The acceleration of the global movement of populations has led many thinkers and policy makers to search for ideas that describe how social unity can be reconciled with growing diversity. This is a challenge that Canada has encountered since the earliest days of this country, when French, English, and Indigenous inhabitants negotiated treaties and arrangements. In some cases, these offered examples of how many nations could peacefully co-exist in the same land. Today, the diversity of Canadian society has increased exponentially, and yet we are still thinking and talking about how to achieve cohesion and social integration in a way that does not insist on uniformity or the domination of one culture over the others.
Many thoughtful commentators have contributed to a discussion about how to harmonize social unity with cultural diversity. Some have turned to “ordinary virtues,” such as tolerance, forgiveness, trust, and resilience, as a moral vocabulary that can help to achieve this necessary relationship. Others have called for people to develop a new sense of imagination, so that we can find common ground with people of all backgrounds, without pigeonholing them by culture, race, gender, or class.
In societies that are diverse in manifold ways, there is a need to search for new foundations of human solidarity. Those who were once foreigners are, by virtue of migration, now neighbours, schoolmates, and colleagues.
In societies that are diverse in manifold ways, there is a need to search for new foundations of human solidarity. Those who were once foreigners are, by virtue of migration, now neighbours, schoolmates, and colleagues. Social mixing challenges previously accepted distinctions based on nation, race, and ethnicity that have long divided humanity. Yet it also transforms prejudice into more multifaceted, less blatant forms. The practice of simply affirming the value of cultural differences, while sometimes essential to correct for past injustice, is often insufficient in a new environment that presents challenging questions. What can be done to promote the creation of genuine bonds of friendship between people, so that sympathy and affection for one another can foster genuine understanding and mutual recognition? How can we be aided to develop greater liberality and broad-mindedness in our thinking? How can we cultivate attitudes of forbearance so that we show patience when confronted with habits and customs that challenge our sensibilities? What can be done to nurture closer ties of trust, cooperation, and reciprocity among neighbours and citizens? These questions have no easy answers, but posing them leads to us to inquire more deeply into the thoughts, attitudes, and practices that are needed to foster genuine solidarity among a diverse population.
Despite the many benefits of Canadian multiculturalism as a discourse and set of policies, there is a clear need to further clarify the principles that can help societies to maintain unity in the context of their growing diversity.
The search for a new framework to help guide the development of increasingly diverse societies is a process and discourse that will continue into the foreseeable future. Despite the many benefits of Canadian multiculturalism as a discourse and set of policies, there is a clear need to further clarify the principles that can help societies to maintain unity in the context of their growing diversity. It is doubtful that a simple reassertion of liberal principles or national customs will be a sufficient response to this social challenge. Instead, what is needed is a discourse on the principles and values that will build stronger bonds among people, characterized by trust and mutual respect. This discourse can help us to discover how to live and prosper in rapidly changing and evolving societies – societies that are not disconnected from each other but are informed by the pressures of history that draw us ever closer together in world-wide network of human solidarity.
Other areas of focus
The Bahá’í community’s efforts to contribute to social progress include participation in the discourses of society in a range of spaces and venues. Whether as individuals, or in official capacities, Bahá’ís work with others to transform society and further the cause of unity, promote human welfare, and promote greater solidarity. Below are found short perspectives and other resources that reflect the contributions of the Bahá’í community to issues of enduring importance to Canadian society.