Multiculturalism In Canada, An Introduction
The constitution of Canada recognizes the importance of preserving and enhancing the multicultural heritage of Canadians
The constitution of Canada recognizes the rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.
The constitution of Canada provides that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination and that everyone has the freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association and guarantees those rights and freedoms equally to male and female persons.
These are all among the fundamental principles by which Canada is governed.
These are all rights granted to each and every Canadian regardless of their race, origin, color, religion or sex.
The fact that multiculturalism is engrained in our constitution demonstrates the important role that it plays in Canadian society.
Multiculturalism Questions and Answers
1. What are the key tenets of Canada’s Multiculturalism Act passed in 1988?
In 1988 Canada passed the Canadian Multiculturalism Act making it the very first country in the entire world to pass law with regards to national multiculturalism.
The key tenants of the Multiculturalism Act are:
- Assist in the preservation of culture and language
- Aim to reduces instances of discrimination
- Promote cultural awareness and foster intercultural understanding
In addition the Canadian Multiculturalism act also,
- States that ALL government agencies are expected to provide leadership in advancing multiculturalism.
- As wells as aims to increase minority participation in society by ensuring that federal institutions are responsive to multiculturalism.
- 2. What were the key challenges that his act sought to address? Why was it needed? Which groups did it aim to support?
Although multiculturalism is indeed a very important part of Canada’s constitution the Multiculturalism Act of 1988 assisted in assuring that all cultural groups had the ability to retain and exercise these constitutional rights.
The Multiculturalism Act was developed in response to the growing need to recognize that many cultural groups were confronted with obstacles and barriers, which hindered their ability to fully participate in Canadian society. Newly immigrated individuals in particular often experienced great difficulty:
- Obtaining employment
- Finding housing
- Accessing education
- While at the same time fighting discrimination.
- 3. How does this act encourage multiculturalism
The Multiculturalism Act encourages multiculturalism in a number of ways.
First, it sets out that both French and English are official languages. However it goes on to acknowledge the need to facilitate the acquisition, retention and use of all heritage languages.
The preservation of heritage languages is an issue that I have worked very closely on.
In partnership with the Canadian Languages Association, I have pushed the Canadian government to renew its commitment to preserving heritage languages. Preserving heritage languages is of utmost importance, especially considering that the 2006 census stated that over 5 million Canadians have a mother tongue other than French or English. (link in inquiry)
English, French, Aboriginal languages, and international or heritage languages are key and equal members of Canada’s multilingual mosaic inseparable from our concept of multiculturalism.
Secondly, Canada’s Multiculturalism Act also encourages multiculturalism by way of: ensuring that all Canadians have an equal opportunity to obtain employment and advancement.
As a woman who sought refuge in Canada I am very familiar with the obstacles newly immigrated individuals are confronted with especially in regards to finding employment.
Currently I am the Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights. In June 2010 our committee conducted a study on employment equity in the Federal Public Services. Our findings were incredibly disheartening. (link in report)
Although the Federal Public Service did appear to be meeting its targets for women, Aboriginal people and people with disabilities it failed to meet its target for visible minorities.
Our committee study discovered there are significant discrepancies between recruitment rates and representation rates for visible minorities in the public service. The representations rate for visible minorities remains well below the workforce availability numbers available for this group, based on 2006 Census data. These low representation rates for visible minorities appear to indicate that visible minorities continue to be under-represented in the federal public service.
Once again, although in Canada we have in place legislation that guarantees that all Canadian’s have an equal opportunity to obtain employment, without the necessary resources in place we cannot ensure that the legislation is enforced.
In addition, it assists new immigrants in acquiring at least one of Canada’s official languages.
As I mentioned previously, over 5 million Canadians have a mother tongue other than French or English. As a result many of these Canadians experience great difficulty developing the language skills they require to effectively participate in society. This act ensures that Canadian’s who do not speak French or English have the tools they need to acquire one of the official languages. Many school systems offer English as a second language courses to it’s students which has proven to be extremely useful for children whom have recently immigrated to Canada. I do believe however that more can be done to ensure that all Canadian’s have the ability to acquire at least one of the official languages.
- 4. What are the key ACTS passed by the Canadian parliament following the Multiculturalism Act also related to multiculturalism?
- 1989: Canadian Heritage Languages Institute Act (Bill C-37)
- 1991: Canadian Race Relations Foundation Act (Bill C-63)
- 5. What are the key successes and failures of this act and its implementation?
Although in Canada we have made great strides towards creating and fostering a multicultural society there is still progress that needs to be made. We have indicating that embracing multiculturalism and plurality is indeed very much a part of the Canadian identity.
The presence of multicultural rights in the constitution as well as in the Multiculturalism Act of 1988 help solidify Canada’s commitment to preserving and promoting multiculturalism we have learned that this alone is insufficient.
However, unless this legislation is properly supported, monitored and advanced it will not be effective.
I am extremely proud to be able to call a country like Canada, where difference is perceived as a strength rather than a weakness, my home.
Canada is often known for championing multiculturalism and embracing diversity and plurality. It is my belief that Canada has done an excellent job in establishing the importance of multiculturalism. Although we may have a long road to travel down until we successfully put our principles into practice there is still a lot one can learn by studying the role multiculturalism plays in Canadian society.
This past October I had the privilege of listening to His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan deliver a lecture on the topic of pluralism. In his lecture he stated that:
“Pluralism is a process not a product. It is a mentality, a way of looking at a diverse and changing world”
Multiculturalism, like pluralism, is too a process rather than a product. In Canada we have adopted a vision where we embrace difference by seeking to preserve language and culture which in turn fosters understanding
It is my wish that you too could all recognize the importance of embracing multiculturalism by opening up your mind and your hearts the beautiful cultures that our world is comprised of.