Is Canada a good place for Muslims

Dealing with migrants

Rainer Geissler

To person

Dr. phil., born 1939; Professor of Sociology at the University of Siegen; 1996 - 1997 visiting professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Address: University of Siegen, Faculty 1, 57068 Siegen.
Email: [email protected]

Publications among others: The social structure of Germany. The social development before and after unification, Wiesbaden 2002 (3); Social change in Germany, Munich 2003 (2).

Canada is an example of multiculturalism that works well. Canadian multiculturalism could serve as a landmark for Germany when considering migration and integration.


Canada has been a multicultural society with conviction and pride since 1971. For three decades it has responded to the challenge of its multiethnic population structure with the philosophy and politics of multiculturalism.

So far, Germany has shied away from an answer to the question of how it intends to deal with its rapidly growing and still growing ethnic minorities. For two decades, politics got bogged down in an effort to ward off unwanted immigrants; the discussion about a well thought-out concept for migration and the integration of migrants has only got underway in recent years. And in science, the thoughts on "multicultural society" have remained vague, because this term was quickly stylized into a value and emotionally charged stimulus word. [1]

For Germans, it is worth taking a look at Canada. There you can observe a variant of multiculturalism in statu nascendi et agendi and recognize that you can learn something from the "multicultural model Canada" for the current debate about migration and integration in your own country.

I. The "ethnic mosaic" of Canada

Four main groups can be identified in the multi-layered, highly differentiated multi-ethnic structure of the Canadian population: In the chronological order of their immigration to North America, these are the indigenous people, the so-called "founding nations" of the Anglo and French Canadians, the European minorities who later immigrated and the like so-called "visible minorities" from the countries of the Third World, who as a rule have only come to Canada since the 1970s (see table on page 20).

1. The "First Nations" - as the indigenous people ("Indians", "Eskimos" and "Métis" [2]) have been officially called for several years - had inhabited the American continent alone for many millennia with a great variety of cultures. Today in Canada they have been reduced to small, very multicultural (11 language families, over 600 "bands") minorities by the masses of modern immigrants and pushed into an extreme economic, social, cultural and political marginal position. According to the most recent survey in 2001, almost 600,000 of Canada's 29.6 million inhabitants (1.9 percent of the population) come from pure indigenous families; If you add those from mixed families - i.e. one parent or ancestor is a native - then there are a good 1.3 million or 4.5 percent of the population. [3]

2. The two numerically, culturally and politically dominant groups of the ethnic mosaic are the Anglo-Canadians and the French-Canadians. Since they colonized what is now Canada and established the modern Canadian state, they call themselves the "Founding Nations". A century ago they made up 90 percent of the population, since then their share has been falling continuously. In 2001, a good third of Canadians came from purely British, French or "Canadian" families, the greater part (54 percent) now come from mixed families. [4]

3. The third large group - the European minorities - was brought into the country in two large waves: the first at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries to help colonize the West, and the second shortly after World War II when immigrants were needed because of the booming post-war economy. Just under a third of Canadians - including those from mixed families - are among them; the largest group are the German Canadians (2.7 million), followed by the Italians, Ukrainians, Dutch, Poles and Norwegians.

4. The so-called "visible minorities" (almost three million Asians and around one million blacks, Latin Americans and Arabs in 2001) have only developed into a numerically significant segment in the past three decades. In 1967 a new immigration law came into effect in Canada - the "color-blind" point system, which ties the immigration permit to individual qualifications in particular and also plays an important role in the current German debate. As a result, more migrants from Asia - in the past decade in particular from China (many of them from Hong Kong) - immigrated. At 13 percent of the population, the proportion of "visible minorities" is somewhat higher than the "proportion of foreigners" in the territory of the former Federal Republic.

II. The philosophy of multiculturalism

How does Canada deal with this ethnic diversity? [5] In the sixties, the concept of multiculturalism was developed, which in 1971 was elevated to the state ideology that is still valid today. The Canadians are not only the ideal inventors of the multicultural society, but they were also the first to translate this concept into practical politics.

