Multiculturalism in Canada

Multiculturalism in Canada
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Multiculturalism in Canada was adopted as the official policy of the Canadian government during the prime ministership of Pierre Elliot Trudeau in the 1970s and 1980s.[1] The Canadian government has often been described as the instigator of multiculturalism as an ideology because of its public emphasis on the social importance of immigration.[2] Multiculturalism is reflected in the law through the Canadian Multiculturalism Act[3] and section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms[4].


Immigration per capita

Canada has the highest per capita immigration rate in the world,[5] driven by economic policy and family reunification. In 2001, 250,640 people immigrated to Canada. Newcomers settle mostly in the major urban areas of Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal, and Edmonton.[6] By the 1990s and 2000s, the largest component of Canada’s immigrants came from Asia, including the Middle East, South Asia, South-East Asia and East Asia.[7] Canadian society is often depicted as being very progressive, diverse, and multicultural.[8] Accusing a person of racism in Canada is usually considered a serious slur.[9] All political parties are now cautious about criticizing of the high level of immigration, because, as noted by the Globe and Mail, "in the early 1990s, the old Reform Party was branded 'racist' for suggesting that immigration levels be lowered from 250,000 to 150,000."[10]

Political cartoon on Canada's bicultural identity showing a flag combining symbols of Britain, France and Canada, from 1911

Governor General of Canada The Lord Tweedsmuir was an early champion of multiculturalism in Canada; from his installation speech in 1935 onwards, he maintained and in speeches and over the radio recited his ideas that ethnic groups "should retain their individuality and each make its contribution to the national character," and "the strongest nations are those that are made up of different racial elements."[11] Later, Canadian multiculturalism was articulated by Progressive Conservative Senator Paul Yuzyk in his maiden Senate speech in 1964. It was officially adopted in 1971, following the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, a government body set up in response to the grievances of Canada's French-speaking minority (concentrated in the Province of Quebec). The report of the Commission advocated that the Canadian government should recognize Canada as a bilingual and bicultural society and adopt policies to preserve this character.


Biculturalism was attacked from many directions. Progressive Conservative Party leader John Diefenbaker saw it as an attack on his vision of unhyphenated Canadianism. It did not satisfy the growing number of young Francophones who gravitated towards Quebec nationalism. While many Canadians disliked the new policies of biculturalism and official bilingualism, the strongest opposition came from Canadians of neither English nor French descent, the so-called "Third Force" Canadians. Biculturalism did not accord with local realities in the western provinces, where the French population was tiny compared to other cultural minorities. To accommodate them, the formula was changed from "bilingualism and biculturalism" to "bilingualism and multiculturalism." The Liberal Party government of Pierre Trudeau promulgated the "Announcement of Implementation of Policy of Multiculturalism within Bilingual Framework" in the House of Commons on 8 October 1971, the precursor of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of the Brian Mulroney Progressive Conservative government which received Royal Assent on 21 July 1988. On a more practical level, federal funds began to be distributed to ethnic groups to help them preserve their cultures. Projects typically funded included folk dancing competitions and the construction of ethnic-oriented community centres. This led to criticisms that the policy was actually motivated by electoral considerations rather than Trudeau's vision of a Just Society. After its election in 1984, the government of Brian Mulroney did not reverse these policies, although they had earlier been criticized by Tories as inconsistent with unhyphenated Canadianism. The Trinidad and Tobago born Canadian writer Neil Bissoondath has been a particular critic of the concept as an official policy.

Influence on integration policy around the world

Canadian multiculturalism is looked upon with admiration by leaders outside the country, such as the Aga Khan. In a 2002 interview with the Globe and Mail, the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims described Canada as "the most successful pluralist society on the face of our globe",[12] citing it as "a model for the world."[12] He explained that the experience of Canadian governance - its commitment to pluralism and its support for the rich multicultural diversity of its peoples - is something that must be shared and would be of benefit societies in other parts of the world.[13][14] With this in mind, he went on in 2006 to establish the Global Centre for Pluralism in partnership with the Government of Canada. The Centre seeks to export the Canadian experience by promoting pluralist values and practices in culturally diverse societies worldwide, with the aim of ensuring that every individual has the opportunity to realize his or her full potential as a citizen, irrespective of cultural, ethnic or religious differences.[14]

