The perils of Gerard Bouchard's interculturalism.

Author:Joncas, Pierre
Position::L'lnterculturolisme: Un point de vie quebecois - Critical essay

Gerard Bouchard, L'lnterculturolisme: Un point de vie quebecois. Montreal: Boreal, 2012. 286 pages.


According to Quebec historian-sociologist Gerard Bouchard, interculturalism and multiculturalism are fundamentally different. Multiculturalism ascribes equal merit to all cultures and value systems, and denies special status regardless of size or seniority. Interculturalism acknowledges that, while all cultures are entitled to consideration and respect, size and seniority must be taken into account.

In L'Interculturalisme: Un point de vie quebecois, Bouchard argues that interculturalism fosters concord specifically in those Western liberal nations which, since the middle of the 20th century, have experienced large-scale immigration from countries rooted in non-Western religious and other beliefs. Under interculturalism, according to Bouchard, cultures interact to their mutual enrichment and give birth to a transcending common culture. By mere force of numbers, the majority contributes most to shaping the new, common culture. Interaction, he says, doesn't suppress minority cultures; rather, it promotes common ground where disagreements can be smoothed and contentious issues resolved.

In Quebec, which is Bouchard's main concern, the common culture

is formed of two great components. The first includes prescriptive elements, primarily French as the civic and public language, and values and standards which, being written into the charter and laws, bind all citizens ... The second is made of standards and models corresponding to widely shared, but non-codified, values (solidarity, personal autonomy, mutual respect, a sense of the common weal, respect for the past, public-spiritedness, etc.). Through the common culture, he claims, interculturalism integrates minorities; it doesn't assimilate them. Bouchard argues that it is false

to assert that interculturalism creates a majority-minority relationship ... It neither creates nor fosters such a relationship, but must take it into account, owing to the simple fact that it weighs heavily on life between cultures, and structures a great deal of thinking about Quebec diversity. Further, interculturalism "seeks to negotiate the majority-minority relationship so it won't evolve into an us/them cleavage and lead to tensions liable to give rise to discrimination and exclusion."

I'm not persuaded. Bouchard argues that, in troubled times (he cites the 2005-08 "accommodations crisis"), intellectuals, administrators and elected officials...

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