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Clan MacKay and Multiculturalism

by Prof. A. Wayne MacKay

Scots are an important component of the multi-cultural fabric of Nova Scotia. So much so that the clans have sometimes regarded being Scottish as the norm in Nova Scotia and other cultural expressions as abnormal or at least on the fringes. In a strictly numerical sense, the great majority of Nova Scotians do have Scottish ancestry and the Scots have left a very important imprint on the culture of the province. However, this fact should not be used to diminish the contributions of other groups such as the Micmacs, Blacks, Lebanese, Greeks, Germans, Acadians and others to numerous to mention.

In rather typical independent fashion, the Scottish clans have been so intent on developing and extending their own heritage that they have paid little attention to other cultural groups. To be blunt, they have sometimes considered themselves to be a cut above the other cultural groups in Nova Scotia and have on occasions fallen prey to a kind of elitism. It is hardly surprising that clans which have spent much time demonstrating their superiority to the other clans, are less open in accepting the other cultural groups on a basis of equality.

Fortunately, these elements of elitism and exclusivity are breaking down. This in certainly true in relation to inter-clan activities where co- operation has replaced competition as the normal operating principle. While each clan retains a healthy pride in its own accomplishments, it is happy to pool its energies with those of other clans in joint endeavours. Picnics, dinners and sporting events are often pursued on an inter-clan basis. While it is still fun to joke about old highland feuds, the modern Nova Scotian clans stress their common goals rather than their differences.

This new spirit of collective endeavour can be extended outside the Scottish ranks. I am proud to say that Clan MacKay took a lead in this regard by participating in the Multicultural festival held in Halifax during June, 1985. Our clan set up its tent (complete with Ida's oat cakes) and enjoyed the displays and performances of the many other cultural groups represented at the festival. It was a healthy exchange of cultural perspectives from which all participants could benefit. This initiative was extended by inviting James Francois from the Multicultural Association to speak at our Halifax dinner on October 26, 1985. Clan MacKay hosted other clans at this event so it represented a co-operative spirit in all respects.

Of course the clans will continue to espouse a kind of rugged individualism as part of their "raison d'etre" and we can't resist claims that our clan is really the best. Nonetheless, I sense a new spirit of co- operation and open-ness which will allow inclusive and tolerant approach to those who hold different views. It is a sign of maturity and strength when isolationism and elitism can be replaced by a collective appreciation of the many strands of Nova Scotia's multicultural fabric. One does not lose an identity by sharing it with others.



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