Interculturalism and the Question of National Identity in Québec

Tuesday, 12 July 2016
Location: Hörsaal 07 (Main Building)
Distributed Paper
Ian MORRISON, The American University in Cairo, Egypt
Since at the introduction of La politique québécoise du développement culturelin 1978, a succession of governments in Québec have sought to develop a model of pluralism that explicitly rejects both the American model of an assimilationist melting pot and the Canadian model of multiculturalism in favour of a policy of integration. Québec's model of integration, which would come to be labelled interculturalism, is based on two main principles. First, integration is defined as a long-term process culminating in the ability of immigrants to participate fully in, and develop a feeling of belonging to Québec society. Central to this is a mastery of the French language, enabling the participation of all citizens in public life. Second, interculturalism is to be guided by a moral contract which outlined the rights and responsibilities of Québécois of all origins, and the relationship between immigrants and the host society. As such, the limits of pluralism are defined by the boundaries of the fundamental values of Québec society.  

The institution of policies of interculturalism has coincided with, and revealed the complexity of an attempt to develop a civic conception of the Québéc nation. Since the early 1990s a series of controversies related to the integration of migrants has led to a renewed concern about what the inclusion of migrants into a reconfigured sense of nation means for a national project. While some nationalists have argued that interculturalism undermines the particular identity of the Quebec nation through de-ethnicisation and what they consider a reduction of Quebec identity to one based solely on language, others argue that interculturalism fails to provide a means for genuine integration and belonging, as it is founded upon the history and values of a particular ethnic group.  It is this relationship between interculturalism and nationalism that this paper will examine.