Will Kymlicka and the disappearing Dominion

Will Kymlicka and the disappearing Dominion

RICARDO DUCHESNE analyzes the highly dubious ‛achievements’ of a fêted academic

Karl Mannheim’s concept of free-floating intellectuals engaged in the production of knowledge unconcerned with personal motives and interests has long attracted liberal academics uncomfortable with Karl Marx’s argument that knowledge is ultimately a reflection of one’s class interest, because it offered an image of themselves as self-sacrificing men pursuing truth objectively for the sake of humanity. Will Kymlicka, the most influential advocate of the “exceptional” Canadian model of “immigrant multiculturalism,” is generally seen in this light, an academic who produces research for the benefit of everyone in the world.

Kymlicka is not an original thinker in the manner of John Rawls, Eric Voegelin, or Jurgen Habermas, but his research is relied upon by all the mainstream political parties, universities, and NGOs. He is a most trusted intellectual ostensibly standing above petty motives and crass interests. He is arguably the best connected and best funded academic in Canada, regularly producing papers commissioned by government agencies and corporations, including Forum of Federations, ICCS, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Transatlantic Council on Migration.

Mainstream readers have criticized him from the left as a centrist who defends liberal institutions, and from the right as a collectivist who advocates special rights for minorities. He is the man in the middle. In this essay, I will show that Kymlicka is in truth an advocate of the overthrow of the traditional European-centred culture of Canada, of mass immigration and of racially mixed states across the Western world.

Kymlicka holds, currently, the Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy at Queen’s University in Kingston. Best known for the elaboration of a liberal theory of minority rights, with particular reference to Canada, he has been tremendously effective in this endeavour. Since the mid-1980s when he was a grad student, he has received, every single year without interruption, highly lucrative grants and awards, including the Premier’s Discovery Award in 2009 ($250,000), the Trudeau Foundation Fellowship in 2005-2008 ($225,000), and the Killam Prize in Social Sciences in 2004 ($100,000). He has held visiting professorships and fellowships outside Canada every year since coming to Kingston in 1998. Around the world his books have been accepted as part of the official consensus on multiculturalism in Canada, translated into 32 languages. While portraying himself as an outsider fighting the dominant Eurocentric discourse, he is best viewed as Canada’s government-sanctioned ideologue of multicultural citizenship.

Theory of multicultural citizenship

Kymlicka is said to have articulated a theory showing that minority rights (or group rights) are compatible with the enhancement of individual rights. The essence of his thinking is contained in Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights (1995). (1) His other books and papers are generally preparations, extensions, and repetitions of the ideas contained in this 240 page book. (2) The logic of his theory can be summed up in a few lines: individuals can only make choices and cultivate their capacities for autonomy and moral agency so long as they have access to a “societal culture” that “provides its members with meaningful ways of life across the full range of human activities, including social, educational, religious, recreational, and economic life” (1995: 76). This is not a novel theory. What Kymlicka advocates is known as liberal communitarianism, a philosophical outlook first articulated by Amitai Etzioni, Charles Taylor, Michael Walzer, Allen Buchanan, and Michael Sandel.

He observes that every country has a “societal culture,” a set of institutions, government bureaucracies, schools, laws, and official languages within which its inhabitants grow and perform their lives as public citizens. He accepts the prevailing liberal idea that the most important end of an individual is autonomy from coercive structures, but, unlike libertarians, he believes that individual choices can only find fulfillment within communities. Society is no mere aggregation of isolated individuals living private lives.  “Individual choice is dependent on the presence of a societal culture, defined by language and history;” individuals are always born inside a pre-established culture, and “most people have a very strong bond to their own culture” (1995: 8).

The communitarian thesis, then, is that liberal rights presuppose the existence of communities; individuals can self-create themselves only within a cultural context. Free market libertarians hold an excessively individualistic or abstract conception of the self. The very possibility of individual self-development presupposes a community with a culture. As Kymlicka expressed it in his first book, Liberalism, Community, and Culture:

…liberalism couldn’t be based on (abstract individualism]…If abstract individualism [was]…the fundamental premise, there’d be no reason to…suppose that people are being made worse off by being denied the social conditions necessary to freely and rationally question their commitments. (3)

Kymlicka employs this theory to develop the argument that minorities in Canada need communitarian supports to develop as individuals. Anglos in Canada already have a community, and it is one that privileges them. The national English majority in Canada (outside Quebec) constitutes, in Kymlicka’s eyes, the dominant societal culture of this country. While Kymlicka barely identifies this majority culture as “English,” it is evident that he has in mind “the larger Anglophone culture” when he writes about the main societal culture of Canada. One of the essential components of this English societal culture is the principle of individual rights. These rights, however, are not abstract, but are made possible by the cultural and institutional supports of the wider societal culture.

