The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/ethnocultural-groups/ecg-001-02

Archive/File: orgs/canadian/canada/justice/ethnocultural-groups/ecg-001-02
Last-Modified: 1997/01/26
Source: Department of Justice Canada

1.6 The Report

The purpose of this report is to present a synthesis and
overview of the major issues presented in the reports
described above and in other studies and documents dealing
with aspects of multiculturalism and justice. It is not a
report of an extensive community consultation per se, but
one of the background studies used to prepare this document
was a survey of community perspectives.<31> The report
summarizes and provides a systematic overview of research
findings. The analysis focuses on what these findings mean
for identifying policy priorities, and for proceeding with
policy and program development options.

The report offers a systematic overview of issues in
multiculturalism and justice. The overview of issues is
based on both the existent literature and on the views of
the representatives of ethnocultural groups in Canada. The
review of the literature will draw upon the research reports
noted above, other research carried out by the Department of
Justice Canada<32> and other recent Canadian research.

To reduce the size of this report, it does not treat in
extensive detail the material presented in the various
background studies. This document aims to summarize and
synthesize the main issues which appear in these other
research reports. Readers wishing to explore the issues in
greater detail, should refer to the numerous excellent
studies on which this report is based.
This report is intended to be a basis for action. The
research results presented here represent a considerable
body of developing knowledge. As one would expect, however,
in an emerging area of scholarship in which little Canadian
research has been carried out, there are many lacunae. Where
the research appears to be reasonably conclusive, and is a
basis on which policy and program decisions can be made with
some empirically-based assurance, this is indicated.

There are issues where the extent of knowledge is not
conclusive. In these situations, the preferred option is
action-oriented research and development in the form of
experimental pilot projects or program changes with
appropriate monitoring and evaluative research to assess the
results and suggest required program or policy changes.
Finally, continued basic research of the sort carried out
for the preparation of this report is recommended.

1.7 A Note on Terminology

This area of study is typified by the uncertain use of
terminology. Some of the standard terminology found in the
social science literature is not found in popular discourse.
Terminology used in popular discourse carries uncertain
meanings. The purpose of this section is not to sort out the
terminology issue definitively, but to specify how
terminology will be used in this report.
Ethnic group: This is the most generic and basic term. It
refers to people who belong together in a group by virtue of
common descent and common characteristics which are
considered socially relevant. This quality of ethnicity may
be simultaneously defined by the members of the group and
imposed by the definitions and actions of others. Language,
religion, physical features such as skin colour, cultural
features such as distinctive manner of dress, occupation, or
place of origin are among the main characteristics which
singly or in combination may be the socially relevant
factors by which ethnicity is defined.

Ethnic group is a descriptive and not a normative term.
Quebecois, FrancoOntarians, and people of British origin can
properly be considered ethnic groups. Some are dominant and
some are subordinate; this is an aspect of intergroup
reactions discussed below.

It is important to come to terms with the concept of race.
In both professional and popular discourse, race has
biological connotations. However, social and biological
scientists eschew the term race as a useful basis for
distinguishing groupings of people. There are greater
"within group" differences than "between-group" differences
with regard to any human groups which might be ~ defined
socially as racially distinct. Thus, the term is not very
useful on technical grounds. However, the term is widely
used and understood in the popular culture to refer to
groups of people who have distinguishing skin colour and
other similar physical traits. The history and politics of
"racial" conflict, inequality, prejudice and discrimination
has great power in the popular culture.

The concept of race or racial group can easily be
encompassed by the more general term ethnicity. The specific
nature of ethnic relations which characterize the attitudes
between the nature of social interaction and the structured
social inequalities between ethnic groups, whatever their
defining characteristics, can vary greatly in time and
place. But in this time and place, race is important, and is
used often as distinct from ethnicity to connote a high
degree of intergroup conflict or a greater degree of
inequality between groups which are distinguished by skin
colour. At times, the terms race or racial group will appear
in this report with a meaning identical to ethnic group.

Minority: This term usually refers to limited social,
economic and political power. An ethnic group can be a
numerical minority and a power majority, as is the case with
the "white tribe" in South Africa (a term which is not
conventional in this part of the world). The term minority
may be combined with ethnicity. Ethnic minority refers to a
group defined in terms of one or more of the attributes
noted above, and existing in a condition of inequality with
regard to some other ethnic groups. This implies that the
dominant groups in Canadian society are also ethnic groups;
they are majority ethnic groups, often referred to as the
"charter groups," the English and the French.

Ethnocultural group: This term is used in this report and
elsewhere. It emphasizes the cultural characteristics which
differentiate ethnic groups, along with -other features. The
term seems to be more popular than ethnic group. The
popularity of this term may relate to the legitimacy and
popularity of encouraging cultural distinctiveness.
Ethnocultural minority is also used in the report.

Visible minority: This term is frequently used in Canada. It
refers to an ethnic group which is in a minority position
with respect to economic and political
power and is distinguishable by a visible characteristic.
This is most commonly skin colour, possibly combined with
other visually distinguishable features which render members
of the group vulnerable to discrimination upon immediate
visual contact.

Multicultural group: This term is not used in this report.
Multiculturalism refers to a policy of encouraging the
equality and full participation of all ethnic groups in all
aspects of the society, and of encouraging the preservation
of traditional aspects of culture among those who choose to
do so. A multicultural group is a misnomer in the sense in
which it is being discussed here. A multicultural society is
a correct usage.

Various social processes relating to ethnicity are mentioned
in the report. Integration is a process by which members of
immigrant ethnic groups in particular, but also possibly
minority indigenous ethnic groups, adapt, adjust or simply
become a part of the larger society. The term integration
implies acquiring the knowledge and skills required, and
participating equally in institutions of the society along
with people of other ethnic groups.

The term integration has to be understood as distinct from
assimilation, which refers to a process over time in which
members of subordinate ethnic groups adopt the
characteristics of the dominant ethnic group and become
indistinguishable from the members of the majority. Dominant
group conformity is the outcome of the process of

In the process of integration, people do assimilate in
various aspects and in varying degrees. At the same time, at
least some members of the ethnic group retain some aspects
of ethnicity -- cultural practices relating to religion or
the observance of festivals and events, ethnically
homogeneous social patterns relating to marriage or
friendships, or feelings of attachment to the group and its
history. Also, the institutions and popular culture of the
society changes from the point in time when the first
immigrants arrive, and continually changes as old immigrant
groups (which at certain points in time come to be perceived
as indigenous ethnic groups) continue to change and as new
groups arrive.

Assimilation has come to have an objectionable connotation
because of its presumed ideological component demanding
dominant group conforrnity as the price of equality, and
because it appears to distort the sociological reality of
persistence of aspects of traditional culture and the
emergence of new aspects of ethnicity in response to the
host society.

Ethnic pluralism: This term is used in the report to refer
to a social ordering in which certain elements of ethnic
group cultures, both traditional and emergent, remain vital
and functional aspects of society. There are many ways for
attitudes, values, behaviours, habits and customs of
immigrant groups to change in the direction of the dominant
institutions and groups. At the same time, however, the
institutions of society change in response to the presence
of the new ethnic groups. These changes take place in
response both to efforts to encourage adaptation and to
support retention of aspects of ethnic cultures by those who
wish to do so. The term ethnic pluralism is no less
ideological in content than assimilation. It reflects
objectives which reflect more contemporary concepts of
rights and social diversity.

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