The "philosophy of multiculturalism" can be summarized in seven basic principles:

1. In principle yes to ethno-cultural diversity (diversity): In principle, ethno-cultural diversity is assessed positively - not only because it is considered a fundamental fact of Canadian reality, but also because it is considered beneficial and productive. It is believed to contain forces that, at the end of the day, are more beneficial than harmful to Canadian society as a whole. Ethno-cultural diversity is therefore a source of strength and enrichment.

2. Right to cultural difference: All people and groups have the right to preserve and maintain their cultural characteristics. So there is a right, but not an obligation or even compulsion, to ethnic identification.

3. Principle of cultural equivalence and mutual tolerance: The different ethno-cultural groups are equal. The requirement of mutual tolerance is derived from this principle.

However, identification with the group of origin should be preceded by identification with society as a whole. A hierarchically structured double identity is permitted. Identification with Canada should be primary, identification with the group of origin secondary. The "hyphenated Canadian" is supposed to be primarily Canadian and only secondarily English, Scots, Québécois, German, Ukrainian or Chinese.

4. Safety-contact-hypothesis: The right to difference is based among other things on the empirically confirmed social-psychological "safety - and - contact hypothesis": The anchoring in the ingroup promotes the self-confidence and the psychological security of the individuals and thus creates the conditions for the Openness towards other ethno-cultural groups that make tolerance and interethnic contacts possible in the first place. [6]

5. Unity-within-diversity: A core of common basic values ​​and rules (constitution, laws, common language) guarantees the cohesion of the whole and sets the diversity and the right to cultural difference and the principle of cultural equivalence limits. The common framework has a clear priority over the special subcultures. Immigrants are only allowed to preserve and cultivate those parts of their culture that do not contradict the binding common core ("selective preservation of culture"). Equality of women and domestic violence against women and children are typical areas in which some cultures of origin collide with the common core. Since the core norms originate from the European cultural area, the principle of "unity in diversity" relativizes the rights to cultural difference and equality; In fact, there is a hierarchy of ethno-cultural groups: the more a culture contradicts the common core, the more its subordination and renunciation are required.

The demarcation between difference and unity (where does equal difference end, where must cultural peculiarities subordinate to the common core?) Is controversial on some points and part of the political discourse.

6. Right to equal opportunities: The liberal right to cultural difference is linked to the social right to equal opportunities in participation in Canadian society. Canadian multiculturalism is not limited to the cultural level, as the term multi- "culturalism" might suggest, but it has a liberal-social dual nature and contains two fundamental rights: in addition to the right to cultural diversity, the right to social equality of opportunity . Its challenge is to achieve two goals at the same time: preserving cultural diversity and reducing ethnic social inequality.

7. Management assumption: multiculturalism in the sense outlined does not develop by itself, but requires political management - political encouragement and support.

Important components of the multiculturalism philosophy are captured in the metaphor of the "ethnic mosaic". Canada wants to deliberately and emphatically differentiate itself from the "melting pot" ideal of the USA: The diversity of cultures should not be melted down in a "melting pot", but each ethno-cultural group should - like the stones or parts of a mosaic - theirs given a specific color or shape. All groups together then form a colorful and varied overall picture with their special features.

III. Multiculturalism Policy

In 1971 the Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau proclaimed the "Politics of Multiculturalism in a Bilingual Framework" as the central guideline for future Canadian politics. A plethora of new offices, agencies and advisory bodies at all political levels have been quickly set up to translate the principles of multiculturalism into concrete political programs and activities. And under the conservative government of Brian Mulroney, multiculturalism was enshrined as a fundamental right in the Canadian constitution in 1985 and made legal in 1988 in the "Multiculturalism Act". This obliges the Canadian government, among other things, to recognize multiculturalism as an "invaluable resource" for Canada's future and the freedom of all to "preserve, promote and share its cultural heritage". The Employment Equity Act, 1986 provides targeted support for the "visible minorities" and the "First Nations". The priorities of the political activities have adapted to the changed problem situation: While in the seventies it was primarily a matter of promoting the diverse cultural traditions, especially of the European minorities ("celebrating differences"), since the eighties the problems of the newly immigrated " visible minorities "- anti-racism and equal opportunities - in the center. A more folkloric multiculturalism turned into a more civil multiculturalism.

