Multiculturalism in practice remains an obstacle to the full integration of young people

Born in Canada, Hafsa Eid returned to Egypt, her mother’s home country, at the age of four.

When the family returned to Canada three years later, they felt a sense of estrangement in an environment with a different language, culture and values.

Having started out as a factory worker, Eid’s mother took on additional jobs so that she could feed her family, including Eid’s five and 11-year-old brothers as well as her nine-year-old sister.

Eid remembers the toll that work took on her mother and the sadness she and her siblings felt over her absence as she worked to support themselves. At the same time, they understood the need for it and were grateful that their mother never failed to give them the things they wanted.

At 15, Eid decided to find a job at the same factory in order to help pay for his family. There, she saw with her own eyes how workers, many of them immigrants, endured poor working conditions, such as being called in around the clock because they needed money to support their families.

“We like to paint this picture of multiculturalism as the Canadian dream,” says Eid. “But we are the ones who are placed in these low-level jobs, who are working to strengthen the status quo, because we are the ones who are willing to work to try to access our social status.”

A fourth-year University of Toronto student majoring in political science, Eid shared her story with other immigrant and Indigenous youth during a workshop at the recent Fourth Annual Metropolis Conference on the Pros and Cons of the policy of multiculturalism in Canada.

“In theory, for me, multiculturalism is ideal and holds great potential for Canadian society,” says Eid. “However, when I see it in practice, multiculturalism is just a tool the Canadian government is using to mask the history of colonization, slavery and systemic racism taking place in all areas of the world. company.”

In his first Senate speech in 1964, Paul Yuzyk, son of Ukrainian immigrants, called for multiculturalism as a more inclusive Canadian identity that recognizes demographic changes caused by large-scale immigration. In 1971, Canada became the first country in the world to adopt this policy.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of multiculturalism, keynote speaker at the Metropolis conference, Jean Augustine, former member of parliament and minister for multiculturalism, stressed that multiculturalism has persisted despite its criticisms and that “there is no other definition of who we are as Canadians. ”

And according to speaker Senator Donna Dasko, opinion polls in 2002 showed that three-quarters of Canadians viewed multiculturalism as promoting greater understanding and equality of opportunity between groups in Canada, and two-thirds felt it was ‘it strengthened national unity.

Yet the prevailing view of the youth of the Metropolis panel was that while multiculturalism may externally aspire to inclusion, it actually masks and perpetuates inequalities for minority groups.

Eid encountered similar barriers to employment as his mother, with many positions requiring specific educational experiences or being tied to a certain name or status.

“As children of immigrants, you see that the kind of work you are looking for is also low-level,” she said, “because you are not surrounded by relatives who have connections. offer you jobs or show you that there is more work out there than you can reach.

According to her, this cycle will continue through the generations.

Likewise, Yi Li, a recent University of Toronto graduate who came to Canada from China in kindergarten, says she was also denied jobs by email simply because of her name. Employers assume that she does not have the requisite English proficiency and knowledge of Canadian culture.

Li was asked why she didn’t have an English name to make her life easier.

“As a Chinese Canadian, you have a choice of how you want to react to this,” she says.

According to Li, there is a large body of sociological research demonstrating the reality of this type of name discrimination.

Alexis Bornyk, a Métis international development student at the University of Toronto Scarborough, sees multiculturalism as a “promotional tool for policy makers” to help people from other countries come to Canada while leaving Indigenous communities outside. the conversation.

“Everyone is tired of hearing about indigenous struggles,” she said. “But we continue to have the same struggles because nothing changes.”

Also having Ukrainian and Russian origins, Bornyk enjoys being part of all these communities within one country and sharing stories and knowledge with people of diverse backgrounds.

But she says conflict can arise when immigrants who arrive in a place of safety fail to understand the history and current reality of indigenous peoples living in precarious conditions.

In Bornyk’s view, it is essential that education on the history of Canada’s colonization and its continuing effects be made available to all immigrants, and that opportunities be created for immigrants and Indigenous peoples to find their way. come together and learn from each other.

According to Eid, it is essential that people with lived experience are at the forefront of policy decisions that affect diverse communities.

Bornyk says that all communities must be included in the notion of multiculturalism, with a greater appreciation of community life as well as revised education for young people.

Eid supports the idea of ​​collaborating with communities outside of his own.

“It is our responsibility to build these bridges,” she said, “so that we can benefit society as a whole, not just the privileged few. “

About Michael G. Walter

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