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World: Canada Reconsiders Funding For Ethnic Groups

Ottawa, 18 October 1996 (RFE/RL) -- A Canadian government report concludes that it is time for the government to stop providing direct subsidies to ethnic groups to help them maintain their language, customs and culture within the broader national culture.

RFE/RL's correspondent in Ottawa says Canada is now reviewing this 50-year-old policy that has been promoted through generous direct funding for hundreds of ethnic organizations.

A federally-commissioned report on the policy recommends that the government stop giving money directly to ethnic groups because it creates the impression the federal government is catering to special interests. The report goes on to say that Canadians are confused about the government s vision of multiculturalism, uncertain about federal activities in the area and disappointed with the results.

The report says not all Canadians have benefited equally from -- or embraced with enthusiasm -- the goals of multiculturalism, nor have all of the implied promises of multiculturalism been fully realized.

It recommends that the government should define a new Canadian identity because, over the last 60 years, Canada has pursued the sometimes elusive and controversial vision of a multicultural society in which people keep their linguistic and cultural heritage while enjoying shared rights, freedoms and obligations.

The report says that although Canadians support the idea of a society made up of people with diverse backgrounds, they find the government s vision of multiculturalism confusing. It concludes that many people believe the policy lacks focus and ghetto-izes ethnic groups.

The study recommends that money allotted for multicultural activities be given to public agencies and organizations that shape the life of all Canadians, such as the national broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Company.

By doing this, the report concludes, various ethnic groups would not receive money directly but could still be partners in activities. This year alone, the Canadian government will give about $18.5 million to hundreds of ethnic groups for programs on race relations, community support, culture and language.

Emmanuel Dick, a spokesman for the Canadian Ethnocultural Council, says it's wrong to change the funding practices simply because the government has failed to educate Canadians about multicultural programs. He says someone is not spending the time to get the message through.

The Heritage Department -- which oversees the multiculturalism policy -- commissioned the report from a Toronto firm, Brighton Research. Departmental spokesman Claire Pilon says it's too early to comment on the recommendations and what the department may do about them.