The Canadian Caste System

34 posts / 0 new
Last post
Webgear
The Canadian Caste System

 

Webgear

How would you describe the caste system in Canada?

I believe there are at least four caste systems, all have certain common linkages:

a. Racial
b. Monetary
c. Educational
d. Professional

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________ We are like cloaks, one thinks of us only when it rains.

Star Spangled C...

I'm not sure "caste" is the appropriate analogy. My understanding of "caste" (not positive so correct me if I'm wrong) is that it's basically permanent. If you're part of a certain caste, your great-grandchildren will be in that same caste for perpetuity. Whereas in North America, there is perpetual movement - in both directions.

Tommy_Paine

"Whereas in North America, there is perpetual movement - in both directions."

I'm not so sure that this is in fact so true.  I'm sure there are studies someone here knows about that would shed light.   But, it's my experience that people, by and large, either do what their parents did, for income, or inhabit much the same economic strata that their parents did.   

I suspect the idea of class mobility in the U.S. and Canada is largely mythological.

Terminology aside, I think Webgear's question is a very interesting one.  I'm not sure there's an answer in terms of some absolute reality-- there are so many different ways to differentiate and catagorize ourselves.

But, each answer will probably tell us more about the respondent than it sheds light on our society.

 

 

 

It's Me D

I'm not sure how you seperate "educational" and "professional" from "monetary" so I'll have to go with this:

a) race

b) money

At least till you expand on c and d anyway.

George Victor

TP:

"I suspect the idea of class mobility in the U.S. and Canada is largely mythological."

---------------------------------------

The idea didn't die, Tommy, only the reality...starting about three decades back. Oh, the brighter lights can count on "movin' on up", but the cost of education today is more and more making that a very class-specific act in our marvelous meriticracy. And, of course, we know that there is still the business method and the mob.

Tommy_Paine

 About three decades back?  I rather think that it's always been this way, and we invented the idea three decades back or, more likely, earlier.

That's part of what encompasses "The American Dream", isn't it?

 

Star Spangled C...

Well, this isn't ahrd statistics but just based on my own experiences: My mother's parents were both Holocaust survivors who came here with nothing. her dad worked in a steel mill in Hamilton. My dad's parents ran a little tailoring shop in Montreal. My parents, one generation removed from working-class, immigrant parents are, respectively, a physician and lawyer, lived in Forest Hill, all their kids went to university. My wife immigrated to New York from Iran as a baby, parents spoke no English. She's now a successful physician.

The silver bullet has been access to education which allows one to get those otehr categories - professional and monetary. I know things are getting ahrd with regards to access to education but I think if you were to look at the student body of Med school, law school, MBA programs, etc., you'd find a lot of people not too far removed from being in those "lower castes."

Tommy_Paine

 

I was thinking of that too,  how immigrants come here penniless, and whose children do very well.  It would be interesting to balance those events by knowing what the immigrant parents did before the calamity that brought them to Canada.

Star Spangled C...

Well, in the case of my family, it was slave labour for the Nazis.

It's Me D

I agree with Webgear's premise in the OP that Canada indeed has a caste system; can we discuss that? Maybe we can get another thread for discussing whether Canada has a caste system... cause this discussion is retreading some very old territory... in short, the American Dream is complete BS. As for pulling one's self up by one's bootstraps as SSC recommends, that option, if it ever was a real possibility, is completely out of reach for most lower-caste Canadians. Penniless children grow up penniless, education is not made available to them. Those poor kids (less than 1% I'd wager) who beat the system, make it to university with full scholarships, work their asses off, and get lucky are the exceptions that prove the rule... for the other 99% our system is every bit as permanent as India's.

Tommy_Paine

Star Spangled Canadian wrote:
Well, in the case of my family, it was slave labour for the Nazis.

What I meant was what were they doing before the Nazi's came along?

Refuge Refuge's picture

Webgear wrote:

How would you describe the caste system in Canada?

I believe there are at least four caste systems, all have certain common linkages:

a. Racial
b. Monetary
c. Educational
d. Professional

I agree and add

e. People with developmental disabilites (the untouchables)

When I have worked with people with developmental disabilities (which were obvious to the casual observer due to body movements and vocalizations) I have gone out in the community and seen a reactions from people that are offensive.  From people getting up and moving seats on the bus to "shameful" stares to comments like "take them back to where they belong".