Kymlicka’s thus employs liberal communitarian concepts to develop a theory of multicultural citizenship in Canada. He writes of two key forms of group-rights: i) national or self-government rights, and ii) polyethnic rights. He welcomes the current federal division of power in Canada in which the province of Quebec and Aboriginal territories enjoy extensive national/communal rights over issues essential to the cultural survival of the French and Aboriginals. The members of these national minorities, Kymlicka insists, have a shared sense of history, territory, language and culture. To maintain this shared culture, they need, and currently have, access in Canada to their own societal culture within their own territories, their own self-government rights and institutions – within the framework of the larger federal government and in accordance with the principle of individual rights. In contrast, Kymlicka explains, immigrant groups do not need their own societal culture: immigrants do not wish to become a separate, self-governing nation; they typically wish to “integrate into, and thereby enrich, the culture of the larger society” (1995: 94). By “larger society,” Kymlicka means both the English societal culture and the Quebec national minority culture that immigrants typically inhabit.

Kymlicka carefully distances himself from ethnic-group rights that limit the rights of individuals within their group, such as coerced marriages, female circumcision, or any practice that is inconsistent with integration into a liberal society. What he welcomes are group rights that afford immigrant minorities “external protections” against majority decisions and that provide minorities with the cultural resources to enhance their opportunities for individual success within the “dominant” societal culture. These include policies that end discrimination, affirmative action, exemption from some rules that violate religious practices, and public funding of cultural practices.

These group rights, he avers, are compatible with liberalism, for they are intended to open up individual opportunities for ethnic minorities. The point is not for immigrants to develop their own homelands and societal cultures within Canada, but to allow them to maintain their communal distinctiveness “in their family lives and in voluntary associations” while still participating “within the public institutions of the dominant culture” (1995: 14). Ethnic minorities, Kymlicka maintains, in a paper co-authored with Keith Banting, will be able to meet the Canadian/Western liberal ideal of individual self-development “if they feel their ethnic identity is publicly respected.” (4) Immigrant minorities will develop “a sense of attachment and belonging to the country” to the extent to which Canadians see immigrant minorities with group identities as a “constituent part of the nation”. Immigrants “do best, both in terms of psychological wellbeing and sociocultural outcomes, when they are able to combine their ethnic identity with a new national identity.” (5)

Basic problems

There are two fundamental contradictions in Kymlicka’s theory. The first one is that Kymlicka ignores altogether the cultural identity and the national rights of the “societal culture” of the majority English Canadians. He discusses only the cultural rights and ethnic attachments of national minorities and immigrant groups. He rarely uses the term English Canadians in reference to the majority societal culture. While national minorities and “polyethnic” groups are distinguished by culture and by ethnicity, “the majority Anglophone culture” is identified only through its language and certain modern amenities. The English societal culture is portrayed as a deracinated, neutralized sphere consisting of modern conveniences – economic, educational, and social institutions – intended “in principle” to serve anyone regardless of cultural background. The English are mere possessors of individual rights, whereas every other ethnic group enjoys both individual and group rights.

Kymlicka often asserts that “most people have a very strong bond to their own culture” (1995: 8, 84). This is possibly the most important unexamined assumption in Kymlicka’s theory. He clearly means that forcing immigrants to “shed their distinctive heritage and assimilate entirely to the existing cultural norms” would amount to the suppression of “a very strong” disposition “in the human condition” (1995: 90). Under the “Anglo-conformity model” this inclination among non-Anglos was suppressed, and some immigrants were not allowed entry into Canada because they were seen as “unassimilable.” Under multiculturalism this inclination among immigrants for their own culture should be allowed and celebrated. European Canadians should make multiculturalism an intrinsic part of their culture so minorities feel respected. Kymlicka is unmindful of the obvious implication that this amounts to a call upon native European Canadians to renounce their own “very strong bonds”.

He solemnly writes: “If a culture is not generally respected, then the dignity and self-respect of its members will also be threatened” (1995: 89). But whenever Kymlicka identifies the English/Europeans by history and culture, it is scornfully as “colonizers,” “racists”, and “conquerors”. The only thing European Canadians are allowed to celebrate is multiculturalism. Not a single positive word can be found in Kymlicka’s writings about the settlers who founded Canada. The words “pride,” “cultural particularity,” and “culturally meaningful lives” are reserved exclusively for ethnic immigrant groups.  He unambiguously says that multiculturalism cannot succeed as long as “native born [ethnic European] citizens with a strong sense of national identity or national pride” (6) are allowed a voice in the public arena, regularly labelling those who disagree with mass immigration as “xenophobic,” “manifestly unjust,” and “intolerant”.

