A book to remember

Unlikely Utopia: The Surprising Triumph of Canadian Pluralism
by Michael Adams
Viking Canada, 180 pages. $34.00


(Canscene) — For this reviewer, so far Unlikely Utopia has been the book of the year and with January 1 nearing, it’s likely to remain so. Let me tell you why.

As an unabashed multiculturalist, I refuse to be moved by the negativists and contrarians who pin labels on Canadian multiculturalism. It’s an impediment to a sense of national identity, it leads to ghettoization, it threatens our traditions, it’s fomenting interracial unrest. And so on ad nauseam.

Forgetting that we Canadians introduced it as a policy to the rest of the world, no sooner do these pessimists hear of mayhem and interracial unrest in countries abroad that have paid lip service to multicuturalism than the sky is falling in Canada.

Michael Adams, who heads the Environics Group, one of North America’s leading opinion research firms and communications consultants, has come out with a sound defence of Canadian multiculturalism, based on his firm’s research and the interpretation of hard facts from Statistics Canada. And it’s all laced with the customary Adams wit displayed in two previous books, Sex in the Snow and Fire and Ice.

He writes, “Not only do Canadians feel that multiculturalism is a central part of their country’s identity, it’s also increasingly a source of pride. In 1985 we asked Canadians to tell us in their own words what made them proud to be Canadian. Multiculturalism was in tenth place. People were more likely to cite the beauty of the land, Canada’s natural resources and even the physical size of the country. By 2006, though, multiculturalism had climbed to second place. Only Canada’s democracy is more often named as a source of national pride.”

On the much discussed sense of national identity, he writes: ….”in fostering successful, diverse society the lack of consensus on our national identity may not be an Achilles heel but rather our foot in the door, our unlikely secret weapon. At present, we ask newcomers to obey Canadian laws and learn a little about our country.

“Formally we ask them to make the following pledge of citizenship. ‘I pledge my loyalty to Canada and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada. I promise to respect our country’s rights and freedoms……….and fulfill my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen.’ (One might add that many native-born Canadians would hold their noses or downright refuse to pledge their ‘loyalty and allegiance’ to the Queen or anyone else they consider the head of a foreign country. But I digress)………..

“Can Canada be Canada in the awareness of diversity within its borders? Of course it can. It has never been otherwise…..The current identity crisis isn’t about whether white, European,
Christian Canada can survive the presence of “Others.” That question has long since been resolved…….The data I’ve presented in this chapter suggest that Canadians sense that living in a just, peaceable and diverse society is something to strive for.”

Adams also has some encouraging words on intermarriage:

“If Canadian multiculturalism were, as alleged, leading to a society riven by ethic separation,one would expect rates of intermarriage to be declining. People of different backgrounds would be meeting less and if they did meet, it would be in a state of wariness and mutual ignorance not conducive to social, let alone romantic intimacy.

“But intermarriage is increasing in Canada. As of 2001, of the roughly fourteen million Canadians in couples (either in marriages or common-law unions) over 450,000 were in mixed unions.

“The rates of intermarriage in this country point to an evolution that goes far beyond grudging mutual acceptance. As a society, Canadians have moved from merely tolerating difference to accommodating, savouring and exploring it.”

One Response to “A book to remember”

  1. Bill Says:

    Thanks for the tip, Ben. I agree that this is a book worth reading. Your review is much more thorough than mine, but I had to add some comments on my own blog.