Canada is described as a multicultural society whereby different ethnic
groups live together and try to respect their different cultural background.
Canadian ethnic mosaic includes, in addition to the founding French and British
groups, a large number of German, Chinese, Black, Dutch, Italian and Indo
Pakistani people among others. In 1991, 31% of the Canadian population
reported ethnic background other than French or British. There is no doubt that
cultural and ethnic diversity has been a fundamental characteristic of Canada
since its beginning. Yet, this does not mean that anyone who wants to immigrate
to Canada can do so.
The Canadian open door policy doesn't mean that the country could receive all
the people who want to make a new beginning in Canada. In fact, immigration is
rather selective as far as who can enter Canada and who can contribute to the
country's economic and social development.
Over the years, attitudes toward immigration and ethnic groups have
changed with the adoption of new policies and laws which reflect Canada's
approach to diversity. In this respect, the Official Languages Act of 1969 was
issued. The purpose was to give French and English an equal status, rights and
privileges at the federal level. The purpose was not to impose bilingualism on the
Canadian population, but it aimed at giving the opportunity to the two founding
groups of Canada to live together and respect each other differences. As a result,
in 1982 according to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadian parents who
belong to the English or French linguistic group have the right to have their
children educated in that language.
Canada's linguistic duality has also paved the way to another policy based on the
acceptance of new ethnic groups, their religion, customs and tradition. In fact, the
purpose was to encourage those groups to maintain their cultural background
while living in the Canadian society.
There is no doubt that such a task is not easy to achieve, if we consider that
cultural differences can be a source of conflict among groups. Nevertheless,
during the first half of the twentieth century, Canada's immigration policy became
more flexible and less stigmatizing to non-white immigrants. The objective of this
policy was to supply a qualified labour force for industry, agriculture and
During that period, the Canadian government met the expectation of its
population which wanted the right of ethnic minorities to be respected.
Thus, in 1967 modifications have been brought to the Immigration Act of 1962
which stated that:
"Any suitably qualified person from any part of the world could be
considered for immigration to Canada, without regard to his race,
colour, national origin, or the country from which he comes"
This means that the Canadian open door policy would be less discriminatory
against non-European immigrants as it had previously been the case. As a result,
people from different cultural backgrounds began to immigrate to Canada, thus
enriching the country's ethnic mosaic. In the wake of this important change, an
official policy of multiculturalism was a logical step in the acceptance of this ethnic
In 1971, Canada was the first nation to adopt multiculturalism as an
official policy. “Multiculturalism within a bilingual framework” was announced by
the Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau.This policy was based on the recognition
of the Canadian multicultural distinctive identity; the purpose being to present
Canada as a unique nation and to differentiate it from its neighbour, the United
States. To the melting pot model, Canada preferred an ethno-cultural one. Thus
in 1972, Pierre Elliot Trudeau stated that: "we become less like others; we
become less susceptible to cultural, social or political envelopment by others".
The multicultural policy was also aimed at developing and helping ethno-cultural
programs and associations in order to protect ethnic differences and heritage.
Thus, it is not surprising that such efforts were enshrined in 1982 in the Canadian
Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
It is plainly seen that the Canadian government took the initiative to
make cultural pluralism the mainstay of Canadian democracy. Canadians like to
think of themselves as welcoming new arrivals from all corners of the earth and
rejecting all forms of discrimination. Is it really the case that Canadians are
tolerant with those new corners? Has the ethno-cultural Canadian diversity
divided the Canadian public opinion? In other words, is this image of a tolerant
multicultural society justified or not?
In this paper, I am going to try to see if there is any difference between
policy and practice. Based on different national surveys; I will try to shed light on
how Canadians are responding to their country's increasing multiculturalism. First,
I will examine their attitudes toward diversity in general, then toward what we call
Second, I will try to see if there are any discriminatory acts in the
Canadian society and how they are seen by both ‘white' Canadians and visible
Finally, I will examine the Canadian identity and what makes Canadians
proud to be Canadian. Is it their ethnic background, their country or language?
What do they think of inter-ethnic marriage?
[...] This indicates that the promotion of multiculturalism and ethnic diversity by the Canadian government has at least succeeded in persuading many Canadians that people have equal opportunities on the job market. Thus, cultural diversity becomes a positive force and an important way to develop social cohesion, security and democracy. In valuing the differences between people, Canada has managed to maintain national unity. When asked "If multiculturalism lead to greater national unity" of Canadians answered "yes" which shows that not only ethnic diversity is accepted, it is considered as part of the Canadian identity. [...]
[...] This finding also shows that if differences do exist between Canadians as far as the concept of identity is concerned, it is not only related to immigration and ethnicity CONCLUSION Many people dreamt of a Canada in which the tolerance of cultural difference and acceptance of ethnic diversity would be the norm. In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, several policies underpinning this dream were put in place: The Bill of Rights, the liberalized immigration policy, the Official Languages Act, the multiculturalism policy and finally the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. [...]
[...] Second, I will try to see if there are any discriminatory acts in the Canadian society and how they are seen by both ‘white' Canadians and visible minorities. Finally, I will examine the Canadian identity and what makes Canadians proud to be Canadian. Is it their ethnic background, their country or language? What do they think of inter-ethnic marriage? 3 Part One Canadians and ethnic diversity 4 According to the 1991 census, British and French groups were the most important ethnic groups in Canada with the British representing 28% and the French 23% of the population. [...]
[...] The study shows that Canadians have not only embraced multiculturalism as an integral part of their society. They do not take into account factors such a religion ethnicity and social background when choosing a spouse. For many Canadians, it is important for spouses to have common moral values sense of humour and similar attitudes toward family and children At that level of analysis, one might wonder if visible minorities share the same attitudes toward multiculturalism and inter-marriage as the "non-minorities". [...]
[...] In a study conducted by Raymond Breton in 1990 in Toronto, it appeared that a majority of Canadians and visible minorities think that members of a given ethnic group are more likely to be victims of racism or discrimination they keep their customs and tradition" and "if they speak English with an accent". As demonstrated in the table below, such views are shared by both first and second generations of English Canadians Breton, Raymond. The Ethnic Group as a Political Resource in Relation to Problems of Incorporation : Perceptions and Attitudes. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee