Religion at work

Our tolerance likely has nothing to do with multiculturalism

Religion at workFor those given to worrying about how well people from different faiths get along in Canada, there has been plenty of evidence of late to feed their fears.

Canada’s various human rights commissions have been doing brisk business investigating perceived slights of one type or the other. Quebec’s “reasonable accommodation” hearings have heard from people who were upset by the sight of women wearing headscarves in Montreal, or by too much kosher food in their supermarkets. And a recent poll by Maclean’s found that many Canadians say they are divided by religion. But whatever religious fault lines exist in Canada, we’re much less divided than Europe, and only slightly more so than the United States. Recent polling by Gallup tried to determine the amount of what they call “interfaith cohesion” around the world, by asking respondents how they treat and are treated by members of other faiths—whether they would object to someone from a different faith moving next door, for example. Respondents were then classified as either “isolated,” “tolerant,” or “integrated.” Among countries in western Europe and North America, only the U.S. had more respondents who rated as “integrated” (and fewer who rated as “isolated”) than Canada.

Canada vs. the world

Analysts differ as to why this is the case. Some contend that the most important factor in determining how people from different faiths get along is how immigrants and their offspring—who are often religious minorities—are treated by their adopted countries.

By this line of reasoning, Canada’s official policy of multiculturalism has been instrumental in creating what Monica Boyd, a sociology professor at the University of Toronto, describes as “an ideology of accommodation.” It has instilled in Canadians—who are already predisposed to accept newcomers because of our long history of immigration—the belief that different groups belong here and that interaction between those groups is a good thing.

Less divided than EuropeOn the other side of the debate are those who believe that what matters most is not how the state treats immigrants, but who they are and what they do when they arrive. Randall Hansen, Canada research chair of immigration and governance at the University of Toronto, is in this camp.

“The general point about migrants to North America is that they come here to work,” he says. “They come to a continent where welfare provision is very minimal, where you’re expected to rely on your own work, and where the earning of money and the creation of wealth is tolerated and indeed encouraged. My view is that migrants will respond to the incentive structures that you give them, and so the migrants that are ambitious and want to succeed come here.”

Hansen says migrants in North America tend to be integrated into the job market, while migrants in Europe are integrated into welfare. “It’s a slight oversimplification, but not much of one.” If members of religious minorities are employed, they move up the social ladder and are less likely to be cut off from people of different faiths. “It’s impossible to have dignity without a job,” he says. “Integration is not about all this multicultural business. It’s not about funding Chinese dragon festivals. What’s important is work. Immigration works when migrants work.”




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Religion at work

  1. i dont believe that US is more 'integrated' than Canada. I'm a religious minority and people in the US act (or are generally ignorant) as if they dont know where you come from or what your rleigion is about. if it wasnt on the news it did click with them. Canadians on the other hand are not only informed of other religions but show a 'genuine' acceptance of others religions and ethnicity. its not awkward to be a minority in Canada, in the US it certainly is.

    • The US tradition is centered on a right to practice one's religion. I don't care where you come from or what your religious beliefs are. You have the right to any religious practice that does not impinge on the rights of other individuals (life, liberty, speech, etc.). I also am a member of a religious minority and am thrilled when others take an interest in my religious beliefs, but I only INSIST that they not interfere with my religious practices.

      • "The US tradition is centered on a right to practice one's religion." Sure. But it is not always clear that execution mirrors intent.

    • It is possible that the US numbers are distorted due to their idea of a 'diferent faith'. Talking to a few americans, the idea that different Christian denominations are different religions seems common there. Perhaps they thought of a baptist next door, not a buddhist or atheist.

  2. Very interesting article.

    One logical inference could have used some emphasis though: if it were true that "Canada's official policy of multiculturalism has been instrumental in creating …'an ideology of accommodation' " then Canada would be superior to the US in said 'accommodation'. Therefore the original assumption (Monica Boyd's) is false since it does not fit the data.

    Reductio ad absurdum, QED, etc.

  3. Very interesting article.

    One logical inference could have used some emphasis though: if it were true that "Canada's official policy of multiculturalism has been instrumental in creating …'an ideology of accommodation' " then Canada would be superior to the US in said 'accommodation'. Therefore the original assumption (Monica Boyd's) is false since it does not fit the data.

    Reductio ad absurdum, QED, etc. In fact the converse is likely to be true, since Europe fairs worse in 'accommodation' and yet has even more emphasis on multiculturalism. In short, increased 'multiculturalism' is correlated with decreased 'accommodation'.

    Hence the second possibility, that hard work determines our view of immigrants, is more likely.

  4. I truly believe that US is less divided. In Canada white people begin to move out of a neighbourhood where too many immigrants buy property. There is also a major difference. While Americans believe in a melting pot ,Canadians believe in "vivre le difference" In Canada they encourage people to go into their cocoons of ethnicity and be happy .It is not even required or desirable to mix with people of other faiths. The same instincts that keep the white Christians into their ethnic pockets , they encourage other faiths and ethnicities to live in their own ethnic pockets without ever feeling the need to communicate with other cultures and faiths. It is not a healthy trend ,One can feel better comparing with Europe .I believe that it is important to recognize our common humanity than over recognize the cultural and religious roots. It is good that we grow out of religion and ethnicity and focus on universal values.

  5. How about… we're less religiously and racially divided than Europe, and more socialised than the US. Having both of their problems on a vastly smaller scale. Or to rephrase, largely free of their respecitve main issues.

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