Multiculturalism In Canada

Multiculturalism In Canada

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Multiculturalism In Canada

Canada has long been called "The Mosaic", due to the fact that it is made up of a varied mix of races, cultures and ethnicities. As more and more immigrants come to Canada searching for a better life, the population naturally becomes more diverse. This has, in turn, spun a great debate over multiculturalism. Some of the issues under fire are the political state's policies concerning multiculturalism, the attitudes of Canadians around these policies, immigration, the global market, and a central point is the education and how to present the material in a way so as to offend the least amount of people. There are many variations on these themes as will be discussed in this paper.

In the 1930's several educators called for programs of cultural diversity that encouraged ethnic and minority students to study their respective heritages. This is not a simple feat due to the fact that there is much diversity within individual cultures. A look at the 1991 Canadian census shows that the population has changed more noticeable in the last ten years than in any other time in the twentieth century, with one out of four Canadians identifying themselves as black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Metis or Native. (Gould 1995: 198)Most people, from educators to philosophers, agree that an important first step in successfully joining multiple cultures is to develop an understanding of each others background. However, the similarities stip there.

One problem is defining the tem "multiculturalism". When it is looked at simply as meaning the existence of a culturally integrated society, many people have no problems. However, when you go beyond that and try to suggest a different way of arriving at theat culturally integrated society, everyone seems to have a different opinion on what will work. Since education is at the root of the problem, it might be appropriate to use an example in that context. In 1980, the American school, Stanford University came up with a program - later known as the "Stanford-style multicultural curriculum" which aimed to familiarize students with traditions, philosophy, literature and history of the West. The program consisted of fifteen required books by writers such as Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Aquinas, Marx and Freud. By 1987, a group called the Rainbow Coalition argued the fact that the books were all written by DWEM's or Dead White European Males. They felt that this type of teaching denied students the knowledge of contributions by people of colour, women, and other oppressed groups.

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In 1987, the faculty voted 39-4 to change the curriculum and do away with the fifteen book requirement and the term "Western" for the study of at least one non-European culture and proper attention to be given to the issues of race and gender. (Gould 1995: 201). Because Canadian University's also followed a similar plan, even though this example took place in the United States it centered on issues that effect multiculturalism in all North America. This debate was very important because its publicity provided the grounds for the argument that Canada is a pluralistic society and to study only one people would not accurately portray what really makes up this country. Proponents of multicultural education argue that it offers students a balanced appreciation and critique of other cultures as well as our own. (Stotsky 1992:64) While it is common sense that one could not have a true understanding of a subject by only possessing knowledge of one side of it, this brings up the fact that there would never be enough time in our current school year to equally cover the contributions of each individual nationality. This leaves teachers with two options. The first would be to lengthen the school year, which is highly unlikely because of the political aspects of the situation.

The other choice is to modify the curriculum to only include what the instructor (the school) feels are the most important contributions, which again leaves them open for criticism from groups that feel they are not being equally treated. A national standard is out of the question because of the fact that different parts of the country contain certain concentrations of nationalities. An example of this is the high concentration of Asians in British Columbia or Blacks in the East. Nonetheless, teachers are at the top of the agenda when it comes to multiculturalism. They can do the most for children during the early years of learning, when kids are most impressionable. By engaging students in activities that follow the lines of their multicultural curriculum, they can open young minds while making learning fun.

In one first grade classroom in Vancouver, an inventive teacher used the minority students to her advantage by making them her helpers as she taught the rest of the class some Chinese words and customs. This newly acquired vocabulary formed a common bond among the children in their early years, an appropriate time for learning respect and understanding. (Pyszkowski 1994: 154)In order to give a well rounded multicultural discussion, as James Banks explains, teachers need to let students know how knowledge reflects the social, political and economic context in which it was created. Knowledge explained by powerful groups in society differs greatly from that of its less powerful counterparts. (Banks 1991:11) For example, it should be pointed out how early Canadians are most often called "pioneers" or "settlers" in social studies texts, while foreigners are called "immigrants". They should realize that to Natives, pioneers were actually the immigrants, but since the "pioneers" later went on to write the textbooks, it is not usually described that way. Another important aspect students need to realize is that knowledge alone isn't enough to shape society. The members themselves have to be willing to put forth the time and effort and show an interest in shaping their society in order for it to benefit all people. There certainly is no easy answer to the problem of multicultural education. Proponents will continue to argue the benefits that unfortunately seem to be too far out of reach for our imperfect society. The hard truth is that it is impossible for our public school system to fairly cater to hundreds of nationalities that already exist, let alone the hundreds more that are projected to arrive during the next century.