Diversity at Work Glossary

The Diversity at Work Glossary, recognizes multiculturalism as part of —:

"a policy introduced by the federal government in 1971, which acknowledges that many ethnic Canadians experience unequal access to resources and opportunities. It urges more recognition of the contributions of such Canadians, the preservation of certain expressions of their ethnicity, and more equity in the treatment of all Canadians. Since 1971, there has been increasing recognition of the limitation of this concept; first, it does not explicitly acknowledge the critical role which racism plays in preventing this vision from materialising; second, it promotes a static and limited notion of culture as fragmented and confined to ethnicity; and third, it pays insufficient attention to institutional forms of racial discrimination, focusing instead on individual expressions and experiences."[citation needed]


Criticism from Quebec

To many Quebecers, despite an official national bilingualism policy, multiculturalism threatened to reduce them to just another ethnic group. Quebec's policy seek to promote interculturalism, welcoming people of all origins while insisting that they integrate into Quebec's majority French-speaking society. In 2008, a Consultation Commission on Accommodation Practices Related to Cultural Differences, headed by sociologist Gerard Bouchard and philosopher Charles Taylor, recognized that Quebec is a de facto pluralist society, but that the Canadian multiculturalism model "does not appear well suited to conditions in Quebec".[15]

See also


  1. ^ Kobayashi, Audrey (1983), "Multiculturalism: Representing a Canadian Institution", in Duncan, James S; Duncan, Ley, Place/culture/representation, Routledge, pp. 205–206, ISBN 0415094518,, retrieved 12 September 2010 
  2. ^ Wayland, Shara (1997) (PDF), Immigration, Multiculturalism and National Identity in Canada, University of Toronto (Department of Political Science),, retrieved 12 September 2010 
  3. ^ Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Being Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982), Electronic Frontier Canada, 2008,, retrieved 12 September 2010 
  4. ^ Canadian Multiculturalism Act (1985, c. 24 (4th Supp.), Department of Justice (Canada), 14 November 2010,, retrieved 12 September 2010 
  5. ^ Dolin, Benjamin; Young, Margaret (31 October 2004), Canada's Immigration Program, Library of Parliament (Law and Government Division),, retrieved 29 November 2006 
  6. ^ "About Canada's People", (WhiteBark Group), 2007,, retrieved 20 October 2011 
  7. ^ Canada: Inflow of foreign-born population by country of birth, 1990 to 2004, Migration Policy Institute,, retrieved 20 October 2011 
  8. ^ Multiculturalism in Canada, Mount Allison University,, retrieved 05 October 2010 
  9. ^ Fontaine, Phil (24 April 1998) (PDF), Modern Racism in Canada, Queen's University,, retrieved 29 November 2006 
  10. ^ Is the current model of immigration the best one for Canada?, Globe and Mail, 12 December 2005,, retrieved 16 August 2006 
  11. ^ Saunders, Doug (27 June 2009), Canada's mistaken identity, Globe and Mail,, retrieved 28 June 2009 
  12. ^ a b Stackhouse, John; Martin, Patrick (02 February 2002), Canada: 'A model for the world', Globe and Mail, p. F3,, retrieved 28 June 2009, "Canada is today the most successful pluralist society on the face of our globe, without any doubt in my mind. . . . That is something unique to Canada. It is an amazing global human asset" 
  13. ^ Prince Karim Aga Khan IV (19 May 2004), Address at the Leadership and Diversity Conference, Gatineau, Canada,, retrieved 21 March 2007 
  14. ^ a b Aga Khan Welcomes Government of Canada's Partnership in New Global Centre for Pluralism, Aga Khan Development Network, 18 April 2005,, retrieved 21 April 2007 
  15. ^ Taylor, Charles (2008), Building the Future: A Time for Reconciliation, Québec, Canada: Commission de consultation sur les pratiques d'accommodement reliées aux différences culturelles,, retrieved 20 October 2011 

Further reading

External links

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