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Does Toronto's multiculturalism really contrast with the "melting pot" of American cities?

wild goose chase

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One of the prevailing views or mythos we seem to have is that Toronto, and English-speaking Canada more broadly, celebrates multiculturalism, and encourages immigrants and minority groups to "preserve" their cultures more than American cities or others in the Western world (like say France) which promote a more assimilationist view, encouraging immigrants to give up their culture and conform to a pre-existing one.

Do you believe this is true? I have heard and read many people's claims that the multiculturalism vs. melting pot differs little in other than name, and that regardless of either country's mythos, after a couple generations or so, most immigrants end up with little left to tie them or remind them of the home country and become seen as "typically" American or Canadian, and that official policies on multiculturalism do little to change this.

I'm in Chicago right now, and I do find that it seems that some immigrant groups are more far removed from their home countries than what I'm used to (eg. Italian-Americans seem to not speak Italian as much as Italian-Canadians, mention family members who've lived in the "old country", or cheer for Italy in international sporting events), but I think part of that is that Toronto is a newer immigrant city, not that they retain their cultural customs and ties longer.

If we compare immigrant communities that arrived at similar times, would you find than their US counterparts gave up distinctive food, cultural customs, language quicker than Torontonians did? What about societal attitudes -- do you buy the idea that Torontonians embrace their heritage more than other cities you've been to or lived in?
 

King of Kensington

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Chicago is pretty close to a "typical" US city with a large African American population and where Mexicans something like 40% of the immigrant population. The most distinctive element in Chicago is its large Polish population - while other industrial cities like Buffalo and Detroit have large Polish American populations - Chicago has a large Polish immigrant population that came in the 80s and 90s.

I say the assimilation process largely on the sheer size/presence of the community more than whether it is "multicultural Canada" or "melting pot America." Hence Italians in Toronto are less assimilated than those in Vancouver, and New York Italians are less assimilated than those in say, Seattle. Also whether a community has received recent immigration or not plays a role (for example, Toronto and Winnipeg both have similar sized Ukrainian communities, but Toronto's is much closer to the immigrant experience).

In terms of Canada's official policy of multiculturalism, I'd say it's done more in terms of integrating immigrant groups into political life than it has in slowing down assimilation.
 

wild goose chase

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Chicago is pretty close to a "typical" US city with a large African American population and where Mexicans something like 40% of the immigrant population. The most distinctive element in Chicago is its large Polish population - while other industrial cities like Buffalo and Detroit have large Polish American populations - Chicago has a large Polish immigrant population that came in the 80s and 90s.

I say the assimilation process largely on the sheer size/presence of the community more than whether it is "multicultural Canada" or "melting pot America." Hence Italians in Toronto are less assimilated than those in Vancouver, and New York Italians are less assimilated than those in say, Seattle. Also whether a community has received recent immigration or not plays a role (for example, Toronto and Winnipeg both have similar sized Ukrainian communities, but Toronto's is much closer to the immigrant experience).

In terms of Canada's official policy of multiculturalism, I'd say it's done more in terms of integrating immigrant groups into political life than it has in slowing down assimilation.
Yeah, Chicago and Toronto are similar in size and both by a lake, but I find interesting differences in the architecture, history and culture, as well as the immigrant communities. Your point about the "typical" US city makes sense-- I often find that I have to switch frame of reference when I hear and say "immigrant" or "ethnic minority" among Americans (especially in much of the Midwest and East), versus back home. More recent East/South Asian plus Caribbean communities like the ones I nearby where I grew up contrast with the longer-standing African-American and Hispanic communities where I live now.

One other thing that I noticed in the US, that may or may not relate to multiculturalism vs. melting pot -- When American ethnic minorities form cultural groups or organizations, say a club at a college or university or a community center, they'd often create broader identities that seem to be like smaller melting pots with their own identities-- say an African-American, Asian-American, Latino American cultural center. This seems far less common in Canada. Canadian ethnic minorities seem not to organize as much along these broader cultural groupings, preferring to be say, Somali-, Tamil-, Colombian- or Jamaican-Canadians, rather than just self-identify as "black", "Latino", "Asian" etc. Even the Canadian census seems to have more categories than the US one (Canadians don't report generic "Asian" for instance). If anything, you'd expect the reverse (since Canadian ethnic minorities are smaller in absolute number of people to draw distinctions for).

On that note, maybe it's just me but I have noticed the hyphenated description much more common in the US too. Italian-American, for instance, seems more a distinct term used there, while say Italian-Canadian is rarer and a lot of time one might just say "I'm Italian" or if pressed say that one is both Italian and Canadian.
 

wild goose chase

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In terms of Canada's official policy of multiculturalism, I'd say it's done more in terms of integrating immigrant groups into political life than it has in slowing down assimilation.
Just a hunch, but it does somewhat seem like Americans seem to have to distance themselves a bit more from their immigrant generations to be seen as "all-American" enough, especially for careers in politics, media etc.
For instance, trying to discredit a candidate by creating a birth certificate "controversy" to imply foreign birth and less belonging to the nation would seem odd in Canadian politics.
 

