When Cultures Clash: Case Studies in Multiculturalism


171 pages
ISBN 0-920490-44-1




Reviewed by Alexander Craig

Alexander Craig is a freelance journalist in Lennoxville, Quebec.


We’re all guilty of it — but does anyone even do anything about it? No, the subject is not complaining about the weather — in this case it is using stereotypes about other individuals and groups of individuals. Professor Friesen has decided to do something about it, and his book is an interesting introduction to the question.

There have to be some major qualifications. This is a Western Canadian book, and a Prairies one at that, so it’ll be of limited, or academic, relevance to anyone concerned with multiculturalism in Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver. And such basic questions as what the more than one-quarter of Canadians who speak French feel and think about multiculturalism (as opposed to dualism, bilingualism, and all that) are not even addressed.

Like other central problems, thinking in stereotypes has to be approached on a long-term basis. By education, for example. Dr. Friesen’s book is directed explicitly at teachers and education students. It’s well-written, however (although not every reader — I’m absolutely sure of that statement — will understand what he means by “transitional cultures like that of the Native people of Canada”). One further exception is his repeated use of the term “mitigate against.”

All this said, there’s a lot of very good material here. In appropriate pedagogical manner, the author loves lists; but of more interest to the general reader will be the many valuable summaries he offers of frequently conflicting views about multiculturalism. Tribute has to be paid to the vast amount of research he’s done, covering the many specialized journals and unpublished research work. The lack of index or bibliography is made up for by extensive footnotes.

The approach is very much a historical one, rather than sociological or demographic. There is, for example, a useful table of significant dates and events in Métis life, but hardly anything on “harder” social science characteristics, such as population statistics and developments on economic activities. Yet the author defines his terms, such as Métis, clearly and extensively, and he provides helpful guides to the historical background of the Métis, the doctrine of the Hutterites, and other such matters.

Dr. Friesen also writes in a very interesting way on the ideals of education in the different groups covered (the French in Western Canada, the Plains Indians, the Métis, the Hutterites, the Mennonites). Above all, he is sympathetic and tolerant. On the Plains Indians, for instance, he notes “Sometimes it is difficult to differentiate between certain traditional Indian practices and more recent phenomena such as religious revivals, sensitivity training and group activities, and aspects of the charismatic movement.” This book, which traces the long history of attempts to improve inter-group relations, at both planning and implementation stages, can be regarded as being itself a significant step toward that goal.


Friesen, John W., “When Cultures Clash: Case Studies in Multiculturalism,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/36417.