Douglas Todd: Some immigrants’s values contrast with ‘Canadian’ values

The fallacy in Todd’s article and related analysis is his assumption that values are static, not dynamic. Values can and do change  over time and over generations.

The Canadian benchmark in the World Values Survey includes the 20 percent of the population which is foreign-born as well as the 17 percent who are second generation immigrants. In other words, the Canadian baseline is not “old-stock” white Canadians but a mix of “old” and “new” stock.

So what he presents as a duality is actually a more complex mix that emerges through the Hegelian integration dynamic between immigrants (first and second generation) and the increasingly diverse “host” society.

Todd’s analysis also assumes that first generation immigrants have completely identical values than the population of their country of origin, which may or may not be true given that Canada tends to select more highly educated immigrants.

That is not to say that there are no value differences among groups on any range of issues, but just caution against overly simplistic depictions and assumptions:

In his unscientific yet credible book, McGoogan considers how the nine million Canadians who claim Scottish or Irish heritage have strengthened certain values in Canada — such as “independence” (exemplified by rebel Michael Collins), pluralism (exemplified by gay writer Oscar Wilde and mixed-race B.C. governor Sir James Douglas) and “democracy” (exemplified by egalitarian poet Robbie Burns and prime minister Sir John A. McDonald).

“Did the ancestors of more than one-quarter of our population arrive (in Canada) without cultural baggage? No history, no values, no visions?” McGoogan asks. “Surely the idea is ridiculous.”

Indeed, it’s absurd many Canadians assume people arrive from Ireland, Egypt or China without both individual and ethno-cultural traits.

So it’s especially worthwhile to learn about values widely held in Canada’s biggest immigrant-source countries.

The top sources of immigrants to Canada include China, India, South Korea, Iran and the Arabic-speaking countries of the Middle East, all of which have had their values measured by the WVS.

How do the values emphasized in these countries play out in Canada’s major cities, where the potential for inter-cultural exchange is high in schools, businesses and neighbourhoods?

We’ll start with Montreal, where one of five residents is foreign born, many from Arabic-speaking countries.

A particularly valuable question the WVS asks parents is: “What qualities would you most like to see in your children?”

As The Vancouver Sun and Province’s online interactive chart shows, it turns out more than 65 per cent of parents from Arabic-speaking countries, such as Egypt, Jordan and Iraq, strongly stress “obedience.”

However, only 30 per cent of Canadian parents name “obedience” as an important quality, suggesting the contrast could make for intriguing interactions in Montreal schools.

What do we discover when we turn to Metro Vancouver and Toronto, where foreign-born people make up almost half the population and two of the largest immigrant-source countries are China and India?

It turns out only 16 per cent of parents in China strongly emphasize obedience. But the stress on obedience rises to 56 per cent among mothers and fathers in India.

What about “hard work?” It can determine success in the competitive fields of education and business, not to mention in whether a potential friend goes skiing?

The WVS found 90 per cent of parents in China say hard work is a crucial value. That emphasis declines slightly among the parents of India. Meanwhile, the proportion of all Canadian parents who want their children to work hard is only 54 per cent.

However, Canadian parents are not too different from the parents of China and India in regards to “unselfishness.” While 47 per cent of Canadian parents emphasize unselfishness, so do 35 per cent of Chinese and Indian parents. That’s unlike South Korean parents, only 12 per cent of whom stress the virtue of self-sacrifice.

The lesson of the WVS is that values are all over the map, literally.

And it’s especially true when it comes to religion.

More than nine of 10 parents in the Muslim-majority countries of Egypt and Iraq, for instance, strongly emphasize “religious faith.”

But fewer than one in 10 parents in Germany and China — and just three in 10 in Canada ­— care if their children believe in God.

The World Values Survey, like all polls, is imperfect, missing subtleties and regional variations. But it’s a reminder the sooner we take ethnocultural differences seriously, the sooner we become knowledgeable about why people are the way they are.

The implications can be significant. We may start to recognize, for instance, why people with roots in China tend to vote for certain Canadian political parties, while those linked to India are inclined to vote for others.

And — unless we’re utter moral relativists — the sooner we understand ethnocultural differences, the sooner we might take seriously the values we ourselves are ready to stand for, reject or tolerate.

Source: Douglas Todd: Some immigrants’s values contrast with ‘Canadian’ values | Vancouver Sun

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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.

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