The second major problem in Kymlicka, and with the entire project of immigrant multiculturalism, is the assumption that Western nations, if they are to live up to their liberal principles, must be open to mass immigration and diverse ethnic groups. (7) Kymlicka develops his theory of minority rights under this assumption. He traces the “historical relationship between liberalism and minority rights” and insists that “there was widespread support for minority rights amongst liberals in the nineteenth century” (1995: 7). The common notion that liberals in the past were preoccupied only with rights to property, free speech, and representative institutions, while ignoring questions of cultural and linguistic rights, is thus questioned. Liberals then, and in the early twentieth century, were concerned with national rights of minorities to self-government. He mentions, for example, a scheme implemented by the League of Nations

…for various European national minorities, which provided both universal and individual rights and certain group-specific rights regarding education, local autonomy, and language (1995: 51)

This is a historically misleading interpretation. Kymlicka wants to create the impression that his theory of group-differentiated rights is a natural continuation of past trends in the liberal tradition. While such liberal nationalists as Camillo di Cavour (1810–1861) and John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) did emphasize a form of nationalism compatible with liberal values, they were firm supporters of national identities at a time when a “non-xenophobic nationalism” was meant to acknowledge the presence of European ethnic minorities within European nations. These classical liberals were not calling for minority rights for the purpose of integrating masses of immigrants from non-European cultures. They were advocating civic rights for their own people including minorities already established inside the nations of Europe.

The concept of “multicultural citizenship” is best described as an ideological programme intended to bring a radically new ethnic and cultural reality within Canada. Multiculturalism, in the words of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, would be “an experiment of major proportions,” an effort to undermine the historic European character of Canada by converting the nation into a multiethnic place in which old European nationalisms would be discredited. Canada would be a “prototype” for the world, Trudeau said, a nation neutral in matters of culture and ethnicity committed to mass immigration from the Third World. It would be a nation without any ethnic core. It would institute policies to protect immigrants against the existing majority culture, allowing minorities to maintain their distinctive identities, while encouraging them to blend into a larger Canadian nation in which everyone’s identity would eventually become a private choice. Ethnic nationalism was the source of racism and wars. (8) Canadian Anglo nationalism, not just Quebec nationalism, had to be destroyed. It never occurred to Trudeau that Canada had always been a peaceful nation in the world. Trudeau was determined to promote a “new man” in Canada “liberated” from any identity prior and external to the free volition of the individual. Kymlicka’s theory is consistent with Trudeau’s project except that he explains how group rights for minorities are consistent with liberal principles of self-autonomy. (9)

Kymlicka also says that, since liberal nations are “in principle” based on culture and ideas rather than on ethnicity, the promotion of immigration is consistent with liberalism.

What distinguishes ‘civic’ from ‘ethnic’ nations is the fact that anyone can integrate into the common culture, regardless of race or colour (1995: 23-4).

But the historical record does not support this principle. Western liberal nations were not founded in the absence of an existing ethnic particularity, and certainly not for the purpose of mixing all the races of the world within one state. When modern states emerged in Europe in the nineteenth century, they did so as liberal states within ethnolinguistic boundaries and majority identities.

The widespread claim that Western nations are based on universal ideas which any human being can assimilate was anointed with intellectual authority by Eric Hobsbawm in Nations and Nationalism since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality (1989), and by the liberals Benedict Anderson in Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983) and Ernest Gellner in Nations and Nationalism (1983).These authors exerted an enormous influence in academia, erroneously arguing that the nation states that emerged in nineteenth century Europe were not created by a people sharing a common history, a sense of territorial belonging and habitation, similar dialects, folkways and physical appearances; no, the nation-states of Europe were “socially constructed” entities, “invented traditions,” “imagined” by people perceiving themselves as part of a “mythological” group in an unknown past.

Thus was born our current non-ethnic conception of national membership: the “civic” or “propositional” nationalism Western elites across the ideological spectrum now endorse. This nationalism defines the nation as an intellectual association of people with equal rights. It tries to give the impression that Western nations have always been diverse, blank slates ceaselessly open to immigrants from time immemorial. It further stipulates that Western nations without open borders are violating their liberal ideals. Europeans are neither a people, nor a tradition, nor a religion, but a conglomerate of abstract units possessing rights that in principle belong to all humans. These ideas have been seriously challenged by the extensive work of Anthony Smith on the ethnic origins of nations, and, more recently, by Azar Gat in his 2013 book Nations: The Long History and Deep Roots of Political Ethnicity and Nationalism. The nationalist ideologies of the nineteenth century, both in Europe and later in other areas of the world, were not based on imaginary beliefs but driven by human passions nurtured by common myths, historical memories, heroes, and indigenous ancestries.

Civic nationalism is supposedly inclusive and tolerant of diversity; whereas ethnic nationalism is supposedly exclusive in treating the nation as part of an extended family united by ethnicity in which minorities do not enjoy the same rights as the ethnic majority. But the truth is that those states possessing a high degree of ethnic homogeneity, where ancestors had lived for generations – England, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark – were the ones with the strongest liberal traits, constitutions and institutions. That is why minority rights became a legitimate component of these liberal nations. By contrast, those states (or empires like the Austro-Hungarian Empire) composed of multiple ethnic groups were the ones enraptured by illiberal forms of ethnic nationalism and intense rivalries over identities and political boundaries. A state divided among many ethnic groups will find it far more difficult to develop a sense of common national identity and therefore inspire a sense of citizenship and self-sacrifice in the nation’s members. (10) J. S. Mill said as much:

It is in general a necessary condition of free institutions that the boundaries of governments should coincide in the main with those of nationalities. (11)

More recently, Jerry Muller has argued in “Us and Them

Liberal democracy and ethnic homogeneity are not only compatible; they can be complementary.