Webgear

I would like to add three more possibilities to the caste system:

a. Urban/Rural
b. Religious
c. Language

I believe our Canadian system is very complex however I feel there are common linkages

Does anyone know if Indian immigrants bring their caste system to Canada?

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________ We are like cloaks, one thinks of us only when it rains.

George Victor

"I believe our Canadian system is very complex however I feel there are common linkages"

------------------------------------------------------

By making a class system in a dying meritocracy into a caste system which has nothing to do with caste (look it up) you make it very, very, very complex indeed, Web.

It's Me D

Webgear you should perhaps hold off on adding categories till you address the initial list. I'm still waiting for your rational on your initial c and d, as asked in post #4.

As for the latest 3 I can only see the rational for language. Urban/Rural for example, is a combination of things such as income and education, already listed in the OP. Religion is only significant when combined with language and cultural barriers, and should not be considered in itself, imo.

My two cents. 

Ghislaine

I will comment on my own experience. I grew up very poor with a lot of addictions in my family. As a young adult I am now middle class, although my eduction was nearly 100% student loan financed, so I have over $30,000 in debt after exhausting all debt reduction grants, etc. Mobility is possible with hard work with the student loan program, however I now pay $310/mo. until 2022 which severely limits my available disposible income or ability to use money towards charity, buying more locally, etc.

I think a complete overhaul of our financing system for university/college is required. At the very least, a program of needs-based grants should be implemented rather than loans.

However, I grew up in a situation where studying was extremely challenging (due to the accompanying noise/verbal abuse associated with living a in a home with addictions). I was quite rebellious and dedicated and able to withstand this (I remember studying for a final exam in high school while my father and several drunk friends were howling at the moon) however for many kids this is too difficult and/or they end up in substance problems themselves due to not caring.

 So I guess in sum there a lot of complex issues involved in this without even touching on race or gender (which you did not mention Webgear!). Considering women make less than men STILL and there are still men who are awol on child support as well, this is an extremely valid category.

Tommy_Paine

 

As I understand the Indian caste system,  a poor person could become the wealthiest person in India, but they'd still not be brahmin. 

Similarly, if we look at France before the revolution, and England during the Industrial Revolution,  many aristocrates (particularly in France, which had different rights of inheritance) were in fact penniless, while the emerging middle class had a lot of money.

But for the middle class to ascend to the aristocracy, they had to marry into it.  And even then,  they did not escape the taint of not being born into it.

This, to me is a caste system.  Something determined by birth.  

 Is this happening in Canada?  I think there are elements of it, enforced systemically through things like access to education,  for example, and other monetary means.

However, on paper and in practice, I think there are too many excpetions and theoretical exceptions for it to be compared to rigid caste systems that have existed in Britain, India or Japan for examples.

 

Doug

Webgear wrote:

Does anyone know if Indian immigrants bring their caste system to Canada?

Obviously, that depends on the individuals involved, but I've read so. (though with what degree of accuracy, I can't say) The Hindu immigrants, of course - lots of the immigrants from India not being Hindu. It mainly matters for determining what's an acceptable marriage or not.

We definitely do have strong economic and cultural class systems. They just aren't very simple, taken together. It's almost like everyone comes with a set of plus and minus points originating friom how their identity maps on to that class structure: well-educated (+10), male (+4), recent immigrant (-25), etc.

Webgear

It's Me D

Sorry for not responding earlier I miss your question.

I separated education from profession because a personal point of view and experience. It is my opinion that where you receive your training and educate will amount for where one is situated in any organization.

 

______________________________________________________________________________________________ We are like cloaks, one thinks of us only when it rains.

It's Me D

webgear wrote:
Does anyone know if Indian immigrants bring their caste system to Canada?

