Friday, July 2, 2010

Ethnic Differences: When Less Is More

Christopher Hitchens has a point--that ethnic groups with less differences will often have far more violence than groups with more distinctions between them.  The classic exemplar of late would be Hutus and Tutsis as the genocidaires notoriously needed to look at people's id cards to figure out whether they should be killed or not. 

Why is this the case?  Easier to maintain an identity short of violence if it is distinct.  But if it is not so distinct, violence may be used to create and reinforce the sense of difference, of us and them. 

Anyhow, take a look at the Hitchens piece and figure out who you are very much alike but distinct from and then who are you very distinct from?  Want to kill the former and not so much mind the latter?


Tony Kondaks said...

I don't believe it is necessary to invoke the extreme of "killing" to be concerned about ethnic groups and differences within societies.

Mr. Saideman's own posts here on his blog touch on a "difference" that he, as an "United States" ethnic in Quebec, if you will, has from me, a section 73 "ethnic" in Quebec (although I currently reside in Arizona, I still possess the proper certification that he doesn't have).

If I've understood Mr. Saideman from some of his previous posts on this subject as it concerns his daughter, he is a Bill 101 section 72 ethnic who must send his child to a French publicly-funded school (although it's not clear to me whether his child is an exception or exemption now or until the law is clarified).

Be that as it may, I have the section 73 certificate and, if I had children, could freely choose to partake of a government-provided service that section 72 people in Quebec cannot do: send them to either French or English publicly-funded schools.

And it's decided SOLELY upon who one's parents are, what they classification is, and that this "right" is then handed down from one generation to the next.

The only other similar "right" in Canadian law that is meted out this way is the Indian Act which has been adjudicated from the Supreme Court on down as a "race" law (and please note that South Africa based the wording of their discrimination statutes on Canada's Indian Act). Canadian law had to specifically exempt the Indian Act from the application of human rights legislation specifically because if it wasn't exempted, it would be illegal.

Discriminating on the basis of parentage and parentage certification, as Bill 101's language of education provisions do, is a violation of the basic tenet of free and democratic societies that all are equal befor and under the law.

If one is of the mind that it IS an acceptable form of discrimination, then I suggest that we consider extending parental discrimination to other areas such as: who can vote, where one can live, access to other governmental services, etc.



Joe Stonehouse said...

I do not think that the difference evoked between section 72 and 73 parents is an ethnic distinction.

Correct me if I am wrong, but the government requirements involve the education of your parents, and not any religious, racial, linguistic, or any ethnic characteristic.

So it is less of "who your parents are" as much as it is "where your parents were educated".
That being said, I still agree with your point that it does inherently violate the democratic and liberal principles that are supposed to be protected by our charter of rights.

Tony Kondaks said...

Hi Joe:

I agree that the section 72 and 73 distinctions are not "ethnic" and that's why I put the word in quotation marks.

However, Canada's Indian Act doesn't invoke any characteristics based upon religious, racial, linguistic, or ethnic characteristics either (other than band membership). Indeed, you can have an individual who is 1/64th actual Indian blood yet is classified under the Act as "Indian" and another individual who is 63/64ths actual Indian blood who isn't. And what is responsible for the determination of both cases is the parent/child relationship.

This tying in of the parent/child connection to rights is a sneaky business, one that went under the radar as regards its placement under any of the prohibited bases of discrimination one finds in the charters and bills of rights of the world. My work in this area has been an attempt to show that at the basis of many of the most pernicious systems of racial discrimination in the world -- Apartheid, the Indian Act to name just two -- we inevitably find the parent/child regime of discrimination.