Even the influential commentator David Goodhart, once a supporter of open borders in England, has now admitted that the extensive welfare programmes and progressive taxes that socialists  cherish require high levels of social and ethnic solidarity – the very cohesion he has seen seriously eroded in Britain with the frenzied promotion of diversity and immigration. (12)

Integration, xenophobia and enrichment

Kymlicka continually asserts, particularly to sceptical audiences in Europe, that the Canadian model has been a “striking success”. Yet he confesses that it was only in the 1990s – twenty years after its official implementation – that multiculturalism became a subject of academic inquiry, and that “for much of the 1990s,” publications on multiculturalism were

…dominated by political philosophers who developed idealized theories of a distinctly liberal-democratic and egalitarian form. (13)

Few empirical assessments of the benefits and costs of immigration have been produced. Kymlicka’s own scholarly record testifies to the domination of idealized assessments of this question, with only three articles addressing its factual merits: an article I already cited co-authored with Keith Banting, “Canadian Multiculturalism: Global Anxieties and Local Debates” (2010), and “Testing the Liberal Multiculturalist Hypothesis: Normative Theories and Social Science Evidence” (2010), and “The Rise and Fall of Multiculturalism? New Debates on Inclusion and Accommodation in Diverse Societies” (2010). (14) All published in the same year, 2010, these articles examine the same evidence, with similar wording. Overall, the total number of (original) pages Kymlicka has dedicated to the factual costs and benefits of Canadian multiculturalism amount to fewer than 15! (15)

His evidential assessment can be categorized under three headings: i) integration/assimilation, ii) xenophobic fears among native Canadians, and iii) cultural “enrichment”. Regarding the first category, Kymlicka’s analysis appears, on the surface, to be quite effective in arguing that only a very small number of immigrants have engaged in illiberal practices and customs amounting to a serious challenge against the liberal consensus. He gathers evidence showing that immigrants are acquiring citizenship, learning one of the official languages, getting involved in Canadian politics, intermarrying outside their ethnic group, getting jobs, and participating in Canada’s educational institutions. Such is hardly surprising. The actuality that Canada has been officially defined as a multicultural nation means that immigrants are from the beginning welcomed as a constituent part of the nation while the host culture only functions as a provider of individual rights and of modern amenities. (16)

As it is, the evidence Kymlicka offers in favour of successful immigrant integration is flimsy and intrinsically subjective, based solely on the feelings of immigrants. He says there is little evidence (citing just one article) of “entrenched racial concentration in poor ghettos,” yet soon admits that Chinese migrants “tend to settle in established Chinese neighbourhoods.” (17) To be sure, in Richmond, BC, where six out of ten residents are new immigrants, and where half do not speak English in their homes, Chinese-language signs, unaccompanied by English signs, can be seen everywhere.  Despite protests and petitions by concerned citizens, the local politicians have done next to nothing to enforce Canada’s official language laws.

A study by Mohammad Quadeer (2003) concludes, in the case of Toronto, that

…in multicultural Canada, many ethnic groups, by choice, tend to congregate together and form neighbourhoods based upon their particular identities.

This ethnic concentration, Quadeer adds, is consistent with the policy of multiculturalism, which supports group rights, and thus encourages  residential concentration by ethnic groups as a means of  “pooling the necessary population base” to enhance ethnic preservation. Another, more comprehensive, study of 17 ethnic groups in 12 Canadian cities by Eric Fong and Rima Wilkes (2003) offers reasons for, but does not deny, residential segregation among different ethnic groups in Canada.

A recent study (July 2012) published by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, “A new residential order? The Social Geography of Visible Minority and Religious Groups in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver in 2013,” predicts that

…in Toronto and Vancouver, the degree of separation between Whites and Visible Minorities is projected to rise considerably, beginning to approach that in the average US city in 2010 between Whites and African Americans.

While in Montreal the Visible Minority population is predicted to be spread out across “neighbourhoods of all types” (including ones mixed with Whites), it is anticipated that in 2031 “about nine out of ten Whites will live in White-dominated areas”. Of course, for the author of this study this as a challenge calling for further government programmes and tighter controls over citizens in their residential choices.

What about evidence regarding the integration of Canadians of European ancestry to multiculturalism? Kymlicka’s handling of this issue is best categorized under ii) “xenophobic fears among natives”. While positive feelings by immigrants towards Canada are deemed to be evidence of successful integration, negative feelings by members of the host culture are deemed to be “xenophobic” and thus automatically disqualified as evidence. Kymlicka does not consider how the founding European peoples of Canada have been affected by the influx of millions of immigrants since Canada’s borders were opened to an average of 250,000 immigrants every year since 1990.

