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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 2 .

Finding Our Way: Rethinking Ethnocultural Relations in Canada
Will Kymlicka

(Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998).
220pp. Index. Pb.: ISBN 0-19-541314-8.

Will Kymlicka's latest contribution, Finding Our Way: Rethinking Ethnocultural relations in Canada, builds upon his earlier, path-breaking work. This new book will disappoint those seeking new intellectual departures. However, as the author notes at the outset, his motive is more 'practical' than 'theoretical.'

The work marks a new stage in Kymlicka's engagement with Canadian public policy in three separate, but related ways. First of all, the book's style and compactness are explicitly designed for a non-specialist audience. Second, it displays a marked attempt to distance itself from more radical, oppositionalist writing on multiculturalism. In this way, Kymlicka is positioning himself as a voice of the centre-left, seeking to engage with a skeptical English-Canadian public that is increasingly hostile to the claims of multiculturalism. Accordingly, the book seeks to converse with two high-profile, articulate critics of Canada's multiculturalism policy, Neil Bissoondath and Richard Gwyn, both of whom recently excoriated multiculturalism as a divisive ideology.

Kymlicka agrees that their sentiments, which reflect those of the majority of native-born Canadians, are not entirely unfounded. For example, Kymlicka accepts the charge that Canada's political and cultural elites have used the stick of white guilt to suppress debate on the multiculturalism issue and have failed to reassure anglophone Canadians as to where the limits of the policy lie. (pp. 66-8) Yet Kymlicka rejects most of the criticism of the multiculturalism policy as empirically untenable. As evidence, he cites the fact that multiculturalism's record at promoting the integration of ethnic groups is impressive - better than in countries which have failed to adopt the policy and better than used to be the case before the adoption of the Canadian policy in 1971.

The volume is divided into two parts, corresponding to the author's familiar distinction between immigrant and national minorities. Kymlicka defends multiculturalism as appropriate for immigrant groups, while multinational federalism is endorsed for national groups. In light of the populist/elitist and regional/federal tensions within anglophone Canada, however, one may ask whether Kymlicka's assessment of that nation's pan-Canadian attachment rings true. If not, the path to Canadian unity may lie more in the direction of cultivating a nascent English-Canadian national identity than in refining multi-nationalist federal strategies - whose soundness has already been demonstrated by the likes of Laforest and McRoberts.

Notwithstanding such criticism, Kymlicka's conclusions are sensible and his style accessible, hence this book is recommended for specialist and non-specialist alike.

Eric Kaufmann
University of Southampton

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