslim to wear a veil or a Christian to wear a cross – even if they are public servants of the state. The best way to think of multiculturalism is to picture it as a sort of social contract. Under the contract, newcomers to Canada promise to:

  • abide by our laws,
  • teach their children
    • the skills and
    • language fluency

necessary to integrate into our society, and

  • respect, if not immediately adopt, the social norms that govern the relationship between
    • individuals, and
    • groups in Canada

In exchange, we respect aspects of their culture that may be precious to them, yet harmful to no one else. Gestures which do not respect our part of the social contract include forcing a nine year old soccer player to remove his turban, releasing a preschool educator because she wears a veil, or banning a cardiologist from the operating room because he wears a kippah – not to mention that these would be  acts which would go against our laws.

Canada is perhaps the only country in the world which is strong because of its diversity, not in spite of it.  Diversity is at the core of who we are, and of what gives us our prosperity.

This is why we have to promote the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Our openness to diversity is at the heart of what makes us Canadian.  It is what makes Canada one of the best and free places in the world, and one of the best places to live.

My comments : Everything which is not highlighted in blue largely has to do with multiculturalism as we know it now.  But if I’m not wrong (and I’ll be the first to admit I’m not an expert in this realm) I was under the impression that everything that is in blue is more along the lines of interculturalism.

I did not mention it in my French post, but the section of Trudeau’s definition regarding “newcomers having to promise to abide by our laws and teach their children language fluency” is almost an exact translation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s declaration in German on October 6th, 2013 when she spoke of the shortcomings of multiculturalism in the German context (which, I should add, is very different than Canada’s experience) and in which she suggested remedies to Germany’s policy shortcomings (the “coincidence” of the order of the wording is rather interesting).

Areas which Trudeau mentioned which could align (or reconcile themselves) with interculturalism are those pertaining to:

  • immigrants having to adhere to society’s values (here I’m speaking of values which, by their very nature, are transitory and variable with time – I’m not speaking of rights, which are invariable and inalienable)
  • immigrants having to teach the language of the land (i.e.: French) to their children.
  • immigrants having to integrate using skills, such as society’s language (which is French in Québec, English in other regions, sometimes French in yet other contexts, and sometimes a combination of the two in situation-specific scenarios). His choice of the word “society” would be a key word in this context, because “society’s” language varies from one region to another, and J.T. is funnelling the question of language in his definition right down to “society” (of which Acadia is a society, St-Jean-Baptiste in Manitoba is one, Québec is one, and so is Hearst in Ontario – all Francophone societies which could be subject to this revised definition).
  • engaging in a sort of social contract if one wishes to live in Canada – a contractual “exchange” (to take the word he uses in French). Contrary to this revised definition of multiculturalism, the version of multiculturalism offered by P.E. Trudeau (father) did not have such societal “conditions” defined in advance (at least not in the more definitive sense presented here) – apart from public policy of immigrant selection criteria.  The Trudeau Sr. version definitely did not seek to deal with individual behaviour relating to personal or group interactions once on Canadian soil (I’m speaking of those other than behaviour related to the criminal code or other laws).
  • those who come from different cultures have to make “promises” respecting societal matters, such as those towards “social norms” (those are the words he is using). You can imagine the significance of this statement if it were to include norms deemed acceptable to a particular region or province where one lives, especially considering that our social norms can vary from one region to another, just as they can be similar from region to another.
  • regarding this prior point, he states that immigrants must “immediately” adopt these norms (“immediately” is a weight-charged word).
  • the norms Immigrants have to adopt with respect to the social norms of “groups” in Canada (I’m left wondering if he means groups in the sense of Anglophones and Francophone… which, if it is the case, could also have significant implications).

When you consider the above points, you can see why I was a bit more than surprised to read this redefinition of multiculturalism.   These were not phrases pronounced in some oral speech.  Rather, these are words and a definition which are now written black and white, by Trudeau, on pages of his autobiography which has been distributed coast-to-coast.   I am not saying that I disagree with his definition, and likewise I am not saying I agree with it either (for the purpose of this post, I’m not taking a position one way or the other).  I’m simply saying that there seems to be a turn in directions, one which took me by surprise (and which makes me wonder if the definition of multiculturalism, as we knew it, is not the untouchable sacred cow which many of us grew up to believe it was – regardless of what we thought of it).

