Values-based citizenship, multiculturalism and US media coverage of Canada

December 12th, 2007 | 1 Comment

As much as we perversely crave it, it’s not often that Canada attracts coverage in the US media. Unfortunately, most of the recent attention is based on two negative stories.

The first, the shutdown of a Canadian nuclear reactor at Chalk River producing vital and very short-lived diagnostic isotopes, got the natural attention of both television and print reporting. No surprise that Canada was ‘risking the health of Americans’, although the suggestions by some that the US could no longer be dependent on foreign isotope suppliers was a bit rich – coming from the energy-hungry Americans.

The second story is far more important in the longer term as we debate the perpetual Canadian question of who we are. AOL today ran the Reuters headline “Dad allegedly kills girl over head scarf” right up there with "Britney Spears baring it all – again". I certainly do not want to make light of this tragic event. It speaks to the developing tension between a values-based citizenship and the older multiculturalism Canadians have been at pains to protect at any cost. Although none of the facts have been proved, the girl’s father has been charged with murder and the suggestion is that her desire to lead a ‘Canadian’ lifestyle in opposition to her parents’ devout religious approach may have served as the motive for the murder. That such issues can lead to estrangement within families is not surprising. Who among us is not aware of someone who has been ostracized for joining another faith or marrying into another religion? Disappointment, frustration and anger are possible and understandable outcomes. I know of stories where parents figuratively sat as mourners for having ‘lost’ a child because of that child’s religious decision. But that choice of families – to associate or not among themselves – is figurative and personal response. Depriving someone of their life for any act of disassociation is alien to me and in a real sense un-Canadian. The principles that underpin our citizenship include tolerance, civil discourse and respect for each individual. Maybe it is not enough to teach that in the schools. We need to reinforce it as part-and-parcel of civics training related to coming to our country.

The other challenging outcome of this story is the broad reinforcement of negative stereotypes about different ethnic and religious groups. A true lose-lose situation. And a tragedy for us all. 

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 12th, 2007 at 2:15 pm and is filed under Citizenship, Media, Multiculturalism. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Values-based citizenship, multiculturalism and US media coverage of Canada”

  1. Steve Paikin Says:

    Just reading your blog for the first time, Hershell. A fine addition to the online world. May I add that if your readers are interested in more on this subject, they can visit and follow the links to The Agenda, where we’ve archived many of our programs on this very controversial issue.

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