I have an Indian-Canadian friend who has described her experience with bringing the caste system to Canada to me; she came as a child, from a Catholic family. What she's told me is that within Canada she doesn't strongly feel the burden of the caste system, but when back in India there is overwhelming pressure to conform to her caste (which is an upper caste, though she doesn't personally accept that). It seems very difficult, for a progressive left-wing Canadian to navigate being treated as better than others by virtue of birth; she does everything she can to buck that when in India. Thats my only insight on the matter, and I wouldn't be comfortable trying to generalize that experience to other Indian-Canadians (especially as the presence of a large Indian community in the area, which we don't really have here, might result in a very different experience with a greater presence of the caste system here in Canada).

Quote:
I separated education from profession because a personal point of view and experience. It is my opinion that where you receive your training and educate will amount for where one is situated in any organization.

I think your probably right in some fields; what field do you work in if you don't mind my asking? I don't think that its a concern for most people, since most people don't work in the sort of prestigeous fields where this sort of thing matters. I'd say that these (professional and educational) divisions seperate from monetary divisions, affect only a small number of upper-middle class and upper class Canadians; given that I don't think its relevant to the discussion of a "caste" system. The difference between a professional making $100,000+ with a degree from Dalhousie and a professional making $100,000+ with a degree from York, isn't really substantial from the perspective of a wage-slave making $15,000 with a high school education. Unless I continue to misunderstand you.

Doug

There is a distinction though - someone like Mike Lazaridis (Research-in-Motion billionaire, if you aren't familiar) still isn't quite going to fit in socially with older-money types. It seems like less of an issue from afar, but I'd expect it would matter a lot more in those circles.

George Victor

Meaningless mystification folks. A labrynth, a jungle of concepts.

saga saga's picture

Doug wrote:
There is a distinction though - someone like Mike Lazaridis (Research-in-Motion billionaire, if you aren't familiar) still isn't quite going to fit in socially with older-money types. It seems like less of an issue from afar, but I'd expect it would matter a lot more in those circles.

I was having the same thought about not becoming part of the 'old money' group just because you have money.

However, does anyone really care? Laughing

 

George Victor

"There is a distinction though - someone like Mike Lazaridis (Research-in-Motion billionaire, if you aren't familiar) still isn't quite going to fit in socially with older-money types. It seems like less of an issue from afar, but I'd expect it would matter a lot more in those circles."

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Except for people like the Westons (in Canada), the old "old money/nouveau riche" distinction is dead. And Mike Lazaridis' friends number the world's top physicists...he could not give a fiddler's fart for the rest.

remind remind's picture

EWell nowadays we  have "rock", hollywood", literary" and "fashion" royalty, which I find nasty and needing to be stopped, along with all the historical types of royalty.

ceti ceti's picture

Hmmm... This discussion seems a bit off the rails. Let's look at Canadian caste as rather a function of labour and background where members of this semi-permanent group share various ethnic/racial/etc. characteristics.

We need something between class and caste, especially in a racially heterogenous nation undergoing major economic structural change to describe this phenomenon which is growing starker as society becomes increasingly stratified.

Here's a tentative sketch:

1. The Canadian upper class -- made up of corporate executives, big business owners, and highly-paid professionals (lawyers, doctors, etc). Anyone really with significant resources and investments.

2. The Canadian upper middle class -- this would include a lot of well-paid (and yes, unionized) workers, including those in the public service.

3. The embattled Canadian middle class -- a class that is experiencing extreme contraction at this time.

4. The Canadian working class in poorer, more remote parts of the country.

5. The Canadian underclass, including many people living on reserves or the inner cities.

Within this mix stand first class Canadians (anglo-franco settlers with family ties and resources), second class Canadians (immigrants who arrived earlier than the 1990s), third class Canadians (visible minority immigrants who arrived recently and work the most difficult jobs), and fourth class Canadians (the working and non-working poor). Aboriginal communities stand apart in all these stratifications, but strongly affirm the caste nature of these divisions in terms of the persistence of these economic and social boundaries.

Class/caste in these cases serves to constrict or expand opportunities available to an individual hailing from each group. The children of those with the most resources, have the most options and security. At the bottom, it is generally extremely insecure and difficult to seize opportunities or to plan ahead.