Here the only evidence that counts is of those Canadians who have “progressively” come to accept a polyethnic Canada. (18) Native citizens with a strong sense of European identity are automatically categorized as “intolerant” and consequently ostracized as individuals whose sensitivities and opinions cannot be used as evidence against the multicultural experiment. Kymlicka uses as evidence the observation that “Canadians have become progressively more supportive of existing immigration levels over the last two decades.” (19) He notes that over 60% of Canadians in 1988 wanted fewer immigrants, whereas in 2006 just over 20% wanted fewer immigrants. The fact that a majority of Canadians in 1988 wanted lower immigration, or that 20 to 25% percent wanted fewer immigrants in 2006, is not seriously addressed. The same Kymlicka who demands “respect” for newly arrived immigrants never fails to designate those natives who show loyalty and affection for Canada’s European heritage as “neo-Nazis” or as members of a “far right backlash” – who must be persuaded to accept immigration in order thereby to produce evidence in favour of immigration! (20)

He never ponders whether Canadians have been drilled into compliance rather than persuaded through open debates, though he admits that multiculturalism has been “barely explained at all to the Canadian public.” (21) Certainly, multiculturalism in Canada has proceeded for the most part by way of non-transparent regulations, executive directives, and administrative discretion rather than by legislative action and popular demand. Gallup polls in the 1960s showed that only about one third of Canadians thought that Canada should bring new immigrants, and over 60 percent thought that the fairly low levels of Asian immigration (at the time) were already too high. (22) The Canadian public in the 1960s, and even 1970s, would have agreed with Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s words in 1947:

The people of Canada do not wish, as a result of mass immigration, to make a fundamental alteration in the character of our population.

But liberal elites were determined to re-engineer the souls of average Canadians. Accordingly, numerous programmes were implemented right after multiculturalism became official policy in 1971, with the result that today diversity has been institutionally implanted in every federal government department and public institution, written into the programming and advertisement directives of the media, and mandated in every public school, museum, and university curriculum. There is no denying that, in this respect, multiculturalism has been a resounding success.

Kymlicka actually refers to this imposition of multiculturalism as “a long march through the institutions at all levels of Canadian society.” (23) This phrase, recurrently used by him without quotation marks, as if it were a commonplace undertaking, has been attributed to the Marxist Antonio Gramsci. It points to a successful strategy whereby leftists, instead of calling for a Communist takeover of the state, as in Russia and China, called for the gradual infiltration of all the pivotal opinion forming institutions of Western society. Opposition to this march is seen by Kymlicka as an impediment to be suppressed.

The third heading under which Kymlicka assesses immigrant multiculturalism concerns the assumed cultural “enrichment” millions of non-Europeans have brought to Canada. What is startlingly disconcerting about this assessment is that “the intrinsic value of cultural diversity” (1995: 8, 79) is accepted ab initio. A regimen characterized by increasing diversity is intrinsically progressive. One would think that someone who has been so actively involved in the articulation of a fully-fledged theory on the merits of immigrant multiculturalism would at the least devote a few paragraphs explaining to European Canadians why diversity is inherently good for their culture. What was it about Canada’s European culture that was so lacking in cultural sophistication, and what is it about African, Asian, and Islamic immigration that has elevated the quality of Canada’s European culture? Aside from some trivial remarks about the higher number of ethnic restaurants in England, I have not seen a paragraph in Kymlicka addressing this issue.

His last corporate-sponsored publication on this issue, “Multiculturalism: Success, Failure, and the Future” (2012) takes for granted the making of all European-created nations into thoroughly race-mixed cultures even as it acknowledges some of the failures of multiculturalism in Europe.  Successes and failures can only relate to matters of implementation, not whether this ideology should be implemented in the first place. In a three page section, “The Canadian Success Story,” he brings up – as he did in the papers of 2010 discussed above – the ever growing “backlash” to immigration and multiculturalism in Europe, acknowledging that “ethnic diversity has been shown to erode levels of trust and social capital in other countries.” (24) He tries to persuade European audiences that Canada has been “exceptional” in the avoidance of these problems. But these problems are always seen as mere obstacles to a long march that is unquestionably just and beneficial for humanity.