IV. Background to the emergence of multiculturalism

Canada's immigration society did not automatically spawn multiculturalism. Canada was a primarily Anglo-conformist society until the middle of the 20th century, and the British majority's dealings with some minorities were markedly hegemonic, racist and segregationist. For example, the workers recruited from China were exposed to racist attacks at the end of the 19th century after they were no longer needed to build railways. The agitation of the "Asiatic Exclusion League" - one of their slogans: "We don't want Chinamen in Canada. This is a white man's country (...)" a land of the white man (...) ") - painted the ghost of the" yellow danger "on the wall. As a result of ever higher poll taxes for Chinese immigrants and an immigration ban between 1923 and 1947, immigration from China came to a complete standstill. The wounds inflicted by the campaigns against the "Chinamen" can still be felt in public discussions today.

Only after the Second World War did a rethink set in - not least because the indigenous peoples and Asian minorities in the Canadian army had paid their blood toll during the Second World War and immigrants were urgently needed again in the wake of the economic boom of the post-war period.

The actual political and ideological impetus for multiculturalism came from the traditional conflict between Anglo and French Canadians. The separatist aspirations in the Franco-cultural province of Québec in the sixties made it necessary to rethink the coexistence of the two "founder cultures". In this debate about Canadian bi-culturalism, the European minorities were effectively involved as a "third force", and it was almost imperative that bi-culturalism should be further thought and developed into multi-culturalism. And multiculturalism was able to develop political effects because the European minorities had meanwhile grown into a considerable electoral potential that no party could ignore without harm. To put it bluntly, multiculturalism is an unintended by-product of Québec separatism.

V. Criticism - but no shock

Multiculturalism has not and will not go unchallenged in Canada. The Quebecers and the "First Nations" reported fundamental reservations from the start because they did not want to be downgraded to one ethnic group among many and for their special rights as "founding nation" or as indigenous people (as "citizens plus" [7]) feared. From the left-wing spectrum comes the accusation that multiculturalism uses "rhetorical flourishes" and folkloric-culinary festivals to divert attention from the real problems of ethnic minorities; it is an ingenious maneuver to capture the votes of the ethnic minorities while at the same time distracting them from their real difficulties. [8] Others see multiculturalism - with its automatic classification of people according to race and origin - a form of veiled, politically correct racism. [9] And in the right spectrum one particularly fears signs of disintegration through ethnicization - the "tribalization", "Balkanization" or also "Babylonization" of Canadian society; the building of social walls through too strong identification with the ethnic in-groups; the erosion of Western-European culture through value relativism. [10]

The briefly outlined discussion about multiculturalism is at the same time a warning against idealizing the Canadian situation: the philosophy and reality of multiculturalism do not always coincide. In this context, it is also worth mentioning that the multicultural state ideology has not been able to influence the racist attitudes prevailing among parts of the Canadian population [11] and especially recently the warnings against too many immigrants have become louder. [12]

However, the critical objections and the references to problems have not seriously shaken Canada's general self-image as a multicultural society. Among the political elites outside Québec and beyond the "First Nations", the principles of multiculturalism are recognized across party lines - not least in order not to alienate "ethnic voters". Anyone who would support a campaign “children instead of Indians” in Canada or would divide immigrants into those who “benefit us” and those “who use us” would have immediately disappeared from the political scene. The political elites certainly reflect the general mood in the population. In the representative polls of the 1990s, multiculturalism was supported by a stable majority of 60 to 70 percent of Canadians. [13] For example, in 1999 74 percent of Canadians agreed with the statement that "our multicultural and multiracial make-up" is an "important part of what makes us Canadians". Only a small part of the population explicitly rejects multiculturalism. [14]

VI. Model for Germany?

Does Canadian multiculturalism serve as a model for Germany? My answer to this question consists of three parts: in principle yes, but in reality no - nevertheless, it makes sense to look at Canada, because we can learn from this country.

