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Understandings of Multiculturalism Among Students in a Multicultural Prairie City

A research project conducted by Paul Gingrich, Department of Sociology and Social Studies, University of Regina.

Summary of Research Project.

This project examines the views of University of Regina students concerning their understanding of and attitudes toward multiculturalism in Canada. In the Fall, 1998 semester a survey of University of Regina undergraduates was conducted as part of Social Studies 306, Applied Methods: Quantitative Approaches. These data, along with some interviews and focus groups will be presented in a report. The project began in July, 1998 and is expected to be completed in December, 1999. The research proposal follows.

If you have any questions or suggestions concerning this project, please contact Paul Gingrich at

Section 1: Project Proposal

Purpose: The purpose of the project is to investigate the views of university students at the University of Regina with respect to multiculturalism and ethnic diversity. The students' attitudes toward visible minorities and concerning policies and practices that attempt to remove barriers to the full participation of ethnic minorities in Canadian society will be studied. The project will also examine and analyze the connection between these attitudes and views and the ethnic background and experiences of the students.

The stated aims of the Multiculturalism Act, along with the three newly stated fundamental goals of the redesigned Multiculturalism Program (identity, civic participation, social justice) will provide the focus for the project. In a previous study (Appendices B and C), I examined the understanding of multiculturalism among refugees who immigrated to Regina. Last year, in a survey of undergraduate University of Regina students (Appendix D), I investigated the extent of understanding of and agreement with the policies stated in Section 3 of the Multiculturalism Act. The current project will refine and extend these earlier studies. Perhaps more important will be an extension of these earlier studies to incorporate the newly stated goals of identity, civic participation, and social justice. While these goals are implicit in the Act, the redesigned program shifts the emphasis of multicultural policy somewhat. This project will examine the extent to which there is awareness of this shift and the extent to which students agree or disagree with the newly stated goals. Further, this project will solicit views with respect to multicultural policies and programs, looking for degrees of agreement or disagreement with current practice, as well as suggestions for revision of policies and programs.

The project will have several stages. First, there will be a survey of undergraduate students at the University of Regina. This will be followed with a focus group involving participants from the community and from Canadian Heritage. The results from the survey and the focus group will be used to conduct a number of in-depth interviews with students. The findings of the project will be publicized in popular and academic settings, and given wide distribution. A report that will be useful for policy makers will also be prepared. These will be used to create discussion and dialogue concerning multiculturalism and diversity in Canadian society. Given that I have previously carried out background work on this topic, these results will also provide comparative information. My expectation is that these findings will increase awareness of students and the general public concerning multicultural policies, and that the findings can be used to improve multicultural policies and programs.

Multiculturalism Activity Categories: This project falls primarily under the Research Projects category (p. 5 of Program Guidelines), addressing each of the goals listed there. At the same time, the dissemination of the findings will have a public education aspect. In addition, the findings might be useful for institutional development at the University of Regina, although this is not a specific aim of this particular project.

Multiculturalism Objectives: This project is primarily aimed at meeting the objectives stated in items 1 and 5 of the Program Objectives (p. 2 of Program Guidelines). The primary objective is related to item 5, developing an understanding concerning views related to multiculturalism, racism, and cultural diversity, and using the finding to increase public awareness. Hopefully the findings can then be used to further the aims stated in item 1, improving participation. The inclusion of questions related to understandings of and degree of agreement with policies and programs should help to address the goals of item 1. By including some questions related to equitable access and barriers within the University of Regina, it may also be possible to partially meet objective 3 of the Program Objectives.

Need for the Project: Much of the public and academic dialogue concerning multiculturalism is polemical and appears to confuse the discussion of the way in which multiculturalism has developed in Canada. This is particularly true of the critics of multiculturalism (Bibby, Bissoondath). The extension of the multicultural debate to the United States (Dissent, Goldberg, Gordon, Phillips) has produced new criticisms (Wilson), often even more polemical and often not so applicable to Canadian principles and practice.

Further, my own survey of the recent writings on multiculturalism finds few studies of what views concerning multiculturalism really are. The only major Canadian studies appear to be the Berry et. al. survey of 1976 and the Angus Reid poll in 1991. While Bibby has conducted many polls, Mosaic Madness contains little concrete data concerning views toward multiculturalism. Abu-Laban and Stasilius provide a very useful survey of debates on multiculturalism in Canada, and Frideres also surveys evidence on the extent of incorporation of ethnic groups in Canada. While theoretically very compelling, more recent major writings on multiculturalism (Angus, Kymlicka, Taylor) are also devoid of data concerning the views of the general public. This project is modest in its coverage, but my hope is that the findings will spur more investigation of views toward multiculturalism and multicultural policy.

