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Study Notes

Will Kymlicka (1962- )

AQA, Edexcel

Last updated 21 Jan 2019

Canadian philosopher and animal rights campaigner

Kymlicka has focused much of his academic attention on developing a liberal framework of rights for minority groups. He writes about two main types of ethnic minorities:

Polyethnic (immigrant communities), and

National minorities (ethnic groups that were already present when nations were founded).

As a Canadian, Kymlicka had clear local examples of the latter, such as the French Canadians of Quebec and the indigenous people (First Nation and inuit people).

Kymlicka notes that most writing about rights has focused on the rights of individuals, but that these national minorities needed to be afforded clear rights from the state as groups. He argues that they may require "external protection" (the groups have rights and should be protected, including from each other) but not "internal restrictions" - individuals in groups should have the same individual rights as everyone else. He argued that external protections were "good group rights" while internal restrictions were "bad group rights". Protecting the former is entirely consistent with the protection of human rights.

Kymlicka argued that migrant groups could not expect quite the same group protections as national minorities as their presence was voluntary (he did make some exceptions, such as for refugees and for groups whose origins included slavery, etc.) That is not to say that he did not think that migrant groups' identity should not be respected: he argued that everyone should have the right to choose their own culture.

Group-specific rights might include special rights to representation, rights to self government, or specific rights exempting people from certain restrictions or stipulations (perhaps on religious grounds).

Interestingly, Kymlicka did extend some of these ideas about group rights to the subject of animal rights, and this has been the focus of many of his more recent publications.

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