At first glance, Trudeau’s socio-cultural contractualism, or renewed multiculturalism, or inter-multiculturalism (whatever name you wish to attach to it) does keep the principal traits of multiculturalism as we have known it (which is Canada will let you live your life in peace, and with time you will integrate into society at your rhythm and in your own way, but you may also receive a gentle nudge from time-to-time to encourage you to continue in that process – this is an oversimplistic definition, but it’s tough to otherwise sum it up in one sentence).

However, J.Trudeau seems to be opening the way to “pre-established” integration conditions, aligned with the norms of the environment in which a person lives in Canada.  He is giving immigrants obligations towards these norms and towards groups of people around them which already form the core of society, and towards those with whom newcomers have to live.  It is these last two phrases which conform more to concepts and ideologies of Québec’s interculturalism (those at least which are more apt to be practiced in Québec).   Let me be clear that I am not at all saying that this redefinition is anywhere near elements contained in the deposed proposal for a Québec Charter of Values (which was debated during the winter of 2013/2014).  Even on this point, Québec was not ready or comfortable, as a society, to adopt such a charter in the name of interculturalism (we all saw how the proposal imploded on itself during public debates on the issue).   Justin Trudeau seems to be taking another path, but one which still could hold potential to bridge the publicly perceived distances between multiculturalism and interculturalism.

Of course there are nuances within the definition J.T. offers, and I am generalizing in my own analysis (it would actually take a book to explore this subject in the detail it deserves).  But there is nothing to say that a policy adjustment on the issue cannot be implemented by any one government without having to re-open the constitution (think of how many times we have been told, by all parties, that matters of vital importance to the country can be implemented without having to reopen the constitution).

We live in a society which is evolving – and the laws and definitions which guide our society also change with time to reflect the needs and changes of society’s people.  In legal terms, this is a concept called “the living tree”.  This is the concept which explains why the Supreme Court can determine a law forbidding the decision to take one’s own life with the assistance of a doctor, prostitution or gay marriage is legal in year X, but then several years later the same Supreme Court can strike down the same laws and proclaim them invalid.  The evolution of events which determines what is and what is not susceptible to change stems from society’s changing attitudes towards matters at hand.   We would be crazy to think that the definition of multiculturalism could never change as society changes (imagine if we still had laws on the book, dating from the 1920s or 1930s, which stipulated how citizens should behave and interact with respect to each other!).  I’m left wondering if Justin Trudeau is taking a stance and saying that the definition of multiculturalism, as it came to be in the 1970s and 1980s, should now also evolve in the context of a country which is very different than what it was during that era.

After all is said and done, I’m not so sure I’m totally out in left field with this one.   Re-read his definition a few times.  Do you think he’s approaching multiculturalism from a somewhat different view?

It remains to be seen if the media or academics will have their word to say on this subject (I’m sure they will if the Liberals come to power and they adopt this definition as their official policy).

Up until now, I’m not sure many have noticed this redefinition (the matters are complicated and very ideological – and journalists tend to shy away from matters which cannot be reported in two short paragraphs).

Regardless of my own views, any possible marriage (or “rapprochement”) between multi- versus inter-culturalism eventually is bound to generate a good deal of discussion.



Le multiculturalisme redéfini? (#178)

I’ll translate my post into English in the next post. 

Souvent je parcours rapidement des livres de société ou politique (de toutes couleurs politiques dois-je dire).

Par curiosité, je feuilletais le nouveau livre de Justin Trudeau, « Terrain d’entente » (j’étais fort curieux du contenu d’une biographie si épaise, lorsqu’on constate que Trudeau n’a que 43 ans).   Je l’ai lu en français, alors les références que j’offre ci-dessous seront en français.

Il y avait plus qu’une chose dedans qui m’a fait lever un sourcil.  Mais, un sujet en particulier a attiré mon attention plus que tout autre – celui de la définition à Justin Trudeau de ce qui constitue le multiculturalisme (ce qui sera fort probablement une définition adoptée par un gouvernement fédéral libéral si jamais ils seront élus – car J-T est leur chef malgré tout).

