Sociologist’s theory of home-grown Canadian ethnicity draws national attention


Rhoda Howard-Hassmann isn't willing to embrace the long-accepted tradition that Canadians should celebrate their ancestral ethnic roots rather than their national ties.

In the current issue of Canadian Public Policy, the McMaster sociology professor argues that Canada's long-standing obsession with multicultural diversity has steered citizens away from accepting, and celebrating, a home-grown, Canadian ethnicity.

The theoretically based article, called “Canadians as an Ethnic Category,” refutes traditional sociological theories that promote and encourage a celebration of the ethnicity of ancestors over Canadian ethnicity.

“It really is a controversial stance to take in academia,” Howard-Hassmann says. “The common belief remains that you should be from somewhere else, not Canada. I think that's wrong.”

She believes citizens, regardless of ancestral background, can claim to be ethnic Canadians, bound by a common language, history, lifestyle and territory. But governmental promotion of a multicultural policy and the fear of being branded as a racist have steered people away from a nationalist stance.

“Multiculturalism is good, but I think it should be limited to personal choice,” says Howard-Hassman. “You shouldn't be forced into claim to be something by anyone.”

Her article was publicized on the front page of the National Post on Jan.28. Since then, she has been besieged with interview requests from media across the country.