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Some Myths About Equality in Canada

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Misinformation about Canada's evolving demographics is all too common in the national media and it usually goes unchallenged. Some of the myths perpetuated in the national dialogue:
  • Hockey is Canada's #1 sport
  • Canada did not participate in the slave trade
  • All Canadians embrace multiculturalism wholeheartedly
  • Canada gave all women suffrage in 1929
  • Canada respects and protects the environment
  • Canada was welcoming to escaped American slaves
  • All Canadians embrace immigrants
  • Canada is a leader in international peace-keeping
  • The Great White North refers to Canada's ethnic makeup, not its long winter

As evidenced by the recent Guardian U.K. exposé-article by Jonathan Kaiman lamenting the "ragged maple leaf," the rest of the world is slowly waking up to this reality, while the Canadian landscape of influential circles remains handcuffed to old stereotypes, perpetuating untruths so as not to disturb the fallacious national narrative.

It has become an all-too-common occurrence for domestic reporters to foil the realities of current events and demographic changes with the good ol' days of monochromatic "normalcy" (or "neutral ethnicity" as the Bank of Canada so aptly labelled it.)

In a recent example, respected Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson opens by reinforcing the fable of two Canadas. "The old Canada is a land of the native-born, where the size of households is small and where children are fewer." Dismantling the Leave It To Beaver family structure of the '50s, immigrants have changed the family dynamics, so Ibbitson alleges.

The problem is, a simple StatsCan check would confirm, 25-30 per cent of Canadians hailed from large families until the Quiet Revolution and the availability of the pill shifted the trend. Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Raylene Rankin of the Rankin family, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, songstress Céline Dion, Acadian legend Angèle Arsenault and millions more were a result of that long-standing tradition. Fact is Québec's fertility rates before 1960 were among the highest of any industrialized society. For example, between 1951 and 1961, the population grew nearly 30 per cent with minimal immigration, a natural growth rate matched today only by some African countries.

Yes, Ibbitson, immigrants are increasing Canada's dismal birthrate, and yes, politicians and business leaders should take note. But it is not a new phenomenon as much as it is a return to the values a quarter of Canadians cherished but a generation ago.

By the same token, when Statistics Canada suggested projections that whites will become the minority in Toronto and Vancouver over the course of the next three decades while visible minorities are projected to become a majority, a disturbing number of Canadians rued the day. None of the WASP-dominated editorials mused that this orientation would effectively constitute a return to Canada's original white-minority composition.

Increasing numbers of informed Canadians have begun to stand up, to question the status quo, to challenge the national narrative, and to request for the full spectrum of Canada to be manifested in all spheres of activity. From narrow scope of history taught in our schools to the lack of representation in the nation's boardrooms, the challenges to the recurring rubric abound.

In an age where Canada's multicultural fabric is bafflingly unnoticeable in the upper echelons of influence, whether it is CBC's At Issue Panel (Canada's most-watched weekly political panel which presents a mix of opinions of three regular contributors; condemned to refer to visible minorities and immigrants in the third person), the Federal Court (Canada's national trial court which hears and decides legal disputes arising in the federal domain), or the roster of national editorial writers, we have a long way to go to achieve the dream of an equal and just society.

As fellow Huffington Post blogger Supriya Dwivedi put it:

[P]erhaps Postmedia wouldn't be hemorrhaging so much money if it spruced up its editorial board a little bit to reflect the reality of Canada's demographic. You know, maybe get some colour, ovaries and youth into the mix of old white men professing emblematic old white men perspectives.

The Canadian branch of the Huffington Post catalogue of websites has offered many of us who fall outside the mainstream's spectrum a national forum for which I am grateful. Let's hope HuffPo isn't an outlier but a growing trend of media embracing the full gamut of Canada's plurality.