A related reason for proposing this project is that the students at the University of Regina come from a multicultural background. Histories of multiculturalism in Canada (Burnet, Ch. 12) generally credit second generation immigrants from the Prairies with the political impetus that created multicultural policy. Many of the students at the University of Regina are third and fourth generation immigrants from this area, and it will be one of the aims of the project to draw conclusions concerning the understanding of these students about a policy that their parents and grandparents may have helped institute. The University of Regina also has a large enrollment of students of aboriginal origin, in the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College. The bulk of visible minority students at the university are international students, although some are landed immigrants or citizens of Canada.

Benefits: While the benefits of this project will be widely spread, they are none the less tangible. A group of undergraduate and graduate students will receive training in the area of multicultural research. It will be community leaders and policymakers who initially benefit from the findings of the project, as they improve their understanding of multiculturalism and multicultural policy. Given the sparse data on multicultural views noted in the previous section, the findings from this project will be useful for social science researchers - providing raw material for practical and theoretical academic work. As ethnic and community organizations and individuals become more knowledgeable in this area, there should be an improved understanding of the nature and effects of diversity. My hope is that the data and analysis from this project can assist in improving relationships among individuals and groups within the university setting, and within society more generally.

Partners: At present there are no partners. If the project is funded, I will consult with the offices of Student Affairs, the Students' Union, and the University administrators concerning issues that might be addressed in the project. Currently I am a member of the board of the Regina Open Door Society, a CIC funded agency that welcomes and assists in the settlement of refugees in Regina. The University of Regina and the Regina Open Door Society are also members of the Prairie Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration, and I am a member of the Program Committee of the Centre. I will be using these memberships and contacts as a means of developing the project.

Community Involvement. There will be no direct community involvement in the initial stages of this project, other than involvement by students and the agencies mentioned in the last paragraph. After the survey data have been obtained, I will organize one or two focus groups that involve those who are involved with immigrant and multicultural organizations in Regina and area. The focus groups could include representatives from the Regina Open Door Society, the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan, and Immigrant Women of Saskatchewan. In addition, personnel from Canadian Heritage will be encouraged to provide input to the project at this point. When all the data have been produced and analyzed, I will present the data in various community forums. These could include the Regina Open Door Society, the Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan, and various media outlets.

Expected Result. The expected result is an improved understanding of how University of Regina students interpret and support multicultural ideals and policies. As representatives of a young adult generation in the southern part of the province of Saskatchewan, their understandings and support for multiculturalism will be crucial to the development of policy and practice in the coming years. As these students enter the work force and civic participation, they will be participants in and managers of the diversity that characterizes contemporary society. To the extent that the results prove useful for community groups, the general public, and policymakers, it is expected that multicultural programming and policies may be improved in the coming years.

Section 2: Action Plan

Start and End Dates: The project will begin on July 1, 1998 and will be completed by December 31, 1999.

Project Tasks and Key Dates:

Review of literature, preparation of survey. July-August, 1998

Development of survey schedule. September-October, 1998

Survey. November, 1998

Inital analysis of data. November-December, 1998

Focus groups. January-February, 1999

Detailed analysis of data. January-April, 1999

In-depth interviews. March-May, 1999

Writing of reports and articles. May-June, 1999

Presentation of results. June-December, 1999

In previous studies, I have surveyed refugees in Regina (Appendices B and C) and undergraduates at the University of Regina (Appendices D and E). I have analyzed the former data and presented two papers based on these data. The latter data have not been fully analyzed but promise to be fruitful as an initial source of information concerning the views and background of students.

The first stage of this project will be to develop a survey questionnaire using the data and analyses of the two earlier projects, the Angus Reid poll, and documents on multiculturalism from Canadian Heritage. For this purpose, I will need to employ a student assistant in July and August, 1998 to modify and update questions on multiculturalism and develop new questions related to the renewed multiculturalism program and to Canadian Heritage policies.

Further revision of the survey will be carried out in September, 1998, as part of an undergraduate methodology class in the Department of Sociology and Social Studies. Third and fourth year students in that class will develop and refine the questions, under my direction. A questionnaire will be constructed by mid October, 1998; it will be tested, revised, and administered to undergraduate students in early November, 1998. The data will be entered into the computer and analyzed by the students as part of their work in this class, under my instruction and direction. It is anticipated that a representative sample of 700-800 University of Regina undergraduate students will be obtained in the survey. As in the 1997 survey, the method used will be a questionnaire distributed in selected classes during class times, as arranged with the class instructors. This method has been used for this class in each of the last four years and has worked well - obtaining a sample of around 700 undergraduate students each semester, and being reasonably representative.

