Unsettling White Identity

              Multicultural values — portrayed as “benevolent” and “not racist”— unsettle White identity by challenging dominant Anglo-White groups. This includes practices promoting “inclusion” and “equal treatment” in Canadian society such as citizenship and immigration. Ironically, when multicultural values are put into fruition, any inconvenience or offence to Anglo-White groups creates White anxieties as their national stability and power are threatened (Lipsitz 2006, Hage 2000). It is therefore imperative to recognize the fallacious nature of multicultural values that are reinforced by assimilation policies such as citizenship (Hage 2000). In candid terms, multicultural values such as citizenship mask the true intentions of Anglo-White groups to erase and/or assimilate non-White identities in the “name of multiculturalism.” This tactic is cleverly constructed, as it appears to be a genuine effort toward inclusion and diversity; in fact, Canada is often mistaken as “one of the most multicultural countries in the world” (CBC 2003, DH 2019). While the demographics collected by the Canadian government may appear to support this contention (Statistics Canada 2022)[1], the treatment non-White groups endure is far from inclusive. This piece argues that multiculturalism is yet another tactic to erase the presence of non-White identities; more specifically, any genuine efforts that rightfully promote inclusion unsettle White identities. As a response, disquiet White identities employ the notion of “reverse racism” in order to uphold and preserve a “One Nation” discourse, which is embedded in patriotism and ideas of a “singular nationhood” (Mackey 2016).

              Before unpacking assimilation practices, “reverse racism,” and “One Nation” discourses, it is important to briefly analyze the foundations of Canadian multiculturalism. The model of multiculturalism emerged within a bilingual framework, whereby the only recognizable founding nations were reserved for English and French settlers (Haque 2012), and directly corresponds with The White Paper’s (1969)[2] intentions of Indigenous assimilation and achieving White-settler nationalism (Haque 2012). As a foundational concept, this is concerning because multiculturalism is based on assimilating non-White and Indigenous identities. I ask: how can multiculturalism achieve/promote inclusion and equal treatment for all when it emanates from erasing non-White identities? In simple terms, this is not feasible because the ill-intended foundation of multiculturalism contradicts the “prosperous” and “benevolent” values (i.e. citizenship) it claims to put forward. Where the situation of multiculturalism becomes more complex is the high degree of value and advocacy given to this concept. As previously mentioned, Canada upholds the appearance of a “multicultural nation,” and is often compared more positively in relation to the “melting pot” of our American neighbours. However, this piece argues the unfortunate reality that Canada is equally as non-inclusive and racist as the United States and is arguably a White supremacist state, despite its portrayal as the superior, non-systemically racist nation. For instance, Canada is commonly referred to as a “cultural mosaic,” which is a multicultural value that suggests every person, regardless of culture, race, sex, gender, etc., has their own valued and respected place in Canadian society. This is juxtaposed to the reference of the United States as a “melting pot,” which strips people of their individuality. On the surface, the Canadian “(multi)cultural mosaic” seems preferable to the American “melting pot,” yet, this is nothing more than a deceiving appearance.  

              I believe settler nations such as Canada and the United States employ citizenship as a strategic ploy to maintain White sovereignty on stolen territory. By advertising citizenship as an advantageous and generous gift, the settler state maintains the imagination of a “multicultural” nation in two main ways: firstly, by distinguishing itself from “arrivants” (Speed 2019, 78), and secondly, by assimilating any groups that are not aligned with the ideals of White sovereigntists. For example, in an effort to promote acceptance and welcomeness, Canadian authorities often reference their “immense appreciation” for immigrants that contribute to the “Canadian dream” (CBC 2003). Previous Citizenship and Immigration Minister Dennis Coderre states, “this country will continue to be a place where immigrants will find hope, hospitality and opportunity” (CBC 2003). However, institutional services such as health care and education have not been modified to meet the needs of immigrants, and the incarceration level exceeds thousands of people on abusive conditions, such as no outside contact and solitary confinement (Stauffer 2021). Ultimately, citizenship is a multicultural value because it reinforces the White supremacy value of assimilation, which is based on legally distinguishing “precarious migrants,” (Maynard 2019, 127) from Anglo-White inhabitants. If an individual obtains citizenship, they can be assimilated in contemporary Canadian society; conversely, if an individual does not obtain citizenship, they are categorized as the “other.” Thus, without the legal distinction provided by citizenship, the racial logics of White supremacy would be nonexistent.

              In addition, Black, Indigenous, and racialized people are held for longer periods of time which demonstrates Canada’s racist policies. For example, in 2019, the largest number of immigrant detainees across Canada were of African descent[3] (Stauffer 2021). Oftentimes during the detention process, the detainees are exposed to death or near-death experiences. In the case of a failed Nigerian asylum claimant, the individual died in custody of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) while being deported (Maynard 2019, 131). Notably, Canada mistakenly seems preferable to the United States, but in reality, it is based on the same principles of Whiteness that employ citizenship to displace, detain, and control (Maynard 2019) the lives of non-White individuals. An “inclusive” and “welcoming” Canada should not be based on racist policies that support Whiteness: most importantly, Canada should not be attributed the title of a “multicultural nation” when in practice and within its institutions, its true values are far from inclusivity and equal treatment of non-White groups.

