Invitation to multiculturalism

Oakville, Ontario

In Michael Hoffman’s Oct. 21 article ” ‘Only immigrants can save Japan,’ ” Hidenori Sakanaka is quoted as saying: “A new Japanese civilization will realize a multi-ethnic community, which no nation has ever achieved, and, in due course, it will stand out as one of the main pillars of world civilization.”

I would invite Sakanaka to look at Toronto.

I am Canadian by birth and grew up in a small community that was just as homogeneous as Japan (97.5 percent being Irish Catholic, never mind “white”). From my childhood until today, I have traveled frequently to the United States, both on business and as a tourist (my mother being an American citizen), and 17 years ago I moved to Toronto, which is perhaps the most successfully multicultural city in the world.

In America, there is a high number of foreign immigrants, but as he alluded to, it isn’t the most successful merging of American and foreign societies. In all of the U.S. cities I have been to, foreign communities live in enclaves, usually with clearly defined borders. Immigrants are strongly encouraged to forgo their native culture and adopt “traditional” American social values. This causes a lot of stress.

The unique aspect of Toronto, and the reason I invite Sakanaka to visit and study it, is that the borders between our diverse cultural centers are far less well-defined. You can easily find the centers of Little Italy, China Town, Little India and so on, but they bleed almost seamlessly into the rest of the city.

Immigrants to Canada in general, and to Toronto in particular, are not expected to abandon their traditional culture. I think this is the secret to successful immigration policy.

Instead, immigrants are taught about our core values. These values are not negotiable and must be respected in order for an immigrant to be welcomed into Canadian society. Examples being: equality between men and women, lack of class- and wealth-based access to public resources and respect for others. If an immigrant agrees to live by these foundation principles, they are welcome in Canada.

I believe that this combination of respect for the traditions of immigrant cultures, mixed with the demand to honor Canadian values, provides a very successful “meet in the middle” approach to immigration.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

madison kelly