Canada’s Policy of Multiculturalism

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After the second world war, the world as it was known at the time began to change. The events of the war instituted a chain of events that included the independence of colonial states in Africa and Asia. Canada witnessed an economic boom and during this period of expansion. They came to a realization that the source of Canada’s immigrant labor simply was not enough. For years, Canada’s racist immigration policy was limited to Europeans. The country decided to make lists of countries that were preferred and or non-preferred. These categories usually excluded Chinese immigrants as well as others from Asia. Canada would initiate the same treatment towards black immigrants who were mostly from other British colonies. During the 1920’s this would change as Canada decided that a British subject was anybody from a predominantly white country.

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As the world was changing world post world war two, Canada was forced to rethink its immigration policies. As Canada began to get more recognition on the global stage, there was a growing awareness among bureaucrats in Canada who realized the country could not function effectively on the international stage with racially discriminatory policies. The fear that existed at the time was that it would damage national interests. It was under these political circumstances that Canada became the first country in the world to institute a policy of Multiculturalism.

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Pierre Trudeau and Kids including future Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The Policy of Multiculturalism in Canada has been justified with the changing demographic of Canadians and laws passed celebrating and protecting multiculturalism and the rights of minorities. Between 1969 to 1991, Canada made several legislative changes in order to reshape its identity as a multicultural country. Under the Trudeau-led Government, The Charter of Rights and Freedoms was signed in 1982, in 1986 the Employment Equity Act was signed into law guaranteeing that no Canadian regardless of his differing background should face discriminatory practices in regards to employment. Then the Ministry of Canadian Heritage was created in 1991 in order to help push multiculturalism as a policy for every Canadian government from then forth. Immigration from countries in the developing world spiked up by the mid 70’s due to new legislation that opened Canada to the developing world. It was during this time period that the overwhelming majority of immigrants were not white for the first time in Canadian History. According to Statistics Canada, the visible minority population has consistently grown over the past 25 years from 9.4 percent (2.5 million) in 1991 to 11.2 percent (3.2 million) in 1996 to 13.4 percent (3.9 million in 2001) to 16.2 percent (5 million) in 2006. The 2006 census has also revealed that the percentage of immigrants born in regions other than Europe has steadily increased from 68.5 percent in 1981 to 83.5 percent between 2001 and 2006.

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New Canadians swearing in Ceremony.

Critics of the Multiculturalism policy in Canada would argue that this policy is ethnocentric in nature and perpetuates a national attitude of white superiority and I agree. First of all, despite Canada being multicultural, Canada is defined as a bilingual/bi cultural country and this creates the racialized construct of the British and french being the real citizens and not minorities. Immigrants have many times had to challenge the system of white superiority and ethnocentrism when Canadian culture stigmatizes certain cultures or beliefs. As in the case of the RCMP officer who wished to wear his turban rather than a constable cap due to his religious beliefs. That Case was an eye opener to many Canadians that albeit multiculturalism was the policy and it aimed to promote strength in diversity; It could not be helped that there was a tinge of conformity demanded to fit according to the standard set by society.

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Historical Opinions from JollofRiceJim

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