D’abord, il faut dire qu’au Québec on « pratique » (ou du moins on prêche) la notion de l’interculturalisme.  Au Canada, au niveau fédéral et sur le plan « juridique », c’est le multiculturalisme qui prime.  Honnêtement parlant, sur l’échelle mondiale de 1 à 100, la différence entre le multiculturalisme fédéral et l’interculturalisme québécois ne serait pas plus grande qu’un 83.4 versus un 84.9.  Et je dis ceci avec l’expérience derrière moi d’avoir été moi-même un immigrant dans un pays autre que le Canada pendant un bout de temps.  À cette époque-là, moi j’étais subi à des notions de conformité et de “projections culturelles de la majorité” envers les immigrants qui étaient accueillis par cet autre pays-là.   Après cette expérience, je vous dis sincèrement que la différence entre ces deux concepts dont on parle au Canada n’est pas aussi grande que voudrait bien nous le faire croire certains camps politiques et certains aspects de la société au Québec.

Mais étant donné les dynamiques et débats partisans au cours des 40 dernières années, le sujet du multiculturalisme versus l’interculturalisme est devenu hautement politique, au point que l’on pourrait croire que la différence serait 60 contre 90 sur l’échelle mondiale de 1 à 100 (plutôt qu’un 83.4 versus un 84.9).   Mais la réalité et l’intensité du débat (ce qui s’est envolé bien au-delà des faits) a fait en sorte que la mince fissure de 1.5 points est devenue un écart symbolique et abstrait (et sans fondement dois-je dire) de 30 points.   Peu importe, ce gonflage et distorsion de l’ampleur de la différence entre les deux idéologies est maintenant la réalité à laquelle nous devons faire face (que ce soit les Canadiens hors Québec, les Québécois, ou même certains camps quand ils se chicanent entre eux dans chacune des deux juridictions respectives).

Cela me ramène à la définition du multiculturalisme et celle que nous offre Justin Trudeau.  Sa définition à lui en est une que je n’ai jamais vu auparavant.   Si je ne me trompe pas, j’ose même dire qu’il est en train de redéfinir, voire moderniser le concept de multiculturalisme qui date déjà des débats des années 1970 et 1980.    Mais ce qui m’intrigue énormément, c’est qu’en redéfinissant le multiculturalisme, il existe la possibilité qu’il pourrait combler le fossé idéologique entre les vieilles définitions du multiculturalisme fédérale et l’interculturalisme québécois (et par défaut, c’est une définition qui pourrait combler les chicanes et tensions entre ceux qui tiennent les flambeaux des deux).   D’ailleurs, je ne suis pas loin de penser qu’il ait pu trouver moyen de concilier et d’harmoniser ces deux concepts dans une seule définition qui pourrait marcher et pour le Canada, et pour le Québec, selon leurs propres besoins, et selon les besoins des deux camps adhérents.   Cette redéfinition est une pensée et une possibilité fascinante.

Souvent, quand on parle de ces concepts, on parle de leur impact sur la première génération d’immigrants – alors gardons cette idée à l’esprit lorsque vous lisez le reste de ce billet.

Avant de continuer, je veux réitérer que je ne suis pas en train de prendre une position politique.  Je lisais ce livre tout comme je lirais un livre sur Bernard Landry, Brian Mulroney ou Jack Layton.  Mais puisque Justin Trudeau, sur un sujet primordial telle la définition même du multiculturalisme, semble se démarquer dans un sens très différent de celui de son père, j’ai dû relire ce texte plus que deux fois.

Le voici ce qu’il dit:

A.  Charte des droits et libertés p.218 (version française du livre)

C’est le document qui constitue le fondement des droits dont nous jouissons tous, y compris la libre pratique religieuse.  Ces droits qui vous protègent donnent aussi aux gais le droit de se marier et à vos filles le droit d’épouser un non-musulman.  Elle protège les libertés de tout le monde.  On ne peut pas choisir les droits qui nous conviennent et ignorer ceux qu’on n’aime pas.

B.  Multiculturalisme p. 220 (version française du livre)

C’est la présomption selon laquelle la société acceptera les formes d’expression culturelle qui n’enfreignent pas les valeurs fondamentales de notre société.  Cela inclue le droit pour un Juif de porter sa kippa, un sikh son turban, une musulmane son voile ou un chrétien sa croix, même s’ils sont fonctionnaires de l’État.

La meilleure façon d’envisager le multiculturalisme, c’est de le voir comme une sorte de contrat social.  En vertu de ce contrat, les nouveaux arrivants promettent

  1. d’obéir à nos lois,
  2. d’enseigner à leurs enfants
    1. les compétences et
    2. le niveau de langue

nécessaires pour s’intégrer à notre société, et

  1. de respecter, sinon d’adopter immédiatement, les normes sociales qui régissent les relations entre
    1. les individus et
    2. les groupes au Canada.