 

remind remind's picture

Excellent breakdown ceti, but I would add within your breakdowns, there are  class subsets as well. I believe these subsets, on either side of the boundary markers, are the functional barriers that buttress, or enliven,  the persistence of stated socio-economic boundaries. These subsets are where the mobility between classes occur, and the absolute caste, within the class, remains mobility untouched. Except of course for the mushy middle, which is being thrown under the bus by both the over classes, so that they may sustain their caste levels.

As such, the mushy middle, in urban areas, will find themselves in lower caste regard, than the working poor in rural areas, though perhaps not as low as being part of an actual underclass, if they do not unite with both rural area working poor, and the underclass, and with those in the subset of the upper middle class who may recognize they are under threat as well, namely union workers.

Loretta

Also, many women find themselves being mobile within the whole system, whatever it's called, on the basis of their conjugal relationships, i.e., marriage or divorce.

Lord Palmerston

A US perspective but I think it is useful here as well.

[url=http://www.monthlyreview.org/0706zweig.htm]Michael Zweig: Six Points on Class[/url]

Quote:
We need to change the understanding of class in the United States, going from the division of “rich and poor” to the division of “worker and capitalist.”

When we popularize this more accurate and useful terminology, we will convey a better grasp of class dynamics and make it easier to address the continuing operation of racism and sexism in American society. We will also contribute to the construction of political movements capable of reversing the decades-old trend towards ever-more-consolidated corporate power at the expense of working people, regardless of race and gender.

We should identify the class divisions as between the working class, 62 percent of the U.S. labor force—a substantial majority of the American people—and the corporate elite (or capitalist class), who make up only 2 percent. In between these classes is the middle class (36 percent of the U.S. labor force).1

The “Two Americas” John Edwards identified in 2004 and the “Two New Yorks” Fernando Ferrer identified in his 2005 mayoral bid refer to crucial realities that should be front and center in our political conversations and social policy. But these divisions are not best understood as simply the difference between “rich and poor.”

“Class” must be understood in terms of power rather than income, wealth, or life style, although these do vary by class. Using power as the starting point allows us to see class as a dynamic relationship rather than as a static set of characteristics. Investigating class as a question of power also makes it possible to find the organic links among class, race, and gender. Looking at class in terms of income, wealth, life style, or education separates it from race and gender, which are best understood as power relationships rather than inherent characteristics individuals possess.

The working class are those people with relatively little power at work—white-collar bank tellers, call-center workers, and cashiers; blue-collar machinists, construction workers, and assembly-line workers; pink-collar secretaries, nurses, and home-health-care workers—skilled and unskilled, men and women of all races, nationalities, and sexual preferences. The working class are those with little personal control over the pace or content of their work and without supervisory control over the work lives of others. There are nearly 90 million working-class people in the U.S. labor force today. The United States has a substantial working-class majority.

The capitalist class are the corporate elite, senior executives, and directors of large corporations, whose job it is to give strategic direction to the company, who interact with government agencies and other corporate executives while leaving the day-to-day operation of their company to intermediate levels of management and the workforce. In this they are different from small business owners, who tend to work beside their relatively few employees and manage them directly. These small business owners, while literally capitalists in that they employ wage labor, are better understood to be in the middle class, as will be discussed below.

The ruling class is considerably smaller than the full capitalist class and includes non-capitalists as well. If we think of the ruling class as those who give strategic direction to the country as a whole, extending beyond their own business or institution, we can identify those corporate directors who sit on multiple boards, thus having an opportunity to coordinate capitalist activity across enterprises, and add to them the political elites of the three branches of national government and cultural and educational leaders who contribute to the furtherance of corporate interests. The entire U.S. ruling class could fit into the seats at Yankee Stadium (capacity: 54,000).

The middle class are professionals, small-business owners, and managerial and supervisory employees. They are best understood not as the middle of an income distribution but as living in the middle of the two polar classes in capitalist society. Their experiences have some aspects shared with the working class and some associated with the corporate elite.

Small business owners, for example, share with capitalists an interest in private property in business assets, defeated unions, and weak labor regulations. But they share with workers the work itself, great vulnerability to the capitalist market and government power, and difficulty securing adequate health insurance and retirement security.

