6.19.2006

us and them

I had an interesting conversation with someone at work recently, and I'd like to hear your thoughts.

I'll preface this by emphasizing that the person I spoke with - we'll call her PA, for Person A - is not a bigot, not overtly racist, and seems open-minded. She grew up in Canada, and has traveled in many parts of the world.

I'll also say that my conversation with PA was not confrontational or adversarial at all. I mostly just listened, or gently offered my own perspective from my own experience.

PA said Canadians are "too easy-going," too unlikely to make a fuss when they should stand up for themselves. When I asked what she was referring to, it turned out to be about immigration and multiculturalism.

PA took pains to emphasize that she appreciates a multicultural society, that she believes it enriches everyone, that Canadian society is stronger and more interesting for its diversity. I believe her.

PA's central gripe went something like this. (I'll paraphrase.) "We welcome these people into our country, we go out of our way to make them feel comfortable and accepted and not second-class citizens, and that's as it should be, but then they turn around and tell us our customs and traditions are offensive, and we can't display the traditional symbols of our society."

When I probed further, she said (again, paraphrasing), "We respect everyone's right to celebrate their own religion and their own holidays and customs, but now people are telling me I can't have a Christmas tree? I'm sorry, that's going too far."

I gently offered that no one has told her she can't have a Christmas tree in her own home. Correct?

PA softened a little. Yes, that's true. No one is saying we can't have a Christmas tree at home. But we can't in school. In my child's school, we can't call it a Christmas tree, it can only be a holiday tree, for the winter holiday. There can't be any mention of Christmas, because it excludes the children who don't celebrate Christmas. Now how could anyone be offended by a Christmas tree?

Poor PA, she didn't know who she was sitting next to. I told her that as a Jewish person, and an atheist, I am not offended by other people's Christmas trees, but I was always bothered that there was a Christmas tree on the White House lawn, in a country that is not supposed to have an official religion - and that Christian symbolism in public places has been a source of discomfort and alienation for me.

PA said that when she was growing up, students stood and recited the [so-called] Lord's Prayer every morning, and the Jewish students left the room during that time. She said, "I never thought of them any differently, I never looked down on them."

I offered that, although she may not have looked down on the students who left the room, those students were singled out, made to feel different, and may indeed have felt unwelcome. They had to accommodate the majority. The majority religion was being practiced in public, taxpayer-funded space - rather than the public space being neutral, and each of us practicing religion in our own private space.

PA ignored this. She was very huffy and worked up that Canada "has gone too far," and has "allowed" "these people" too much leeway, without sticking up for "ourselves". Her main issue seems to be the Christmas tree, which she insists is not a religious symbol. She claims the Christmas tree is a neutral symbol of the winter holiday season. Yet she is incensed that her child's school says the tree must now be called a "winter holiday" tree. She is angry that her children can no longer sing Christmas carols in public school.

I pointed out that the Christmas tree is indeed, in our modern world, a religious symbol. If it truly were a neutral "winter holiday" tree, why would she have a problem with it being called a winter holiday tree?

(Please, no need to point out the pre-Christian, pagan roots of the Christmas tree, or how Christians in other eras condemned its use. It's true, but irrelevant.)

I asked PA if it would be ok with her if Muslim or Jewish parents brought religious symbols to school and asked all students to sing songs of their faiths. She said that in Canada, everyone is free to celebrate their own religious traditions, but that has no place in public school.

PA saw no irony in this.

She insisted that the Christmas tree is part of "how we've always lived" and should be seen and accepted as neutral. She said that her family has been in Canada for hundreds of years, and that part of her family is First Nations. (Again, no irony.) "We're not making them become Christian! But why shouldn't we be able to practice our religion the way we always have?"

We talked like this for a while. When the conversation threatened to become a little touchy, I tried to validate her concerns: "Your point of view is valid and should be listened to and respected." She said, "Well, that's the problem. Canadians don't speak up, so we just get walked on."

I segued into a different subject.

So to summarize: Multiculturalism is good, but "Canadian ways" are Christian. Christian symbols are the default setting, because that's the way it's always been. "We" have accommodated "them", but "they" cannot ask us to change our ways. Religion should not be in public school, but Christmas trees should be, because that's what "we've" always done.

