It is often alleged by nationalist politicians that multiculturalism has failed: in Hungary, in Italy, in Sweden, in France, in Brazil, in India, in the United States, and elsewhere.
It may be true that in other some countries, immigrants face tragic and difficult consequences — especially in countries that have not implemented the same inclusive legislative, cultural, economic, and social policies that we have here in Canada. In some countries, leadership have left immigrants to fend for themselves — or worse, actively excluded and ghettoized them.
But that is not our history here.
In fact, by many measures, Canada has in the past few decades been more successful than any other country at welcoming immigrants and refugees culturally, economically, educationally, and politically.
Here are just a few of the many robust stats available that prove this:
- Canada has a higher percentage of foreign-born elected politicians (federal and regional) than any other country in the world.
- Canada has the best educated immigrant population in the world, with 61% having post-secondary degrees.
- The percentage of foreign-born Canadians who are homeowners (63%) is nearly the same as that of native-born Canadians (65%).
- Canada’s unemployment rate for native-born youth aged 15-34 is virtually identical to that of immigrants or children of immigrants of the same age.
- The overall health of immigrants living in Canada is the best of any immigrant population in the world.
- Of eligible immigrants, 84% become Canadian citizens, the highest of any developed nation.
- A full 95% of Canadians agree that “their city or neighbourhood is a good place for migrants from other countries to live,”the highest figure of any developed country.
Although until now our Canadian modesty has prevented us from trumpeting the scale and scope of these achievements in integrating newcomers, I believe the time is right to embrace the story of our success.
If we do not celebrate our success, we will find it difficult to resist divisive fear-mongering imported from elsewhere.
And if we don’t celebrate our success, we won’t be able to generate enough momentum to further strengthen our multicultural framework so as to successfully adapt to an ever more diverse Canada.
I want to make clear that I do not propose this optimistic vision of our future naively.
As the brown-skinned son of immigrants, my own personal experience — as well as all I have learned during my career as an activist and professional in the social impact sector — keeps my work firmly grounded in an awareness of the challenges that we still face here in Canada.
I know that our Canadian experience of diversity, of immigration, and of multiculturalism is far from perfect. Discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and age remains all too real for many Canadians, and economic opportunities unequal.
We at the Community Foundations of Canada know from our work in community-based settings that belonging and real inclusion, as our Vital Signs reports demonstrate, are still a work in progress for many communities.
Yet rather than retreating from these challenges, we must acknowledge them and solve them, building on our successes rather than succumbing to our failures, and in so doing continue our admirable march towards equality for all — a multiculturalism 2.0.
What can be the idea around multiculturalism 2.0? For many, the history of immigration in or sharing of Canada was not a success. That for the Indigenous peoples of this land it was — on the contrary —experienced as a series of increasingly genocidal encounters.
As part of our commitment to a more diverse future, we must put an end to the Canadian legacy of broken treaties and broken faith; that our shared future must include acknowledgement of our tragic past, and a humble, proactive, and meaningful reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.
I am convinced that we can, must, and will build that better future for all.
By focusing on both evidence and foresight, we, as leaders in the social sector, can make an extraordinarily powerful case for investing in the next multiculturalism, for resisting global trends, and for celebrating our uniquely Canadian path.
It is these increasingly Canadian capacities, among others that arise from a healthy multiculturalism, that we need to celebrate and invest in to build a peaceful, prosperous, and diverse 21st-century Canada.
We need to celebrate our strengths as the world’s most successfully diverse nation so that we are recognized globally as the best place to find people, communities, and businesses who know how to work together.
As I said earlier, it’s a bold vision. What’s truly exciting is seeing just how far along we already are towards achieving it. Now is the time for all of us—especially those of us in the social sector—to roll up our sleeves and bring that future to life.