Quebec interculturalism. Canadian multiculturalism. Shall the twain ever meet?
No, the policies are fundamentally different, and the rules are different in Quebec, Charles Taylor says.
"It's a different society," Taylor, the eminent Montreal philosopher who co-chaired Quebec's reasonable-accommodation commission, told reporters yesterday.
"The two (policies) aren't that far apart, although sometimes you hear absurd things in Quebec about how utterly different they are," he said.
"No, they're really very close policies. But here, we're a société d'acceuil, a society that's receiving, a society which itself is under pressure, which has to take certain measures to maintain a certain historical line on the (French) language, and so on.
"That doesn't exist at all in the rest of Canada."
He added: "Multiculturalism is an excellent policy, but it has to be applied in each society in a way that fits. And that's what fits us (in English Canada)."
So how does Quebec interculturalism differ?
"The reason why people use the prefix 'inter-' as against 'multi-' is that they want to accentuate the exchanges between different cultural groups ... (using) the French language, within which we all exchange," Taylor replied.
"It's a set of policy goals, essential in this society, that has no relevance in Toronto or Vancouver. And that's why it's a different policy."
Speaking in English, co-chairman Gérard Bouchard added:
"A minority culture like Quebec is naturally more concerned with integration and more fearful of fragmentation. So in interculturalism you have this focus on interaction and integration."
In the English-language summary of their report, the commissioners write that interculturalism "has never been fully, officially defined by the Quebec government, although its key components were formulated long ago," in the 1970s under the Parti Québécois government of then-premier René Lévesque.
"This shortcoming should be overcome," they write, recommending that the government "adopt an official text such as a statute, a policy statement or a declaration that broadly defines interculturalism."