So at what point do "they" become "us"? How many generations removed from immigration must someone be to be truly "us"? Could it be that unless one is nominally Christian, one will always be "them"? Chances are good that PA's child's classmates who are Muslim and Jewish are themselves Canadian citizens. Why are those children still "them", the ones who've been accommodated? Why is it so difficult for some people to grasp that Christian symbols are not universal?

42 comments:

James said...

A US court just ruled last week that "In God We Trust" is a secular phrase.

James said...

In some parts of Toronto, only a small fraction of the population is Christian. I wonder how PA would feel if the two or three Christians in a class were told to leave the room while the Buddhists meditated? Why shouldn't those Canadians be able to practice our religion the way they always have?

andrea said...

This is a pet topic of mine as I used to be an ESL teacher in the public school system. Multiculturalism is a hugely complex topic and at the end of the day, the PAs in the world just don't have the cognition to wrap around the problem. It has too many layers and tangents and the personal emotional overlay is usually too dense to penetrate. The whole concept of "dominant culture", the randomness of this in a country like Canada, and the effect it has on minority cultures is lost on those who have no ability to step away from their own highly-subjective viewpoint. I've finally given up on discussing this with anyone except those who have clearly thought it through intelligently rather than emotionally. It's that good feeling you get when you quit banging your head against the wall... :)

andrea said...

BTW what would PA say about Christmas and The Lord's Prayer at the last public school I taught at in Surrey, where 85% of the population are Punjabi-speaking Sikhs?

L-girl said...

It's that good feeling you get when you quit banging your head against the wall... :)

That's as good a summary of why I moved to Canada as any I've heard! :)

L-girl said...

And thanks, James and Andrea. Well stated.

James said...

Us:

Almost three-quarters of Torontonians aged 15 or older have direct ties to immigration. About one-half (52%) are themselves immigrants while another 22% are 2nd generation immigrants with at least one parent born outside of Canada. The remaining 26% of the Toronto population (aged 15 or older) is comprised of individuals who were born in Canada to two Canadian-born parents. (Source: Immigrants in Canada's Census Metropolitan Areas - Grant Schellenberg, Statistics Canada).

Them:

There is no such thing as "them". There is only "some of us" and "the rest of us".

L-girl said...

BTW what would PA say about Christmas and The Lord's Prayer at the last public school I taught at in Surrey, where 85% of the population are Punjabi-speaking Sikhs?

That they're taking over?

Seriously though, I'd like to ask her. But then again, I wouldn't like to talk to her about this again.

David Cho said...

Very good post. And in fact, I am working on a post on that very topic to be published around the 4th of July.

I asked PA if it would be ok with her if Muslim or Jewish parents brought religious symbols to school and asked all students to sing songs of their faiths

On a related note, I always use that argument when the topic of school vouchers comes up.

Is it okay if Muslims use the vouchers to send their kids to Islamic fundamentalist schools? They will say they will fight for a provision to exclude Islamic schools.

Okay. Then how about Jehovah's Witnesses? They claim to believe in Jesus? Is that okay?

They will exclude them as well. Then how about more "liberal" denominations which Christian fundamentalists consider just as bad as Muslims? Do you really want our lawmakers to argue over theological differences to determine which religious schools get vouchers and which aren't? And after all, aren't Muslims, liberal Christians and Jehovah's Witnesses taxpayers too?

I drive them nuts with these scenarios which are more realistic than they wish.

James said...

But then again, I wouldn't like to talk to her about this again.

Probably wise; there's a good chance you'd get complaints about kirpans in school and turbans in the Mounties.

James said...

They will exclude them as well. Then how about more "liberal" denominations which Christian fundamentalists consider just as bad as Muslims? Do you really want our lawmakers to argue over theological differences to determine which religious schools get vouchers and which aren't? And after all, aren't Muslims, liberal Christians and Jehovah's Witnesses taxpayers too?

Don't forget Catholics! Southern Baptists hate those Catholics.

Of course, the irony there is that Canada has state-sponsored Catholic schools...

I wonder what US Baptists think of Anabaptists these days, what with all that pacifism and stuff. :)

L-girl said...

Probably wise; there's a good chance you'd get complaints about kirpans in school and turbans in the Mounties.

She used the kirpan example to show how tolerant Canadians are. "We say it's ok for them to carry ceremonial daggers to school, and now they turn around and tell us our symbols are offensive?"

Note how all the "others" are lumped together as one big "they".

L-girl said...

I am working on a post on that very topic to be published around the 4th of July.

Be sure to tell me when it's up.

