A comparison of the prospects of the "broader right" in Canada and the United States (Part Two)
By Mark Wegierski
Related to policies of mass, dissimilar immigration are policies of multiculturalism. Canada has been a pioneer in the area of multiculturalism – the city of Toronto today is probably the most diverse city in the world, with over 80 groups represented. All levels of government (federal, provincial, and municipal) are required to support the cultural endeavors of ethnic groups, at least to some extent. Ethnic groups also claim absolute cultural self-determination, rejecting the earlier assimilation model. Multiculturalism today may really be called multiracialism, as it is "visible minorities" (a term officially used in Canada), rather than "white ethnics" such as Ukrainian-, Italian-, Portuguese-, and Polish-Canadians, that are overwhelmingly the focus of government, media, and corporate concern.
Related to multiculturalism is "employment equity" (the Canadian term for affirmative action), which operates on behalf of the following "designated groups" – women, visible minorities, aboriginal peoples, and persons with disabilities – in all levels of government, as well as in much of the private sector. In one major "pay-equity" settlement, the Canadian Human Rights Commission (a quasi-judicial tribunal) ordered the Federal Government to pay about $3.5 billion (Canadian) to women working or formerly working for the Federal Government. (By contrast, the entire budget for the Canadian military in the year 2000 was about $10 billion.)
The Aboriginal peoples of Canada (Indians, Metis, and Inuit) are now hoping to wrest vast resources and territories from other Canadians, based on re-negotiation of earlier treaties and claims of compensation for past abuse. In Canada's Far North, a semi-sovereign entity called Nunavut has been created, and has been receiving about $500 million (Canadian) in every year of its existence, to cover its budget deficit. In attempting to explain how the money going to Aboriginal peoples has apparently not yet benefited the average Aboriginal person, some critics have suggested that a small coterie of Aboriginal leaders and activists – while living extravagant lifestyles themselves – often does not pass on many of the benefits to their own group.
In August 2002, there was an attempt to further entrench "employment equity" in the Federal Civil Service – twenty percent of all new hirings were to be visible minorities, and senior managers were to receive performance bonuses depending on how many visible minorities they hired. Although there were a few scattered voices of protest, this is fact seemed like a continuation of policies that had been in place for at least thirty years. However, the Harper government has about a year or two ago promised some kind review of employment equity policies, but it seems unlikely this will go anywhere.
As far as disabled persons, they have probably been included under employment equity to give the policy an increased aura of "kindness" and "compassion." It could be argued that there is not all that much being done for most disabled persons today, apart from giving them disability support payments and some subsidies for housing and assistive devices, which are not excessively generous. However, the inclusion of disabled persons as a "designated group" inclines this rather heterogeneous category of people (and their care-givers) to support the current-day "equity regime," and increases still further the social stigma of publicly challenging employment equity.
Canada is also permeated by the bilingualism (French and English) policy. This means that Canada is an officially bilingual state, and that most positions (and especially senior positions) in the Federal Civil Service require knowledge of both French and English. The effect of this has been to increase the chances of French-Canadians and members of Canada's liberal English-speaking elites (more of whom tend to be bilingual) to obtain civil service positions. It has tended to discriminate against ordinary, English-speaking Canadians. New Brunswick, an Atlantic Maritime province with a French-speaking population of about 35%, is fully officially bilingual, and Ontario, with a French-speaking population of about 5%, has been urged to move to full official bilingualism. However, the predominantly French-speaking province of Quebec, where one of seven inhabitants doesn't have French as a first language, embraces unilingualism in its government and official policy: French only.
Government (typically white-collar) jobs at the federal, provincial, or municipal levels are often considered to be relatively easy to do, with comparatively large benefits (relative to private sector compensations), so policies such as employment equity tend to exclude increasing numbers of persons (especially white males) from remunerative employment. And it now sometimes happens that persons are typically hired only if they bridge two or three designated categories. The government sector is also clearly permeated by varying degrees of political correctness, so a person with more conservative or traditionalist views is unlikely to be hired, and, even if hired, they may sometimes end up in a rather miserable situation, with constant stress and little chance for advancement.
To be continued.
Mark Wegierski is a Canadian writer and historical researcher.