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Ethnocentrism and Canada Alexander Harris 3285053 SOCI 1503 Vanda Rideout January 31, 2013

Culture, like a coin, has two faces. On one end it is a means to freedom, a way for people to express themselves, on the other hand it can also constrain society by reducing individualism. Society often takes culture for granted so that when individuals come face to face with different cultures they see them as strange and lesser. An example of this can be seen in the worship of cows in the Hindu culture in India. Hindu peasants refuse to consume the beast and go to great lengths to ensure its survival and health. Practically, cows provide relatively cheap fertilization, and to lower castes that are allowed to consume the beast, a source of nourishment and employment. When seen through the eyes of a westerner the worship of the animal could be perceived as backwards and counterproductive, this is ethnocentrism (Brym, 2007, pp. 67-69). Canada is leading the world in cultural diversity, as many as one in three Canadians by 2031 will be visible minorities (Brym, 2007, p.71). This level of diversity has led to cultural relativism. Cultural relativism equates all cultures together, and can lead to conflicts when customs are at odds with one another (72). On the other hand, increasing cultural diversity leads to globalization as members of a distinct culture have access to many other cultural identities and are less likely to accept the cultures to which they were born into (Brym, 2007, p.74). This influx of new cultures leads to the expansion of democracy, resulting in the rights revolution to abolish discrimination of excluded groups. Furthermore, Canadians are encouraged to combine the traditions of cultures they choose, this is Postmodernism, which in turn increases tolerance of other traditions (Brym, 2007, p.76). Culture can also constrain individuals, through concepts such as rationalisation. Phones and clocks are a way to increase efficiency by constantly having individuals connected to others in the world and aware of their time but at the same time limit an individual's choice (Brym, 2007, p.80). Additionally people now define themselves based on their purchases, with the emergence

of subcultures and the desire to fit in to them, consumerism restricts individuality (Brym, 2007, p.82). Canadians as a society considers themselves multicultural. Multiculturalism suggests that no official culture exists within Canada, and that no religion, culture, or language takes precedence over another. Federally this was mandated with the Multiculturalism Act of 1988 (Brym, 2007, p.71). To many Canadians this is a source of pride and strength. Despite this, ethnocentrism does exist within Canada and is not only aimed at individuals who are currently residing in foreign countries but also at individuals living in our own backyards. The fact is that while Canadians pride themselves on being multicultural, assumptions and judgments are made towards other cultures daily based solely on the fact that Canadians have differing values. Language is a major component of culture, it influences the way we think and perceive the world. As language is such a large part of culture, it stands to reason that within a multicultural society, all languages are equal. However, in Canada, English and French are the only official languages. This has a direct effect on the value of other languages, as federal services are only rendered in the official ones. This is an example of ethnocentrism as Canada cannot claim to be multicultural while at the same time expect all the individuals in Canada from foreign cultures to conform to one or both of the official languages in order to function within society. Religion is the expression of culture with regards to morality and spirituality and to many cultures the gauge to which an individual achieves maturity. If the multicultural act of 1988 extends to religion, than no religion in Canada can take precedence over another. However, in Canadian society, an emphasis is placed on Christian traditions. These traditions range from Sunday as a day of rest to the national holidays of Christmas and Easter. No such national

recognition is given to Jewish, Muslim or any other religions traditions. In this way Canada is ethnocentric as the religious values of one culture are being considered more important and relevant that the religious values of others. The education system in Canada has a responsibility to instruct Canada's youth on the cultural backgrounds that are present in the country. However, it is impossible to teach each culture equally and therefore certain cultures, primarily European based, receive the most exposure. This contradicts the notion that one culture may not take precedence over another in the multicultural Canadian society while at the same time highlighting that even the Canadian education system is ethnocentric. Without a doubt Canada is culturally diverse, however that does not mean Canadians are multicultural. Ethnocentrism; present in our holidays, weekends, government services, and education system demonstrate that Canadians are not culturally relative or entirely multicultural. In order to become the utopian multicultural society Canada claims to be, large reforms in the way of cultural inclusion on the government level must occur.

Works Cited
Brym, Roberts, Lie, & Rytina. (2007). SociologyY: Your Compass for a New World. Toronto: Thomson Nelson.