Unlikely Utopia: The Surprising Triumph of Canadian Pluralism.


180 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-670-06368-0
DDC 305.800971





Reviewed by Graeme S. Mount

Graeme S. Mount is a history professor at Laurentian University and
author of Canada’s Enemies: Spies and Spying in the Peaceable Kingdom.


Unlikely Utopia is full of good news, and is a pleasure to read. Adams’s thesis is that Canada has successfully absorbed people of different races and cultures who have enriched Canada and made it a more interesting place. “I am by no means a Pollyanna. I am a pollster,” he says, and he admits that there have been and are less-than-perfect situations. Even the saintly J.S. Woodsworth was a racist. Yet, compared to the rest of the world, Adams argues convincingly and with humour, Canadians have done well.


Adams makes a fascinating point. The United Kingdom, Belgium, and Spain also have a national minority comparable to the Québécois. New Zealand, Australia, and most Latin American countries also have people descended from ancestors who occupied those lands before the arrival of Europeans. Australia, Germany, and the United States have also become home to people born elsewhere. “But Canada,” says Adams, “is the only place on earth that has all three of these characteristics: a national minority group, an Aboriginal population, and a substantial immigrant population.”


Canadian history paved the way for accommodation, says Adams. Not since the arrival of Champlain has one group had Canada to itself. The British, French, and Dutch had strong ideas of what being British, French, or Dutch meant, and they expected newcomers to assimilate. By contrast, the First Nations, French Canadians, Loyalists, and subsequent arrivals have learned to compromise and never did define what “Canadian” meant. Polls indicate that more Canadians (proportionally) than people of any other country welcome immigrants, perhaps because of the expectation that they will enrich rather than challenge the national identity.


Let us hope that Adams is right. So far, Canada has had nothing comparable to the London explosion of July 7, 2005 nor the French riots of that October nor the Australian beach riots of that December. Remember, however, that in the 1970s, when someone asked Chinese Foreign Minister Zhou Enlai about the significance of the French Revolution of 1789, he replied that it was too soon to tell. Meanwhile, Adams reassures and entertains.


Adams, Michael,, “Unlikely Utopia: The Surprising Triumph of Canadian Pluralism.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/28283.