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The Search for a New National Identity

The Rise of Multiculturalism in Canada and Australia, 1890s–1970s

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Jatinder Mann

This book explores the profound social, cultural, and political changes that affected the way in which Canadians and Australians defined themselves as a «people» from the late nineteenth century to the 1970s. Taking as its central theme the way each country responded to the introduction of new migrants, the book asks a key historical question: why and how did multiculturalism replace Britishness as the defining idea of community for English-speaking Canada and Australia, and what does this say about their respective experiences of nationalism in the twentieth century? The book begins from a simple premise – namely, that the path towards the adoption of multiculturalism as the orthodox way of defining national community in English-speaking Canada and Australia in the latter half of the twentieth century was both uncertain and unsteady. It followed a period in which both nations had looked first and foremost to Britain to define their national self-image. In both nations, however, following the breakdown of their more formal and institutional ties to the ‘mother-country’ in the post-war period there was a crisis of national meaning, and policy makers and politicians moved quickly to fill the void with a new idea of the nation, one that was the very antithesis to the White, monolithic idea of Britishness. This book will be useful for both history and politics courses in Australia and Canada, as well as internationally.
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8 “Retaining Migrant Cultures” and “Leavening British Traditions”: A Comparison of Integration Policies in Canada and Australia, 1950s–1970s

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“Retaining Migrant Cultures” and “Leavening British Traditions”

A Comparison of Integration Policies in Canada and Australia, 1950s–1970s

The Demise of Britishness and the Unravelling of Whiteness

Well into the 1950s in both English-speaking Canada and Australia there was initially a continued emphasis on British race patriotism as the core of national identity. Prime Ministers Diefenbaker and Menzies were the most ardent advocates of Britishness in their respective nations. Menzies placed considerable importance on the “British” part of the “British Commonwealth,” and highlighted the strength of familial ties between Australia and the “mother-country.” In an address at a luncheon given by the Constitutional Association of New South Wales on 9 October 1953 he emphasised the importance of the Crown to the Commonwealth, especially in the light of India’s being allowed to remain in the Commonwealth after it became a republic in January 1950: “It is one of my own regrets that there has been a little disposition in modern times, or more recent times, to obscure the significance of this magnificent element [the Crown] … It is not only an element of law, but an element of the spirit, that we have a common allegiance.”1 However, compared to Menzies, Diefenbaker’s position towards British race patriotism was somewhat qualified. Diefenbaker would often phrase ← 205 | 206 → his comments about the British world with an emphasis on the Commonwealth and Canada’s evolution within it. Speaking to the Canada...

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