Reasonable accommodation

With yesterday’s news came the report on a recent poll about Quebecer’s attitudes about the accommodation of religious groups. I thought the timing was quite good since I had written a column on the related issue of immigration that was to appear in Metro the same day (a lucky coincidence). Unfortunately, I got bumped (it turns out to be fashion week and there were several articles on the topic). It’ll have to wait for next week (October 16) but, in case you’re interested, here is what will appear.

We’re all immigrants
Camillo Zacchia, Ph.D.
Psychologist – Douglas Institute

n the 1960’s, my father was a young immigrant. One day, he was mopping a floor at the airport when he overheard two men talking about the problem of “all the immigrants.” He was so upset that he interrupted the men and said, “Aren’t you also immigrants?”

He had a point. We are a society of immigrants or their offspring. It is only a question of how many generations have passed since the migrants first arrived. One can argue that even the aboriginals came to North America thanks to the same nomadic spirit in humans that drives all migrations.

Our politicians have decided to have an open debate about reasonable accommodation of religious and ethnic minorities. I suppose it is better than the whispered debates of the past but I can’t help but feel a little uneasy. This kind of debate tends to be divisive by nature. Although it can bring out the voices of open and tolerant people, it also provides an open forum for extremists and bigots.

At the heart of the debate is the idea, or even the “fear,” that immigrants will change our way of life. Well of course they will, but to what extent, in what way, and how is that such a bad thing? Our society is always changing anyway, even without the influence of immigration. From secularization to the declining birth rate, from the advent of the internet to the language of business, it seems that big changes have occurred without a great deal of influence from ethnic minorities. Do these minorities really represent such a threat in the presence of a strong, vibrant, and dominant culture such as ours?

Just look around you. These “groups” are really nothing more than a collection of separate individuals that we interact with every day. Look at your classmates, at your co-workers, your best friends. How many of them are of different ethnicities? What language do they speak at home? How many have Vietnamese or Arabic names? Are they not an integral part of our cultural fabric? Is Michaëlle Jean, for example, not as much a Quebecer as anyone else?

An open and welcoming society tends to integrate immigrants well. There will never be so many of them as to radically alter our world. Instead, they will subtly enrich us. A closed society, on the other hand, forces immigrants into ghettos. This only highlights our differences and generates an “us vs. them” mentality on both sides. Nothing good ever comes of that.

Tagged as .

Posted in Human nature, Life, Random thoughts.

Posted on 10 Oct 2007

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>