En échange, nous respectons les aspects de leur culture qui

  1. leur sont chers et
  2. ne nuisent à personne.

Forcer un joueur de soccer de neuf ans à retirer son turban, renvoyer une éducatrice en garderie parce qu’elle porte un hijab, interdire l’accès au bloc opératoire à un cardiologue parce qu’il porte une kippa : voilà des gestes qui ne respectent pas notre part du contrat social.  Pas plus que les gestes qui vont à l’encontre de nos lois.

Le Canada est peut-être le seul pays au monde à être fort en raison de sa diversité et non en dépit de celle-ci.  La diversité est à la base de ce que nous sommes, de ce qui fait la prospérité de notre pays.

C’est pourquoi il faut promouvoir la Charte des droits et libertés.  Notre ouverture à la diversité est au cœur de ce qui fait de nous des Canadiens.  C’est ce qui fait du Canada un des endroits les plus libres du monde, une des meilleures places où vivre.

Mes commentaires : Tout ce qui n’est pas en bleu traite en grande partie au concept du multiculturalisme tel qu’on le connaît actuellement.  Mais si je ne me trompe pas (et je ne suis pas expert là-dessus), je croyais que tout ce qui est en bleu est davantage associé à l’interculturalisme :

  • le fait que les immigrants doivent adhérer aux valeurs de la société (je parle de valeurs qui, par leur nature même, sont transitoires et variables avec le temps — je ne parle pas de droits, qui sont invariables),
  • le fait que les immigrants doivent enseigner la langue (le français) à leurs enfants,
  • qu’ils doivent s’intégrer en s’en servant de certains outils, tels la langue de société (ce qui est le français au Québec, et une combinaison des deux ailleurs, parfois l’anglais dans certaines régions, parfois le français dans d’autres, et parfois une combinaison des deux sous autres prétextes).  Le mot “société” serait le mot clé, car la langue de “société” varie d’une région à une autre, et J-T ramène cette question de langue directement à la “société (ce qui pourrait être la société en Acadie, à St-Jean-Baptiste au Manitoba, au Québec, à Hearst en Ontario, etc.).
  • le fait de s’engager dans une sorte de contrat social si on veut vivre au Canada — un “échange” contractuel en sortes (“échange” est le mot employé par J-T, pas par moi).  Contrairement à ce qu’on est en train de lire, le multiculturalisme de P.E. Trudeau père n’avait pas de “conditions” de société définies au préalable, hormis au niveau de la sélection d’immigrants, et certainement pas du genre qui relèvent au « comportement individuel » pour le moins dire.
  • le fait que ceux qui proviennent de cultures différentes doivent faire des « promesses » sur les enjeux de société, telles les « normes sociales » (imaginez son importance si cela inclurait les normes réputées acceptables selon la « région » ou la « province » où on vit — car nos normes sociales varient d’une région à une autre, autant qu’elles puissent être similaires).
  • Et sur ce dernier point, les immigrants doivent adopter ces normes « immédiatement » (c’est un mot lourd!).
  • Les normes qu’adoptent les immigrants doivent avoir rapport aux normes sociales entre « groupes » (est-ce qu’on considère des anglophones et francophones comme groupes? Si oui, les implications pourraient être grandes).

Voyez-vous maintenant pourquoi ses propos me laissent un peu sidérés?  Ce ne sont pas des mots prononcés par biais d’un discours oral.  Ce sont des mots maintenant écris noir et blanc sur des pages publiées et distribuées d’un océan à l’autre dans un texte écris par J-T.  Je ne dis pas que je suis d’accord ou en désaccord avec ce qu’il dit.   Je dis tout simplement que c’est un virage – un virage qui n’a pas manqué de me surprendre (car cela me laisse croire maintenant que la définition en vigeur n’ést pas la vache sacrée que l’on croyait qu’elle était).

Au premier abord, son socio-contractualisme culturel, ou multiculturalisme renouvelé, ou inter-multiculturalism (peu importe le nom que vous voudriez l’y attribuer) garde toujours les principaux traits du multiculturalisme tel qu’on le connaît (c’est à dire, le Canada vous laisse vivre votre vie tranquille, et au cours du temps il vous aide à s’intégrer à la société à votre rythme et à votre façon, mais avec un coup de pouce de temps en temps pour se hâter un peu).

