9 ene 2010

Multiculturalism and Indigenous People (analysis of a Practical Exercise)

This exercise was done in two classes, the 16th and the 21st of December. In the first class, we were separated in small groups and we discussed some of the key issues about multiculturalism in Canada. Back on Monday, we discussed with the whole class the conclusions we took the previous day. The first question was about defining concepts such as “melting pot”, “salad bowl/cultural mosaic” and “multiculturalism”. Then the discussion was more open with questions about why multiculturalism would not be appropriate, what kind of policies could we introduce if we had the power and we compared Canada’s situation with the reality of our region.

Half of the class, however, discussed about a parallel issue, the Aboriginal peoples in Canada. In this practical session I realized how difficult these issues are. We did not come up with a single answer for each issue. Personally I did enjoy this class for it made me process this information in a very specific way.

There are two conclusions that I ended up having after this practical session which I would like to share:

1. The best policy is to learn how to respect each other. This is something I said in the discussion and I remember one classmate telling why we should respect them if other cultures do not do the same, for instance; why Muslim women are allowed to wear a scarf of burka here and we go there Western women usually are forced to wear one? I must admit that I didn’t like this argument but I could not come up with a good comeback until the class was over. Here I would like to express what I think about this argument quoting a English journalist that I read very often (he is talking issue in Switzerland, but it can be fully applied on this context):

“This argument is completely back to front. It is like saying: well, the US has the death sentence so why shouldn't Italy put Amanda Knox to death in an electric chair? Or: well, Saudi Arabia has women stoned for adultery so why shouldn't we torture Arab men? In many majority Muslim countries, there is pervasive religious intolerance towards Christians, Jews, other religious groups (Bahai, Ahmadiyya) and, not least, atheists, but we can only be credible in criticising that intolerance if we practise at home the universal principles that we preach abroad. As someone once said: do as you would be done by.” (Ash 2009)

2. I like to make a short comment about the Spanish Empire and the atrocities committed during the colonial times. Having grown up in South America, I have never heard that an apology was long overdue for part of Spain, and I have never heard that there was resentfulness towards Spain for the crimes just as I have never heard that North America is asking England for an apology for the massacres towards their aboriginal people. After all, most of the descendents of the Conquistadores do live today in the new world. However, I cannot talk for all Latin America, since I come from a region in which the aboriginal people are a minority. Bolivian president once called the 12th of October of 1492 a “day of grievance”. So I think that even in the case that some people feel that an apology is needed, I think the willingness to forgive is also needed. After all, we are talking about human cruelty towards other human beings. This is not about this or that country. At the bottom, it is about the strong always being cruel and barbaric towards the weak. This is the real tragedy that human beings have to overcome.

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© Pablo Camus
Maira Gall