Have you seen it? Have you felt it?
I know you have.
We all have.
I’m referring to the jarring disconnect between our mostly positive day-to-day Canadian experiences of multiculturalism on the one hand, and the rise of xenophobic narratives and champions who challenge the very foundations of our pluralistic society on the other.
How could you not notice it? We live in Canada, arguably the most tolerant and diverse country on earth, yet our news feeds are frequently filled with stories of refugees being turned away, migrants flooding across borders, anti-immigrant political parties, real and imagined terrorist threats, and walls to keep “illegal aliens” and “others” out.
As I scroll through my news feed, I am often startled, perplexed, or frustrated by what I see. For in our hyper-connected world, Canada has clearly become a net importer of mistrust from places where cross-cultural conflicts are both more painfully enacted and more viciously exploited.
What if we could flip this script?
What if, in the face of this global crisis in neighbourliness, we could become a national net exporter of trust? What if Canada could rebrand itself as the global specialist in getting along? As home to the world’s most successfully diverse and cosmopolitan workforce? Elevating and leveraging our cultural intelligence for social good and economic prosperity?
In so doing we would not only gain an enormous competitive advantage in the global marketplace but we could become a model for 21st century social cohesion and diversity-driven prosperity.
This is a bold vision, I admit, but with sustained effort, I believe we can achieve it. In fact, circumstances both within Canada and beyond our borders dictate that we must embrace our increasingly multicultural future. We must go all in on Canadian diversity, or risk being swamped by a rising tide of toxic mistrust, anger, and fear.
For although today Canada is among the most diverse countries in the world, our future will be far more diverse still. A recent report from Statistics Canada highlights that if current immigration levels are maintained, nearly half of all Canadians will be immigrants or the children of immigrants by 2036. Moreover, the number of working age Canadians (15-64) who are visible minorities will rise from 19 percent in 2011 to 40 percent by 2036.
In other words:
Canada’s demographic makeup will change profoundly in the next decades and with these changes will come unavoidable intercultural challenges.
I am convinced that our national response to these intercultural challenges will determine whether Canada remains a land of peace and prosperity in the 21st century or succumbs to divisiveness.