The Proclaimers ask the question “What do you do when minority means you?” And they should know. Christian Scottish Nationalist rock stars. At least one of those categories is a minority, I’m sure. Everyone belongs to a minority, right? Take women. Oh, wait, they are actually the majority but much of our society treats them as a minority. But what does that mean?

Well, in a system that argues for majority rules it sometimes means that your rights are contingent on the will of the larger group. And you ask, what is wrong with that? And I say: You are clearly reading the wrong blog.

Minority rights are enshrined — in a way — in most constitutions. That is to say there is a negative protection — discrimination on the basis of gender, race religion and so on is prohibited. The struggle for society is often to create affirmative rights. Canada’s grand experiment with official bilingualism and multiculturalism is an example of that — one that has worked well enough that people from all over the world come to see how we did it.

Politics, of course, played a role. Many politicians learned quickly that what may be a minority in one place could well be a majority in others. Parties who did a good job at including minority concerns in their platforms and minority candidates in their running slates did better than those who didn’t. Historically, this was the Liberals but the Conservatives have been playing this game quite well too. Jason “Curry in a Hurry” Kenney has been particularly active wooing minority groups by appealing to their supposed conservative cultural and religious values. This is, of course, also a government that calls other cultures ‘barbaric‘ on the world stage. Logic is not their strong suit — politics is. Still, language matters no matter what your goal,

In any case, the inclusion of minorities in a larger culture is not simply a matter of law and politics though it is almost certain that a legal framework and an active participation in the political system are important. In large part, however, it is a matter of history and values.

Canada has succeeded as a multicultural and multi-ethnic state because we have a long history of immigration. Most of us are from immigrant stock. (Even First Nations but they had a 10000 year jump on the rest of us so we’ll leave it at that). My own family came here in the 1770s but were really no different than people who came last week — seeking security, freedom and a better life.

Living together is a big part of it, too. When you see and work with a whole range of people you soon realize that the similarities far outweigh any superficial differences. It’s not that people’s language and culture don’t distinguish them one from another but really it is more in the manner of a jigsaw puzzle (or mosaic) than square pegs and round holes.

Is it perfect? Hardly. Remember how Ben Johnson went from Canadian Olympic hero to Jamaican Canadian to disgraced Jamaican immigrant.

Too often minorities have rights until they do something wrong.

But that’s ten minutes.


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