What does integration mean and why is it important?
To integrate things is to put them together to form something new. It also means that the things that you put together keep their individual characteristics or features. When we talk about integrating cultures we usually refer to several cultures coming together to form a new, multicultural society. Each culture keeps its character, features and values.
The important thing about integration is that the individual cultures, and members of cultural communities, are welcomed and accepted for what they are. There is respect for the practices, beliefs and values of that culture. A recent example in Durham is the practice of scattering the ashes of the deceased in streams and rivers as part of the Hindu religion. This is not a common practice in Canada and some objected to this practice. Fresh water sources are important to Canadians and usually protected. After some discussion a compromise was reached and now a designated section of a local stream has been set aside to accommodate this practice. A Toronto Star article explains the details.
Valuing integration tends to be the Canadian view. Most people in Canada welcome new cultures that make up our exciting cultural mosaic They see this mosaic as vibrant, interesting and exciting. The alternative is that new cultures are blended or assimilated into the main culture and often are expected to take on the characteristics of the dominant culture. This is sometimes referred to as the melting pot where everything is melted down and blended to create something that tends to look the same.
Canada started out as a combination of two cultures, the English and the French. In the beginning they competed for dominance. Eventually they agreed to share this new country and through the Canadian Constitution the English and French were granted the right to maintain their separate cultures and guaranteed their language and religious rights. That is why Canada is a bilingual country with parallel school systems.
You may ask about the native cultures that had existed in Canada for many years before the French and English arrived. These were the various First Nations tribes in the south and the Inuit in the north. Unfortunately the history of Canada is clouded by attempts to assimilate these cultures into the dominant cultures. In recent years apologies have been offered to aboriginal groups by the Government of Canada with regards to many injustices that were committed and not previously acknowledged. The rights of Canada’s aboriginal populations are now more fully recognized and protected.