Cleavages in Canadian Society

Week 1

Class coordinators

Minyoung Seo, Brandon Tempest


Last week we tried to understand how individuals are socialized and how that affects groups and political phenomena. In weeks 10 and 11 we’ll consider some of the impacts as we look at interests, political movements, parties, platforms, and elections.

You will need to make a decision about where to focus your efforts as a class, or you may choose to divide your efforts by group. There are rich local resources to support any of the cleavage issues addressed by Dyck in chapters 3 to 8.

One way to focus your attention is to imagine explaining Canada’s political dilemmas to a new Canadian or foreign colleague. Which cleavages best help to illustrate the problems with which the current government is attempting to engage?

Note that the end of this week may also be the due date for Assignment 1

Learning objectives

Understand attractors (what pulls us together) and dividers (what pushes us apart)

Explore the role of political institutions in exacerbating

Key terms: civil society, public space, political infrastructure, Social Cleavage, Multiculturalism, Equity, Equality of: Opportunity / Outcome / Condition, Poverty Line or LICO, Social Safety Net, Gender, Ethnicity, Class

Required reading

The chapter titles indicate some of the major cleavages in Canadian Society. Wth the guidance of the class coordinators and professor, the class will make choices about how to approach cleavages. Will each group address a different cleavage, or will you all concentrate on one or two? Do you want to simulate specific division-based political perspectives?


Dyck, Critical Approaches, Chapters Chapter 3, “Regionalism”
Dyck, Critical Approaches, Chapters Chapter 4, “Aboriginal peoples”
Dyck, Critical Approaches, Chapters Chapter 5, “French Canada and Quebec”
Dyck, Critical Approaches, Chapters Chapter 6, “Ethnocultural minorities”
Dyck, Critical Approaches, Chapters Chapter 7, “Gender”
Dyck, Critical Approaches, Chapters Chapter 8, “Class” ⇐ this may be the big one!


Weekly activities can be adjusted by class coordinators in consultation with the professor Week 3 checklist of material

[1] Introduction from class coordinator – time allocation
[2] Current events of political significance (domestic, international) [60s]
[3] Review/amend focus of learning objectives [5D]
[4] Key terms [5D, GLI]
[5] Critical Approaches and Studying Politics [5D, GLI]
[6] External resources [class coordinator]
[7] Exam questions [5D, GLI]
[8] Looking ahead: next week’s class coordinator introduces (last 15 minutes)
[9] Review of terms of reference for class coordinator

Suggested resources


Consider engaging ALOY on aboriginal experiences. Point of contact, Dr. Boire
Consider a call-in or walk-in by Immigrant Services Kingston Area
Consider a selection from RMC or Queen’s professors who have strong views

Books and articles

Movies and web sites

The Divide (2016) 1:18:26 Documentary.  “The Divide tells the story of 7 individuals striving for a better life in the modern day US and UK, where the top 0.1 percent owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. By plotting these tales together, we uncover how virtually every aspect of our lives is controlled by one factor: the size of the gap between rich and poor. This isn’t based on real life. This is real life.  Wall Street psychologist Alden wants to make it to the top 1 percent; KFC worker Leah from Richmond Virginia just wants to make it through the day; Jennifer from Sacremento, California doesn’t even talk to the neighbours in her upscale gated community – they’ve made it clear to her she isn’t “their kind”. By weaving these stories with archive news stories from 1979 to the present day, The Divide creates a lyrical, psychological and tragicomic picture of how economic division creates social division. The film is inspired by the critically acclaimed, best-selling book, The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (Summary by a former student)

In the news

Doctors mobilize against proposed tax law changes (CBC The House, 9 Sep 2017)

Next up

Having looked at socialization and material conditions that create tensions, we approach government and governance as a means of managing the problems of living together in societies made up of different interests. If the problem is that we are free but unequal, and pursuing different goals, then government structures to provide steering and direction (governance) are part of the solution.