Pourtant, J-T semble ouvrir la voie à des aspects d’une intégration « préétablie », selon les normes et le contexte de l’environnement dans laquelle une personne se trouve au pays.  Il leur donne des obligations envers ces normes et les groupes de personnes qui forment déjà la société, et envers ceux avec qui ils doivent cohabiter.  Ce sont ces deux dernières phrases qui conforment aux prescriptions de l’interculturalisme (tel le genre qui est susceptible d’être pratiqué par le Québec).   J’admets que cette redéfinition n’est pas la charte des valeurs québécoises proposée en avril 2014… mais le Québec n’était pas prêt ou confortable, comme société elle-même, d’adopter une telle charte au nom de l’interculturalisme (on a tous vu comment cette proposition s’est implosée sur elle même au Québec lors des débats publics là-dessus).  J-T n’est pas en train de proposer une définition reliée à la charte.  C’est une autre voie qu’il prend, qui du moins semble combler la vide.

Bien sûr, il existe des nuances dans la définition à J-T, et je généralise dans mes analyses.   Il faut de toute évidence prendre en compte des définitions juridiques, mais cela n’empêche pas un réalignement des pratiques si un gouvernement quelconque le veut (malgré tout, combien de fois avons nous entendu l’argument que la fédération pourrait changer, et est en train de changer, sans le besoin de rouvrir le débat constitutionnel… un changement en dépit de la constitution si vous voulez).

On vit dans une société en pleine évolution – et les lois et les définitions qui rédigent notre société changent avec le temps pour refléter les changements et les besoins de la société.  Ce dernier point est un concept juridique qui s’appelle « l’arbre vivant ».  C’est pourquoi la cour suprême pourrait juger que la loi qui interdit le droit de mourir, la prostitution ou le mariage gai est légale en année X, mais quelques années plus tard la même cour pourrait juger ces mêmes lois invalides.   On constate cette évolution car elle découle justement des changements au niveau des attitudes et pratiques de la société.  On serait fou de croire que le multiculturalisme lui-même ne changerait jamais (imaginez si on avait toujours des lois en vigeur des années 1920 ou 1930 pour dicter comment les citoyens devrait se comporter l’un à l’autre!).  Je me demande si Justin Trudeau est en train de prendre position que la définition du multiculturalisme des années 1970 et 1980 doit également évoluer dans le contexte d’un pays qui n’est plus le même qu’il l’était à cette époque-là.

Comme j’ai dit, il y existe des définitions qui doivent d’abord être clarifiées avant de prétendre quoi qu’il en soit.   Mes questions :

  1. Quelle est la définition, en détail, de chaque mot que j’ai souligné, tels :
    1. Valeurs fondamentales?
    2. Nouveaux arrivants qui font une promesse?
    3. Normes sociales?
    4. Les chers aspects de la culture?
    5. Les aspects de la culture qui ne nuisent à personne?
  1. Quelle est la définition, en détail, de chaque mot que j’ai souligné tel :
    1. S’enfreindre?
      1. À qui?
      2. À quoi?
      3. Sous présomption de quel biais?
      4. Sous quel prétexte?
    2. Obéir?
    3. D’enseigner à leurs enfants?
    4. S’intégrer?
    5. Respecter?
    6. Adopter?
  1. Quelle est la signifiance, en détail, de chaque mot en noir foncé tels :
    1. La présomption?
    2. Un contrat social?
    3. Promettre?
    4. Compétences?
    5. Niveau de langue?
    6. Immédiatement?
    7. Individus?
    8. Groupes?
    9. En échange?
  1. Les réponses à l’ensemble des questions 1, 2 & 3 dérivent-elles de l’idéologie du multiculturalisme original des années 1980 ou même depuis la perte de pouvoir des libéraux aux conservateurs à la scène fédérale dans les années 2000?

Est-ce que je suis complètement dans le champ quand je dis qu’il semble que Justin Trudeau fait demi-tour avec sa nouvelle définition? (ou même un tour quelconque?)

Il reste à voir si les médias auront leur mot à dire sur les détails.  Jusqu’à présent, ils semblent n’avoir pas encore pris conscience de ce que J-T est en train de proposer.

Peu importe ce que l’on pense du sujet, ce mariage (ou rapprochement) possible des deux concepts du multi- versus l’inter-culturalisme pourrait générer de bonnes discussions.