The method that will be used in this study has been tested before - the method used will be very much the same as the one we used in the Fall, 1997 semester in the applied methods class. As a result, I am reasonably confident that the time schedule will work. The major difference is that this survey will have more, and better designed, questions devoted to issues of multiculturalism and diversity. In addition, having a student assistant available to me from July, 1998 through June, 1999 will assist me in completing the analysis of the data. A further change will be that having a student assistant available in early 1999 will allow for a supplementary sample to be drawn if the Fall, 1998 sample is not sufficiently representative of the student body. In addition, the student assistant and I will plan to conduct the one or two focus groups and we will also conduct follow up interviews with students who express an interest in discussing these issues in more detail.

From July through December, 1999, I will be the only person involved in the project. I will prepare a paper for presentation at either the Learned Societies Conference (June, 1999) or at the Canadian Ethnic Studies Conference (November, 1999). During this time I will also prepare a report for general distribution to the public, as well as to policy makers in the area of multiculturalism. Finally, I will prepare newspaper or magazine articles and present my findings to the media and to local groups who express an interest in the findings of this project.

Who is Involved? The main involvement will be the students in the applied methods class (who will assist in developing and administering the survey), the seven to eight hundred students who complete the questionnaires, the student assistant, and myself. In addition, I will involve the partners noted above and any local groups that express an interest in this project. The latter will be consulted in preparing the survey and will be informed of the results.

The students will be third or fourth year students who are majoring in Sociology. They will have taken a variety of Sociology classes, including an introductory statistics class and a methodology class. In previous semesters the students have been well prepared and conscientious, and the results from previous surveys demonstrate this.

The student assistant will be a graduate student. Hopefully, we will be able to hire a graduate student who will stay with the project from July, 1998 through June, 1999. The graduate student will be required to have familiarity with survey methods and with statistical work on the computer. The student assistant will assist with the project in analyzing earlier data sources (previous surveys), doing background work, developing the survey instrument, assisting in supervising the students in the class, entering and analyzing data, doing subsidiary interviews, and assisting in preparation of the report.

I will be in charge of the project, will supervise the student assistant, will instruct the applied methods class, will carry out project tasks as needed, and will write and present the findings of the project. I have been in charge of this class for each of the last four years, with a survey and survey report being produced each year. My vitae and some example papers are attached (Appendices B through F).

Intended Audience. The intended audience is individuals and groups with an interest in multiculturalism, diversity, and multicultural policies and programs. These are noted in the above sections.

Communication/Publicity Plan. The section on project tasks and key dates outline this. The intention is to publicize the results of the data and analysis to students and staff at the University of Regina (in a report something like the Fall, 1997 report (Appendix D), but more detailed), to community groups (through a report), to policy makers (through the same report), to media (through newspaper, radio, and television), and to academics (either the Learned Societies or Canadian Ethnic Studies).

Travel. The only travel required will be for communication and publicity purposes. I have included a travel budget for presentation of a paper at either the Learned Societies or Canadian Ethnic Studies conferences. If out of Regina requests for presentation of the results are made by community groups, I will use part of the travel budget for this purpose.

Sharing of Knowledge. The results will be shared as widely as possible, as noted in the communication/publicity paragraph above. In addition, subject to maintaining confidentiality of the raw data, I will share the data set with Canadian Heritage, interested researchers, community groups, and members of the public.

Evaluation of Project. Before the survey has started, the Research Ethics Committee of the University of Regina will evaluate the ethical issues involved in the project. The project can proceed only if the Ethics Committee gives ethical approval to the project. The students who take the applied methods class and who do much of the data production provide the first line of evaluation. They report problems and complaints, and provide feedback to me on these. The student assistant and I form the second line of evaluation. We have conducted similar surveys (on different topics) in previous semesters, and we will compare the results of this survey with previous surveys in terms of representativeness and quality of data. No further evaluation is anticipated. However, the presentation of the findings of the study to the general public, to academics, to community groups, and to policy makers, all provide a means of evaluating the results - in the sense that a wide public of this sort provides invaluable feedback to the researchers.