In principle, yes, because the philosophy and politics of Canadian multiculturalism fit much better than the previous German "foreigner policy" into a Western horizon of values ​​that is determined by guiding values ​​such as humanity, tolerance and equality. Dealing with ethnic minorities in Canada is more tolerant and humane; the assimilation pressure of the dominant culture is lower; ethnic minorities are welcome, viewed as useful parts of society and given equal rights relatively quickly; the demand for equal opportunities is supported by the state.

But - and this brings me to the second part of my answer - this sympathetic model cannot be transferred to German reality overnight. Because it was created in a specific historical, socio-structural, cultural and political context. The attempt to detach Canadian multiculturalism from these contexts and to transplant it into completely different contexts would be a utopian undertaking.

At first glance there are certain similarities between Germany and Canada: Both countries are obliged to accept refugees for humanitarian reasons; Both countries also have an economic and demographic need for immigrants, and both can meet this need without any problems because, because of the very good living conditions, they exert a great attraction on those wishing to migrate all over the world. But the differences between the two societies, four of which I would like to briefly outline, are massive. They make transferring the Canadian concept to Germany problematic.

1. Disregarding the special case of the indigenous people, Canada was a society of immigrants from the start. The history of Canada is the history of continuous immigration of people from different cultures and systems. Germany, on the other hand, has been a society of locals from the start, the land of the Germans; the designation "Germany" expresses this unequivocally. Continuous multiethnic immigration is a relatively new phenomenon and does not have the Canadian dimensions: the number of immigrants in Canada was and is in relative terms (per capita) about four times as high as in Germany; in addition, the fluctuation among migrants in Canada is low; there are hardly any "guest workers", but primarily "real" immigrants.

2. These differences in the history of migration have consequences for the social structure, culture and understanding of the state of the two countries. Canada was bi-ethnic from the start; then there are the many different ethnic groups of the "First Nations". Over the past century, Canada has evolved into a dynamic, multi-ethnic society, the pattern of which is constantly changing. The ethno-cultural heterogeneity did not allow a nation state in the sense of a cultural nation, but the Canadian understanding of the state was based on the Anglo-Saxon idea of ​​the state nation. This concept is inclusive. It is not based on ancestry or a certain culture, but on the individual loyalty of its citizens; therefore it can unite different ethno-cultural groups under one roof.

Germany, on the other hand, has been an essentially mono-ethnic society since its foundation, and belonging to German culture was and is the unifying bond. The German understanding of the state is shaped by the concept of the cultural nation, membership as a citizen is based on the exclusive principle of descent. [15] The multiethnic segment is relatively new and relatively small in Germany; it is exposed to a down-to-earth, powerful majority culture that exerts strong pressure to assimilate.

3. This pressure to assimilate is particularly pronounced because the multiethnic segment in Germany remained structurally extremely weak. The country is largely "sub-stratified" by ethnic minorities, and these are largely politically impotent due to, among other things, restrictive naturalization practices and a lack of political rights. So far they have not been able to develop into a real "second force" in the social and political field of force. In the long term, however, the political weight of the ethnic minorities will increase due to the facilitation of naturalization, because the number of "ethnic voters" will increase.

