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Diversity Matters – sunday reflections: reasonable? accommodation?

June 8, 2008

Although i grew up in Quebec, i have lost touch with that province – both in terms of keeping a regular correspondence with old family friends and in the sense of having a feel for the place. I have however, tried to follow, at least a little, the media accounts of the Bouchard-Taylor Commission and the debate in QC about “reasonable accommodation.”

Everything about the Commission fascinates me – its mandate and co-chairs, Charles Taylor and Gerard Bouchard – both of whom are rated by many as two of this country’s leading intellectuals; the reponse to the commission’s hearings -from QC participants and its media; to the coverage here in “english canada.”

What’s reasonable when it comes to Quebec as a distinct society and the way that society welcomes/integrates/adapts/accepts its people? Is there a line in the sand to be drawn between one culture – its values, language, social norms, rules and laws and other ‘newer’ cultures?

What does it mean for one culture/language to “accommodate” another?

How would “english canada’ react to its own “r.a. Commission”?

There’s a ton of writing out there on all this & many bloggers are weighing in…see this re Cardinal Marc Ouellet’s Spiritual Void a Problem in Quebec – i found his words moving even though i didn’t fully understand or necessarily agree with his point of view…

I’m interested about perspectives on why the commission was formed, did it “do the right thing,” and was the media coverage “faulty” in any way. How did the world react to press stories about the commission hearings?

Recently i attended a literary symposium in honour of Roy Miki – participants from across Canada and the U.S. attended. Check out the Canada Council’s mini-bio on this poet and icon of our academic and social activist circles. At the workshops, one of the speakers, Monika Kin Gagnon, who teaches at Concordia university, gave a critique of why the commission was formed. and its subsequent media coverage. She’s written a book on my “to read” list – Other Conundrums: Race, Culture and Canadian Art (Arsenal Press) Anyone out there read it?

Super Canned: a list of the headings used to categorize the 37 final Bouchard Taylor recommendations:

learning diversity

harmonization practices

the integration of immigrants


inequality and discrimination

the French language


research to be conducted

So, thoughts anyone?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. reneethewriter permalink
    June 16, 2008 7:42 am

    Hi Joe Visionary,

    Your comments – most enjoyable and yes, more diversity, more languages, more open doors – all good things, despite challenges in “accomodation” etc…I particularly enjoyed your final image – as a Canadian – it’s good to get validation that helps to expand my word-view.

  2. June 11, 2008 2:54 pm

    Here’s a rare take:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Canada can be viewed as a family of 12 rambunctious littles boys, and one whiny-ass little cutie girl, la belle province, Quebec.

    Furthermore, for all the pouty protestations of how special and different she is, and the many threats of her moving out, all the other 12 know that their family is better off embracing that difference, not dismissing it.

    Most Canadians understand this; multiculturalism attempts to accommodate this variety. Generally speaking, we understand that knowing more languages alone opens more doors, and we don’t have the luxury to ignore this. The cultural riches added are a bonus.

    Those two languages we see on the cereal box in the morning? It means the world is bigger than our backyard.

  3. reneethewriter permalink
    June 10, 2008 6:21 pm

    Dear Orcaeyes – thanks, again, for your thoughtful and detailed response – and for pointing out parallels with the recently launched reconciliation dialogue with our First Nations…would welcome additional reflections particularly re living in the Paris suburbs – i haven’t yet got my head around the recent Maclean’s /human rights issue – although i did hear a panel discussion on CBC’s the Current; and yes, humour and a sense of “stepping back” seem invaluable when navigating around culture.

  4. June 9, 2008 7:58 pm

    I lived a number of years in the troubled suburbs of Paris, where multiculturalism certainly does not mean any “reasonable accommodation”: secularism prevails above anything else, leading sometimes to much misunderstanding, conflict and antagonism.
    I find it refreshing and reassuring that Quebec would investigate so thoroughly the accommodations necessary for a peaceful society. I think the commission did its best and that most of the people in Quebec were satisfied with the outcome. At a time when we are just starting a dialogue with the Indigenous Peoples of Canada and acknowledging the harm done to them, it is only reasonable that we look at the way we can all share a society.

    It is always difficult for the legislator to draw the line between individual freedom and collective rights. Many examples of such mind-boggling issues seem to flourish in our newspapers, the Danish cartoons, or more recently the controversy around Mark Steyn’s articles in Maclean’s. In a globalizing world where everyone craves the freedom of speech but also the freedom to practice their faith, it seems like accommodating “everyone” is going to be a core issue in our society.

    I do think citizens should remember that some minor sacrifices are necessary in a peaceful community, for the greater good. I also think many people should learn to practice more their sense of humor and remember that multiple opinions expressed are a sign of a healthy democracy. Dialogue can help us move through these small bumps on our road, as long as we all remember to step back, take a deep breath and ponder on the importance of the small things that seem to offend us so much. There should be no need for tribunals, lawyers and media circus if we just sit at the table and talk it over “reasonably”.

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