Section 3: Project Budget

Budget Item

University of Regina Contribution
Amount Requested from Canadian Heritage
Student Assistant
Principal Investigator
Office Staff
Software- qualitative data analysis
Printing of questionnaires
Printing and mailing of reports
Miscellaneous - telephone, copying

Notes on Budget:

No project revenues are anticipated.

Section 4A: Organization and Individual Profile.

The University of Regina is generally considered to be a comprehensive university, with a wide range of departments and programs, with some graduate departments, but with no medical or law school. The great bulk of undergraduate students come from Regina and surrounding area. One unique feature of the University of Regina is that the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College is an affiliated college, the only such aboriginal institution at a Canadian university.

The Department of Sociology and Social Studies is devoted to teaching and research within the University of Regina. The Department of Sociology and Social Studies has approximately thirty masters level students, at various stages in their programs, with five or six new students each year. There are around one hundred to one hundred and fifty undergraduate majors. Several faculty in the Department have research projects with the Prairie Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration.

My own background is in the area of population, labour force and immigration studies. I conducted a study of refugees in Regina for the Saskatchewan Association of Immigrant Settlement and Integration Agencies (SAISIA) in 1993 and 1994, with funding from the Secretary of State. I have attached copies of two papers drawn from this report (Appendices B and C) and can provide the full report if requested. More recently, I helped organize the University of Regina involvement in the Prairie Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration, and I am a member of the Program Committee of the Centre. In terms of conducting and analyzing surveys, I have taught various levels of statistics classes for the last twenty five years, have spent considerable time working with data sets such as the Survey of Consumer Finances and the General Social Survey, and have conducted a survey in the applied methods class for each of the last four years. My curriculum vitae is attached in Appendix F.

Appendix A. References

Angus, Ian, A Border Within: National Identity, Cultural Plurality, and Wilderness (Montreal and Kingston, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997).

Angus Reid Group, Multiculturalism and Canadians: Attitude Study 1991. National Survey Report. (Angus Reid Group, Inc., 1991).

Abu-Laban, Yasmeen and Daiva Stasiulus, "Ethnic Pluralism under Siege: Popular and Partisan Opposition to Multiculturalism," Canadian Public Policy, 18:4, pp. 365-386.

Berry, John W., Rudolf Kalin, and Donald M. Taylor, Multiculturalism and Ethnic Attitudes in Canada (Ottawa, Supply and Services Canada, 1977).

Bibby, Reginald A., Mosaic Madness: Pluralism Without a Cause (Toronto, Stoddart, 1990).

Bissoondath, Neil, Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada (Toronto, Penguin, 1994).

Burnet, Jean R. with Howard Palmer, Coming Canadians: An Introduction to a History of Canada's People (Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, and Ottawa, Department of the Secretary of State, 1988).

Dissent, Embattled Minorities Around the Globe: Rights, Hopes, Threats. Summer, 1996 special issue. Articles by Charles Taylor, Will Kymlicka, and others.

Fleras, Augie, and Jean Leonard Elliott, Multiculturalism in Canada: The Challenge of Diversity (Scarborough, Nelson Canada, 1992).

Frideres, James S., "The Management of Social Transformations: Immigrants and Ethnonationalists in a Multicultural Society," paper presented at the National Symposium on Immigration and Integration, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, October 25-27, 1996.

Goldberg, David Theo, editor, Multiculturalism: A Critical Reader (Cambridge, Massachusetts, Blackwell, 1994).

Gordon, Avery F. and Christopher Newfield, editors, Mapping Multiculturalism (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1996).

Kymlicka, Will, Multicultural Citizenship: A Liberal Theory of Minority Rights (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995).

Phillips, Anne, "Why Worry About Multiculturalism?" Dissent, Winter, 1997, pp. 57-63.

Taylor, Charles, "The Politics of Recognition," in Amy Gutman, editor, Multiculturalism and the 'Politics of Recognition' (Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University Press, 1992).

Wilson, Peter Lamborn, "Against Multiculturalism: Let n Flowers Bloom".

Appendix B. Refugee Settlement and Integration in Regina. Paper presented at the Learned Societies in 1996.

Appendix C. A 'Great' Large Family: Understandings of Multiculturalism Among Newcomers to Canada. Paper presented at the National Symposium on Immigration and Integration, Winnipeg, October, 1996.

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Appendix D. Social Studies 306, Applied Methods: Quantitative Approaches survey questionnaires and reports.

Appendix E. Sample of responses to question 38 of the 1997 survey.

Appendix F. Vitae.

This document was last updated on December 29, 1998.

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