In Canada, on the other hand, the ethnic minorities - apart from the extremely marginalized "First Nations" - are structurally much better positioned. The advancement and income chances of the European minorities are partly just as good, partly even better than those of the two founding nations. [16] The immigrants from China have above-average qualifications and their children's educational opportunities are particularly good. The UBC (University of British Columbia) in Vancouver is sometimes mischievously declared the "University of Better China" because an estimated half of the students are of Asian origin, while the proportion of minorities from Asia in the catchment area of ​​the university is significantly lower. And in Vancouver, both the poor and the affluent neighborhoods have above-average proportions of Chinese canadians. The splendid mansions of the "Hong Kong millionaires", who immigrated in large numbers to the Canadian Pacific Province in the 1990s and, in addition to their good contacts in the international economic and commercial world, also brought a lot of money and capital into the country, are a symbol of Chinese-Canadian wealth. Canada is therefore not only "underlain" by ethnic minorities, but also in part "overlaid". The right to vote and the representation of minorities in parliaments and governments - and also in other important institutions such as the mass media - give the minorities political weight.

If you summarize the previous three points, then you can say: Canada, like the USA or Australia, is a classic type of immigration country - with a long history of immigration, a long multiethnic tradition, a self-image as an inclusive state nation and structurally relatively well-placed ethnic minorities. Germany, on the other hand, is a modern type of immigration country that lacks these four elements.

4. There is also a fourth important difference: Canadian multiculturalism emerged from a specific historical challenge to bi-cultural Canada, in which the European minorities appeared as the "third force". There is no corresponding historical challenge in Germany and, as mentioned, immigrants have so far lacked political weight. In addition, there is no liberal force in Germany's political system that can be compared to the Liberal Party of Canada. After the Second World War, Canada was ruled by the Liberals for a total of four decades. And multiculturalism is a liberal concept in central points - such as acceptance of "diversity", the right to cultural difference, the principle of cultural equivalence and mutual tolerance.

So the idea of ​​transferring Canadian multiculturalism to Germany is utopian. Still, Germans can learn from Canada. According to Max Weber's motto "You have to think the utopian in order to recognize the possible", Canadian multiculturalism can be a landmark - a beacon that vaguely and roughly indicates the direction in which considerations on migration and integration can go. I would also like to outline three thoughts on this.

1. Migration and integration should not be left to their own devices; they require well thought-out political management - among other things because uncontrolled immigration can trigger fears and fears. In Canada, too, minor unforeseen incidents that deviated from the planning of immigration policy (e.g. the arrival of Tamils ​​and Sikhs in refugee boats) led to fear reactions with racist undertones.

2. The public discourse on migration and integration in Germany needs a fundamental shift in emphasis towards a clear and clear yes to immigration. Immigration must be seen as a necessity and an opportunity, not a threat. Problems should not be made taboo, but they must not dominate the discourse - as has usually been the case up to now. [17] Carefully conducted public discussions about quotas and criteria for immigration as well as about concepts and programs for integration could give the political management of migration and integration the necessary democratic legitimacy. In Canada, issues of migration and multiculturalism are kept out of campaign polemics and heated party disputes.

3. From the complex and complicated problems of integration I would like to single out only one central idea of ​​Canadian multiculturalism: the concept of "multicultural integration" with its dualistic principle of "unity in diversity". It is much better suited to adequately grasp the relationships between the ethnic groups in a multiethnic society than the tendency towards monocultural assimilation ideas that are widespread among German scientists [18] and politicians (this includes, for example, the idea of ​​the "German dominant culture"). Inclusion in the form of assimilation does not do justice to the sensitivities of many migrants, because it demands the renunciation of the culture of origin. The concept of assimilation is therefore not a suitable instrument for adequately capturing interethnic relationships in a multiethnic society. The bipolar, flexible formula of "unity-in-difference", on the other hand, not only takes into account the needs of minorities for difference, but also the majority's claims to respect for their basic values ​​and basic rules. By searching for the "right balance between unity and diversity", she sensitizes both to excessive hegemonic assimilation pressure and to the dangers of ethnic isolation and segregation. With the question of the boundary line between necessary unity and possible diversity, many problems of multiethnic societies - e.g. in the area of ​​education and socialization, the relevance of ethnic communities, in the area of ​​the public and the media, dual citizenship - can be analyzed in a way that which has the interests of minorities and majority in view at the same time.