Canrane said...

You've really hit the nail on the head, Laura (as always). I've found that "Canadian ways" not only includes all things Christian, but all things British as well.

I've been accused of not respecting or understanding Canada, its tradtions, history, heritage etc. simply for not being in proper awe of the queen. Nevermind that even at its founding a significant portion of this country's population didn't give a flying fig about the queen.

For all our efforts, Canada is not truly multicultural yet. We have an abundance of tolerance, but acceptance is still hard to come by.

Until more people start to think like James ("some of us"/"rest of us"), we shouldn't pat ourselves on the back for a job well done as we have been doing.

James said...

She used the kirpan example to show how tolerant Canadians are. "We say it's ok for them to carry ceremonial daggers to school, and now they turn around and tell us our symbols are offensive?"

Ask her (should the opportunity force itself on you) how she'd feel if she was told students were forbidden to bring their crucifixes or rosaries to school. Or, conversely, that they were required to bring kirpans to school.

That's the big subtlety lost on most of these people: students are not forbidden to pursue their religions, the schools are forbidden from imposing any religions on the students. That's a huge difference.

Until more people start to think like James ("some of us"/"rest of us"), we shouldn't pat ourselves on the back for a job well done as we have been doing.

It's not done, but it's underway.

Here's an example of change: on the weekend I gave Laura a CD that included some old (1959/1963) Wayne & Shuster material, including their Christmas show for the Armed Forces. This show included the Minister of Defense (I think it was -- a Minister anyway) going on to the troops about the Prince of Peace. How's that for state-sanctioned religion? Fortunately, things have changed in the last 50 years, and will continue to change.

There's an old joke in the sciences that the single most important thing allowing science to progress is that old scientists die off. That applies to social change as well.

L-girl said...

That's the big subtlety lost on most of these people: students are not forbidden to pursue their religions, the schools are forbidden from imposing any religions on the students. That's a huge difference.

At first she said "they" were telling her she couldn't have a Christmas tree at all. Even though she knows that's not so. That's a good example of what Andrea said about dense personal and emotional thickets.

redsock said...

Do you think any of her anger is connected to the bizarre Fox News-fueled Help Save Christmas From Extinction movement in the US?

Have you guys up here ever really read or listened to these nuts? It is literally almost beyond belief. Fox anchor John Gibson recently wrote a book about it (The War On Christmas).

Scott M. said...

The funny thing is, with a publicly funded Catholic school system, PA has the ability to send her son or daughter to a school that does embrace Christmas and all things Christian.

Funny she hasn't taken advantage of that...

L-girl said...

Do you think any of her anger is connected to the bizarre Fox News-fueled Help Save Christmas From Extinction movement in the US?

I thought of that, but I doubt it. She didn't seem too knowledgeable about the US or US media.

Have you guys up here ever really read or listened to these nuts? It is literally almost beyond belief.

It is! It's truly Bizarro World. Think of it: Christmas being extinct in the US. You might as well say McDonald's, Wal-Mart, Microsoft and Starbucks are all going extinct, too.

L-girl said...

The funny thing is, with a publicly funded Catholic school system, PA has the ability to send her son or daughter to a school that does embrace Christmas and all things Christian.

I didn't get the feeling she is very religious. :/

So why is there a publicly funded Catholic school system anyway?

James said...

So why is there a publicly funded Catholic school system anyway?

So the Scots wouldn't scare the French & Irish away.

It was a compromise for Confederation. Upper Canada (Ontario) and Western Canada was mostly Scots and other Protestants. Lower Canada (Quebec) was mostly French (with some Irish) Catholics, and the Maritimes were Irish Catholic.

Quebec and the Maritimes wanted guarantees that they wouldn't have Protestant education forced on their children. Hence the guarantee that public education would be Protestant or Catholic. Except the Protestant education got more and more secular over time.

In the second Wingfield Farm play on the CD I gave you, there's a semi-tongue-in-cheek line about "general amnesty on Catholics" that occurs during the Harvest Festival, to give you a bit of the flavour.

Trivia note: Newfoundland's public school system was purely Catholic until a few years back.

L-girl said...

It was a compromise for Confederation.

Thanks. Interesting! Is it still relevant, in your opinion? (Anybody, everybody.)

htrouser said...

Person A is, as they say in England, a fuckwit.

Masnick96 said...

I guess the one thing I can take out of this exchange is the fact that you guys could have an exchange...