Professionals are also caught in the middle of the cross fire in the principal class conflict between labor and capital. If we look at the experience over the last thirty years of professionals whose lives are closely intertwined with the working class—community college teachers, lawyers in public defender offices or with small general practices, doctors practicing in working-class neighborhoods, and public school teachers—their economic and social standing have deteriorated, along with the class they serve. But if we look at those whose lives are more fully involved in serving the capitalist class—corporate lawyers, financial service professionals, Big-Four CPAs, and doctors who practice beyond the reach of HMOs and insurance company oversight—these professionals have risen in fortune with the class they serve, albeit to a lesser extent, absolutely and proportionately.

Professionals in most parts of the academic community (especially in colleges closely linked to working-class constituencies) are experiencing the pain of corporate pressure as working-class people do. In the process many academic jobs have been degraded. They are no longer relatively secure tenure-track middle-class positions, but adjunct and visitor positions staffed by a growing second tier of people working at will with virtually no professional standing, a new academic working class.2

“Working class” is best understood differently from the Department of Labor (DOL) category “production and non-supervisory” employee. This DOL category includes every employee who is not a supervisor, like most professors and other middle-class professionals working for a salary. However, lumping all employees who have no supervisory power over others into the working class masks the real differences in social position that professional people enjoy, beleaguered as they may be. Appreciating the contradictory location of professional and other middle-class employees helps to understand the political vicissitudes characteristic of this section of the population and suggests ways of approaching them as allies to working-class politics.

concerned12

i would definitely say there is one. 

in terms of access to jobs etc...even if a working class kid obtained advanced degrees they would still have a much harder time obtaining a job than those with more privileged backgrounds.  i know many that dont bother with higher education because they can site many examples of lower class kids who end up being "highly educated" yet chronically unemployed.

 

concerned12

additionally, i know of many cases where privilege trumps knowledge- hence the hiring of those with little knowledge yet stuffy backgrounds.

Rexdale_Punjabi Rexdale_Punjabi's picture

the ppl in the middle could also change depending on the size involved. A lower level manager at a huge corporation probably gets paid more and has to do a lot more with less supervision than at a smaller one where they would just be told what to do and basically are just in the middle between the higher level and the ppl working but I guess thats why its middle lol.

 

Idk the middle is weird because a manager at mcdonalds is getting paid about the same as the someone on the grill and they're both told what to do its just one can say it twice while the other has to listen twice so in reality its like the same.

 

I guess the bigger shit gets the bigger the gap.

 

And even something like where u live can obv affect access to a job but where u live is affected by other stuff so the base stays the same a lot of the point being added are just the result of 2 or 3 things. Like where u live would be stuff like.

 

Race, money, gender, immigration time etc. Its affected by all those. 

 

and yea KKkanada does have a caste system.

 

Wasnt there soeme saying that the western elites main success was that they made ppl think they're free when they're really not?

 

Like they basically throw ppl scraps and moving up a bit and getting 1 more crumb while they make trillions is supposed to change something.

 

Look at the bigger picture. And The farther bacc u go the more mobility there was esp because for a lot of the ppl who "moved" up.

There were a lot less obstacles and barrieres.

 

Most of their obstacle was class and bacc then it was easier then it is now to move up because things like uni cost less, or they didnt live in a area where ur watched and harrased by police from day 1, they didnt have the gang/drug tip, the racial side to it, or even like ppl said b4 3 decaded ago all the new policies that stop ppl. 

 

But a lot of ppl say that it was after ww1 that shit stopped as soon as the Federal Reserve was created and basically AmeriKKKan/KKKanadian/w.e indepenance was signed off to the banks.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

I think that if you want to talk about Canadian historic "castes" or what I believe is actually a class system one should not start with WW1 but go back to the Family Compact.  IMO we are back to the days of absolute control by our new corporate masters who like the Family Compact ruled and became very rich by being the empire's representatives controlling the commoners by any means necessary.  They still go to the private schools in Upper Canada and are the ones who perpetrate the myth that if you want good CEO's you have to pay them millions of dollars to play golf with their high school and university buddies.

Everyone else gets stratified below them depending on how they grovel to the money.  If you grovel well enough to the right people you can "overcome" your race, religion and class but it will never happen for a poor person from a marginalized background who does not grovel to the money and talks about equality for all.