The nationalisation of ethnicity : a study of the proliferation of national mono-ethnocultural umbrella organisations in Canada
In Canada, national ethnocultural advocacy groups are highly visible and are consulted by government officials in areas of multiculturalism policy as well as other areas of social policy and constitutional reform. Unlike local ‘ethnic’ associations that arise for a myriad of community specific purposes, national level ‘ethnic’ umbrella associations occupy a wholly different political space. One implication of this national level of representation is that who and what the group is becomes re-configured from a form of social organisation to a form of broad representation. At the national level, the organisation not only comes to represent the concrete aspirations of group members, but also becomes a guardian and advocate of a vision of ‘the group’. The process through which the ‘group’ boundaries are socially and politically constructed is the subject of this thesis. Writers tend to explain the proliferation of national ‘ethnic’ umbrella organisations through one of four therapies: interest group theory, social movement theory, theories of ethnic mobilisation, and state intervention. There is relative agreement that demographic changes resulting from the liberalisation of Canada’s immigration policy in 1967 led to larger and more politically active ethnocultural communities. Also, writers argue that the policy of Multiculturalism established in 1971 created opportunity for ethnocultural political participation as never before. There are strengths and weaknesses to each of these approaches, and they are analysed in the thesis. However, none of the existing theories explain how and why organisations formed at the national level at given periods of time, and how the substantive delineations of representation (i.e. in terms of ‘racial’ or ‘ethnic’ identities) were determined.