Multiculturalism Policies in Contemporary Democracies

Multiculturalism Policies

in Contemporary Democracies

Multiculturalism Policies

in Contemporary Democracies

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The MCP Index Project

The Multiculturalism Policy Index is a scholarly research project that monitors and the evolution of multiculturalism policies across the Western democracies. Under the direction of Profs. Keith Banting and Will Kymlicka, the project is designed to provide information about multiculturalism policies in a standardized format that aids comparative research and contributes to the understanding of state-minority relations. There are three separate indices covering three types of minorities: one index relating to immigrant groups, one relating to historic national minorities, and one relating to Indigenous peoples. Documentation on the adoption (or repeal) of multiculturalism policies relating to these three types of groups across 21 Western countries is freely available through this site for researchers, public officials, journalists, students, activists, and others interested in the topic.

Citation Requirement:  When using the Multiculturalism Policy Index please cite it as:
"Multiculturalism Policy Index, http://www.queensu.ca/mcp/, (Include date when data were accessed or downloaded.)"

 

Rationale

Beginning in the 1960s, a number of Western democracies took a "multicultural turn" in their approach to ethnocultural diversity. In the past, ethnocultural diversity was often seen as a threat to political stability, and hence as something to be discouraged by public policies. Immigrants, national minorities and Indigenous peoples were all subject to a range of policies intended to either assimilate or marginalize them. Today, however, many Western democracies have abandoned these earlier policies, and shifted towards a more accommodating approach to diversity, including the widespread adoption of accommodation policies for immigrant groups, the acceptance of territorial autonomy and language rights for national minorities, and the recognition of land claims and self-government rights for Indigenous peoples. There are deep and enduring disagreements, however, about how widespread this “multicultural turn” has been, and about its effects. Resolving these debates is difficult in the absence of any quantitative measure of the presence or absence of multiculturalism policies across time and across countries. 

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The “multicultural turn” has been hotly contested. Defenders argue that it has helped to reduce ethnic tensions, promote mutual respect, enhance the participation of minorities, and more generally build more inclusive and just societies. Critics argue that multiculturalism policies entrench and exacerbate ethnic divisions, reduce inter-ethnic solidarity, and perpetuate illiberal practices. Indeed, commentators disagree not just on the effects of these policies, but even on their very existence. While some commentators argue that “we are all multiculturalists now”, others insist that the multicultural turn has been exaggerated, and that the adoption of multiculturalism policies was a limited and passing phenomenon.

One reason for the persistence of these debates is the absence of any quantitative measure of the presence or absence of multiculturalism policies across time and across countries. It is our hope that the Multiculturalism Policy Index available here will provide a useful tool for assessing the social effects of multiculturalism, and for determining how these policies are evolving over time.

Definitions and Data

Our MCP Index measures the presence or absence of a range of multiculturalism policies (MCPs) at four points in time - 1980, 2000, 2010 and 2020 -- across 21 Western democracies. There is no universally-accepted definition of a "multiculturalism policy", and no hard and fast line that would sharply distinguish MCPs from closely related policy fields, such as anti-discrimination policies, citizenship policies and integration policies. Any list of MCPs is likely, therefore, to be controversial, and perhaps arbitrary at the edges. However, we believe that the policies we have identified are consistent with the most common usages of the term in both public as well as scholarly debate, and provide a useful basis for investigating the competing claims about the social effects of MCPs, and about their evolution over time. We start from the premise that all 21 of the countries in our sample are Western liberal-democracies, and as such are constitutionally committed to providing certain fundamental civil and political rights to all citizens on a non-discriminatory basis. They differ, however, in the extent to which they go beyond the non-discriminatory protection of traditional individual rights of citizenship to also provide some additional form of public recognition, support or accommodation for ethnocultural minorities to maintain and express their distinct identities and practices. It is this additional level of recognition, support and accommodation that we seek to measure with our MCP Index. 

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    Each of our policy indicators is intended to capture a policy dimension where liberal-democratic states faced a choice about whether or not to take a multicultural turn and to become more accommodating and supportive of minorities. Since MCPs are intended to recognize, support or accommodate diversity, it is almost inevitable that different types of groups will seek different kinds of MCPs. Newly-arrived immigrants are likely to seek different forms of support or accommodation than indigenous peoples living on their ancestral lands. For the purposes of this Index, we have focused on three types of groups that are found in many Western democracies: immigrant-origin ethnic groups, historic national minorities, and Indigenous peoples. For each of these groups, the Index identifies a range of policies that are characteristic or emblematic of the "multicultural turn" over the past forty years. The Index lists eight such policies for immigrant groups (such as multicultural education); six such policies for national minorities (such as official language status); and nine such policies for Indigenous peoples (such as land claims). In our summative rankings for countries, we have weighed these policies equally. Other researchers may wish to add adjust the Index, subtracting policies from the list or weighting specific policies differently, in light of their own definition of "multiculturalism policy". But we believe that our Index captures the essential issues that characterize the multicultural turn in public policy, and that the scores accorded to our 21 countries accurately reflect.For each type of group, we have produced a booklet that contains (a) definitions of these policies and our rules for scoring individual countries; (b) a table which indicates how each country scored in relation to each policy in 1980, 2000, 2010, and 2020; and (c) a detailed chronology of policy evolution in each country which provides the evidence underpinning our scores.

    For each type of group, we have produced a booklet that contains (a) definitions of these policies and our rules for scoring individual countries; (b) a table which indicates how each country scored in relation to each policy in 1980, 2000, 2010, and 2020; and (c) a detailed chronology of policy evolution in each country which provides the evidence underpinning our scores.

    To read or download these documents:

    • The MCP Index on Immigrant Minorities (Third Edition) [PDF mb]
    • The MCP Index on National Minorities [PDF mb]
    • The MCP Index on Indigenous Peoples [PDF mb]