Is Our Policy of Multiculturalism Too Lenient?

November 27, 2002

Canada is known for its multicultural heritage and the freedom that it offers refugees and immigrants from other countries. In high school we all learnt how important it is to remain open to things such as new cultures and religions. Since we live in a democratically free country all residents have rights such as the freedom of speech and the protection of law enforcement. But some of our Canadian customs and laws have been challenged and changed to accommodate for other cultures.

For example about a decade ago East Indian Cultures attained the right to wear their turbans with Royal Canadian Mounted Police uniforms. In order to understand why this was argued for we have to understand the meaning and use of the Turban. Sikh men do not cut their hair because it would offend God to alter his creation, and thus cover and control their hair by using their turbans. Some Muslim, and Islamic Cultures wear turbans as a sign of social status or symbol of religion, whereas Men from Indian Cultures wear turbans as a distinct demonstration of wealth and power. The most practical use of a turban is that of the Desert people from North Africa who wear them to keep sand out of their faces and is an obvious indicator of tribal affiliations. As indicated, there are a variety of reasons for these people’s headgear.

But, just as the turban is a symbol of their culture, religion, or position, the hat belonging to the RCMP uniform is an equally important tradition of our culture. Many people did not believe that it was “right” that another culture should dominate of the Canadian culture, within Canada. They argued that if we let them wear what they want in this specific situation that these “minority cultures” would eventually turn Canada into another India or Pakistan. Is there a boundary between Multiculturalism and Canadianism?

Turban like headgear has also initiated a problem directly with Calgary’s safety driven bylaws. Recently Calgary’s leaders have advocated the bylaw that all people under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet while bicycling. This law includes the stipulation that parent’s will be fined if their children don’t comply. Not only does this bylaw force parents to become more involved in their children’s lives, but also it relieves the City of the task of dealing with inured children and angry parents. Thus the introduction of this bylaw meant that only good could come from compliance.

However, it is a logical deduction that turbans cannot fit underneath a regular sized bicycle helmet and for reasons mentioned before people were not about to remove their turbans just to ride a bicycle. The city’s response was to build a different form of cranial protection to accommodate for the turbans, but this idea was outright refused because of the ridiculousness of the inventions that would be put forward to protect the lives and health of our children. People pf these cultures have requested that the bylaw be waved in their favor. In my eyes it should be compulsory for all children under the age of 18 to remove any other headgear and put on a helmet before they ride a bike. Don’t get me wrong, the problem isn’t in the issue of Multiculturalism, I’m all for it. The problem is that the system doesn’t stand firm of issues such as safety.

It is a part of Canadian patriotism that we should not challenge the customs and traditions that Canada symbolizes. Some may feel as though they shouldn’t have to conform to the majority, but if we look at the big picture, it is not feasible for the majority to conform to the minority? Safety is an important issue in any culture, but the bicycle helmet issue is not really about helmets. The issue lies in the government’s multicultural policies. If laws are made to protect the good of the people, then there should be NO EXCEPTIONS. And, traditions being well known indicators of what Canada stands for, since we have to few traditions and symbols as compared to other countries, they should not be compromised, especially by Canadian citizens. After all, we are Canadians.


Author unknown. “Understanding Turbans.” 11 November 2002.

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