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

Tewder

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... this is also contrary to linguistic trends where local accents and dialects are dying out due to the standardizing effects of mass media, the internet, and globalization. Broad dialect groups remain, for sure, but in the past a dialect could change from neighbourhood to neighbourhood.
 

Jessica87

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As an immigrant from the UK in the mid-1970s, I've never really referred to myself as an Englishman. Since my youngest days I've considered myself just a Canadian. Of course my immigration story is vastly different than those from non-English speaking, non-white countries, but I sometimes wonder if we'd rather not recognize English immigrants at all.



http://www.amazon.ca/Invisible-Immi...022&sr=1-2&keywords=canada+english+immigrants
I would include the Dutch understand that category too. Both my parents are born in Canada Dutch whose parents came here from the old country but everybody sees me as being simply "Canadian", I guess it's because I don't look like your typical Dutch girl except for the height.

As for Toronto's multiculturalism I think it's awesome that you can be Canadian while retaining your parents' culture.
 

urbandreamer

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I don't believe there's a difference in immigrant communities between the USA and Canada. The mosaic vs melting pot are just empty PC buzzwords.

Have I retained my parents' culture? Yes and no. (Our families have been in NA for ~400 years.) I'm not certain culture is related to "home" country.
 

wild goose chase

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One other thing that's worth noting is that culture in general encompasses more than just traditions passed through parents and grandparents.

There's obviously a lot more nuance to "passing on culture" than copying what one's past generations of grandparents did. Mass media, peers like co-workers, childhood friends like classmates, neighbours, one's spouse or relationship partners, the in-laws, friends, and just the wider society as a whole "passes" culture from person to person, not just "blood relatives". While it is true that children spend a large part of their life living with their parents (and perhaps even more so now since children leave home later than they used to), it's important not to discount these other cultural influences, especially as people socialize with, including marrying, and live among people that shared historically different cultures. There's no reason why one "has" to have, say, Chinese roots to cook Chinese food, or to have Jamaican ancestors to enjoy reggae music, or have French origins to speak French etc.

I think this is a part of multiculturalism worth celebrating -- the sharing of cultures too, regardless of the culture of one's own ancestors.
 

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.
I don't know if it has anything to do with multiculturalism policy at all, but Canada does seem to have a higher representation of first and second generation immigrants active in politics than many western countries. I believe I had read an article that Canada has a percentage of foreign-born MPs closer to representation in the population than countries like the US, UK and others in Europe have for their political equivalents. However, I don't think voter turnout itself is exceptionally high among immigrants in Canada than the US or other countries.

Another thing that seems noticeable is that in the US, there seems to be a lot of emphasis put on birth in the country, and a stronger divide between "born here" and not -- the President of the US can't be foreign born, unlike the Canadian Prime Minister. I almost never hear "born on Canadian soil" used as political rhetoric as much as "born on American soil" in the US, although there was that comment on "old stock Canadians" recently.

A much larger share of Canadians descended from recent arrivals is perhaps why that's the case. I was surprised to read that close to 40% of Canada have either first and second generation roots, while the number is much smaller in the US, more like twenty-something I think. Part of that could just be our cities having a larger share of the population (Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto's population combined are larger relative to the rest of Canada than NYC, Chicago, and LA are to the rest of the US), but I'm not sure if that spreads openness to multiculturalism around any more nation-wide (a rural Newfoundlander or Iowan is still far removed from NYC or Toronto either way).
 
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howl

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I don't believe there's a difference in immigrant communities between the USA and Canada. The mosaic vs melting pot are just empty PC buzzwords.

Have I retained my parents' culture? Yes and no. (Our families have been in NA for ~400 years.) I'm not certain culture is related to "home" country.
You mean you live in a longhouse, hunt with a bow and wear deerskin clothes? Cool.

But seriously, the difference between mosaic and melting pot is subtle but significant. It has less to do with the outcome and more to do with the attitude people have towards newcomers. The problem with the melting pot is that it assumes North American society is perfect now and can't evolve any more. New people who come in are supposed to forget everything they know and adopt the perfect culture of the host. In contrast the mosaic model assumes new immigrant will bring what they can share to the table and thus make North American society richer and stronger. When the United Empire Loyalists where here they wanted to keep the Irish out because they feared the would take over their culture, but the protestant and catholic cultures combined to create an even stronger community. Then they wanted to keep the Italians out, but the Italians came and added their culture making it richer and stronger. Then the Chinese came, then the Indians, then the Somalians, now the Syrians might be coming. In the mosaic model each of these groups brings new and valuable things to our culture. In the melting pot model all of these people merge into one faceless mass called American, which is culturally stuck in the 1950's ideal of what America should have been.
 

