8.2.2 Multiculturalism Policies

Arjun Tremblay

Although Sweden, Australia, the Netherlands, and Canada have all implemented a national-level multiculturalism policy, the vast majority of liberal democracies have not. Does this mean that these democracies do not recognize and accommodate minority societal cultures? The Multiculturalism Policy Index (MPI) developed by researchers at Queen’s University provides an answer to this question. The MPI is based in large part on Will Kymlicka’s categorization of group-differentiated rights for polyethnic minorities, Indigenous peoples, and national minorities. Using this categorization as a starting point, the MPI identifies 23 “multiculturalism policies” (MCPs) that governments can employ to recognize, protect and preserve minority cultures and, in the case of immigrant (i.e., polyethnic) minorities, to make the integration process fairer. Table 8.6 below highlights the 23 MCPs outlined in the MPI.

Table 8.6 The Multiculturalism Policy Index

  Immigrant Minorities
1. Constitutional, legislative or parliamentary affirmation of multiculturalism at the central and/or regional and municipal levels and the existence of a government ministry, secretariat or advisory board to implement this policy in consultation with ethnic communities.
2. The adoption of multiculturalism in school curriculum.
3. The inclusion of ethnic representation / sensitivity in the mandate of public media or media licensing.
4. Exemptions from dress codes (either by statute or court cases).
5. Allowing of dual citizenship.
6. The funding of ethnic group organizations or activities.
7. The funding of bilingual education or mother-tongue instruction.
8. Affirmative action for disadvantaged immigrant groups.
  Indigenous Peoples
1. Recognition of land rights/title.
2. Recognition of self-government rights.
3. Upholding historic treaties and/or signing new treaties.
4. Recognition of cultural rights (language; hunting/fishing).
5. Recognition of customary law.
6. Guarantees of representation/consultation in the central government.
7. Constitutional or legislative affirmation of the distinct status of indigenous peoples.
8. Support/ratification for international instruments on indigenous rights.
9. Affirmative action.
  National Minorities
1. Federal or quasi-federal territorial autonomy.
2. Official language status, either in the region or nationally.
3. Guarantees of representation in the central government or on constitutional courts.
4. Public funding of minority language universities/schools/media.
5. Constitutional or parliamentary affirmation of 'multinationalism.'
6. According international personality (e.g., allowing the substate region to sit on international bodies).

Source: Queen's University. (2021). Multiculturalism policy index. http://www.queensu.ca/mcp/. Accessed 22 Mar. 2021.

The two main aims of the MPI are to “[monitor] the evolution of multiculturalism policies in 21 Western democracies” and “to provide information about multiculturalism policies in a standardized format that aids comparative research and contributes to the understanding of state-minority relation” (Queen’s University, 2021). The MPI provides a score of “1” for an MCP if it has been fully adopted, a score of “0.5” if it has been partially adopted, and a score of “0” if the policy has not been adopted. Table 8.7 below highlights the 16 countries[1] without a national-level multiculturalism policy (i.e., without the “Constitutional, legislative or parliamentary affirmation of multiculturalism” at the national level) and highlights their respective “Immigrant Multiculturalism” score for the year 2010, the most recent year examined in the MPI.

Table 8.7 Immigrant Multiculturalism in Countries Without Official Multiculturalism (2010)

Country Immigrant MCP Score (out of 8)
Austria 1.5
Denmark 0
France 2
Germany 2.5
Greece 2.5
Ireland 4
Italy 1.5
Japan 0
Netherlands 2
New Zealand 6
Norway 3.5
Portugal 3.5
Spain 3.5
Switzerland 1
United Kingdom 5.5
United States 3

Source: Queen's University. (2021). Multiculturalism policy index. http://www.queensu.ca/mcp/. Accessed 22 Mar. 2021.

Table 8.6 in graph form.
Figure 8.5. 2010 Immigrant MCP Score (out of 8).

As one can clearly see, the non-implementation of official multiculturalism does not prevent governments from designing and implementing a range of MCPs. In other words, a vibrant and active “politics of multiculturalism” can be present in a liberal democracy even if there is no formal national-level mandate to recognize and accommodate minority cultures.

  1. Belgium has been excluded from this table, given that the MPI states that it shows “evidence of an "intercultural" policy approach.” As we shall see later on in this chapter, in section 8.3.1 Multiculturalism’s Rivals, there are important differences between multiculturalism and interculturalism.


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