Multicultural Discontent in Toronto

Hindus to protest Muslim prayer service in public school.

Forty years ago, Canadian Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau made multiculturalism Canada’s official policy with the Canadian Multicultural Act. To many Canadians, no government policy in their country’s history has had a more profound and irrevocable effect on their society and way of life than this un-voted on Liberal initiative. Trudeau was the most leftist prime minister in Canadian history and, due to his far left leanings, was once blacklisted from entering the United States.

While there were already many cultures in Canada in 1971, those of the country’s two founding peoples, English and French, were foremost. But that was to end with the Multicultural Act, which radically changed Canadian society (mainly the dominant English part) from being primarily an assimilative one to a mosaic, in which immigrants could now retain the cultures they brought with them. According to the policy’s socialist originators in the Liberal Party, Canada was to become a brilliant rainbow of peoples and cultures who would be naturally tolerant of one another (not like those racist white people who pioneered the country) and who would also enrich society with their diversity. And perhaps of equal importance to the Liberals’ leftist and anti-American social engineers, Canada would not be like America’s melting pot.

But forty years after multiculturalism’s adoption, its success remains debatable. The supposed intolerance existing in pre-multicultural Canada, which multiculturalism would eliminate, seems to have been replaced by other hatreds and prejudices the new ethnic groups have brought with them from around the world.

The latest multicultural collision concerns a confrontation between Hindu and Muslim communities in Toronto, Canada’s largest city. The Canadian Hindu Advocacy, a multicultural group, is upset that Muslim students at a public school are allowed to hold a prayer service, led by an imam from a local mosque, every Friday afternoon in the school’s cafeteria from November to March. During the service, it is reported male students sit in front of the female students.

The imam was selected by the parents, and the school pays no money for the service but does supervise the event, which about 400 students attend. The school, Valley Park Middle School, is about 80 percent Muslim and is the only public school in Toronto with such an event.

Canadian courts banned religious practices from the public school systems in the 1980s. The 1980s was also the decade that saw the saying of the Lord’s Prayer prohibited in public school classrooms. It was viewed as too indoctrinating as well a stigmatization of those who did not take part. From that time on, legally, education was to be secular. But University of Toronto law professor Ed Morgan believes the Valley Park situation may exceed legal boundaries.

“I think this looks like a school practising religion,” Morgan said. “The school may be conveying a message that they endorse religion and that’s not what the school is allowed to do.”

Besides the appearance one religion is receiving preferential treatment over another, the Hindus are also concerned that the Muslim students may be subjected to “inflammatory preaching against their faith.” A Canadian Hindu Advocacy director, Ron Banerjee, said Hindu parents had complained about this, although “there has been no evidence this has occurred.” Nevertheless, the Hindu organization is planning protests at the school until the prayer service is ended.

“This is alarming and unacceptable,” said Banerjee. “We respect the separation of church and state.”

To their credit, not all Muslims agree with holding an Islamic religious service in a public school. The Muslim Canadian Congress, a large Canadian Muslim group, has joined the Canadian Hindu Advocacy in calling for its end. Besides a concern it could foster hard feelings with other religious groups, the Muslim Canadian Congress also believes some Muslims, such as Ismailis and Ahmadiyyas, would face discrimination and not be allowed to take part. The Jewish Defense League is also supporting the Canadian Hindu Advocacy’s efforts to end the prayer service.

A school board official said it was decided to hold a prayer service in the school, because students were slow coming back to class Friday afternoons, the Muslim holy day, from a nearby mosque. Which makes one wonder why the truancy laws simply are not enforced or why parents were not escorting them if the problem was so severe.

“There were concerns about safety, even though their parents allowed it, and there was concern about instructional time,” the official said.

Besides the points of legality and resentment from other religions, other fundamental reasons exist why such exclusive events favouring one religion or ethnic group, like the Muslim prayer service, should not be allowed. In a school where a sense of community and equality should be developed among the students, favouring one group over the other would establish instead a sense separation or even superiority. A dangerous barrier would then be erected between students so favoured and those who weren’t that could also be continued outside the school. Even inside the prayer service itself, a sense of separation and superiority may have existed in the seating arrangements, if they were deliberate.

This sense of separation, established at such a young age in such an important life- developing institution, would also be an obstacle to immigrant children’s successful integration into the host society. And according to Danish psychologist Dr. Nicolai Sennels, it is already difficult enough to integrate Muslim immigrants, since Islamic culture has “proved impossible to sufficiently integrate” despite “success stories and role models.

“Muslim culture and religion have demonstrated some inherent self-protective mechanisms which make Muslim immigrants resistant to external influences from the host culture,” Sennels said, adding in Europe multiculturalism has already been declared a failure in France, Germany and Great Britain.

The policy of multiculturalism itself is also to blame for Muslim communities’ failure to integrate and for their establishing their own “parallel societies," especially in Europe. Under multiculturalism, a sense of national community is difficult, if not impossible, to develop. Multiculturalism divides and ghettoises people who then often have little contact with other ethnic groups. Sennel says they then go off in their own direction rather than in a common one, since there are no “core values” and “national identity” they can rally around.

But multiculturalism will also fail because, at its core, it is a policy of hatred. It was also a cynical policy to garner votes for the Liberal Party from grateful immigrants. Multiculturalism in Canada was never meant to raise the immigrants’ cultures up and celebrate them, but rather to bring Canada’s English-Canadian culture, the country’s most dominant one at the time, down. In 1971, it was really a case, like in European countries, of a leftist elite turning its back on and despising its own culture.

What Canada actually experienced with the Multicultural Act was a cultural levelling like the class levelling the Soviet Union underwent under the communists, where society was purged through violence to only the working class, and the race-levelling under the Nazis where all races where physically eliminated except for the alleged Aryan one. All these false ideologies were based on hatred, and anything based on hatred always fails. The only saving grace for Canada is that its levelling experience has occurred without bloodshed – so far.

Since it is human nature, however, to seek advantage for oneself or one’s group, to rise above the level playing field, then one can expect in a levelled multicultural society like Canada’s endless cultural confrontations and squabbles like the one witnessed this week in Toronto. So instead of the 1971 promised multicultural bliss, Canada will, like Eastern Europe, eventually become the place of another disastrous, failed socialist experiment.