In order for us to live together in the same society, we must sometimes be willing to overlook parts of our distant past in exchange for a new hope in the future. Our countries sense of nationalism and identity is based in our attitudes toward multiculturalism. This is one thing that separates us from the Americans or any other westernized country. In 1991 the Department of Multiculturalism and Citizenship were contracted to provide public opinion information that was to be used for developing policy, public educations and communications initiatives. (N.S.R. 1991: 2)

The research objectives were to:Study the values and view shared by Canadians on Canadian identity, citizenship and ethnic diversity. To measure the degree of public understanding, acceptance and support of the government's multiculturalism policy and of the distinctive elements of that policy. To establish the current character of public attitudes related to the ethnocultural diversity, racial discrimination and multiculturalism policies, as well as their role in Canadian nation building. To identify the key demographic, social and psycho-social factors which have an impact on perceptions of citizenship, multiculturalism and race relations within Canada...and to identify the thrusts for long-term public education initiatives in support of the government's multiculturalism policies. (N.S.R. 1991:3)

The survey found high levels of Canadian values and identity. 89% of those surveyed identified with being Canadian while only 6% did not. Six in ten described a "deep emotional attachment to Canada" and 95% believe they can be proud of being a citizen as well as being proud of their ancestry at the same time. There is much ethnic diversity in Canada and there are four out of five citizens that live in neighborhoods with some or many persons of different ethnic or racial backgrounds. In fact, 40% of people surveyed said they have family members of different ethnic or racial backgrounds. 79% said they believed "multiculturalism is vital to uniting Canada and 90% believed that promoting equality among Canadians of all origins regardless of racial or ethnic origin was important. (N.S.R. 1991:26)

One of the biggest steps forward in achieving a ethnically diverse country is the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. It was passed unanimously by the Parliament of Canada in 1988. The Preamble declares that its aim is to preserve and enhance multiculturalism by promoting the recognition of Canada's ethnocultural diversity:...the Government of Canada recognizes the diversity of Canadians as regards...national or ethnic origin, colour and religion, as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society, and its committed to a policy of multiculturalism designed to preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of Canadians while working to achieve the equality of all Canadians in the economic, social, cultural and political life of Canada...(C.M.A. 1988:3) Our growing ethnocultural diversity requires making certain adjustments to ensure that all Canadians can participate fully in our society. The policy enables the integration of minority Canadians while encouraging our institutions to remove discriminatory barriers. (Blackman 1993: 29)

On similar lines with the Multicultural Act is the Employment Equity Act because both involve dealing with minorities. The Employment Equity Act was proclaimed in 1986 to achieve equity in employment. Employers covered by this Act must ensure that members of four general groups achieve equitable representation and participation in the work force. These four groups are women, Aboriginal people, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities. This concern with members of visible minority groups and Aboriginal people, among the other groups, means that the Employment Equity Act also arises from the fact of Canada as a multicultural society. Both policies seek to gain the commitment of federal institutions to employ, manage and serve all Canadians fairly and equally. This, too, may account for some of the confusion. However, there are several important distinctions between the policies: Employment Equity focuses on the workplace, whereas multiculturalism policy, which has strong social, cultural, political and economic dimensions, has a wider scope and focuses on the whole of society. Multiculturalism addresses all Canadians, not just ethnocultural communities. Employment Equity focuses on four designated groups: women, Aboriginal people, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities. Employment Equity has an enforcement or regulatory aspect. Thus organizations that do not comply with its provisions can be penalized. Multiculturalism policy, on the other hand, is persuasive and has a political accountability mechanism, which is the annual report on implementation that is tabled before a House of Commons committee. (Blackman 1993: 105)The government has a broad frame-work of Acts, Bills and Amendments that each draw strength from the others. The preamble of the C.M.A. puts the act within the middle of this broad frame-work. Some of the other pieces of legislation and policy that the C.M.A. draws upon are:The Citizen Act (1947)The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)The Canadian Bill of Rights (1960)International Convention on the Eliminations of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1969)The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976)The Canadian Human Rights Act (1977)The Official Languages Act (1969, Rev. 1988)The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982). (Blackman 1993:144) Because the C.M.A. is so enmeshed in the legislation of Canada its value is felt all throughout the country.There are over one-hundred and twenty organizations and groups involved in the C.M.A. from "Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada" to the "Western Grain Transport Office". Another reason why the Act is such a part of Canada is, in 1994 and 1995, many small institutions and businesses:Stated support for the policy and its objectives,Distributed a statement on multiculturalism to the staff,Consulted with representatives of ethnocultural and visible minority groups,Encouraged members of ethnocultural and visible minority groups to apply for employment, andRepresented Canada's ethnocultural diversity in publications. (Savisky 1996: 40)Because of the support from the private, public and business factions the policies that surround multiculturalism in Canada have a strength directly associated with the population of the country.This relates to the economic dimension of multiculturalism.

