There is an argument with a stereotyped conception that ethnic communities create ghetto formations and bring along old baggage while settling in Canada. And that they do not behave according to the antiquated adage “in Rome, you do as the Romans do.”

Does ghettos’ creation encourage racism? Or the “old baggage” of ethnic identities from food to dress styles, language and even speaking English with an accent contribute to xenophobic hatred?

Ghetto inceptions have been part of the ethnic pattern of settlements on the North American continent. Most major cities in the USA and even in Canada have Chinatowns, Italian, Polish, Cuban, Mexican, and many more ethnic areas. Some of them may be tourist attractions now, but their genesis lies in being “ghettos.”

Ghetto living is a nostalgic behaviour where a newcomer feels more comfortable living with some “old baggage” while adjusting to a new environment.

“Old baggage” is a much-maligned term that carries only people’s negative impressions and attitudes with the false impression that they stubbornly adhere to the rituals, customs, and traditions. And that they do not change as the “Romans do.”

An interruption of what “Romans do” is quite distinctly and strongly expressed when New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh interacted with a French-speaking Canadian during the last federal election in 2019.

During the campaign, a Quebecer asked the NDP leader to “cut off” his turban to look “like a Canadian.”

In a poised and calm manner, Jagmeet Singh responded: “I think Canadians look like all sorts of people. The man tried another approach: “in Rome, you do as the Romans do.” A polite response from Mr. Singh: “But this is Canada; you can do whatever you like.”
The encounter between the two Canadians with different cultural backgrounds, the old proverb “in Rome, you do as the Romans do” gets a broader meaning from the Canadian perspective.

The question is, under what culture a Canadian represents herself or himself?

The straightforward answer lies in its multicultural fundamentals, where “Canadians look like all sorts of people.” Canada is not a monolithic society and was never like that since its inception. The culture of multi-culture is an ever-evolving and developing phenomenon of this nation.

In contemporary cosmopolitan society, “in Canada, you do as Canadians do” is much more current than “in Rome, you do as the Romans do.”

-Promod Puri

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