Canada is often considered a multicultural mosaic, welcoming to immigrants and encouraging of cultural diversity. Yet this reputation masks a more complex history. In this groundbreaking study of the pre-history of Canadian multiculturalism, Daniel Meister shows how the philosophy of cultural pluralism normalized racism and the entrenchment of whiteness.
The Racial Mosaic demonstrates how early ideas about cultural diversity in Canada were founded upon, and coexisted with, settler colonialism and racism, despite the apparent tolerance of a variety of immigrant peoples and their cultures. To trace the development of these ideas, Meister takes a biographical approach, examining the lives and work of three influential public intellectuals whose thoughts on cultural pluralism circulated widely beginning in the 1920s: Watson Kirkconnell, a university professor and translator; Robert England, an immigration expert with Canadian National Railways; and John Murray Gibbon, a publicist for the Canadian Pacific Railway. While they all proposed variants of the idea that immigrants to Canada should be allowed to retain certain aspects of their cultures, their tolerance had very real limits. In their personal, corporate, and government-sponsored works, only the cultures of "white" European immigrants were considered worthy of inclusion.
On the fiftieth anniversary of Canada's official policy of multiculturalism, The Racial Mosaic represents the first serious and sustained attempt to detail the policy's historical antecedents, compelling readers to consider how racism has structured Canada's settler-colonial society.
About the author
Daniel R. Meister is an independent scholar.
"An excellent book. The Racial Mosaic has forced me to rethink multiculturalism's historical, racial, and even eugenic roots. Although there is a lot of scholarship on multiculturalism, this is the first serious and sustained attempt to historicize one of Canada's defining policies." Donald Wright, University of New Brunswick and author of Canada: A Very Short Introduction