Fact check: Diversity doesn’t make Canadians feel less Canadian

posted on August 20, 2018

By MaCleans News |

Response to Maxime Bernier has been heated, but a cooler look at research offers better grounds for not fretting about multiculturalism

The outraged response to Conservative MP Maxime Bernier’s instantly notorious Tweets about the supposed dangers of “extreme multiculturalism” in Canada has been sustained long enough now that unloading yet another critical reaction might seem redundant.

There’s been plenty of venting from those who value diversity as a point of principle. Conservatives angry at Bernier for weakening their party brand have had their say and then some. The case has even been made that this issue just isn’t pressing enough to fret about any further.

But maybe it’s worth looking at Bernier’s claims, not from the standpoint of our convictions about what’s admirable or deplorable, or our notions of what’s politically savvy or stupid, but with an eye to data. It’s not as if his fears are new. Surely someone collected some facts before Max warned that too much diversity will “divide us into little tribes.”

A good place to start is with Frank Graves, the veteran Ekos Research pollster, who fired off a Tweet that was, for my money, the most helpfully precise response to Bernier’s salvo. Graves pointed to the results of Ekos polls asking Canadians about their “sense of belonging” going back to the mid-1990s. His firm’s consistent finding: individuals reported steadily declining attachment to their ethnic groups over more than two decades, while their “personal sense of belonging” to Canada has stayed strong.

“During a period of the last 20 years or so, which had the largest influx of new Canadians in our history—not per capita, but in sheer numbers, and by far the greatest influx of non-European Canadians—we see national identity remaining quite strong,” Graves told me when I followed up. “We also see ethnic attachment, which is the more important point, I think, become progressively less strong, to the point where it’s really not even in the mix as a major source of belonging.”

It’s no coincidence that Graves began tracking this sort of thing in the mid-1990s. Back in 1994, the Quebec-based novelist Neil Bissoondath made a splash that even Bernier might envy with the publication of Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada. “The psychology and politics of multiculturalism have made divisiveness in the name of racial and ethnic rights socially acceptable,” was one Bissoondath quote Maclean’s plucked from his book at the time for a story on the uproar.

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