Legal Values: Multiculturalism and Intra-Group Vulnerability

Quick Info
(3593G.03)  Seminar
M. Zucker, Adjunct Professor
3 credit(s)  3 hour(s);
This seminar will be taught in three-hour classes over a 9-week period for a total of twenty-seven hours beginning the week of January 15, 2024. Class elements: class discussions and guided debates, guest speakers, film screening followed by reflective discussion, student-led discussion questions and presentations. Students will be expected to attend class, to have read the assigned material for class, and to come prepared to engage in class discussion.
Upper Year Research & Writing Requirement

In the last fifty years, we have witnessed a pendulum swing concerning the relationships between the liberal state, the individual, and cultural minorities. The pendulum began to move during the last three decades of the twentieth century, when assimilationist and monocultural nation-state models were contested and increasingly displaced by newer multicultural models. These new models acknowledge the recognition of cultural minority groups as a prerequisite for the ability of their members to equally enjoy their freedoms and rights. But it was not without criticism that this multicultural swing swept the Western developed world. Critical works, which are collectively known as the literature on “minorities within minorities”, have drawn attention to inequalities within cultural minority groups and the way that these groups can oppress their own internal minorities – who might be women, children, LGBTQ+ individuals, members of a lower caste, and other groups of (less powerful) members. This problem of intra-group vulnerability is the focus of the seminar.
The seminar will bridge legal and theoretical materials to inform our understanding of this problem. As key to developing such understanding, as well as considering appropriate resolutions and strategies, we will identify the role of different players (for example state agents, governments, and community leaders) in various systems of oppression, including colonialism, racism, and patriarchy. Classroom time will focus on critically examining theoretical approaches to addressing intra-group vulnerability concerns, considering their application to actual contexts (to a range of religious, immigrant, and Indigenous communities in Canada and other multicultural societies), and detecting zones of uncertainty and disagreement.
Some of the topics covered include the criminalization of polygamy and forced marriage practices, bans and restrictions on Muslim head and face coverings, and the vulnerability of Indigenous women and children to colonial oppression in the context of Indian status removal (under the Indian Act), missing Indigenous women and girls, and the continuous risks of assimilation and other harms for Indigenous children in government care. Other topics focus on the conditions of internal minorities in religious contexts, including the exclusion of 2SLGBTQ+ persons by religious institutions (as in the Trinity Western University case), the protection of children in minority faiths, as well as tensions around religious education and pluralism in schools. These issues will be considered with attention to developments that mark a perceptible retreat from multicultural and diversity-accommodating agendas across the globe – indicating yet another swing in the state-individual-minority relations pendulum.