Interculturalism: what is it?

As I blogged recently, the youth wing of the Quebec Liberals is said to be moving away from multiculturalism, much to the delight of Mathieu Bock-Côté, who continues to believe in a legendary golden age when everyone in Montreal spoke only French and shared a single culture. I read somewhere (will find link) that multiculturalism was never the Quebec Liberals’ official line anyway: it was more that they assented without discussion to the federal line on the matter.

It’s not only the youth wing: Gaétan Barrette is quoted as being on side with the more nationalist side of the party now.

Le Devoir’s definition of the term interculturalism is interesting: “l’interculturalisme […] reconnaît la « présence, au Québec, d’un groupe majoritaire francophone » et l’existence d’une « culture commune [qui] doit servir de socle pour l’intégration des immigrants », la culture québécoise étant « source de cohésion sociale ». In other words, we’re all equal, but some are more equal than others.

The Wikipedia entry on interculturalism defines it thus: “Interculturalism involves moving beyond mere passive acceptance of a multicultural fact of multiple cultures effectively existing in a society and instead promotes dialogue and interaction between cultures.” It goes on to say that multiculturalism was criticized because it “failed to create inclusion of different cultures within society, but instead divided society by legitimizing segregated separate communities that have isolated themselves and accentuated their specificity.”

So far so good. But nothing in the standard definitions goes so far as to say that interculturalism means everyone agrees there’s a single dominant culture, precious and most important, and that everyone needs to agree on preserving it, even the sacrifice of their own. It’s more that there’s a negotiation among equals to arrive at a new collective culture. But does that ever work out in practicality?

Update: Le Devoir says the Liberals’ nationalist swerve is only moderate. Also this weekend, an amusing story about sloppy French coming from none other than Simon Jolin-Barrette’s ministry.