Commentary | The irresistible scream of mutual respect

Re: “Multiculturalism is a sham” | Commentary | November 23

Sana Saeed writes: “I’d rather live [in Canada] than anywhere else.”

Exactly. So far, I have experienced no other society in which there are so many diverse cultures living with such a high degree of intercultural understanding and open-mindedness.

Cultures here stay alive in very significant ways, not just by displays of dress or cuisine. For example, the Indian Students Association at McGill organizes trips to a Hindu temple for Diwali. This is certainly not a superficial show of multiculturalism, but rather indicates a deeper sense of shared belief. The many cultural organizations operating at McGill University are a microcosm of the greater Canadian mosaic.

Also, the idea of “immigrant culture” is a bit misleading. The article implies that immigrants from other cultures must remain true to all aspects of their (apparent) national identities in order to indicate cultural liberality. But how immigrants perceive and maintain their original culture varies immensely. And to say that “people shed any real, substantial ties and practices to their cultures as generations progress” overlooks the effect of new immigrants who reinforce cultural values. The point is that immigrants in Canada are given ample freedom to practice their cultural values if they so choose; this is cultural liberality.

And if the goal of education in Canada is or should be to create “a perfect citizenry,” then the teaching of multicultural values is very important. Children do not need a profound sense of understanding to see that racism is wrong, and a respectful learning environment helps.

A final point. The hijab was banned in a Quebec soccer tournament. However, it is important to note the reaction to the prohibition. After Asi Asmahan was not allowed to compete, five teams including her own left the tournament. Later that year, the chairman of the federal Conservative caucus criticized the ban on hijabs in sports, along with the Liberals and the NDP.

Is it really about integration versus assimilation? – indeed overlapping policies. To me, the voice for mutual respect is becoming louder, and this needs to continue.  

Bogdan SmarandacheU3 Honours History