10/07/2016 10:46 EDT | Updated 10/07/2016 10:46 EDT

It's 'Older White Canadians' Who Want Minorities To 'Fit In'

Elderly couple sitting on bench outdoors, low section
Darren Robb via Getty Images
Elderly couple sitting on bench outdoors, low section

So there was this CBC-Angus Reid poll. You may have heard about it, or at least seen it while scrolling through your social media feeds this week. It was called the "Canadian Values" poll and it found, according to the original CBC headline, that Canadians want minorities to do more to 'fit in.'

Perhaps a more accurate headline would have read "Older white Canadians want minorities to do more to 'fit in.'"

Now, I'm going to jump into the numbers explaining this but first I'd like to note that Canadians and minorities are not mutually exclusive categories despite the headline's unintentional implication. As well, "Canadians" are not "white Canadians" even if the last voluntary National Household Survey in 2011 put the country at about 81 per cent caucasian.

This poll made news because it revealed 68 per cent of Canadians thinking minorities should be "doing more to fit in" with mainstream society instead of keeping their own customs and languages. But what I found out after contacting Angus Reid was that 87 per cent of those respondents were white.

This CBC-Angus Reid Institute poll spoke to 16 per cent visible minorities, which is a slight under-representation of the 19.1 per cent number from 2011, though that number has no doubt gone up in the five-year interim.

It was also only available in English and French. Angus Reid executive director Shachi Kurl explained to me that including those not fluent in either official language "would have most likely required face-to-face interviews in myriad/unlimited languages with translators."


CBC created the poll in partnership with the Angus Reid Institute. (Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Fair enough, but that means the perspectives of these Canadian minorities were not included. How many are we talking about? At least one in 10, based on National Post reporting that one in six immigrants "only" use a non-official language and 60 per cent of them cannot conduct a conversation in English or French.

Speaking of immigrants, the poll reporting also said that while newer immigrants favoured maintaining their culture and language, only 38 per cent of immigrants who had been in the country for less than 20 years wanted minorities to fit in more -- while that number surged to 68 per cent for immigrants who had been in the country for 20 or more years.

But here's the thing about that: not all immigrants are visible minorities, and that was especially true in the past. StatsCan says the percentage of new immigrants who are visible minorities has grown from 12.4 per cent in 1971 to 78 per cent in 2011.

So, this specific group of immigrants in the country for 20+ years that wants minorities to fit in more also happens to be 74 per cent white.

We know that the minorities who currently fit in the least - the 10 per cent who don't speak English or French - were not included at all.

Now, 57 per cent of visible minorities did agree that minorities should "fit in" more, however we don't have a further breakdown of that stat as far as age, region or immigrant status. We just know that the minorities who currently fit in the least -- the 10 per cent who don't speak English or French -- were not included at all.

We also know that the older a respondent was, the more likely they were to want minorities to fit in more. Only 47 per cent of 18-to-34-year-olds feel this way compared to 69 per cent of 35-to-54-year olds and a whopping 83 per cent of those 55 and older. Those latter two age groups, by the way, make up 57 per cent of the country.

Then there's the whole use of the word "fit in."

I presume this was chosen because of the negative connotations that accompany the word "assimilate." (Blame the Borg.) But make no mistake, these are the same things, which is why it doesn't matter what 68 per cent of the country thinks no matter who or how old they are.

I am Canadian because my great-grandparents fled here from Russia and the Ukraine during the pogroms. And why were their Jewish shtetles, or villages, burned down? Because they didn't assimilate. So it hurts to read that so many of my fellow Canadians feel this way about multiculturalism.

Of course, it also hurts to read that the federal Tories just voted against a bill condemning Islamaphobia. Yes, those same Tories who used the Niqab and "barbaric cultural practices" hotline to gin up election votes, and then doubled down with demands to screen immigrants for "anti-Canadian values."

And to hear the Globe and Mail's Denise Balkissoon, who co-hosts the newspaper's race-focused podcast Colour Code, be attacked during a recent radio interview on Vancouver's CKNW because the fragile white host was mad that his whiteness was not catered to enough. While melting down over the fact that he didn't feel included by minorities, he also tried to claim minority status in a country that is 81 per cent white.

(Though CKNW's management deserves respect for apologizing personally and publicly.)

And that an Ottawa police officer posted racist online comments about an Inuit artist who died while his police chief defended him because "everybody has biases."

Or that everyone got mad at the deservedly infamous Blue Jays beer can, but ignored the racial slurs that fans also hurled during the wild card game.

Not to mention being reminded by my colleague Brian Trinh that, "the last time Canadian institutions forced minorities to fit within mainstream society -- they were called residential schools."

Haven't we learned our lesson?

Besides, there's never been a mainstream "Canadian culture" to fit into.

To a degree there's English-Canadian culture, French-Canadian culture and Indigenous culture. But even those are regionally as well as religiously and racially multicultural.

I grew up on the West Coast and that hippie-fied beach culture has little do with the Jewish Montreal culture my parents grew up in, or the downtown Toronto culture I live in now where my neighbourhood is a mix of Portuguese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, Somali, Caribbean, Tibetan, Nepalese, Filipino, Tamil, Polish, Indian and, yes, hipster.

Should Alberta culture do more to fit in with Newfoundland culture or Québécois culture? No, because it's not about fitting in, it's about mixing together.

That is the great Canadian dream because we are the world's second largest country and we contain multitudes.

Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook

Also on HuffPost:

Who Are Second-Gen Canadians?