King of Kensington

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Yeah, Chicago and Toronto are similar in size and both by a lake, but I find interesting differences in the architecture, history and culture, as well as the immigrant communities. Your point about the "typical" US city makes sense-- I often find that I have to switch frame of reference when I hear and say "immigrant" or "ethnic minority" among Americans (especially in much of the Midwest and East), versus back home. More recent East/South Asian plus Caribbean communities like the ones I nearby where I grew up contrast with the longer-standing African-American and Hispanic communities where I live now.
In terms of ethnic composition, Toronto and Chicago aren't much alike at all. Toronto more closely resembles Queens NY in this respect than anywhere else in the US (Queens = the Toronto of America!)

One other thing that I noticed in the US, that may or may not relate to multiculturalism vs. melting pot -- When American ethnic minorities form cultural groups or organizations, say a club at a college or university or a community center, they'd often create broader identities that seem to be like smaller melting pots with their own identities-- say an African-American, Asian-American, Latino American cultural center. This seems far less common in Canada. Canadian ethnic minorities seem not to organize as much along these broader cultural groupings, preferring to be say, Somali-, Tamil-, Colombian- or Jamaican-Canadians, rather than just self-identify as "black", "Latino", "Asian" etc. Even the Canadian census seems to have more categories than the US one (Canadians don't report generic "Asian" for instance). If anything, you'd expect the reverse (since Canadian ethnic minorities are smaller in absolute number of people to draw distinctions for).
I agree about "Asian" and "Hispanic/Latino" - those categories aren't really a thing here. The broad American melting pot of course never applied to African Americans. But second generation Caribbean blacks do assimilate into the African American community. In NYC for example, about half the Black population is of Caribbean origin and they live in the same neighborhoods in the Bronx, Brooklyn and southeastern Queens.
 
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howl

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I think Multiculturism was one of the goals of Trudeau and was promoted more to make it happen than anything else. Once the Trudeau-era was over if faded from the radar.
 

Riverdale Rink Rat

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My daughter's tribe from Monarch Park Collegiate included her best friend, a 2nd generation Canadian of Malaysian-Chinese descent; her boyfriend at the time, a 2nd generation Canadian of Vietnamese descent; a couple of Muslim kids that immigrated with their families from South Asia (India/Pakistan/Afghanistan, but not sure which country) and a boy that was East African -- I'm going to say Somali, but maybe Eritrea? I'd go with 'multiculti' for them rather than 'melting pot', as the Muslim girls wore hijabs, they spoke Mandarin or Somali or Vietnamese at home, English at school.

For the record, my first-born is 3rd generation Scot / 2nd generation French. They were (and are) an interesting crew -- very Canadian high schoolers, yet completely different than my '80s-Calgary experience.
 

Admiral Beez

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A big difference between Canada and the USA is that in the latter their immigration includes over eleven million illegals, including almost seven million undocumented Mexicans. With a total population of about 319 million, this means that nearly four percent of the total USA population are illegal, undocumented aliens. This group cannot legally attend school, access work, declare income tax, or do much of what any newcomer would do to integrate themselves into their new society. Even their American-born (and naturalized USA citizen) offspring are tainted by their parents' status as outsiders.

In Canada we do not have this problem with undocumented illegal immigrants. At least not to the scale of where 4% (or 1.4 million) of Canada's population are illegal immigrants. People come to Canada usually through proper channels, either immigration or refugee class entrants, and then they get their paperwork and off they go to work and build lives. This is a big difference between Canada and the USA immigration experience, where for the most part we like newcomers, while in the USA, most of their newcomers are targets for Trumps' incitement.
 

bennessb

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I think that the way we talk about it is interesting.

My high school history text book specifically positioned Canada as a "cultural mosaic" while America was a "melting pot" (...I notice that nobody here is saying cultural mosaic instead of multiculturalism...), and so I was strangely surprised that Americans were officially using "melting pot" as if it were a good thing. But I don't know how or if this informs our perception of assimilation.
 

wild goose chase

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I think that the way we talk about it is interesting.

My high school history text book specifically positioned Canada as a "cultural mosaic" while America was a "melting pot" (...I notice that nobody here is saying cultural mosaic instead of multiculturalism...), and so I was strangely surprised that Americans were officially using "melting pot" as if it were a good thing. But I don't know how or if this informs our perception of assimilation.
I have heard "cultural mosaic" at school growing up too; I've recalled people saying "tossed salad" before too (implying parts that don't meld together, unlike the melting pot) but mostly "multiculturalism" in general seems to be the buzzword Canadians use a lot.
 

King of Kensington

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I think that the way we talk about it is interesting.

My high school history text book specifically positioned Canada as a "cultural mosaic" while America was a "melting pot" (...I notice that nobody here is saying cultural mosaic instead of multiculturalism...), and so I was strangely surprised that Americans were officially using "melting pot" as if it were a good thing. But I don't know how or if this informs our perception of assimilation.
I think we're a "cultural mosaic" (good) while they're a "melting pot" (bad) is one of our national myths.
 

King of Kensington

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What about say, Irish Americans in Boston? They're mostly fourth and fifth generation Americans and far removed from Ireland by now, but a lot have a pretty strong identity.
 

Johnny Au

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What about say, Irish Americans in Boston? They're mostly fourth and fifth generation Americans and far removed from Ireland by now, but a lot have a pretty strong identity.
That is why many North American cities (including Toronto) hold St. Patrick's Day parades (and interestingly enough, it was only recently did Ireland itself adopted North American-style St. Patrick Day parades).
 
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