Multiculturalism

 

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1) The adoption of multiculturalism

 

Federal bilingualism was introduced in 1969 and this led minority groups who were not of English or French origin to lobby for multiculturalism. In 1971 the Trudeau government appointed a secretary of state for multiculturalism.  The policy of multiculturalism was in part a federal strategy to weaken Quebec’s position: Canada is a bilingual, but not bicultural, country, which means that the special contribution of the French group in the creation of Canada is recognized but only to a certain extent. Bilingualism along with multiculturalism acknowledge the special place of the English and the French groups in the Canadian past, while keeping them equal with the other population groups.

 

More importantly, the policy of multiculturalism recognized the ethnic pluralism of Canada as  a positive feature worthy of preservation and development. The central idea of multiculturalism is that all groups have their special traditions and values, but that no group needs to abandon them in order to integrate the Canadian society.  Multiculturalism recognizes that immigrant values and ways of life are compatible with the Canadian citizenship.

 

In l988, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act was adopted. It became the first formal legislative vehicle for Canada's multicultural policy. Its aim was to increase minority participation in society. Many provinces followed the federal lead by introducing multiculturalism policies in their areas of authority.

 

Originally, the focus of multiculturalism programs was “folkloric” cultural events (ethnic festivals around food and dances) and heritage-language instruction in schools. However, since the 1990s, multiculturalism programs have provided financial support to ethnic/cultural associations that work to change mainstream institutions. They also encourage intercultural exchanges and the development of a strong common civic identity.

 

Further reading: CANADIAN MULTICULTURALISM. Michael Dewing (revised edition, 2013)

 

2) Multiculturalism: an efficient tool of integration?

 

On the whole, multiculturalism has worked well in Canada by encouraging institutional recognition of diversity and the participation of immigrants in the Canadian society. It has also encouraged the recognition by Canadian-born citizens that the presence of immigrants is legitimate and that they can contribute usefully to Canadian society.

 

This results in an overall positive assessment of immigration by Canadians, as shown in this recent poll:

Focus Canada Fall 2018 - Canadian public opinion on immigration, refugees and the USA. The Environics Institute, 18 November 2018

https://www.environicsinstitute.org/projects/project-details/focus-canada-fall-2018---canadian-public-opinion-on-immigration-refugees-and-the-usa

 

 

Canadians continue to be more positive than negative about immigration to Canada, in terms of the level of immigration and its impact on the economy. But opinions have hardened a bit since February 2018, especially among residents in the Prairie provinces

 

 

Canadians’ level of comfort with immigration is grounded in part on the belief that it is good for the country’s economy

 

 

The most sensitive issue for many Canadians is how immigrants integrate or fit into the country once they arrive

 

Across political party lines, mention of immigration/refugee issues is low across the established parties, but significantly higher among those who say they will vote for the new People's Party of Canada (created by former Conservative Maxime Bernier in August 2018): 19% of this group identify immigration/refugees as Canada’s top problem, closely behind the economy and interest rates (21%)