Multiculturalism Policy in Canada
Question 3: Policies Constituting Canadian Multiculturalism Policy
Multiculturalism was originally used to counter biculturalism in Canada. The use of multiculturalism terminology has extended beyond Canada. For example, it was adopted in Australia. In Canada, multiculturalism is used to refer to a society consisting of diverse ethnicity and culture. Additionally, it refers to the equality and mutual respect encouraged among people that make up the Canadian society. It constitutes policies that have been implemented since 1971 to enhance cultural diversity and accord minority communities the opportunities to participate in social, economic, and political activities, both at the provinces and federal level of governance. The programs constituting multiculturalism policy protect and promote diversity by recognizing the contribution of all ethnic groups in creating equality and promoting the image of Canada as a culturally diverse society.
The multiculturalism policy is celebrated as the new vision for Canada and its identity in fostering global understanding and equality. Indeed, the anti-racism policy within the larger multiculturalism policy has fundamentally addressed hate and social injustice in Canada. Per Hansen (2017), Canadians understand the strength of their cultural diversity and are wary of systemic racism and discrimination that certain communities have to contend with constantly. Moreover, indigenous people continue to face barriers to securing employment and participating in social activities. Nevertheless, the anti-racism policy has empowered people to take proactive steps to eradicate the systemic barriers and promote the growth of people to their potential. Furthermore, immigration policies are well-documented in multiculturalism strategies. Canada is one of the countries that boast of rich cultural diversity. The repealed cultural discriminatory laws have been countered by multiculturalism creating the opportunity for many people from developing countries to enter Canada. Besides, the programs have shifted the focus to immigration issues thereby supporting new arrivals, including aiding their professional accreditation and access to diverse employment opportunities (Simmons, 2010). Education policies have supported the development of education initiatives supporting the educational endeavors of minorities. For example, during Black History Month, young Canadian students are taught aspects that envisage the black community and its rich cultural heritage in Canada.
Political policy is another example of a program covered under multiculturalism. Crayton (2019) refers to the policy as the politics of recognition and takes a more philosophical approach in promoting a political inclusive environment. Sánchez-Flores (2010) mentions the example of Quebec where liberals have attempted to popularize political ideas, and in the process forcing the citizens to vote blindly. Moreover, the policy advocates for respect for cultural particularity when making political decisions. I believe that the policy violates the principle of non-discrimination; therefore, undermines national unity in Canada. It is not appropriate for political actors to impose policies and pledges to the people as conditions to access government services and development. Such action is the main reason for the widespread underdevelopment of minority communities in Canada (Crayton, 2019). I believe that political representatives should be drawn from minority communities who understand the actual problems faced at the grassroots levels. Moreover, cultural particularity leads the loss of identities as it forces people into homogeneous political arrangements that are inappropriate to them. I have witnessed major political decisions being promoted by dominant cultures in Canada. The perceived political inclusion has not been attained in some provinces negatively influencing the initial intention of multiculturalism policy.
Canadians are culturally aware and the fluid nature of the culture has enhanced the image of Canada in the global arena. The multiculturalism policy has helped bind people together using a set of values and beliefs they accommodate instead of demanding strict homogeneity. Additionally, it has ensured that immigrants who are allowed in the country respect laws and institutions. The equality and non-discrimination programs enhance social amiability and ensure that all people contribute to social, political, and economic activities. The free-flowing cultural acceptance allows immigrants to adopt traditional Canadian values and morals. However, I feel that policies and ideologies imposed by the majority political actors have derailed gains. Thus, in the future, the political obstacles faced by the immigrants should be investigated
Crayton, L. (2019). Everything you need to know about cultural appropriation. New York, NY: Rosen Publishing.
Hansen, R. (2017). Why both the left and the right are wrong: Immigration and multiculturalism in Canada. Political Science & Politics, 50(3), 712-716.
Sánchez-Flores, M.J. (2010). Human difference and the multicultural dilemma. In Cosmopolitan liberalism; expanding the boundaries of the individual (pp. 127-150). New York: Palgrave.