              Furthermore, since multiculturalism is constructed on the principles of “One Nation” discourses, anything that disrupts “the power” of Anglo-White groups will be challenged—as seen in the case of “reverse racism.” “One Nation” discourses are “powerful fantas[ies] of singular nationhood” which is deeply embedded in patriotism (Mackey 2016, 106); meaning, there is one subjective nation, and those that do not adhere to its fantasy essentially “do not belong” in the country. I believe Anglo-Whites argue “reverse racism” (Hage 2000) specifically to preserve “One Nation” discourses (Mackey 2016). These practices are employed globally by Anglo-White groups; for example, right-winged Australian politician Pauline Hanson contends that White Anglo-males are the “most oppressed” group (Hage 2000, 182). In East Berlin, ethnographic research among young right extremists conducted by Nitzan Shoshan yields that linguistic otherness (immigrants speaking languages other than German) is also considered an act of “reverse racism.” Shoshan (2008) explains why Uta, an adolescent whom he interviewed, believes that immigrants discriminate against White Germans on the basis of multilingual status (Shoshan 2008, 381). Uta describes that they feel threatened, as immigrants often possess an ability to speak multiple languages, desired in today’s global job market (UEI 2017). This multilingual skill is also unique to immigrants and distinguishes them in a positive manner, in comparison to discriminatory stereotypes attributed to immigrants by White supremacists. I believe that Uta subconsciously understands this principle, and therefore implies “reverse racism” as a mechanism to preserve Whiteness and render multilingual immigrants as the “other.”

              Similarly, inclusion-oriented initiatives for racial opportunities in state and corporate institutions, such as higher education and workplace, are also often subject to debates on “reverse racism.” This is prevalent in the Bakke case[4], where a medical school applicant (the plaintiff) complained that “school affirmative action programs disadvantaged White applicants like himself” (Lipsitz 2006, 22). It is worthwhile to note that neither Bakke nor the Court had issues with the five reserved seats in each class for “children of wealthy donors” to protect and secure the admission of White applicants by denying them to people of colour (Lipsitz 2006, 22). Affirmative action programs are designed to promote inclusion and the only reason why these programs continue to exist is due to the prevalent dominance and privilege of Whiteness in society: to contend the opposite proves that Whiteness exerts its power by creating marginalized groups, and continuously renders them disproportionate through systemic and social discrimination.

              Most recently, we also see the implementation of “reverse racism” through the Freedom Convoy protestors; beginning as a protest against COVID-19 vaccination mandates for truck drivers in Canada and the United States, this convoy quickly escalated and became a protest governed by White nationalist ideals (Ibrahim 2022). This protest is important for two main reasons: the explicit connection to Whiteness, and the leniency of the Canadian government towards protestors. The Freedom Convoy is connected with racist individuals such as Pat King, who believes that White people are being “replaced” (Ibrahim 2022). The explicit connection to Whiteness is also seen with the promotion of Nazi flags that appeared early in the protest (Ibrahim 2022). However, the most important factor to address about the Freedom Convoy is the power it upholds, resulting from the connection to Whiteness. The Freedom Convoy Protest is a violent, ongoing, national protest; since its origins on January 28th, 2022, the Canadian Federal government did not call for a national state of emergency until February 11th, 2022 (Diptée 2022). The protestors spewed in hate speech, verbal harassment, noise pollution and White supremacist ideologies, yet the Canadian Federal government did not invoke safety measures until two weeks later. This leniency is important to analyze because it proves Canada’s investment in Whiteness, and more specifically, policing of Black and Indigenous People—during a peaceful Toronto demonstration of Black Lives Matter (BLM) in 2016, participants were beaten and gassed by the police (Diptée 2022); another peaceful protest in Ottawa in 2020 for Black and Indigenous Lives resulted in protestors being removed within three days, as well as the conviction of twelve people (Diptée 2022). There is no excuse for the behaviour of state institutions—two peaceful demonstrations of non-White people were forcefully eliminated, yet an ongoing, violent protest based on White supremacy ideologies remains uncontrolled. This undoubtably proves the White discourses upon which Canada and all its institutions are founded and continue to uphold. A “multicultural country” that promotes values of inclusion and diversity cannot blatantly favour White groups/protestors, while continuing to violently marginalize non-White groups.