This last commissioned report by Kymlicka is interesting in that it exhibits some efforts on his part to address the growing discontent in Europe over immigration. He announces in the opening pages: “Multiculturalism is part of a larger human rights revolution involving ethnic and racial diversity”. The “racially biased immigration and citizenship policies” of the past cannot be allowed as a matter of ultimate belief. The goal is to “challenge the legacies of earlier ethnic and racial hierarchies.” The “explicitly” racist immigration policies of the past “ceased by the 1960s and 1970s,” but “ethnic and racial hierarchies persist” in the West. As long as ethnic Europeans remain dominant demographically and culturally in their countries, these racial hierarchies will not be transcended. The final goal is the “equality of the races and peoples” inside European lands. (25)

In the name of this ultimate agenda, and in response to growing dissension, Kymlicka has decided to participate in the creation of a “Multicultural Policy Index” to measure the progression of multicultural policies in the West. The index will oversee, and judge accordingly, Western nations in terms of their effectiveness in allowing dual citizenship, funding of ethnic group activities, funding of bilingual education, affirmative action for immigrants, adoption of multiculturalism in school curricula, and ensuring constitutional and legislative “affirmation of multiculturalism.” (26)

This is why Kymlicka never expounds on the meaning of enrichment. What he says in Multicultural Citizenship is more or less what he repeats throughout his writings: multiple ethnicities and cultures in Canada will make “the larger anglophone culture…richer and more diverse” (1995: 79). In a section entitled “The Value of Cultural Diversity,” he infers:

…liberals extol the virtue of having diversity of lifestyles within a culture, so presumably they also endorse the additional diversity which comes from having two or more cultures in the same country.

The implicit logic is that, since Europeans believe in freedom of choice and expression, it follows that they prefer more cultures inside their nations to improve the “quality and richness” of their choices. I say “implicit” because Kymlicka does not debate whether the choices of Europeans will continuously improve as their culture is overwhelmed by diversity and forced to relinquish their “deep bond” to their heritage. He does not differentiate either the “deep diversity” he wants (in which Europeans will be reduced, in his words, to “a constantly shrinking minority”) and the diversity Canadians already enjoyed in 1971 when multiculturalism was announced as an official policy, when the ethnic distribution of the country was: British (44.6%), French (28.7%), German (6.1%), Italian (3.4%), Ukrainian (2.7%), Dutch (2.0% ), Scandinavian (1.8% ), Polish (1.5), Jewish (1.4%),), Other Europe (4.2%), Asian (1.3%), and Aboriginal (1.3). (27) All Canadians in 1971, regardless of ethnicity and religious affiliation, enjoyed the same liberal rights. What was it about this diversity that was lacking in quality and choices? Kymlicka never asks this simple question in his voluminous writings, opining that:

…It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that much of the backlash against multiculturalism arises from a racist or xenophobic fear of these new immigrant groups (1995: 179).

The vast majority of Canadians would never have endorsed policies that target them as oppressors to be dispossessed if the ultimate intentions of this ideology were presented to them by critics with equal access to the public space and without fear of demonization and loss of livelihood. Kymlicka only offers idealized versions of an imagined future. (28), but in between the lines one can detect the mind of someone intent on destroying Canada’s Christian European heritage. He muses over the fact that “many state symbols such as flags, anthems, and mottoes reflect a particular ethnic or religious background” and that it would only be fair for other ethnic groups to demand “that their identity be given the same recognition as the original Anglo-Saxon settlers” (1995: 115). As a possible solution he proposes “redesigning public holidays, uniforms, and state symbols. It is “easy,” he says, to “replace religious oaths with secular ones, and so we should.” It would be “more difficult but perhaps not impossible, to replace existing public holidays and work-weeks with more neutral schedules for schools and government offices”. In other words, he is anticipating a point in Canada’s history when the entire “societal culture” will be neutered and neutralized away from any Eurocentric characteristic. In this vein, he endorses as well the rewriting of Canada’s history in order to give an equal voice to diverse ethnicities in the making of Canada.

“Never again,” Kymlicka demands, should Canada be viewed as a “white country … as a British country.” (29) Today, one in five Canadians is foreign-born, and Kymlicka is still encouraging more immigration and diversity. Major newspapers, academic and corporate elites alike, are calling for a doubling of Canada’s intake of immigrants from 250,000 to 500,000, with the goal of raising the population from 35 to 100 million by the end of the century. Kymlicka and liberal elites generally believe that immigrant multiculturalism is the final stage in the march towards racial equality. This equality is obviously illusionary. White-created nations are the only ones experimenting with this ideology. What is not illusionary is that Canada is steadily becoming a nation overwhelmed by diverse cultures. A majority (70.2%) of the foreign-born population in 2006 reported a mother tongue other than English or French.  The Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist faiths amounted to 33 per cent of those immigrants who arrived between 2001 and 2011. Canada’s visible minority population is projected to make up one third of the population by the year 2031. Toronto and Vancouver are projected to become “majority-minority” cities in 2031, with the non-European ethnic population at 63 and 59 percent respectively. Similar massive increases are anticipated in all of Canada’s major cities. As it is, aboriginals are expected to become between 21 and 24 per cent of the population of the province of Saskatchewan, and between 18 and 21 percent of the population of Manitoba by 2031.

