Mutual Accommodation: A Better Way of Doing Things?
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February 18, 2017
OverviewLet’s discuss one of the most profound facets of the Canadian experience – mutual accommodation. At key moments in Canada’s past, the need to accommodate difference – between Canadians, with our neighbours, and with our northern geography – has been central to national survival and success. Yet there have also been key failures, instances where the triumph of a certain idea of Canada has negated the needs and hopes of those who live here. What lessons can we learn from the successes and... read more
Let’s discuss one of the most profound facets of the Canadian experience – mutual accommodation. At key moments in Canada’s past, the need to accommodate difference – between Canadians, with our neighbours, and with our northern geography – has been central to national survival and success. Yet there have also been key failures, instances where the triumph of a certain idea of Canada has negated the needs and hopes of those who live here. What lessons can we learn from the successes and failures of our history of mutual accommodation? Can we use these lessons to guide us in the future?
A key goal of the community is to explore the role which Mutual Accommodation has or could play on specific issues of importance to Canada. You’ll see that aspect woven into the Hot Topic discussions focused on our themes of Indigenous Peoples, Muslims in Canada and Canada: Global Citizen. Another worthwhile approach is the aspect of sharing our own stories where we, as Canadians, have either witnessed or experienced Mutual Accommodation in action. By collectively sharing our history, and what it means to be Canadian now, we have an opportunity to shape our future.show less
The idea of mutual accommodations is always tricky in Canada. While critics have pointed out that we are not as multicultural as we think, there is no doubt that the politics of accommodation in Canada have a distinctive history. As an educator and a political geographer, I understand how volatile, yet enduring, social constructions of “othering” can be. Throughout history Canadians have chosen scapegoats: be they French, Jewish, Irish, Aboriginal, Southern or Eastern European, East Asian, South Asian, and now increasingly Muslim. Many saw in the acceptance and accommodation of these new Canadians a challenge to some kind of normative “Canadianess”. But others were more accepting and, although late in the day, the goal of diversity has fed an appetite for ensuring that such accommodations continue. Indeed, Chris Dummitt suggests, only recently has, ‘the idea of Canada’ has seen the incorporation of increasing diverse narratives about who Canadians might be and about the value of this diversity.
Although mutual accommodation in Canada has a mixed history it is not impossible. This is why the kinds of discussions we engage in here matter. If we agree that being ‘Canadian’ does not endow us with a predetermined gene for multicultural equanimity and mutual accommodation, and if we agree that mutual accommodation should be a ‘Canadian value’, then we need to work very hard to achieve it. This means challenging our existing gloss of Canada as a welcoming and diverse country and seeing the cracks as well as the successes. So I challenge us, in this discussion, to construct a critical and yet more an inclusive way of engaging with multiculturalism and diversity.show less
The fact that we rarely agree is a good sign. You would struggle to define something as “unCanadian” in the way Americans label people and actions as “unAmerican”. For some, this is frustrating. For others, the key project is to point out when Canadians do agree and just don’t acknowledge it. But the lack of homogeneity still matters. From the very beginning, it has been almost impossible to call something Canadian - to speak of Canadian culture or history or language. Certainly not the latter.
For several decades now, this has slowly been settling into a common sense. Starting with the gradual embrace of Canada as a country with “two founding peoples” back in the 1960s, and then with an expansion of this to include other peoples (with the rise of multiculturalism in the 1970s and then with a recognition of the need to reconcile our horrible history of treatment to aboriginal peoples) the idea of Canada has become more diverse. It has been about accommodating differences - though we often can’t agree if it has been done well, or often enough.
As a historian, I’m struck by how this is and isn’t new. Confederation in 1867 was about accommodating the very different desires of four different colonies. At no point since 1867 has this fundamentally changed. Canada continues to exist because of the kinds of accommodations that happened at that point and ever since. It’s not perfect. Life isn’t; people aren’t. But it is a pattern of a kind - a Canadian pattern. Or, at least, a pattern in Canadian history.show less
Back to Discussions Resources & News Articles
The following resources and news articles are key to a good understanding of the subjects being discussed - as identified by the numbered chat bubbles shown below. We encourage you to review them.
|A: Government policy (ex. multiculturalism)||10%|
|B: Law (ex. anti-discrimination)||0%|
|C: Daily/regular interactions among people||33%|
|D: A combination of the above||57%|