Tewder

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Unlike Canada the United States has a collective identity and ethos that newcomers seek out proudly. Guilty! This doesn't mean their culture/society doesn't evolve or that newcomers must forget 'everything they know..' (which is a pretty ignorant comment). In fact the strong 'common denominator' that is their shared identity provides the basic, starting-point 'mirepoix' of American society, one that different cultural and immigrant groups riff on through their interaction with it and take in many different directions, creating something innovative and new as they do. This is what gave us Jazz and Jambalaya, Tin Pan Alley and Tex Mex, Rock and Roll and... well you get my point. In other words, a melting pot is richer for the variety of ingredients, not poorer. Yet it still manages to retain unity within its diversity. Besides, we don't really know what the long terms effects of Multiculturalism will be as it is a fairly recent policy (historically speaking). We do know that our past has been just as 'unwelcoming' as that of America's, and whether we are really that much more welcoming today because of Multiculturalism is up for debate.
 

AlvinofDiaspar

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I think you have a rather fetishized view of America - and certainly the America of late doesn't hold up to your ideal - one'd argue the ethnolinguistic fault lines are far, far deeper than what we are experiencing in spite of our purported policy.

AoD
 
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Tewder

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Alvin, i'm simplifying grossly in response to Howl's rather blinkered observations. Yes, I agree that there are all kinds of social issues in America and we can certainly deconstruct the melting pot as we can the mosaic. It's difficult to deny though that in its best version of itself America is more than just simply diverse, it is a culturally rich and culturally innovative place because of its melting pot and not in spite of it. Canada has its attributes too, no question, but cultural innovation really isn't one of them where except for Quebec (the most American of provinces in many ways) most of our culture is imported or derivative.
 

urbandreamer

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You can howl at the pot all you want but this native knows how to mix'n mingle with the newbies :p Besides, mosaics belong in history books not today's culture of ipads.

There's simply no difference between newbies to USA or Canada: okay maybe one: New Americans (bizarrely I have never heard of this term used) are usually wealthier than their New Canadian cousins, esp if they're coming from the East.

Mosaic was just a lame 1970s highschool textbook phrase made up by old Empire Loyalist elitists who still loathed America's identical melting pot: some call it pop others call it soda but it's the same garbage!

And yes, many of us Old North Americans did literally mix with the natives ... so I can dwell in my teepee condo without a hint of irony.
 
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wild goose chase

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There's simply no difference between newbies to USA or Canada: okay maybe one: New Americans (bizarrely I have never heard of this term used) are usually wealthier than their New Canadian cousins, esp if they're coming from the East.
I think I've seen the stats that immigrants in the US are wealthier on average but that also seems to not fit in with the image some people in the US give to "immigrants" as poor migrant farm workers (I think that depends on if illegal immigrants are or aren't counted).

I've never really perceived a difference in how wealthy immigrants are to either country, probably because "immigrant" is so broad a term -- you could have a cashier, or truck driver, or university professor or a CEO, and they could be all "immigrants" with little in common. On the one hand, Canada has the points systems meant to attract skilled immigrants and due to geography, very little illegal immigration. On the other hand, the US has a larger population of illegal immigrants who are less well off, but of course the US also attracts wealthy immigrants due to job opportunities Canada lacks (it's hard to compete with Wall Street, Silicon Valley etc.), so maybe on net, averaged out, with an edge to the latter, the US wins in that regard? That said, I agree that in general the immigrant experience shouldn't differ too much between the two countries, considering how culturally, economically, and geographically similar they are. It'd be more different if one were comparing immigrants to say Germany or France, from those in North America.
 
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wild goose chase

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Alvin, i'm simplifying grossly in response to Howl's rather blinkered observations. Yes, I agree that there are all kinds of social issues in America and we can certainly deconstruct the melting pot as we can the mosaic. It's difficult to deny though that in its best version of itself America is more than just simply diverse, it is a culturally rich and culturally innovative place because of its melting pot and not in spite of it. Canada has its attributes too, no question, but cultural innovation really isn't one of them where except for Quebec (the most American of provinces in many ways) most of our culture is imported or derivative.
One thing I do think we could do better would be to incorporate our immigrant communities into our identities -- not necessarily assimilating but making our local cultural mosaic part of our city's image and heritage itself, perhaps culturally, artistically, musically, culinary etc. In the US, you have a lot of this with Italian-Americans being a part of the image of New Jersey, German-Americans contributing to the feel of many Midwestern towns, Chinese-Americans representing San Francisco's heritage, Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles influencing the cultural lifestyle of the locals. I feel like there isn't as much of that in Toronto, where an X-Canadian seems to be still seen as an "X living in Canada".

