TORONTO — Salim Mansur is an immigrant who questions open immigration; a member of a visible minority who’s a fierce critic of multiculturalism, and a Muslim who’s pained by criticism of his prophet but who would never contemplate penalizing someone for their words.
Last week, the native of India delivered an impassioned defence of individual rights and Enlightenment values while denouncing multiculturalism’s collectivist mindset that would put group rights ahead of the individual.
Canada should rid itself of the policy of multiculturalism, which “is based on the fatuous assertion that all cultures are equal,” he told about 50 people at a lunchtime address sponsored by Advocates for Civil Liberties and the Canadian Jewish Civil Rights Association.
Mansur, a professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario and a newspaper columnist, recently published Delectable Lie: A Liberal Repudiation of Multiculturalism.
The principle of multiculturalism was from its inception, “based on flawed logic and bad faith,” he said. Canadian values derive from the Enlightenment’s stress on individual rights. “Multiculturalism comes in and is the acid that eats into it.”
Bringing an academic’s analytical tools to bear on the issue, Mansur said the idea of multiculturalism arose during the 1960s – a troubled decade in which the Cold War was heating up, race relations were hostile, cities were burning, political leaders were being assassinated and students led a revolt in Paris. Following two world wars and anti-colonial struggles, western intellectuals and political leaders “lost their sense of conviction about their own history.”
Responding to this “crisis of the spirit” they promoted the idea that all cultures were equal.
It was a view that was barely questioned – in certain circles. “To be progressive at the time, the idea was to trash your own culture and civilization,” Mansur stated.
Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau introduced the concept into Canadian law in 1971, and support for multiculturalism spread to other western democracies. But in the last year, the leaders of France, Germany, Britain and Holland have all questioned its merits, and the Canadian public has never been as enthusiastic for it as have the country’s political and media elite, Mansur said.
“Forty years later, you can see how utterly weak those arguments were… How is the culture of the Taliban equal, when you consider how they discriminate against women and other religions?”
If support for multiculturalism continues unabated, Mansur predicted a vastly different Canada. “Fifty years from now, if all cultures are equal why not have sharia (Islamic) law in Canada” or Sikh or Hindu law for people of those backgrounds, he asked.
Today, “judges are confused,” human right commissions try to stifle free speech and students feel stifled on university campuses, he said.
The antidote to multiculturalism is promoting Canada’s own intellectual heritage. “Liberal democracy itself is a culture. It’s not some fuzzy idea. It is a culture that emanates through five centuries of historical struggle.” It places “man as the measure of all things” and the liberal struggle is the struggle for individual freedom, he said.
Adding to the “bad logic” that substituted group rights for individual ones was the “bad faith” approach by politicians who saw multiculturalism as a means to gain favour with hyphenated Canadians, Mansur said.
He called for repeal of Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act, which regulates online hate speech.
And he urged the audience to “respect and engage each other as individuals” and to advance traditional Canadian values of individual rights in their own corner of the world.