The challenges of multiculturalism 

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Four friends sitting around a table, talking. They all look like they are from different parts of the world.
If only diversity were a true value for more of us, and not just an oft-used punchline. OpenClipart-Vectors via Pixabay, manipulated by lee lim

The nuance that, as children, we couldn’t quite get a grasp on 

by katlyn richardson, contributor

I grew up in Toronto, a big city which has always had a wide mix of diverse cultures. I remember going through Chinatown. Some adults were so excited to see the little White kid, eager to learn more about their culture, while others weren’t so sure. As a kid I wasn’t aware of why that was the case, but as an adult I can guess it had something to do with the racism they faced so regularly. My relatives who lived nearby had a parent from Trinidad, so I also got to experience that culture.  

I also saw the issues between groups from different parts of the world, between countries with complex histories that many of us here in North America were not even aware of. I knew a couple of kids who could only be friends at school because their parents did not want them associating with children from a culture other than their own.  

I remember not knowingly meeting anyone of Indigenous descent until I entered sixth grade, where I had a teacher who was half Iroquois and half Mexican. He taught us a lot about both sides of his own heritage and arranged cultural potlucks for our sixth grade class. He brought tamales and bannock. Another student brought a soup which paired well with the bannock. I brought pierogies, because part of my heritage was Ukrainian.  

Canada claims to celebrate and encourage cultural diversity, which is why it is often referred to as a mosaic of cultures. This allows one to cultivate respect for the various cultural backgrounds, traditions, languages, and practices that all the different ethnic and immigrant communities bring to the country, instead of forcing everyone into assimilating to a single identity. Individuals and communities are encouraged to preserve their cultural heritage.  

This balance allows us to create a better country, one that is more welcoming. There is still a lot work to be done, but if Canada continues to celebrate the various identities in the country, I feel that the next generation of Canadians will be better people because they will learn that everyone can be celebrated for the many different aspects of their identities.  

Another issue is when two countries engage in conflict. The impacts on multiculturalism can be significant and multifaceted. Increased hostility can lead to discrimination, scapegoating, and even violence against minoritized groups perceived to be associated with opposing nations. Also, during times of conflict, governments might implement strict immigration policies, making it harder for people from nations in conflict to move or migrate freely.  

This restriction can affect families, cultural exchanges, and economic ties, hindering the diversity and richness that multiculturalism thrives upon. The diplomatic strain between nations can greatly impact international collaborations, such as educational exchanges, artistic engagements, or joint cultural initiatives.  

In the end, conflicts between countries strain the delicate fabric of multiculturalism, fostering suspicion and division, and hindering the celebration of diverse cultures. Overcoming such challenges often requires diplomacy, education, and efforts to promote understanding and cooperation among communities affected by the conflict. 

The negative impacts of such conflicts, including heightened tensions, discrimination, and restricted exchanges, demonstrate what multiculturalism strives to achieve. Amid these challenges lies a beacon of hope: the idea that early, widespread exposure to diverse cultures can significantly diminish prejudice and foster a more inclusive society.  

Society needs to recognize the influence of cultural exposure on shaping inclusive mindsets and emphasize the need for diplomacy, education, and a collective commitment to stop the divisive impacts of conflicts. It serves as a path for a world where the vibrant mosaic of cultures weaves together seamlessly, creating a tapestry with threads of respect, appreciation, and unity.  

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