...in the US, I don't think the conversation would have lasted 30 seconds before the neo-con exploded all over you :-)

L-girl said...

Nick, that is an excellent point!

I was trying to put my finger on why PA really isn't a fuckwit or a bigot, even though I obviously disagree with her and am offended by some of her attitudes. And that's it. We were able to talk, and listen, and be civil to each other. How Canadian!

Tresy said...

Quite obviously Canadians are "standing up to being pushed around"--that's PA's problem. It's just that the "wrong" ones are doing the standing up. Or did I miss something, and there are two types of Canadians--the ones who moved here recently and the rest of us?

Really, if a Christmas tree is PA's best example of how Canadians are patsies, she needs to take a chill pill. Or, move to the US. There's a bull market in "white person victimization" down there, girlfriend. Play your cards right, and you can ride that milk train all the way to a 6-figure gig as a syndicated columnist. See John Leo et al.

L-girl said...

Quite obviously Canadians are "standing up to being pushed around"--that's PA's problem. It's just that the "wrong" ones are doing the standing up. Or did I miss something, and there are two types of Canadians--the ones who moved here recently and the rest of us?

Yes, that's more irony, isn't it? PA is using the word "Canadians" to mean the white, Christian people who were "here first". "Us". The people who are standing up for themselves, well, they're not really Canadians, right?

James said...

Thanks. Interesting! Is it still relevant, in your opinion?

Not really. The non-Catholic public school system isn't a Protestant system at this point, it's completely secular.

Which is an interesting point I've seen raised a few times: The US is one of the few developed countries not to have a state religion (Canada's state religion is the Church of England, and the Queen is the head of the Church), but the US is also one of the few developed countries that has real problems with religions in government (Moral Majority and all that).

The theory is that, in countries like Canada or England, the religious types are mollified by the existence of the state religion and so don't go into politics. In the US, they're offended by the lack of recognition and are constantly trying to change it.

The net result is that the countries with state religions are far more secular than the US without a state religion.

Lone Primate said...

Boy, yow, howdy, I missed out on a lot yesterday! Okay... let me weigh in with my initial impressions before I read everyone else's and get wishy-washy. :)

I'm in accord with what Laura is saying, though I wouldn't have been ten or fifteen years ago. I have a Christian background... very background, but Christian all the same... and I remember the Christmas pageants of childhood, back in the 1970s. They were beautiful, they were the emotional highlight of the year, and back then even the handful of non-Christian kids in our class participated. If anyone thought anything bad of it, I wasn't aware of it.

That said, I lament the loss of those public symbols, those feelings. But that's on a very subjective level. Objectively, I understand and acknowledge the reasons that they've passed into history. They were, and are, and imposition of personal spirituality into the public space, purely on the basis of force of numbers. Being the majority doesn't make you right, it just makes you part of the majority.

What I find most ironic is that many Christians don't appreciate how the forced homogeneity of the tenets of their faith actually cheapens it. To have some little seven-year-old Hindu girl mouth words in praise of the birth of Christ that have little or nothing to do with who she is or what she believes isn't just degrading to her, it's a mockery of Christian faith in particular, and the nature of faith in general. When we compel such displays of hypocrisy in the powerless, I'm reminded of words of 137th Psalm, third verse (yes, I had to look this up)... "For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion."

Christmas is there for those who want it. So is Chanukah, so is Ramadan, so is Chinese New Year, so St. Patrick's Day, so is the Pride Parade. Let's decide for ourselves who we are and how we celebrate that, and not have it forced upon us by one another. We hold our civil society in common, and that's enough.

Lone Primate said...

Canada's state religion is the Church of England

Ooookay, I was going to wink at errors on the ethnic and religious background of my native province, Nova Scotia (no... not Irish Catholic; generally Scots Presbyterian to the point that we had no Catholic school system whatsoever) and Newfoundland's public school system was not exclusively Catholic; it had both a Catholic and several different Protestant branches; what changed recently was a referendum let Newfoundland scrap school systems based on religion... But when you when you suggest Canada has a state religion, you're trampling on the Constitution.

The Crown in Canada and Crown in the United Kingdom are separate; in practice since Confederation and officially since the Statute of Westminster. The Church of England is the official church of England; it isn't even the official church of the rest of the United Kingdom. Far less is the Queen's role of head of England's state church official where her Canadian duties are concerned. Canada has not established an official religion and no province in Canada has established an official religion (in fact, the Church of England that was established in several colonies was disestablished at the time of Confederation), but if one might be said to exist, a far more practical candidate would be the Roman Catholic Church, which has more say in educational matters than any other.

