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The Folk Tale of Canadian Exceptionalism

Canada's exceptionalism is more of a folk tale than it is reality. I do, however, believe to an extent that Canada has been an exception when compared to other continues in their dealings with multiculturalism and immigration because of the tolerance that has been shown towards politicized communities. But this perception is limited. Yes, we have some of the world's highest immigration acceptance rates but we also know that is limited with respect to who is invited in. With Canada using a point system to filter immigration, the approximately 30,000 immigrants that are able to come to Canada each year tend to have higher education than Canada-born citizens and usually a level of economic independence (this does not account for refugees, necessarily). Additionally, Canada has been a leader in the world for ‘righting wrongs’ through attempts to reform systemic discrimination on the basis of such things as same sex marriage, apologizing for residential schools, and even further back with revamping immigration policies.

All that being said, Canada's foundation is cemented in assimilation to create a cohesive national identity - From Chinese Head Taxes to the disregard of indigenous identities. If it were not for the French who fought for their own identity within the political sphere, Canada would not be as tolerant towards multiculturalism as it appears to be today - though this idea is limited by the fact that the French and English are both colonial identities.

For years, Canadian governments have been able to hide behind the perception of Canada’s ‘exceptionalism’. This blindness has given the Canadian public the means to justify statements such as “at least we are not like the Americans” or “that only happens in the U.S.” when referring to systemic injustices and discrimination against racialized and ‘deviating’ communities. This mindset has been harmful to minority groups in Canada because then, the real issues facing these communities continue to go unaddressed without protest.

The reality is our government sometimes ‘talks the talk’ instead of ‘walking the walk’ in regard to how tolerable they are towards otherness. Just because our politicians make progressive statements, does not always mean they are willing to take direct action needed to tackle social injustices that are directly associated with systemic disenfranchisement. We see this today with bills such as C-51 and the slow-to-lack of action by the federal government we are witnessing today with Mi’kmaq fishers in Nova Scotia. Many of us Canadians are not aware of our not-so-progressive-side, like the ability to detain refugees and immigrants, the lack of clean water accessible in Indigenous communities and their on-going battles with the Crown, etc.

To summarize, Canada has a long way to go to reconcile its past/present dealings regarding immigration and multiculturalism. To equate Canada to other nations I do not think is a healthy comparison to continue perpetuating. In the long term, it puts all involved at a disadvantage until multi-faceted power systems are re-evaluated. Canada’s exceptionalism is limited.

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