In 1961, 90% of all immigrants to Canada came from Europe. By the 1980's, Europeans constituted only about 25% of immigrants, most coming from East of South Asia, the Middle East or the Caribbean. (Statistics Canada 1991:5) This makes Canada's net worth as a country even greater. For example, the ethnocultural communities possess linguistic skills, cross-cultural business expertise, and natural trade links with foreign markets. They are able to give companies insights into foreign business practices, translation assistance and give detailed information to assist in market penetration. (Minister of Supply 1993:3). As well, these communities act a s abridge to the same ethnic group in other countries. China is a prime example of this. The Canadian Chinese population has extensive contacts with Chinese groups scattered throughout the countries of South-east Asia. Canada's Chinese and Taiwanese communities provide links to the markets of Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore as well as China itself. Commercial opportunities arising from diversity can also be very important in giving Canadian investment activities promotion.

In the global economy, trade and investment complement each other. Companies pursue partnerships as a foundation for enhancing trading activities. In the government book, Directory of Canadian Ethnocultural and Bilateral Business Organizations written for the Minister of Supply and Services it says the following:Canada is a multicultural country. This diversity can be of decisive advantage in today's highly competitive international business environment. Through their energy, entrepreneurship, linguistic skills and cultural perspectives, Canada's ethnocultural communities constitute significant force in the business life of this country...the economic advantages that diversity offers Canadian society by facilitating contact, networking and cooperation. (1993:1) Helping these diverse communities is the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDB). It is in constant contact with ethnocultural communities through its 78 branches across Canada. Since it operates on a cost-recovery basis, the BDB keeps close ties with minority organizations that help to sponsor many aspects of its work.Many BDB publications are available in non-official languages-especially when it helps entrepreneurs to learn about the assistance that they can get to start or expand their own businesses. New Canadians: A Guide to Starting a New Business is a 30-page booklet that is available in Chinese and Spanish. It focuses on new Canadians, but it also addresses established members of ethnocultural communities. (Savisky 1996: 45) Another part of Canada's government that uses the multiculturalism of Canada as a resource is Revenue Canada. Revenue Canada integrated the multiculturalism policy objectives in both its services and operations. Integrating our ethnocultural diversity into Canada's mainstream is an integral and evolving part of the organization's operations.

In 1994-95, Revenue Canada kept in close contact with various ethnocultural organizations. They are often consulted for advice on the services provided to their communities, and on the departmental publications to ensure that they reflect Canada's ethnocultural diversity. As a result, for instance, this year's Tax Guide has used names as examples that are neither French nor English. Language is vital to the everyday business of Revenue Canada, especially during the tax season. The department relies on the special language skills and cultural understanding of employees who voluntarily help taxpayers of various backgrounds to deal with the department, especially about revenue collection. A directory of language skills, which it has established, is kept up-to-date for such purposes. At certain times of the year, for instance, the Toronto North Tax Services Office can provide services in 36 non-official languages, in person and by phone. (Savisky, 1996:108)Because of the increased awareness to multiculturalism and the diversity of Canadian demographics the effective utilization of these resources depends on the running a smooth government and domestic marketplace. The need to manage this diversity becomes more urgent when, by the end of the century, 80% of all new entrants into the Canadian workplace will be women, immigrants, visible minorities and aboriginals. The labour force will be growing less quickly (Minister of Supply 1993:9) and thus the labour power will begin to leave the family. Companies will have to pay special attention to the needs of the labour pool if they are to attract and hire the best qualified people. The largest corporations in Canada have already responded to this reality by introducing programs that handle stereotypes, biases and barriers in the interests of producing a better workplace. (Minister of Supply 1993:5)

