How Angus Reid, CBC got it wrong about multiculturalism: Jedwab

While I don’t have polling expertise, Jack makes valid points regarding the survey and the presenting of false dichotomies:

According to respected pollster Angus Reid, Canadians aren’t as accepting of cultural difference as they think. That’s probably right.

Unfortunately, the observation is based on a misleading question from a survey that the Angus Reid Institute did in partnership with the CBC. Released during the first week of October, the Angus Reid-CBC survey revealed that “by a factor of almost two-to-one, Canadians say they would prefer that minorities do more to fit in with mainstream Canada, rather than encourage cultural diversity in which groups keep their own customs and language.”

Reid construes this finding as a barometer of support for multiculturalism, which he states was stronger when he asked a similar question some 25 years ago.

Reid’s formulation implies that by maintaining one’s customs and language, newcomers and their children won’t fit in to the undefined mainstream to which the survey question alludes. The survey creates additional confusion by referring to minorities in one proposed response and immigrants in the other.

Canadian multiculturalism doesn’t force newcomers to make the stark choice served up to respondents in the Reid survey. Indeed, the manner in which the policy and practice of multiculturalism is conveyed by the government of Canada suggests there is no contradiction between preserving one’s language and customs and fitting into society.

According to the government of Canada “multiculturalism ensures that all citizens can keep their identities, can take pride in their ancestry and have a sense of belonging … through multiculturalism, Canada recognizes the potential of all Canadians, encouraging them to integrate into their society and take an active part in its social, cultural, economic and political affairs. Multiculturalism has led to higher rates of naturalization than ever before. With no pressure to assimilate and give up their culture, immigrants freely choose their new citizenship because they want to be Canadians.”

In other words, someone can preserve their Jewish heritage or celebrate Chinese New Year or speak Arabic with friends at work and still be a full participant in the so-called Canadian mainstream. Certainly our mainstream(s) is diverse and the term is left open to quite broad interpretation. The survey creates far more confusion about newcomer adjustment to Canada that it offers meaningful insights about Canadian views on the process.

The survey results that purport to be about multiculturalism are used by Reid to construct what is referred to as an index of Canadian values. One might deduce from the results that multiculturalism is not a value to which the majority of Canadians adhere. But that conclusion simply cannot be drawn on the basis of the question.

A 2013 Statistics Canada survey of 27,000 Canadians found to a great and moderate extent, 88 per cent of respondents felt ethnic and cultural diversity was a shared Canadian value.

Other questions in the Angus Reid-CBC survey that seek to gauge Canadian values are also awkwardly formulated and thereby lead to yet other unwarranted conclusions.

When it comes to secularism, the Angus Reid-CBC survey asks Canadians whether they prefer “Keeping God and religion completely out of public life” or “publicly celebrating the role of faith in our collective lives.”

Faced with another stark choice, unsurprisingly, most respondents opt for keeping religion out of public life. There is, however, a large grey area between the two visions that Canadians are not permitted to choose.

Wearing a hijab, turban or keepa at work should not be construed as a “public celebration of faith.” By providing no concrete example of what is meant by a “public celebration of faith” Reid leaves the impression most Canadians believe there should be no room whatsoever for religion in the public space. That is certainly not the view of most Canadians.

Multiculturalism and the place of religion in society remain the object of important public debate and it is vital that underlying issues be clearly explained to the population to enable them to make informed decisions. Regrettably, the survey results provided by the Angus Reid Institute and CBC do not move us closer to this objective.

Source: How Angus Reid, CBC got it wrong about multiculturalism | Toronto Star

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

2 Responses to How Angus Reid, CBC got it wrong about multiculturalism: Jedwab

  1. John C Smith says:

    Interesting analysis. Immigration is experienced differently by immigrants and minorities than by current residents and individuals representing the mainstream. The survey highlights a blindspot in Canadian life that continues to be veiled by continuing mainstream dialogue.

    • Andrew says:

      And within each group and generation, experiences vary. Need both the “mainstream” or non-immigrant perspective and the immigrant and minority perspectives.

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