Canada’s best source for informed, lively commentary and
analysis on the issues facing the country — and the world.



The perils of Gérard Bouchard’s interculturalism

Gérard Bouchard, L’Interculturalisme: Un point de vie québécois. Montreal: Boréal, 2012. 286 pages.

A review by Pierre Joncas

21According to Quebec historian-sociologist Gérard 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 québécois, 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.

To see the full text of Inroads articles on the web you must Login as, or Register to become, an Online subscriber.

Existing print subscribers should Register and select Existing Subscriber option. We will manually verify your account and then activate it accordingly.

Limited Time Invitation: Register for a free 30 day access to the full text of current and back issues.

About the Author

Pierre Joncas
Pierre Joncas is a retired federal civil servant and the author of Les accommodements raisonnables: Entre Hérouxville et Outremont.


Be the first to comment!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *