Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Anne Westhues

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


In this thesis, I explore the ways in which ethnically and culturally diverse women work together to rbedige their differences. Using a critical, feminist, reflexive and post-colonialist approach, I conducted eight in-person, semi-structured interviews with women who were staff and board members, volunteers, or participants in programmes offered by an organization serving immigrant women. Wommen were asked to name their cultural or ethnic identities, to share their views on multiculturalism, tolerance, and the “welcoming” of newcomers to Canada, the uniting and divisive issues they faced in their work, as well as appropriate roles for Canadian-born and immigrant women in the organization at which they work. According to my interviews with women and the organizational data, one of the main features of women’s work together has been their attempt to “fit in.” In the context of this particular organization, “fitting in” meant that women emphasized commonalities and swerved away from critical and political analyses, particularly around notions of colour, power and privilege. In addition, women within this organization adopted mainstream society’s “liberal’ view of multiculturalism, which celebrated women’s diversity, but did not make room for a deeper understanding of the differences between individuals from diverse cultural, ethnic, and racial groups. As such, ethnically and culturally diverse women tended to work together as “Canadians,” and swept aside their differences or challenges. Women’s responses to the questions regarding the “how” of their work together were impacted by their skin colour (visible minority vs. white) and experience with immigration (Canadian-born vs. immigrant to Canada). Colour was a salient predictor of women’s experiences, as visible minority women (regardless of their country of birth) were more forthcoming about their views on multiculturalism, tolerance, and the roles women should play within the organization. Generally, all participants were quite uncomfortable with critical language around colour, power and privilege, which was understandable given the organization’s downplaying of “political” issues, and our larger society’s avoidance of issues of power and privilege. To account for some of the “gaps” in communication between ethnically and culturally diverse women, I discuss the utility of an anti-oppressive framework and the abandonment of critical language (without a rejection of the underlying critical approach) in order to “build bridges” between diverse women working together in Canada.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season