Multiculturalism and Canada

Posted in : Blog
Posted on : December 18, 2018

MacKenzie Pudwell

Multiculturalism: “The presence of, or support for the presence of several distinct cultural or ethnic groups within a society.” (Dictionary, 2018)

Multiculturalism is a defining feature of Canadian society and policy, yet there seems to be confusion on how it affects Canada as a whole. Let’s take a look at how multiculturalism came to be imbedded in Canada and what that means today.

Throughout Canada’s state history the struggle to find balance and recognition of French and English was a huge issue and in the 60s this pushed to recognize Canada as a bicultural country. Multiculturalism was a term introduced to Canada in the 60s as an alternative to biculturalism in attempt to create a more inclusive culture, rather than continuing to distinguish English and French culture as two separate, opposing entities. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau committed Canada to the principle of multiculturalism in 1971 by establishing the Canadian Multiculturalism Policy to recognize the rights of Aboriginal peoples the support Canada having two official languages. Trudeau’s goal was to promote recognition and integration of diverse cultures and appease the push back against biculturalism that was not well received by many. On October 8th, 1971 Prime Minister Trudeau faced no opposition passing this Multicultural policy in the House of Commons. Trudeau’s Multiculturalism Act established the importance of multiculturalism as a founding tenant that all policies and law are to be built around and still directly influences today’s laws.

Multiculturalism was further cemented in Canada when it was added to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1988, stating that the Charter itself “shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians” (Canada, 1988). This recognition in the Charters of Rights and Freedoms was made by the creation of the Multiculturalism Act of Canada. Canada’s multicultural policies grew from a band aid solution to cultural tensions across Canada in the 70s to a founding legal principle by the 80s. This Act is significant because it started to recognize the need to include all cultures value and place in Canada.

The key to multiculturalism’s development in Canada is that it was meant as a tool to help integrate the ever-growing diverse cultures of Canadians by creating space for all cultures to flourish, rather than to assimilate or homogenize Canadians into one specific culture. Canada as a nation-state has recognized and adopted multiculturalism as a shared identity and policy, and Canada continues to work towards this image.

Multiculturalism is not a perfect solution; majority populations, misunderstanding, and rapid change can be overwhelming when trying to see how our beautiful mosaic of a country all fits together. The us versus them, old versus new, and tradition versus adaptation mentalities are constant battles that are faced in this ever-growing multicultural country. Racism and discrimination still exist within our borders, but Canada’s multicultural values help push back against these biases as this idea celebrates diversity and inclusion. Canada’s greatest strength is the rich, diverse community that multicultural policies and practices help take root.

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