Report gives Canadian values short shrift
by Tahir Aslam Gora

June 12, 2008

Another feel-good bureaucrats report, by the Gerard Bouchard and Charles Taylor commission, has been released in Quebec. Shockingly, there is not much talk about this report in Ontario.

Quebec Premier Jean Charest announced the establishment of the consultation commission on accommodation practices related to cultural differences on Feb. 8, 2007, and appointed two academics, Bouchard and Taylor, to head the commission.

In their finding, they have emphasized the importance of Canadians understanding immigrants' cultures rather than urging immigrants to learn about their host country.

The general public's lack of knowledge or interest in this report indicates one more reality -- that ordinary people don't feel such solutions work on the ground. Our governments should have understood by now that such reports don't make much sense to the public.

Many citizens have strong negative feelings about some immigrant communities looking for different laws and norms in this country. They especially react to the demands of some fundamental Islamic groups.

The report is full of all the old rhetoric, including granting rights to religious holidays to all immigrant communities, comparing them with traditional Christian holidays.

It looks like some of our multicultural policy-makers are trying to turn Canada into an arm of the United Nations. They don't want to see Canada as a country with its own values and norms. They show their pride in turning Canada into a country of hodgepodge laws where some Sikhs are walking to school with their kirpans (ceremonial sword) and some Sikhs are asking Canadian law be overturned so they can wear turbans instead of motorcycle helmets or a safety hard hats.

Similarly, feel-good academics, policy-makers and their associated commissions want to present Canada as a role model to the world, a country where one can regularly see veil/burka-wearing Muslim female drivers, delivering a message across the world how great a multicultural society this country is.

Such commissions, fascinated by their own fantasies, do not understand the fragmentation level within those religion-bound immigrant communities.

Rather, these commissions are causing more division. They have no clue that the rights they are advocating in certain communities are already bones of contention within those circles.

They don't know that not many Sikhs are looking to overrule the laws. They don't understand that the majority of Muslim women don't dream of wearing burkas and not many Muslim men are looking to create prayer places in the corridors of their work places.

Why are governments spending millions of dollars on commissions and consultants to prepare reports of hundreds of pages? These sorts of analyses could be done in few thousand dollars.

Why do the governments consider only orthodox Muslims, Sikhs and Jews as the only immigrants to this country? Do we hear any unusual and abnormal demands by the Chinese, the biggest immigrant community? Do we hear of requests by Filipinos, Latinos and eastern Europeans? No.

We have large immigrant communities from those parts of the world as well. Why do we give so much importance to the demands of a few members of just some immigrant groups?

Can we imagine spending $5 million to examine a few requests and their consequences? That's what the Quebec government has spent on getting Bouchard and Taylor's report.

This much money could be spent to teach those immigrant groups about cultural norms of their Canada -- their host country and home -- if our governments really believed in that anymore.

Tahir Aslam Gora is a Pakistani-Canadian writer living in Burlington.

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