Official Multiculturalism Fails Immigrants: It cannot function as state therapy for exile

Commentary, Immigration, Marco Navarro-Genie


The claim of official multiculturalism that it helps new arrivals to integrate is a fictitious bubble. It keeps new immigrants away from other immigrants and from the Canadian core culture.
The prime minister of the United Kingdom, David Cameron, delivered a speech at the recent Munich Security Conference declaring the policy of multiculturalism to be dead in Britain. The blunt condemnation of such policy from the British head of government is significant for Canada. First, because Canada is first country that made multiculturalism an official state policy, and because Cameron leads the country from which so much of our constitutional make up comes.  
Through the wrong headed policy, Cameron said, Britain has “allowed the weakening of our collective identity.  Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream.  We’ve failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong.  We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.”
Indeed, the architects and engineers of Canadian multiculturalism “have failed to provide a [common] vision of society.” Until the recent federal government perhaps, successive governments have for a generation muddled through, content to dole out money to ethnic groups in exchange for feel-good babble and electoral fealty.
In the process, as Cameron says of his country, the official promotion of unity in multiculturalism has led to fragmentation and alienation. Since one of the purported aims of multiculturalism has been integrating without assimilating, it has clearly failed.
Like the Europeans now repudiating the policy, Canadians too have been living in a bubble. The ethnic enclaves in Canada’s large cities show that the project of integrating recent arrivals is also failing. Newcomers are not readily integrating and by the second generation their children assimilate into the mainstream, putting the lie to the tired image of the mosaic.
But it is good to assist new arrivals, to make them feel good about being here, and to help them retain their languages and customs, argue the leading figures of the multiculturalism industry. This position is misguided on two counts.
Newly arrived immigrants are not suddenly going to lose their language because our different levels of government stop making them feel good. It is also misguided to believe that an impersonal behemoth like the Canadian state in various manifestations can relieve the traumatic angst and sense of rupture that leaving one’s homeland typically causes. No army of social workers can magically heal the rifted soul who has been forced to abandon her homeland.
If alienation diminishes faster and sooner as one joins a new community, there can be no magic bullet. One connects to community by connecting to community, not through an impersonal entity. The implied claim that multiculturalism is Prozac to a soul in exile is false; it betrays a form of alienation from reality.
Alienation is likely aggravated when one lives hanging to what one has left behind, and only befriending one’s own. If multiculturalism provides any relief at all, it is short relief, but in the long run it only prolongs the longing for what has been lost. I am not arguing that they state should have a new memory erasing policy. I am arguing for a policy of not having a policy about intimately personal things.
In truth, the hardship of distance from one’s native homeland cannot be fully bridged by hanging out with a pseudo community of the same origin, disconnected from landscape, climate, and its sustaining core culture. Adapting to a new home is difficult. Postponing the difficulties indefinitely is a form of escapism that a state has no business in promoting. 
The sense that one lives in a pseudo community, lacking a core culture, eventually comes to immigrants under such conditions.  Accordingly, more immigrants in Canada are realising the failed promise of integration as they experience a second layer of alienation, this time from Canada’s core culture.  People fleeing hardship and persecution are more acutely aware of the need to belong, whether they came running from Cuba or from Sudan. They want no ghettos.
Their integration is not conformity or denial of heritage. It’s an acknowledgement of one’s surroundings, and the fulfilment of a natural desire to belong. They want their children to integrate, to de-hyphenate, to connect, to achieve the promises of this land for their children that will justify their hardships. 
Doctrinal multiculturalism misguidedly pushes folks to be with their own as a form of state induced therapy. The isolation of communities along ethnic lines keeps individuals from the very experience of variety that official multiculturalism celebrates, and shuts them from the core culture. As such, official multiculturalism fails us twice. It is time to burst the bubble.