Kyle_From_Ottawa said...

I've never quite understood the "persecution complex of the majority" thing.

You won't notice it as much in Toronto, but the whole French-English divide is very noticeable here in Ottawa, especially when it comes to government jobs that require the person to be bilingual. Numerous PA like people become outraged that the poor unilingual anglophone is being discriminated against, despite the fact that we're the majority and hardly suffering. Also not noted is the fact the government has 4 levels of "bilingual", and very few jobs require the "fluent" category. Most are A or B level, which are very rudimentary and shouldn't be too hard for most to achieve (especially since French is a mandatory subject up until Grade 9 here).

Lone Primate said...

...especially when it comes to government jobs that require the person to be bilingual. Numerous PA like people become outraged that the poor unilingual anglophone is being discriminated against..

It's a federal job in Ottawa. Man... if you don't want to get a handle on both official languages in this country, you have no business serving federally. No sympathy from me, and my French sure isn't up to it. Let's face it; the practicalities of life in Canada mean it's easier to go through life knowing only English than knowing only French, and that's why francophones figure prominently in federal positions. It's hardly their fault the rest of us are lazy, smug, and willfully ignorant.

L-girl said...

The theory is that, in countries like Canada or England, the religious types are mollified by the existence of the state religion and so don't go into politics. In the US, they're offended by the lack of recognition and are constantly trying to change it.

The net result is that the countries with state religions are far more secular than the US without a state religion.


I've heard this too. But can you even imagine a US with a state religion??? The mind boggles.

L-girl said...

It's a federal job in Ottawa. Man... if you don't want to get a handle on both official languages in this country, you have no business serving federally.

Exactly what I was going to say. It's a requirement of the job. You have it, you have a shot at the job. You don't have it, you're unqualified. Tough tooties.

L-girl said...

(Canada's state religion is the Church of England, and the Queen is the head of the Church),

Since when? Didn't that end when Canada became its own country?

L-girl said...

and I remember the Christmas pageants of childhood, back in the 1970s. They were beautiful, they were the emotional highlight of the year, and back then even the handful of non-Christian kids in our class participated. If anyone thought anything bad of it, I wasn't aware of it.

That's a big part of what I'm saying: you weren't aware of it. But why would you have been? You were busy enjoying yourself as part of the majority.

It's highly likely that those handful of non-Christian kids, although they participated, had discomfort, possibly fear, stress, maybe issues at home, over it. To a little Jewish kid, stuff associated with Jesus can be very scary. Take my word for it.

Lone Primate said...

Since when? Didn't that end when Canada became its own country?

I believe that Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Upper Canada (Ontario) all established the Church of England at some point in their colonial history, but all of them had disestablished it by the time of Confederation. There's no state church anywhere in Canada today, and the Queen's job as head of the Church of England is constitutional only within England and a few small adjacent islands. But certainly not here. As far as I know, there's no absolute constitutional prohibition in Canada from establishing a state religion, but it's obviously well beyond practicality at this juncture in our history.

impudent strumpet said...

A small story:

I was raised to be Catholic. (If you're interested in why, follow the self-contracdictions in this story to their logical conclusion.) However, my parents weren't happy with the way the Catholic schools in our area were run, so they sent me to public school.

In my first years of public school, up to and including Grade 3, we sang O Canada in the morning, and then said the Lord's Prayer.

In the Catholic church, the Lord's Prayer ends with the line "Deliver us from evil." However, the version we said in school continued with the lines "For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever, amen."

I was the only Catholic in the class (Catholic schools being readily available, most other Catholic kids went there), so no one else seemed to realize what the problem was. This was especially confusing because I didn't yet understand the concept of denominations, or of separate Catholic schools for that matter. I assumed the kids in my Cathechism class just went to different schools - I didn't understand that their school was religious - so they didn't seem to have this problem.

It was also a great moral crisis for me. At that age, I honestly believed that if I was bad I'd go to hell. So if I prayed wrong by adding the extra lines, I'd go to hell. If I skipped the extra lines, I'd be being bad by not saying all the stuff I was supposed to say, so I'd go to hell. I would dream at night that I was falling and it was getting hotter and hotter, which is quite scary when you're six or seven years old.

