Inclusion for All: A Canadian Roadmap to Social Cohesion Insights from Structured Conversations

3. Immigration, integration and respect for diversity

At each session, participants emphasized that diversity and immigration are positive elements of Canadian cohesion and identity. However, participants also stressed that inclusion, access and participation for new Canadians cannot be taken for granted given established links between visible minority and immigrant status and economic and social exclusion. There must be active policy responses to ensure successful integration. This, in turn, is essential to ensuring that Canadian society continues to be strengthened by immigration and enthusiastic about diversity.

The social condition of new Canadians, immigrants, visible minorities and other economically disadvantaged communities was identified as an important focus for policy research. Specific issues raised included the over representation of new Canadians and visible minorities among those excluded from equal economic opportunities, the key role of education and training, and the recognition of credentials and degrees from other countries. Participants said that one of Canada’s strengths has been the lack of “enclaving” of visible minorities or the poor, but there was concern that this may be changing. Concerns about racism, stereotyping and lack of access were also raised. Some young Canadians said that from their perspective, inequality and discrimination were embedded in society. They saw systemic discrimination in racial profiling by police and the disproportionate number of young black males and Aboriginal people charged with offences. They also criticized the media for playing on insecurities about different cultures or ways of life.

Our demographic future is such that “minorities” will become the majority…. Diversity is not a problem, but the intersection of diversity or minority status with poverty and exclusion is…. Everyone in our diverse society should be able to participate and get involved.

We do not want a monochrome society.

Why tell people the criteria for getting into the country is a Ph.D. and then not let them use it?

These young people noted that the word “tolerance” is still sometimes used and that, as others have said, the term suggests the need to “put upwith” people rather than the goal of involving and respecting them.

Promoting Bridges and Opportunities

Canada’s cultural and social diversity was identified as a strong point of Canadian society. Many Canadians have multiple attachments based on geography, culture and interests. Those consulted called for respect for diverse cultural, religious, ethnic, linguistic, demographic or ideological identities. The public sphere needs to be populated with a variety of spaces that welcome people from all walks of life and encourage cooperation. Youths put a priority on initiatives that increase Canadians’ opportunities to work together, to know each other, and recognize and validate all our talents and experiences rather than looking for a commonality of view. Part of “bridging” is to ensure that all neighbourhoods and organizations welcome everyone. Promotion of our two official languages remains an important bridge.

Senior executives said:

Improving the socioeconomic condition of Aboriginal people is key for social cohesion.

I visited two northern communities with significant Aboriginal populations 50 miles apart. One had no sports activities or signs of community leadership or active parenting. The other was a strong and healthy community with kids participating with their parents and lots going on. How do you foster leadershipif it is not evident, when it has been stripped away? Where should that community start?

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