Transnationalist Cecil Foster explores the origins, legacy, and potential of Canadian multicultural policy.
From the beginning of colonial settlement in the Americas, multiculturalism has symbolized a deeply held yearning by all humanity for freedom. It was at the heart of the Civil War and Canadian Confederation in 1867. But until the 1970s, this yearning for a socially just society was consistently suppressed. Peoples of colour were denied citizenship in the White Man’s Country, the highest achievement of the American Dream and a Manifest Destiny. But fifty years ago this year, Canada took a big step to break with this sordid past and to grasp for a new future by embracing a policy of multiculturalism that would see Canadians open their country to the rest of the world, and to life itself.
Five decades into this journey, Canada is still grasping for greatness, not as a white homeland carved out of stolen aboriginal lands, but now as a home for peoples of the world. But can Canada, as an example to Americas, ever be free of past illusions of greatness and its heavy baggage? Is multiculturalism simply white supremacy in disguise?
Praise for They Call Me George: The Untold Story of Black Train Porters and the Birth of Modern Canada
"Foster had the courage to examine the realities of race in this country long before it was commonplace to do so...Canadian multiculturalism rests on the shoulders of the sleeping car porters." —Globe and Mail
"In [They Call Me George] ...Foster aims to restore the identities of the Black men who once worked on Canadian railroads. In the process, he also excavates a chapter of Canadian history that has been largely erased from the collective memory: the role that Black train porters played in furthering social justice and shaping Canada into the country it is today." —Toronto Star
"Foster has dissected the myth of Canadian tolerance, born of our history as a haven for refugee slaves—exposing instead a past in which the English and French elites fought to create a white nation...Blacks and other Canadians of colour are not merely the beneficiaries of multiculturalism; they are its architects." —Donna Bailey Nurse, Literary Review of Canada
"Informative and well-written...We owe a debt of gratitude to [the porters], and to Foster for his masterful and insightful research and writing." —Daily Nation (Barbados)
"An excellent, well-written, and historically accurate volume." —UK Barbados Nation
"A bold book by a self-assured scholar who has rewritten our conventional history...says Foster: 'This important piece of Canadian history has yet to be fully told.' They Call Me George is [his] effort to do just that." —Winnipeg Free Press
"Mr. Foster’s well-written book about black train porters contains a wealth of information that is illuminating, revealing and, at times, disappointing. The beauty of the Canadian railroad had its ugly side, too." —Washington Times
Praise for Cecil Foster
"Cecil Foster is a wise man with a flair for storytelling and writing that enters the heart.” —Quill & Quire (Starred Review)
“Foster’s story of a West Indies community in transition is a marvelous read, filled with humour, sorrow, and wit, and told with the deft and gentle touch of a master storyteller.” —Thomas King
“Cecil Foster kicks up one hell of a class-war fuss and proves he’s got stuff enough to show those mediocre storytellers how it’s really done... Unforgettable.” —Toronto Star
“I don’t know when I’ve read a more evocative book about black men. Read it and you will see the world differently.” —Vancouver Sun
“Foster brings historical depth to his work and shows that the social and political recognition of blackness and multiculturalism is itself a contingent moment in history.” —George Dei, University of Toronto