Simmons, A. (2010). Immigration and Canada: Global and transnational perspectives. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Pre
Question 4: Political Circumstances for the Establishment of Multiculturalism in Canada
Multiculturalism was made an official government policy in 1971. The ideals of multiculturalism policy were well-received by the people. Before the establishment of the multiculturalism policy, the cultural and political interests of the minority groups were never served. For example, Canada used discriminatory and racist immigration policies at the time that disadvantaged the minorities. Although it was opposed by several provinces, including Quebec, multiculturalism policy soon became popular and improved the status of Canada on the international stage. The policy was intended to preserve the cultural freedom of the people and provide the required recognition regarding the contributions of the diverse cultural groups within Canadian society. Multiculturalism policy is a symbol of cultural recognition that creates equality and enhances cultural freedom to enhance inclusion.
The establishment of a multiculturalism policy in Canada was largely motivated by political concerns and circumstances. Foremost, the liberal party, which had massive traditional support in the province of Quebec, was threatened by the rise of separatism political ideology. Consequently, the party moved swiftly to broaden its national and international outlook by creating avenues that allowed the minority communities to voice their concerns about social issues affecting them. Accordingly, Trudeau believed that a multiculturalism policy would help the party win popular votes within Canada, specifically the ethnic communities in Ontario, and help to appease the opposition (Sumino, 2017). Secondly, Canada was forced to address emerging issues like inclusion due to the development of political structures after the Second World War. As a result, the politicians sought to establish a policy supporting inclusion because Sen (2006) opine that governance would be difficult if the immigration policies were still racist and discriminatory. As such, the policy was seen as an instrument to rethink immigration policies. Nevertheless, the recognition of Canada in the global arena prompted the nation to change its discriminatory policies. Canada could not function effectively in the international arena with these discriminatory immigration policies. Essentially, there were doubts on the accomplishment of the national and international agenda if Canada failed to align to best practices.
The policy of multiculturalism has been justified in the wake of changing demographic characteristics in Canada and the attempt to protect the rights of minority groups. The government has shown commitment to supporting multiculturalism policy by assisting cultural groups to grow and develop. Moreover, the multicultural policy was meant to address the social needs of people drawn from different cultural groups to overcome cultural barriers imposed within the Canadian society. It also created avenues to promote creative cultural exchanges and assist immigrants to learn English and French. Murtaza (2013) opines that Canada made significant progress between 1969 and 1991 when the government formulated policies that reshaped Canada’s multicultural identity. For example, multiculturalism led to the signing of The Employment Act in 1982, which enhanced equality by guaranteeing equal employment opportunities to the people. Thus, the multiculturalism policy justified the need for equal treatment by addressing the injustice that was encouraged by the discriminatory practices. In 1991, the Ministry of Canadian Heritage was created to support government agenda and strategies concerning equality and diversity (Sumino, 2017). The number of immigrants rose during the period as Canada was opened to people, especially from the developing countries. The number of non-whites rose tremendously.
In spite of the success of the multiculturalism policy, critics still argue that the policy is ethnocentric and perpetuates national attitudes of white superiority. Foremost, while Canada has gained recognition as being multicultural, the nation is still defined by a bilingual culture creating the racial perception that British and French are the real citizens, unlike the minority communities. Besides, the immigrants have in several occasions challenged the idea of white supremacy (the white population attempting to control certain behaviors) in Canada regarding the criticisms of certain cultural beliefs practiced by the minority communities. For example, Muslim women are still expected to wear hijabs (Sen, 2006). The Canadian society still enforces certain conformity requirements, such as avoiding religious attire when handling official government responsibilities. At times, conformity requirements go against the cultural beliefs of minority communities.
The multiculturalism policy was viewed as a symbol of cultural diversity rather than a shift in government policy. The policy was important to the government considering how resources were channeled to support its establishment, adoption, and implementation. Additionally, the multicultural policy promoted equality and allowed the minority communities to voice their concerns. Multiculturalism policy was welcomed by the people who saw it as a strategy by the government to open Canada for trade and create a point of cultural interaction. Unfortunately, the policy has been criticized as lacking substance and seen tool used by the white majority to exercise control and dominance. Going forward, studies should examine how the policy can be used to address the immediate cultural concerns of the minority groups still not fulfilled.
Murtaza, H. (2013). What the world can learn from Canadian multiculturalism. Aljazeera. Retrieved from https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/09/2013915111722311111.html.
Sen, A. (2006). Making sense of identity. In Identity and violence; the illusion of destiny (pp. 18- 39). New York: Norton.
Sumino, T. (2017). National identity and public attitudes toward multiculturalism in Canada: Testing the indirect effect via perceived collective threat. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 49(3), 183–194.