The end of European Canada is now an impending reality. It is high time Kymlicka offered an explanation to native Canadians why they should accept policies that are fast reducing them to a minority within their own homelands. Given that humans by nature have a “very deep bond” to their ethnic and cultural identity, why should European Canadians be precluded from having a vital stake in retaining their culture, traditions and ethnic identity, the same stake Kymlicka attributes to non-Europeans? Kymlicka needs to address this question, otherwise his life’s work and career is submerged by contradictions, whose only coherency is its animus to Canada’s founding peoples.

RICARDO DUCHESNE is Professor of Sociology at the University of New Brunswick, and the author of The Uniqueness of Western Civilization


1. Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights (Oxford University Press, 1995). Given that this essay is a close reading of this book, I will cite it in the text, but the other sources in the endnotes

2 Multicultural Citizenship has been Kymlicka’s most often discussed book, the one which has occasioned more than short reviews, with a number of full critical papers addressing its arguments, though invariably from a leftist perspective; see Eric Metcalfe, “Illiberal Citizenship? A Critique of Will Kymlicka’s Liberal Theory of Minority Rights,” Queen’s Law Journal (Fall 1996); Iris Marion Young, “A Multicultural Continuum: A Critique of Will Kymlicka’s Ethnic-Nation Dichotomy,” Constellations, vol. 4, no.1 (1997); Brian Walker, “Plural Cultures, Contested Territories: A Critique of Will Kymlicka,” Canadian Journal of Political Science, vol. 30, no. 2 (1997); Triadafilopoulos, Triadafilos, “Culture vs citizenship? A review and critique of will Kymlicka’s multicultural citizenship”, Citizenship Studies, vol. 1, no. 2 (1997)

3 Liberalism, Community, and Culture (Clarendon Press, 1989), p. 18

4 Keith Banting and Will Kymlicka, “Canadian Multiculturalism: Global Anxieties and Local Debates,” British Journal of Canadian Studies, vol. 23, no. 1 (2010): 61

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid., p. 60

7 As indicated in endnote number 3, most of the “critiques” of Kymlicka’s works have come from the left. One representative sample is Richard Day’s Multiculturalism and the History of Canadian Diversity (2000). Using ideas derived from postmodernist Marxists, Day argues that Kymlicka’s theory is still unfair to minorities because it allows European “colonizers” to maintain a societal culture that is still embedded to Anglo history, including two official languages, while disallowing immigrants to develop their “own societal cultures” or their own fully developed political and social institutions. How can the “equal worth of others” be acknowledged unless other cultures are “unconditionally” given the same right to maintain and develop their cultures within Canada? Why are majority Canadians imposing an “Immigration Points System” that excludes certain categories of individuals from entering Canada? Everyone and anyone who wants to come should be given the same right to immigrate. The current Canadian nation state is inextricably associated with the “capitalist European male;” accordingly, the only way to achieve racial equality is to abolish Canada and create a de-territorialized culture with porous borders characterized by the acceptance of “the necessity of an ongoing negotiation of all universal horizons.” Some critics have come from the right but these have not directed their arguments at Kymlicka per se but multiculturalism generally, and not in academic articles but newspaper columns; they include Margaret Wente, Michael Bliss, Robert Fulford and Jack Granatstein. I would designate these critics as liberals from the right, rather than conservatives; they believe that Western laws should recognize only individual rights. Their basic argument is that assimilation should be stressed rather than “special” group rights for designated minorities. The extreme left, Kymlicka, and the right all agree on the benefits of mass immigration. These are the only views allowed in this crucial debate about Canada’s future identity

8 Hugh Donald Forbes, “Trudeau as the First Theorist of Canadian Multiculturalism,” in Stephen Tierney, ed., Multiculturalism and the Canadian Constitution (UBC Press, 2007).Forbes, a supporter of Trudeau’s dream, says outright that the success of multiculturalism “obviously depends on the deliberate diversification of the Canadian population,” noting that once multiculturalism was put into a new immigration law in 1976, “Canadian immigration offices were opened in various Third World countries to facilitate processing of applications, and the number of immigrants coming from these ‘non-traditional sources’ increased dramatically” (38). Forbes happily concludes: “Canadian multiculturalism now promises a way of incorporating the Third World into the First World without domination or oppression” (39)

9 It should be clear by now that the concept of “community” endorsed by communitarian liberals has nothing to do with actual organic communities with a long lineage, deeply situated customs and beliefs within a homeland, but with ideas fabricated by cosmopolitan academics who think they have a mandate to restructure the communities of European peoples, in Bolshevik fashion, treating them as if they were empty vessels to be filled with ideas developed at conferences.

