there are notable records of slavery in
Starting in 1858, Chinese "coolies" were brought to
Restrictions still existed on immigration from
Notable organizations in Canadian history have included the Parti national social chrétien, and the Heritage Front. Other notable individuals in this context include Adrien Arcand, Ernst Zündel, Doug Christie, Wolfgang Droege and Don Andrews.
However, racism in
Quoted from “Rainbowmaking,” a curriculum prepared for the Canadian Unitarian Council
It is easy to lose sight of Canadian uniqueness when we evaluate our
nation from the inside. One Canadian, Fil Fraser, a Black man who has
worked as an educational media specialist, transcends this widespread
inability to appreciate
that we Canadians have difficulty recognizing our uniqueness. We see
ourselves as a not very powerful, not very innovative, not very
exciting land that is nevertheless safe. We look to other countries
with envy, wishing we had their strength, their depth of culture and
character, their creativity. But look more closely. Our first
economic to social crisis.
danger of losing its role as leader of the Commonwealth... And when we
look, nervously, at our continental neighbour, our desire to buy into
the American dream becomes highly selective. We do not wish to be
drawn into pre-emptive war. The melting pot never really worked-yet
East, cradle of civilization, even brothers can't get along... Gays
are increasingly being killed by conservative Islamic governments.
Baha'i are under attack in
with racial and religious strife, even though untouchability is
the world's countries are either unicultural, uniracial, and
religiously homogeneous, or else caught up in internal strife.
Canadians have yet to discover the creativity of their social order.
If we can solve the problems of making it possible for people of every
kind to live together in reasonable harmony, we have a message for the
world. The problems of this shrinking planet are problems we're
Sometimes, the proper questions can force a more positive glimpse of
our nation. A 1991 Heritage Project survey discovered that two
often-cited sources of national pride are: the free and democratic
nature of our country, and our multicultural society. In the same
year, the Angus Reid Group found that 85% of Canadians say that we can
be proud to be a Canadian and proud of our ancestry at the same time.
They also found that 77% of us believe multiculturalism will enrich
the equality of employment opportunity; and 85% support efforts to
help immigrants acquire the skills and knowledge to integrate into
society. However, only 58% support efforts to help minorities preserve
their cultural heritage. This last statistic provides a hint that
the world, is rather controversial here at home. Part of our debate
flows from confusion about the meanings of key terms.
The term "multiculturalism" is used in three very different ways - as
a descriptive fact, as an ethical ideal, and as a government policy.
Multiculturalism refers to the fact of diversity, observable ethnic or
cultural heterogeneity in our society. It refers to the lofty ideal of
true equality and respect among ethnocultural groups. It also refers
to the federal policy that dates back to 1971. Here is the heart of
The Government of Canada recognizes the diversity of Canadians as
regards race, national or ethnic origin, colour and religion as a
fundamental characteristic of Canadian society, and is 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
policy looks in two directions at once-back toward our various
heritage, and forward toward a day of full participation and equality
for every Canadian. The policy does not insist that we embrace and
celebrate our individual heritage; it only makes this possible and
socially acceptable. Also, it does not guarantee absolute acceptance
for all in the centres of power and prestige; it only aims our
legislative machinery in this direction and encourages respect for all
participants in the evolution of Canadian society. Before we review
some of the current Canadian opinions about multiculturalism, it will
be useful to remind ourselves of major twentieth century stepping
stones to the present situation:
-- In 1903, the Canadian government raised the head tax on Chinese
immigrants by 1000%.
-- In 1908, Mackenzie King called
-- In 1914, a boatload of 376 East Indian refugees was refused
permission to land in
-- Ukrainians were imprisoned during World War I.
-- In the post World War I years, 93% of the immigrants to
-- In 1939, during the time of Hitler's genocide program, 907 Jews who
were trying to escape the Nazis, were refused
-- In the early 1940's, Japanese and German Canadians were placed in
harsh internment camps.
-- In 1942, the Citizenship Branch set up a program "to create a
better understanding of Canadians of recent European origin".
-- In 1948,
Declaration of Human Rights.
-- In the post World War II years, the immigration quotas for
non-British Europeans tripled, while the doors remained essentially
closed to Asians, Africans and Latin Americans.
-- In 1960, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism
made explicit recognition of the multicultural character of Canadian
society; and the Canadian Bill of Rights, initiated by John
Diefenbaker, contained many "equality" provisions.
-- In the early 1960's, the Quiet Revolution in
set in motion by Jean Lesage, began to stir the aspirations of
minorities in other provinces.
-- In 1969 Pierre Trudeau took the government out of the bedrooms of
the nations's gays.
-- In 1971, Pierre Trudeau's administration drafted an explicit
multiculturalism policy that (though tabled) influenced most social
and educational programs thereafter.
-- In 1982, multiculturalism was enshrined in the Constitution Act as
part of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
-- In 1986, Otto Jelinek, then Minister of State for Multiculturalism,
said "Our society has become irreversibly multiracial and
multicultural"; and Brian Mulroney, then Prime Minister, said
"Tokenism is over... fairness is in".
