The Canadian Contradiction: Perspectives of Multiculturalism, Immigration, and Discourses of Othering in Canada

  • Author / Creator
    Vega Murillo, Laura
  • Social learning and the construction of a shared culture and worldview are crucial aspects that shape people’s individual and collective identities, determine their sense of ‘belonging’ to society, and establish difference from others. While adult education can be a self-motivated and self-directed process, assumptions and identities learned socially can influence adult learning experiences (formal or informal) and interactions with others.
    The Canadian identity is the construction of a national collective ‘self’ under principles of nationalism, enforced by the nation-state. As other identities, it is validated through exclusion, and even domination, of the ‘other.’ A review of Canadian history shows a national identity created to reflect and exalt that of the British colonizer, utilizing racism as a form of exclusion rather than the nation-state borders. This idea of the Canadian ‘self’ and rejection of others has been socialized over centuries through formal and informal channels, including mass media. With the technological options for immediacy of communication and information, questions arise about how much knowledge people receive from the media as a form of social learning and how much it affects how Canadians see themselves and others.
    Between 2015 and 2016, the mass resettlement of Syrian refugees in Canada occupied news headlines daily, eliciting diverse opinions and reactions on traditional and social media channels. The constant representation and discussion of Syrian refugees in the news, as well as heated arguments about them on public channels, inspired the research questions for my study: What are the discourses being disseminated publicly on the topic of the mass migration of Syrian refugees to Canada? How do these discourses and perceptions relate to national identity, ‘othering’ and systemic power relations in Canada? Taking Norman Fairclough’s dialectical-relational approach to critical discourse analysis (CDA) as a methodology, I conduct a review of more than 800 news and opinion articles from three Canadian nationwide news media outlets, including textual and visual discourses, over the span of 15 months. This analysis looks at the marginalization of newcomers as a broad social wrong from a semiotic aspect and identifies the dialectics between semiosis and other elements, including social practice, as well as the instances of recontextualization and reconfiguration of existing discourses.
    My CDA shows six recurring discourses from journalists, politicians, and Canadian citizens related to the Syrian refugees' identity and their position in relation to the Canadian identity, often emphasizing differences between both and reproducing local and imported historical discourses of racism and arabophobia. Many present a stark contradiction with Canada’s official multicultural identity as well. I conclude that the dissemination of these discourses is neither necessarily conscious nor unique to certain political ideologies or affiliations, but should lead us to reflect on media and journalists in a role of potential facilitators of knowledge and the implications of mass-disseminated identity discourses that uphold oppression and unequal power relations between groups.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2022
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Education
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Library with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.