Ever since I can remember I've heard the comment that there is "no difference" between Canadians and Americans. I respectfully beg to differ as there is a difference on so many levels! We have unique Canadian culture consisting of Canadianisms, a Canadian perspective on world events, Canadian cuisine as well as products and foods only available in Canada. This blog is dedicated to celebrating all things Canadian from "my perspective" as a Canadian. Please enjoy your visit and be sure to visit often.

Garden Gnome
Americans should never underestimate the constant pressure on Canada which the mere presence of the United States has produced. We're different people from you and we're different people because of you. Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is effected by every twitch and grunt. It should not therefore be expected that this kind of nation, this Canada, should project itself as a mirror image of the United States.
- Pierre Trudeau

Friday, September 24, 2010

Melting Pot verses A Mosaic

Many Americans feel there is little difference between Canada and the United States.  That simple is not the case.  Canadian societal beliefs are significantly different from Americas and that can easily be demonstrated by the way both countries treat immigrants.  This is a fundamental difference between the two countries.  It shapes the way Canadians view the world, how we interact as a society and how the world views Canada as a nation.

The American way for immigration is often referred to as the great melting pot.  This idealism is well engrained into American society.  New immigrants are expected to blend in by adapting the culture and language of the USA.  Assimilation is key!  There is one official language and that is English although by some standards that can be debated.  Many areas in the US speak one of a number of English slang dialects.  In many ways being unique and keeping the homeland culture is discourage.  This is typically unsuccessful in the home environment but to succeed in the USA you need to learn the language and adapt.  Once you are fully immigrated the homeland identity is lost by the addition of American to just about every nationality possible.  Let's say you immigrated from China, the correct term after becoming a legalized American is American Chinese.  The American addition to the homeland identity serves as a reminder that you are now American not Chinese.

The Canadian approach to immigration is often referred to as a mosaic.  New immigrants are expected to embrace what Canada has to offer, become good citizens yet are encouraged to keep their ethnicity. In many ways Canada can be seen as a huge quilt made up of many pieces (cultures) and stronger than the sum of its parts.  Native peoples in Canada are not referred to as Canadian Indians, they are called First Nations, Innuit or Métis depending on which Aboriginal group they belong to.  Those immigrating to Canada often move to established cluster communities of a similar culture (eg. Chinatown, Greektown, Little Italy) usually because it is familiar and they more than likely have family or friends there.  It's normal to see shop signs in that ethnic language as well.  Canada has two official languages, English and French.  While learning one of the two official languages is a huge asset to new immigrants some do not.  Children of immigrants are classified as ESL (English as a Second Language) so they will learn English in the school system but at home communicate in the native language.  Quite often if an extended family immigrates together (eg. grandparents, parents, children) or even if elderly parents immigrate later to join their families they may never learn to speak English or French.  The various ethnicities in Canada are often celebrated by festivals that embrace that culture and its foods but is open for anyone to enjoy.

Which immigration method is better - melting pot or mosaic?  Each have their strengths and weaknesses.  The melting pot idealism is that we are strong because we are united as one.   Differences are less tolerated and if you want to be a good American then you act like a good American by leaving your ethnicity at the door.  The end result is there is less tolerance for those who are different (eg. racially, ethnically) in general and for new immigrants.  It also encourages blatant racism especially towards those who do not conform to the American way.  The mosaic idealism is that we are strong because we are many with many different perspectives all moving towards a common goal.  If you want to be a good Canadian then be a good citizen and good neighbour.  Contribute to your community and society in general.  There is a greater tolerance of ethnic diversity.  At the same time racism while it does exist in Canada is quieter, not so much of an in your face type of thing but more like snide comments usually amongst family, friends and occasionally co-workers.

In this Canadian's perspective having a fair amount of experience traveling through the US and owning property in the US, I am still partial to the Canadian mosaic idealism.  Neither system is perfect.  Both face the issue of racism and whether blatant or somewhat hidden it is still there.  Both are opening their countries doors to those hoping for a better life with an expectation that the new immigrant is going to contribute to society.  So quite honestly I don't feel one immigration ideal is better than the other.  They each perform their intended function.


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