-- In 1988, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act was officially
proclaimed, establishing in law the right to retain one's
ethnocultural heritage and participate on an equal basis in Canadian
-- In 2005 equal marriage rights were granted to Canadians regardless
of sexual orientation.
Because of this laudable transformation in
are now one of the most sought homelands on earth, embracing and
encouraging more diversity than any other country. Over 4/5 of us
live in neighbourhoods with persons of different ethnic or racial
backgrounds. Almost 3/4 of us have close friends of different ethnic
or racial backgrounds. About 2/5 of us have family members of
different ethnic or racial backgrounds. 1/6 of
"visible minorities" - people, other than aboriginals, who are
non-white in colour or
non-Caucasian in race.
most multicultural cities in the world, with almost 2/5 of the
population represented by visible minorities. In this category,
about 17%. What is our global story? Where do our Canadian brothers
and sisters come from? About 32% have French backgrounds, 29% British,
7% issue from Southern Europe (e.g.
MUTICULTURALISM AS A POLICY The fact of increasing diversity on
Canadian soil, and the burgeoning ideal of universal human rights in
Canadian consciousness-these two forces operating together-have led to
the government policy of multiculturalism. But this policy is
controversial, even among Unitarians * Universalists. There seem to be
eight basic criticisms of multiculturalism:
1) it is divisive for
2) it marginalizes minorities
3) it encourages infighting among minorities
4) it obscures
5) it is politically opportunistic
6) it reinforces racial consciousness
7) it provides insufficient aid
8) it is not the government's business.
We now look at each in turn, along with their corresponding
1) Those who say the policy is divisive for the nation claim that it
diminishes the value of Canadian citizenship by emphasizing ethnic and
national origins. More time spent maintaining the mother culture means
less time spent building new allegiance to
in promoting cultural diversity? Haven't we reached the point where
it threatens social cohesion and destroys national identity? Aren't
absorption? Are we destined to be a nation of multiple solitudes?
In response, defenders say that these worries are natural growing
pains as we develop a new concept of nationhood. The need to get
newcomers to conform to some previous version of Canadian identity is
racially motivated. One's original culture and the new Canadian
context can be creatively synthesized, but this takes patience.
2) Those who say the policy marginalizes minorities see it as a way to
maintain Anglo-Saxon dominance by diverting others' attention away
from political and economic concerns, and toward less important
"cultural" concerns. It keeps the population divided and thereby
amenable to manipulation. It institutionalizes a ghetto mentality,
and actually pays minorities to remain peripheral.
In response, defenders say that firming up one's cultural base eases
the transition to economic independence and political participation.
Cultural concerns lie closer to the source of self-esteem, and give
one an initial "place under the sun". Without the policy, minorities
would stay marginal longer.
3) Those who say the policy encourages infighting among minorities
claim that selective support creates competition, and an unhealthy
focus on self-preservation. Smaller and smaller subgroupings bicker
about how to use limited heritage-retention funds. Furthermore,
discord in the motherlands is imported to
media, placing minorities at odds with each other.
In response, defenders say that consulting with the actual recipients
of services shows that more bridges between ethnocultural groups are
built than chasms are opened. Overall, the policy brings solidarity
visible, not more serious.
4) Those who say the policy obscures
official linguistic communities claim that now many small groups feel
they have a right to special or at least equal attention. Even the
"founding peoples" are relegated to "just two other ethnic groups".
In response, defenders say that bilingualism is not affected; the
"founding peoples" retain special status. But yes, there are more
cultural needs to consider in shaping social policy.
5) Those who say the policy is politically opportunistic claim that it
is motivated less by progressive ideals than by a desire for "ethnic
votes". Promoters of multiculturalism are posturing more than
In response, defenders say that there are always a few who tarnish a
good idea with selfish and malevolent motives. A broad-minded program
should not be held accountable for how narrow-minded individuals
6) Those who say the policy reinforces racial consciousness claim that
discrimination is best overcome by refusing to identify oneself
racially, ethnically or culturally. People are people, and
multiculturalism draws us away from our essential humanness.
In response, defenders say that cultural identification is a normal
and natural process, and only becomes harmful when one's own culture
is made the standard for others. Wanting cultural issues to disappear
lends covert support to the dominant culture.
7) Those who say the policy provides insufficient aid claim that much
more support is needed to retain one's culture on new soil. Merely
token contributions are made in hopes of reducing complaints.
In response, defenders say that any more federal support would
discourage provincial, municipal and grassroots initiatives. Each
level must make its proper contribution. 8) Those who say the policy
is not the government's proper business claim that cultural
backgrounds should be preserved solely by those who value them
inherently. Why should taxpayers have to support foreign heritages?
In response, defenders of the policy say that the principle of respect
for the cultural backgrounds of Canadian citizens is still too new to
be left completely to the preferences of individuals.
world leader on this legislation, and this status must be maintained.
We have given this much attention to the multiculturalism policy
because it is central to an understanding of our Canadian national
The designers of these workshops favour the policy. However, even
those who oppose the policy can still appreciate the fact and the
ideal of multiculturalism. For this reason, we have used the word
"intercultural" in describing the central purpose of this project.
Work between races, ethnocultural groups and faiths will be needed
locally and globally, whatever the fate of the policy.