10 Frank Salter, On Genetic Interests, Family, Ethnicity, and Humanity in an Age of Mass Migration. Transaction Publishers, 2007

11 The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XIX – Essays on Politics and Society Part II, ed. John M. Robson, Introduction by Alexander Brady (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1977), 236

12 David Goodhart, The British Dream: Successes and Failures of Postwar Immigration (Atlantic, 2013)

13 “Testing the Liberal Multiculturalist Hypothesis: Normative Theories and Social Science Evidence,” Canadian Journal of Political Science, vol. 43, no. 2 (2010)

14 “Testing the Liberal Multiculturalist Hypothesis: Normative Theories and Social Science Evidence,” Canadian Journal of Political Science, vol. 43, no. 2 (2010), and “The Rise and Fall of Multiculturalism? New Debates on Inclusion and Accommodation in Diverse Societies,” International Social Science Journal, vol. 61 (2010)

15 Kymlicka occasionally canvasses material evidence in other publications; for example, in Finding Our Way, Rethinking Ethnocultural Relations in Canada (1998), he offers four pages on the “domestic [Canadian] evidence.” In a book chapter published in 2005, “The Canadian Model of Diversity,” he offers a few paragraphs on the “successful” accommodation of immigrants

16 He avoids dealing with cases of illiberal practices, about which he can obviously be challenged, by saying that “no major immigrant organization has demanded the right to maintain illiberal practices. The Somalis had not demanded exemption from laws against female genital mutilation. Pakistanis had not demanded exemption from laws against coerced marriages” (2005: 73). Why would they do so when they know individuals like Kymlicka are ready to accept anything they say? In any case, even by this criterion, Kymlicka sidesteps, in a rather disingenuous way, widespread illiberal practices by Muslims in Europe by arguing that Muslims are a small percentage of the population in Canada. Does this mean Canada can only tolerate so much Muslim diversity? Really, in the end, it does not matter to Kymlicka if illiberal practices spread in Canada as in Europe, for he is a major promoter of immigrant multiculturalism in Europe as well, and only uses the exceptional model of Canadian multiculturalism as a trope to manipulate Canadians into believing that Europe’s problems cannot be expected in Canada

17 Banting and Kymlicka, p. 54

18 It should be noted that Kymlicka considers any statistical assessment of Caribbean criminality as “old-fashioned racism” (2005:74). It does not matter, as journalist Peter Worthington among others has noted that “in Toronto, the ones using guns — and the victims of shootings — mostly tend to be of Jamaican origin. Police know this, even if they can’t say so publicly”

19 Banting and Kymlicka, p. 57

20 He much prefers to rely on the opinions of wealthy and powerful outsiders than on native Canadians, gushing over how Canada’s international reputation “has grown steadily over the past fifteen years,” and citing as supporting evidence the declaration of “his Highness the Aga Khan, spiritual head of the world’s 15 million Muslims” that “Canada is today the most successful pluralist society on the face of the globe” (2005: 64). Apparently, this man is not a conservative right winger

21 “The Canadian Model of Diversity in a Comparative Perspective,” in Stephen Tierney, ed., Multiculturalism and the Canadian Constitution (UBC Press, 2007). p. 63

22 Hawkins, Freda. Critical Years in Immigration: Canada and Australia Compared

23 Banting and Kymlicka, p. 52

24 “Multiculturalism: Success, Failure, and the Future,” Transatlantic Council of Migration (2012), pp. 10-12

25 Ibid, pp.5-6

26 Ibid, p. 7. As pointed in an earlier footnote, Kymlicka deceptively argues in favor of immigrant multiculturalism by insisting that Canada is an exceptional case, seeking to calm Canadian apprehensions, and yet showcasing the Canadian model to Europeans and promoting mass immigration in Europe

27 Leo Driedger, ed. The Canadian Ethnic Mosaic, A Quest for Identity. (McClelland and Stewart, 1978)

28 Supporters of mass immigration also like to portray their thoughts as hard-headed and realistic by appealing to the realities of globalization and the movements of peoples across national borders. Kymlicka teaches his students that “massive numbers of people are moving across borders, making virtually every country more polyethnic in composition” (1995: 193). But this statement cannot be described as other than a fabrication intended to deceive European Canadians into believing that the swamping of their countries with immigrants is a normal, inevitable affair happening across the world. The fact is that immobility is typical for the vast majority of the world’s population: Over 98 percent of the people in less developed countries in 2005 were born in the country where they reside.  Immigrants have accounted for a mere 1.4-1.6% of Asia’s population over the past twenty years – despite fertility rates well below replacement levels in Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and other Asian countries

29 Finding Our Way, Rethinking Ethnocultural Relations in Canada (Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 57



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4 Responses to Will Kymlicka and the disappearing Dominion

  1. Pingback: Communism: The Socialist-Capitalist Alliance: the Fabian Society, the Frankfurt School, and Big Business: Part Three | Truth For Germans

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  4. David Ashton says:

    With his usual lucidity and knowledge Ricardo Duchesne has presented a valuable, informative analysis of the politically-driven attempt to demolish the British, European or Anglo-European national cultures.

    “No borders” is the shared slogan of the “Socialist Workers” and “The Economist”, but it is clear which peoples are the main targets of this pincer movement.

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