Sociology of culture
3 min

Rob Oliphant on Multikulti vs. Multiculturalism

The statement by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that “Multikulti has been a failure” has been like throwing red meat to the dogs on the Canadian right-wing. So what does Rob Oliphant have to say? He’s the Liberals’ multiculturalism critic. I asked him after Question Period today.

Q: What are your thoughts on this statement and what it says?
A: There’s no comparison between Germany and Canada on multiculturalism. “Multikulti” as they call it is a complete failure in Germany – it’s an utter failure because there’s been no system of citizenship and integration of the fairly large Turkish minority – particularly but not only the Turkish minority. In Canada we have a stream of citizenship – we bring people in, in a variety of ways, but they have been until this government largely eligible for citizenship. Now there’s a shift in that as this government increases the number of temporary foreign workers who are not eligible for citizenship, and start to reduce the number of economic immigrants and family reunifications – they say they’re holding that number the same, but the reality is they’re shrinking those who come in permanently to the country, and growing those who come in as temporary migrant workers. Migrant workers are the problem in Germany. I think she’s absolutely right – their version of multiculturalism is an utter failure. Unfortunately, this government is gradually taking their lessons from a failed system instead of building on our system, which needs improving. The other thing that I’ve been saying is that it’s not as though multiculturalism is perfect in Canada. Obviously we have tensions in our country. Obviously there are concerns that some people are expressing about immigration, multiculturalism, reasonable accommodation and those kinds of things – well, it’s a two-way street. Absolutely there need to be demands placed on newer Canadians to integrate, and there have to be the opening of doors by older Canadians to let newer Canadians succeeds. So we have more work to do, whether it’s on foreign credentials and helping them get Canadian experience, on increased language training, on accent improvement, on all the kinds of things that will help them get involved.

Q: How does someone in your position make the distinction to the general public between ‘Multikulti’ and Canadian-style multiculturalism?
A: That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to say that we’ve been on a different path from Germany, and I hope to actually hope to go to Berlin to actually experience what this ghetto is. In Canada we don’t have ghettos – we have areas that have higher concentrations of certain populations, but we don’t have those kinds of ghettos, and we don’t want them. We want Canadians to integrate. What we do is we have a fluidity in our newcomers, who gradually they come into certain areas that are certain areas like parts of my riding, then they move to places like Scarborough, then as they get more economic advantage they move to Richmond Hill, or Markham, or Mississauga, and you can see them integrating, and within a generation it’s improved. Are we perfect at that? No – it’s very different from Germany. So I’ll just keep telling people we don’t have the same experience. If anything, Angela Merkel should come here and learn something from us, and what Pierre Trudeau had as a vision, and how we are growing it. I think multiculturalism in the twenty-first century is going to be different than in the twentieth century. I don’t think we can start with a 40-year-old model that Trudeau developed and say that’s the perfect model – because it’s not. But twenty-first century multiculturalism is going to build on it rather than divert away from it.

Q: And you’re doing Movember – what does [your husband] Marco think of this?
A: I don’t have a good moustache – I actually have a moustache that sticks out. My beard is quite good, but my moustache is not. He doesn’t know yet, I don’t think – he’ll have read my Tweet, so he’ll now know. But my dad has prostate cancer, and he’s had it for years, but it has now metastasised, and he’s into a struggle with it. So this November, I decided to do it.
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