One of the last aspects of multiculturalism in Canada immigration itself. Much of the government policies concerning culture and the Canadian mosaic involve this topic in one form or another as is it is impossible to have diverse ethnic population without it.The history of immigration in our country is not a proud one. The policies regarding foreigners not of European origin have been harsh in the past. In 1885, the Canadian passed the Chinese Immigration Act due to growing anti-Chinese sentiments. The Manitoba Free Press wrote in an editorial on July 2, 1885, the following warning for the government: If something is not done speedily it will be too late to consider whether the Pacific Province shall be given up to the Chinese or not. They will have solved the question by taking complete possession of it. The Celestial wave may be expected to roll eastward. The channel for it will have been cut by the Canadian Pacific Railway through the Rockies. Ten times more people than Canada now holds could be poured in on us from the teeming soil of China without being missed from that land.(Con, 1982:57)More than one-hundred years later the sentiments toward the Chinese have changed drastically. Where one time there was a "head-tax" on Chinese immigration and only two to three-thousand were allowed in to Canada a year. Now, over the course of ten years from 1981-1991 over 173,000 Chinese immigrated to Canada. Making the Chinese people the number one source of immigration to Canada in the world. (Statistics Canada 1994: 7)Canada's new immigration involves the Multiculturalism Act and all the support that goes along with it.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) spent several months during 1994-95 in Canada-wide consultations on our future immigration policy. The campaign sparked an unparalleled national debate about some domestic and international challengesthat Canada faces, and the role that CIC should play. Among other things, decisions about the total levels of each immigration category were influenced by the opinions that were expressed.All CIC's operational courses include some training in ethnocultural diversity. In addition, about 500 employees at CIC received cross-cultural awareness training in 1994-95. Given the nature of its programs, this training is integral to most officers' work-related learning. This is especially true for people who deal directly with the public, which includes immigration officers, citizenship officers, investigators, escort and removal officers, and case-presenting officers. (Savisky 1996: 97)CIC's Settlement Branch funds a number of organizations across Canada to deliver services to newcomers on its behalf. This includes second-language training and the production of settlement aids-such as life-skills courses that might involve learningabout good shopping techniques, job skills and appropriate winter clothing, etc. Many ethnocultural ly diverse people are generally on the staff of these immigrant-serving organizations. Among many others, these include: Ottawa's Catholic Immigration Centre; the Association for New Canadians in St. John's, Newfoundland; the Metropolitan Immigrant Settlement Association of Halifax; and Regina's Open Door Society. (Savisky 1996:103)All of these groups and legislated organizations help smooth the process of immigration into Canada. Each policy of multiculturalism and amendment to government law creates a more judicial atmosphere in which to inspect the mosaic that is Canada.


Multiculturalism is a varied term in Canada. There are many facets of this concept; education, the attitudes of Canadians, the official policy, the economic dimensions and finally the question of immigration. Each facet has been laid out in the preceding essay. In a nation that's growth rate is 50% made up of immigration from other countries, multiculturalism has a lot of meaning. Canada has always been a diverse country stressing the mosaic rather than the American ideal of the "Melting Pot". Diversity builds strength, but it also can be hard to manage given the hate that sometime results when inter-racial communities are mixed.The Canadian governments of past histories have made mistakes and passed unfair laws and legislation that has added fuel to the fire for splintering of our mosaic. With new Canadian polices, the Multiculturalism Act being just one of many that sets trends for a new Canada. The policies will set fourth an embrace of the concept of many cultures and instead of fear of change will make laws to increase diversity. Our country will become a whole created out of a thousand different pieces, held together by the policies of our people...a true mosaic!


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Savisky, Charlene. Agencies of Order: A Multicultural Dynamic London, London Ltd. 1996Stosky, Sandra. "Academic vs. Ideological Education in the Classroom." The Education Digest Mar. 1992 : 64-6
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