Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Range of Cultures

Everybody knows that, multiculturalism is an integral part of Toronto’s charm and dynamism. «The most Multicultural City in the World» is precisely the name that the United Nations have given to the colourful city. And they are totally right about it. In fact, Statistics Canada related that 49.9% of Toronto’s population is foreign-born, which is more than Miami’s, Los Angeles’ and New York’s population, three other enormous ethnically diverse cities. More than 200 distinct foreign origins are located in Toronto, largely because it is the most popular Canadian destination for new immigrants: in 2006, 20% of them settled there. Chinese (11.4%), South Asian (12.0%), Black (8.4%) and Filipinos (4.1%) were at that time the main visible minorities. A lot of ethnic neighbourhoods although represent those ones and show how diversified the city. There is Chinatown, Greektown, Koreatown, Little Italy, Little India, Little Jamaica, Portugal Village...

Also, what makes Toronto a special city is its entertainment. All year long, it offers a full range of festivals all different from each other. This month, as an example, one of the most impressive festivals of all will take place downtown. Caribana, the one in question, is a celebration of the Caribbean culture that attracts more than 1 million tourists every year. There is also the Annual Festival of India, the Mabuhay Festival, the Irie Music Festival, the Annual Corso italia Toronto Fiesta and many others that appeal to people from around the world. These festivities give then the city of Toronto some visibility on the international scene, which is a big advantage.

Moreover, they make Canadians feel proud of their country. Recent researches revealed that inhabitants consider immigrants and demographic diversity an important part of their own Canadian identity. This support about multiculturalism has greatly increased over the last few years: in 1997, 74% of the Canadians were for it, against 85% in 2003 – which shows that a large part of the people is more and more open-minded. Plus, the fact that Canada defines itself as a multicultural nation means that immigrants are an integral part of the society. That gives them a strong feeling of belonging and leads them to identify with their host country as well. In other words, multiculturalism contributes to the immigrants and minorities integration and gives them the chance to be active in the society.

It is not all. The cultural diversity is also greatly beneficial to the city of Toronto and to the country in general. For example, it helps the economy of the place, largely because people who arrive are relatively young and can hold a job. In 2006, 22% of the immigrants were aged 15 to 24 and more than half were 25 and over, which means a lot of available young workers. Plus, a big part of them was already educated and qualified, and has brought a lot to their new town. They were – and still are – definitely useful and this, in every area of the society.

However, some people disagree with the benefits of multiculturalism. Most of them fear that it might endanger Canadian culture itself, whether the language or traditions, and are afraid that immigrants won’t make efforts to learn them. A study, rather encouraging, proclaims that only 5% of the population of Toronto has no knowledge of English or French, the two official languages in Canada, which is less than in the last decade. That also demonstrates the improvement of our system over the past years. Since its adoption in 1971 and after the promotion of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by the Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1982, multiculturalism has come a long way and has met several obstacles. And that is one of the main reasons why people are not totally for it: they think that it will fail, just like it failed elsewhere in the world, such as in Europe. Those failures actually created stereotypes and prejudices non-favourable to multiculturalism.

Anyhow, many evidences show that our system is not like the other ones, it is more successful than anywhere else in the world, according to some recent studies – all conducted between 2006 and 2008. Irene Bloemraad carried out one of these studies and compared immigrants’ attitude in the city of Toronto with those in Boston, USA. Some interesting differences emerged from it and among them, a more active participation in public life came from Canadian immigrants. According to the majority of people living there, Toronto is the greatest city in the world when we are talking about quality of life. It is also the economic, cultural and social heart of the country in spite of – or rather thanks to – its multicultural aspects and is ranked the «safest large metropolitan area in North America» by Places Rated Almanac even though. In brief, Toronto is not an ordinary city; multiculturalism makes it special and unique.

Words by Nadia Houle-Khedher; photos by Angelina

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