              Paradoxically, on the surface, multiculturalism is meant to “respect diversity” (Hage 2000, 200), but at the same time, Anglo-White groups must always preserve their sovereignty—hence multiculturalism and “reverse racism.” In order to uphold Anglo-White discourses, multiculturalism in Canada acts as the mask, covering the truth of assimilating non-White groups. This is achieved by assimilation policies such as citizenship, which is based on following “One Nation” discourses. By marginalizing non-White groups as the “other,” and by blatantly rejecting affirmative action programs designed to promote inclusion, Whiteness continues to prevail in contemporary society. Ultimately, despite multiculturalism in Canada being contended as “benevolent and inclusive,” it, therefore, remains that White settler identity fears disturbance by their own false advocation of multicultural values. Consequently, in response to maintaining these White national discourses, “reverse racism” is employed by Anglo-White groups.




CBC News, “Census shows Canada truly multicultural,” CBC News, January 23, 2003,


Daily Hive (DH), “Canada named one of the most diverse countries in the world,” Daily Hive

News, May 13, 2019, https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/canada-most-diverse-countries-


Diptée, Audra, “Black and Indigenous Protestors are treated differently than the

‘convoy’ because of Canada’s ongoing racism,” The Conversation, February 17, 2022,



Hage, Ghassan, “The Discourse of Anglo Decline: The Spectre of Cosmopolitan Whiteness.” In White Nation: Fantasies of White Supremacy in a Multicultural Society, New York: Routledge, (2000): 179-208.

Haque, Eve. Historical Context In Multiculturalism within a Bilingual Framework:         Language, Race and Belonging in Canada,” Toronto: University of Toronto Press, (2012): 67-104.

Ibrahim, Erika, “ ‘Freedom Convoy’ organizers discussed playing ‘race card’ with

Metis heritage,” The Canadian Press, July 9, 2022, https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/freedom-convoy-organizers-discussed-playing-race-card-with-metis-heritage-1.5980936

Lipsitz, George, “The Possessive Investment in Whiteness.” In The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, (2006): 1-23.

Mackey, Eva, “Settler Jurisdictional Imaginaries in Practice: Equality, Law, Race and      Multiculturalism,” In Unsettled Expectations: Uncertainty, Land, and SettlerDecolo nization. Halifax: Fernwood Publishings, (2016): 101-122.

Maynard, Robyn. (2019). “Black Life and Death across the U.S.-Canada Border: Border Violence, Black Fugitive Belonging, and a Turtle Island View of Black Liberation,” Critical Ethnic Studies 5, no. 1-2 (2019): 124-51.

Shoshan, Nitzan, “Placing the extremes: Cityscape, ethnic ‘others’ and young right extremists      in East Berlin,” Journal of Contemporary European Studies 16, no. 3 (2008): 377-391.

Speed, Shannon, “The Persistence of White Supremacy: Indigenous Women Migrants and the     Structures of Settler Capitalism,” American Anthropologist 122, no. 1 (2019): 76-85.

Statistics Canada, “Table 98-10-0337-01 Visible minority by ethnic or cultural origin: Canada, provinces and territories, census metropolitan areas and census agglomerations with parts,” Canada, October 10, 2022, DOI: https://doi.org/10.25318/9810033701-eng

Stauffer, Brian, “Canada: Abuse, Discrimination in Immigration Detention: Thousands Held; Systemic Change Needed,” Human Rights Watch, June 17, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/06/17/canada-abuse-discrimination-immigration-detention

UEI, “Can Speaking Two Languages Increase Your Job Prospects?”, UEI College, August 17, 2017, https://www.uei.edu/blog/can-speaking-two-languages-increase-your-job-prospects/U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 2.


[1] See Table 98-10-0337-01, which indicates that roughly one quarter of Canada’s population (in 2022) is comprised of individuals with “ethnic or cultural” origin. This refers to the “origin” of people’s ancestors, which include Indigenous origins and origins from different countries (Statistics Canada 2022, Footnote 11).

[2] The White Paper’s intention was to abolish the Indian Act and the Indian Affairs Branch, while also rapidly assimilating Indigenous people; by removing the legal distinction between Indigenous and Canadian, this would minimize land claims and eliminate true equality and justice for Indigenous People (Haque 2012, 40).

[3] These immigrants were held for over 90 days (Stauffer 2021).

[4] Regents of the University of California, Petitioner, v. Allan Bakke, 438 U.S. 98, (1978). The applicant was rejected twice and argued that the “special admissions program” was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states that “no person shall on the ground of race or color be excluded from participating in any program receiving federal financial assistance” (U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 2). The court ordered his admission.

About Author

              My name is Natasha Latina (she/her) and I graduated from York University in 2022 with a Bachelor of Honours Degree in French Studies. I am currently completing my Juris Doctor Degree at the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, Lakehead University. This year I am working with Pro Bono Students Canada at Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services on a Client Assistance Project and I am also a General Editor for the Lakehead Law Journal (LLJ).

              I am a first-generation student passionate in languages (particularly linguistics), law, and social justice. I love learning new languages and the arts, as I am fluent in Italian and am a classically trained guitarist. Upon graduation, I aspire to use my law degree to aid underrepresented individuals in a professional capacity, while also guiding future students through their legal journey!