I feel like sometimes it seems still a harder sell to get people outside of Toronto to say, think of a Torontonian of Jamaican descent, Montrealer of Lebanese roots, or Vancouverite of Chinese origin as representing "just" Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, rather than Kingston or Beirut or Hong Kong. I find that people outside are sometimes surprised by Canada's diversity, whereas they expect that already in the USA. Whereas an Angeleno of Mexican descent represents LA, rather than Mexico, or New Yorker with a Sicilian name is seen more as just a "New Yorker" when travelling outside their city, or even country. Perhaps though, this will be changing with Toronto's identity in the years to come.
 
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ehlow

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I wonder if in general a lot of international visitors visiting Toronto feel a culture shock or are surprised to see a lot of Canadians who "look like them".

I think that although we Torontonians think of our city as diverse and multiculturalism within our own citizens as being one of our most prominent features, a lot of outsiders don't realize it. I have noticed some people coming to Toronto, and being surprised at what we take for granted.

Some people even had a hard time grasping that the people walking around the city were Canadians of X- descent, not just people who are citizens from country X who happened to be living (or working, studying in university etc.) in Canada.

Multiculturalism vs. the melting pot may be a big selling point of our city, but I think that might also mislead people to think that immigrants are completely in touch (or out of touch) with the old country -- as mentioned much in this thread, immigrant communities develop their own homegrown cultures (that may even include cultural elements lost in the old country but retained here).
As someone who's ethnically Chinese and born & raised in Canada I'll tell you I've encountered several immigrants from China who have difficulty accepting or understanding that someone who looks racially Chinese doesn't speak the language and is Canadian (even though there's a growing huge population of us now in Toronto).

First question: "What are you?". In general some people have to classify you and aren't satisfied when you say "Canadian", even though that's what I am.
 

the lemur

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I feel like sometimes it seems still a harder sell to get people outside of Toronto to say, think of a Torontonian of Jamaican descent, Montrealer of Lebanese roots, or Vancouverite of Chinese origin as representing "just" Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, rather than Kingston or Beirut or Hong Kong. I find that people outside are sometimes surprised by Canada's diversity, whereas they expect that already in the USA. Whereas an Angeleno of Mexican descent represents LA, rather than Mexico, or New Yorker with a Sicilian name is seen more as just a "New Yorker" when travelling outside their city, or even country. Perhaps though, this will be changing with Toronto's identity in the years to come.
That's true, and I hope it does change as you suggest. There is still a suggestion that the default Canadian is a white person whose origins are in one or more parts of the UK, maybe Europe (or France in the case of Quebeckers). Possibly because that's still very common, but we're moving away from that. It's an image that has been reinforced in a lot of the media.

On another note, perhaps not surprisingly in a still relatively young nation that is fixated on questions of identity, I find there's a fair bit of 'identity policing' going on among Canadians with WASPy backgrounds.

I was born in Canada. And I've lived in this city for more than two decades now. But - crucially in the eyes of some - I grew up almost entirely outside Canada. So every so often I run into someone whose definition of 'true Canadianness' hinges on something fairly arbitrary: You're not a real Canadian if you don't x, y, z ... and I find myself saying 'Sorry, I didn't actually ever watch x, I don't really like y, I just didn't grow up with z'.

It's really nothing compared to the gatekeeping that is practised towards newcomers. But we could stand to be a little less rigid about cultural signifiers.
 

Tewder

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In the US, you have a lot of this with Italian-Americans being a part of the image of New Jersey, German-Americans contributing to the feel of many Midwestern towns, Chinese-Americans representing San Francisco's heritage, Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles influencing the cultural lifestyle of the locals. I feel like there isn't as much of that in Toronto, where an X-Canadian seems to be still seen as an "X living in Canada".
Precisely!

As someone who's ethnically Chinese and born & raised in Canada I'll tell you I've encountered several immigrants from China who have difficulty accepting or understanding that someone who looks racially Chinese doesn't speak the language and is Canadian (even though there's a growing huge population of us now in Toronto).

First question: "What are you?". In general some people have to classify you and aren't satisfied when you say "Canadian", even though that's what I am.
... which again is part of the issue with the mosaic, i.e. if you're a 'Chinese Canadian' you're a Canadian who uses a qualifying adjective whereas if you're an Italian-American you're a compound noun! The notion of 'Canadian' in this case is still fairly rigid, not evolving through the influence of our diversity.
 

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