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Field Reports of Toronto 2017: Critiques of Multiculturalism


Students of the Respect program have many chances to go abroad for study trips. From April 26th to May 8th of 2017, students went to Toronto to study multiculturalism of Canada. In the field, students were assigned three research groups: critiques of multiculturalism; home making amongst the diaspora; ethnography of Kensington market. The following is a report of critiques of multiculturalism.

Marginalized by Multiculturalism

[Pic. 1]Cloths and items for ceremony.

[Pic. 2]A bridge between two societies.

We had three lectures from Prof. Bonnie McElhinny and investigated two areas for field trips. One field trip was to a nature sanctuary at the Humber River that we visited with an Anishinaabe man, and the other was to NMC-CESI (Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto, Cultural and Exchange Social Initiative), a support group for Syrian refugees.

Overall, we understood these examples as being situated at the margins of multiculturalism: the first case represented “people who are forced to be included in the multicultural society in Canada” and the second case represented “people who are here to join the multicultural society of Canada”.

What we call here “people who are forced to be included in the multicultural society” refers to the indigenous people living in Canada. According to Alan, our guide to the Humber River walk, they have been living here for a hundred thousand years. In contrast, Canada was founded a mere one hundred fifty years ago, and immigration from Europe intensified from this time and expelled indigenous people from their land in order to create the Canadian nation. Canada has been accepting immigrants for labor from various countries, and developed a concept of multiculturalism as a national ideology. Indigenous people were forced to be included in this ideology of multiculturalism whether they liked it or not. As a result, some don’t think of themselves as Canadian citizens but members of various tribes.

Meanwhile, there are people trying to come to Canada to join this multicultural society. Syrian refugees are among them. Globally, there is a lot of friction and conflict between refugees and local people. However, we witnessed the possibility of getting along with each other when we met one group of Syrian refugees in Canada.

We witnessed two dynamic examples around or on the edge of a multicultural society. We learned about multiculturalism and saw daily life in a society built on these values. As a result, we pondered how the essence of kyosei, including its possibilities and limits, could be located in the big scheme of things.

In a final presentation, we discussed our findings through a comparison between Japan and Canada. We gave some examples from Japan. Firstly,“Living with disaster”, a look at positive thinking in Tohoku after the The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011. In Japan, natural disasters occur frequently. We have to adapt our attitude to protect nature and live in harmony with disaster, not to fight nature as our enemy. We realized during the nature sanctuary field trip, that we had been neglecting how the concept of kyosei could be enhanced by the inclusion of the harmony of nature. Secondly, we discussed the “be-friending”activities with mentally handicapped people held by Meio University, Okinawa. “Be-friending” makes connections between these people and society at large. It allows them to discover their abilities and destroy the “stereotypes” which people without the problems may have. This activity has given patients a purpose in life. In NMC-CESI, Syrian refugees can sense a feeling of their “home” or “hometown.” From these examples, we learned that obstacles such as disability, language or culture, that seem to be difficult to overcome in general, break down in practice.

We have studied about kyosei for a year. We have visited various places and discovered aspects of kyosei there. However, our discussion of kyosei has been limited. It is very hard to pin down an exact definition of the concept. Definitions also result in limiting the essence of a concept. Canada has a multicultural policy as a national ideology. Therefore, Canada has many examples both of success and failure, so we were inspired and could discuss problems and ideas to solve them critically at both the abstract and concrete level. In contrast to multiculturalism in Canada, we found that kyosei tends to focus on each concrete example. Kyosei is not a policy set out by the government, but is perceived through concrete examples. We have obtained much material to think more deeply about kyosei from Canada, and we will continue to think and struggle with this concept to establish it as a concrete principle.

(July 7, 2017, Matsumoto, Sugimoto, Yamaguchi, Wang Wenjie)

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