Featuring a wealth of prominent radical and critical race theorists, this collection of essays takes aim at one of Canada’s nationalistic sacred cows: our official multiculturalism policy. Taking racial categories seriously as a form of social organization throughout Canadian history, the authors in this book analyze how multiculturalism as an official policy of the Canadian state developed as a result of the crisis in Canadian immigration and labour starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
As the state began to look to non-European countries in order to ensure sustainable pools of immigrants and flexible labour, the overt racism and white nationalism which had characterized Canada up until that point could no longer be sustained. The short answer to the crisis involved rebranding Canada as an open and inclusive society tolerant of religious and cultural differences. Multiculturalism became a mode of reasoning through which problematic “others” could be managed and included in the Canadian social fabric in a limited sense. Additionally, the focus on cultural recognition inherent to this policy allows questions to be left off the table which deal with the material reality of capitalism in its neoliberal form as experienced by Indigenous people as well as more recent immigrants.
Conveniently divided into thematic sections—unsettling multiculturalism, labour, land and bodies—this book offers a variegated array of interrogations concerning how and why official multiculturalism operates to reassert, as Grace-Edward Galabuzi puts it in his essay, the Anglo-Franco conformity order. Indigenous experiences of the recognition of “others” to this order form some of the more interesting chapters, including a reprint of Glen S. Coulthard’s seminal essay on the politics of recognition in Canada. While those familiar with critical and anti-racist critiques of multiculturalism as state policy and as discourse will likely find little new in this volume, the book offers a broad albeit academic and theoretically technical introduction to the literature.
This article appeared in the November/December 2013 issue of Canadian Dimension (The Mining Issue: Taking on the Canadian Goliath).