In Grade 4, we stopped saying the Lord's Prayer in school. We were never told why, it was never a big deal, we just went from O Canada straight to morning announcements.

At that time, I still identified as Catholic (or, more specifically, Christian, since I still didn't understand the concept of denominations). I always thought of our morning Lord's Prayer as part of "my religion", and if I'd understood the concept of culture at the time I would have thought of it as part of "my culture", but after it left, I didn't feel like I was missing anything. I was a tiny bit more comfortable because I didn't have that daily reminder that I was going to hell (although I didn't explicitly think "Wow, I'm glad we don't have to do that any more"), but overall it didn't make a difference. What I perceived to be my religion was still as much a part of my life as ever, at home, in church, and in my own inner life.

As a self-identified Christian, I did not find that the presence of the prayer (or, indeed, our yearly Christmas carol concert) added anything to my school experience, made me feel more like I belonged, or were in any way helpful or productive. I did identify with all these things, they just didn't add anything to my school experience, and were not missed when they were gone.

As a closet Other (i.e. a Catholic, although I didn't know the difference at the time), these things all made me vaguely uncomfortable, even though I had no idea why (and thought I identified them), and their absence brought about a slight, vague, unarticulated relief.

Wrye said...

It was a compromise for Confederation.

Thanks. Interesting! Is it still relevant, in your opinion? (Anybody, everybody.)


There were many compromises, and I think they're all still relevant. Confederation was more recent than, for example, the American Civil War. The effects of these things linger, big and small, profound and not. BC got a railroad, and PEI got four MPs. Alberta got the mounties to come around and make them stop drinking and they've resented it ever since.

Anyway, I think that the founding protestantism of Canada was diluted within the culture early on to a degree that the more regionalized Catholicism wasn't until very recently.

A good analogy is English Canada and French Canada. In the beginning, those phrases meant ethnically British and French, but over time immigration changed English Canada into merely English speaking Canada. I'm Irish Slovak, my children will be Columbian and British as well, and that's perfectly normal. Quebec's going through the same process now. Your modern Francophone Quebecois is almost as likely to be from outside Quebec as not.

I think Canada has internalized certain social values (equality, charity, the social contract) that are Christian but also not solely Christian--and these aren't about to go away. If Christmas trees need to withdraw from the public square slightly, or become more generic, then I think we'll all take that trade. We're not about to see any battles over putting the ten commandments in Parliament, no matter how many political missionaries make their way up here. This is where people come to escape religious wars, after all.

I also think the official association of religion with the State eventually leads to religion being treated with the same cynicism as government. State Catholicism in Newfoundland or Quebec had a longer run than Protestantism elsewhere, but no more, and in all likelihood never again. (See also, .The Quiet Revolution or Mount Cashel) It's the best theory I've heard that explains why Canada is becoming less religious even as the US seems to become more evangelical.

L-girl said...

Thanks, Wrye. Great stuff.

M@ said...

One small note about Catholic schools, at least in Ontario: because they are fully funded by the province, any student, regardless of their religion, can attend them. The courses are all part of the provincial curriculum (although the religion courses are, in practice, heavily skewed towards the Catholic faith).

I guess the biggest difference is that you'd have a lot of non-instructional crap to deal with (e.g. school masses in the gym -- wow, do I ever NOT miss those!). A non-Catholic student could probably make the case that classroom time should not be lost to that kind of malarkey, but I doubt it would go very far.

I in fact had a non-Catholic friend at high school and I don't think he had any problems being in the minority. The Catholic system was a lot better for some subjects than the public system, that's for sure.

Hannah said...

This topic is complicated as some of the posts have said!

I'm from the UK and I think PA's thoughts are very present here and before reading these discussions I think I was of similar views. BUT its right to say that excepting everyone from different backgrounds and religions and not seeing things as US and THEM is essential to a positive community spirit.

Laura said-

Multiculturalism is good, but "Canadian ways" are Christian. Christian symbols are the default setting, because that's the way it's always been. "We" have accommodated "them", but "they" cannot ask us to change our ways. Religion should not be in public school, but Christmas trees should be, because that's what "we've" always done.

It is the same in England, Christianity is default! We grow up with it. Maybe multiculturalism should be taught more in schools here..... Not just taught about different religions but how these religions build up the community inwhich we live.

Theres soo much I could say but I won't go on! Great reading this.

Hannah