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World Multiculturalism Fails In Europe As Public Mood Shifts Hard Right


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Multiculturalism has "utterly failed." That stark assessment was not voiced by some disgruntled opponent of Canada's own efforts to promote multiculturalism as an intrinsic ingredient in this country's immigration policy.

It was expressed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking a few days ago at a youth wing meeting of her Christian Democratic Party.

In her customary matter-of-fact manner, Chancellor Merkel said Germany's attempt to build a multicultural society had failed abysmally.

Her blunt remarks came on the heels of a think-tank's survey which reported that 30 per cent of Germans felt their country was "overrun by foreigners," who had come to Germany primarily for its social benefits rather than with a desire to integrate into German society. (Thirteen per cent also said they would welcome a "Fuhrer" to run the country.)

Chancellor Merkel's chagrin with Germany's multiculturalism efforts is far from unique. Such feelings are increasingly commonplace within Europe, especially in more industrialized countries like France, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Interestingly, at the very time that anti-immigrant sentiments, including anti-Muslim attitudes, have been escalating in many European states, almost the opposite has been happening in Canada where some insist a continued inflow of immigrants is essential for economic growth and for offsetting the negative effect of an aging society which will be putting severe strains on the country's social welfare system.

Those who favour increased immigration in Canada will say that one of the key differences between the attitudes of most Europeans toward immigrants and those in Canada is actually quite simple.

Whereas the more industrialized nations in Western Europe in the postwar period welcomed foreign workers in the hundreds of thousands, they were welcomed essentially because they received low wages, thus making countries like Germany more competitive on global markets. And, as Angela Merkel herself admitted, such workers were not expected to remain in Germany. But they did. In fact, almost three million of Germany's inhabitants today are Turks or of Turkish ancestry, many never having integrated into German society.

Canadian governments, on the other hand, actually wanted immigrants to come to this country to populate its sp{censored}ly inhabited vastness, particularly in the Prairies. Potential immigrants from Ukraine and elsewhere, including Icelanders, were offered relatively generous land grants to settle in the Canadian West.

Cynics would say the explanation for the different approaches taken by the Europeans and Canada toward immigrants was straightforward: The Europeans didn't want them to stay. Canada did.

Because many European governments didn't initially regard foreign workers and their families as potential citizens, they weren't overly concerned about either their lack of integration into society or, in some countries like Germany, the requirement to grant them citizenship.

In Canada the situation was quite different. Because Canada did not have a rigid class system, quite common in Europe, foreigners arriving in this country had far greater opportunities to advance themselves.

Although Canadians from traditional British and French backgrounds were not immune from racial, ethnic or religious biases toward immigrants from other lands -- onerous head taxes imposed on Chinese, boatloads of Sikhs blocked from entering Canada, Jews denied access to various occupations and social organizations -- new arrivals in Canada nevertheless could prosper if determined to do so.

And they did, even entering politics. Countless members of Canada's federal and provincial parliaments, plus municipal governments, are landed immigrants or the offspring of recent immigrants.

In 2004 Yasmin Ratsani was elected as the first Sikh woman to the federal parliament. Hong Kong-born Olivia Chow, wife of NDP leader Jack Layton, was elected an MP in 2006's election. Current federal MP Ujjal Dosanjh was the first Sikh premier of British Columbia. The present Conservative MP responsible for the key position of Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Deepak Obhrai, was born in Tanzania. Together, they are just a sample of the hundreds of immigrants who have successfully entered political life in their adopted country. ...

And Oct. 18, Calgary elected Professor Naheed Nenshi as mayor, the first Muslim to head a major Canadian city in this nation's history.

While a majority of Canadians have no difficulty in recognizing the positive contribution immigrants and their families have made to enrich Canadian society, it's clear that during difficult economic times questions are being raised regarding whether Canada's immigration criteria should not be tightened to ensure that those approved as immigrants have the education, skills and other attributes which will see them integrate more successfully into Canadian society, becoming productive and responsible members of their new country.

It's a goal which Germany's Chancellor Merkel shares for her own country's immigrants.

Harry Sterling, a former diplomat, is an Ottawa-based commentator.

Read more: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/opin...2/story.html?cid=megadrop_story#ixzz13rPXpnf6



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