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Research of Canadian Multiculturalism Act on Race and Ethnicity Research Paper


The Canadian Multiculturalism Act, whose idea was first conceived in the year 1971 under the then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was passed in the year 1988 and it aimed at enhancing and preserving multiculturalism in Canada.

The Act affirms the policy of the federal government to ensure for equal treatment of every Canadian citizen in the country, no matter their race or ethnicity dimensions. Under the regulations of this Act, the Canadian government would have to recognize and also respect its entire society, which is characterized by diversity in customs, languages, and religions, among other social and cultural differences (Edwards, 2010).

One of the most important policies of the Act was to ensure that all citizens were accorded equal protection and treatment by the government, under the provisions of the law, while their diversity was valued and respected.

Other key aspects which have been outlined in the main components of the Act include Aboriginal rights, equality rights regardless of one’s religion or skin color, full protection of the Canadian multicultural heritage, English and French as the only official languages even though other languages may be used, and the right of the minorities to enjoy and celebrate their culture.

This paper provides an in-depth review and analysis of the multiculturalism policy in Canada whereby social and political locations such as gender, race, sexuality, class, and citizenship are fully examined. Canada is increasingly becoming a culturally and ethnically diverse country and for that reason, multiculturalism policy is observed to be one of the major responses of the Federal government towards this diversity.

What is Multiculturalism?

As it would be observed, there is no specific definition for this term and various countries across the world would tend to approach the issue in a variety of ways and perspectives, but in related phenomena. Over the years, different and inconsistent strategies have come up through different communities, whereby the term has been applied in a variety of ways in the society, both normative and descriptive.

For instance, as a normative, the term would imply a positive appreciation of communal diversity, which is based on the right of people to recognize and respect the larger society of cultural diversity. However, as a descriptive term, multiculturalism has been used to refer to the concept of cultural diversity.

The term is generally used to define and describe the demographic structure of a specific region or community. This is basically an ideology which promotes the formal institutionalization of communities that are characterized by multiple cultures.

However, in a political context, the term is applied for varied perceptions that would range from a guided policy that recognizes the value of cultural diversity, to the responsibility of advocating for equality among different cultures within a particular setting of the society. The idea of multiculturalism has been practiced in a number of Western countries from ancient times, for reasons that would vary from region to region.

History of Multiculturalism in Canada

Canada is arguably a nation of immigrants whose ethnic structure is observed to have changed significantly over time owing to changing patterns of immigration. Unlike in the country’s colonial times, when Canada was constituted by only three main ethnic groups, which included Aboriginal people, the French, and the British, the Canadian population presently constitutes of people and groups that represent a plurality of racial origins and ethnocultural traditions.

The three founding nations or simply the ethnic groups described above were significant, considering their influence on the country’s social and political institutions. More importantly, these groups had also played a key role in shaping the strong multicultural nature of the country.

Following these ethnic groups, immigrants from other countries allover the world started flowing into Canada. Canada was continuously receiving large numbers of immigrants by the time of the 1867 Confederation and these numbers would surge to the peak between 1850 and 1950, especially with the construction of the transnational railway and the opening of the Canadian west (Buzzelli, 2001).

These two events attracted thousands of immigrants as people from the Eastern Europe, Europe, and the U.S. crossed the borders into Canada. Moreover, quite a big number of Chinese experts and laborers were brought into the country to assist with the railroad construction.

During the twentieth century, Canadian immigration patterns would experience a radical increase, with British being the primary source of majority of the immigrants entering the country those times. It leaves no doubt that, Canada is one of the major multicultural regions in the world, owing to the pluralist nature of its population.

From the beginning of time, Canada’s largest city, Toronto has been a living testament to the country’s outstanding multicultural nature (Beckfield & Krieger, 2007). Following the end of the World War II, the city constituted of a good number of Italians, Jews and other eastern and southern European immigrants among its high population.

However, ever since the beginning of 1970s, many people who settled in Toronto and other parts of Canada are immigrants who included South Asians, Chinese, and Africans, such as Ethiopians and Somalis, among others.

Other foreign communities who formed the Canadian population would include people from the Middle East, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Vietnam, Greece, Hispanic America, and Korea, just to name but a few. These immigration influxes however, were triggered, in large part, by the changes in the country’s immigration policy.

The initial policy had focused at attracting and retaining skilled, white people from the U.S. and parts of Europe. The recent policy however, allows for better opportunities for people from diverse parts of the world to migrate to Canada. As it would be observed, all these groups of people presented a mixture of varied citizenship, race, gender, class and sexuality.

Multiculturalism policy in the Canadian Society

Due to its emphasis on the great importance of immigration, as far as social value is concerned, the Canadian government is arguably a major escalator of this ideology in the contemporary world. The policy of multiculturalism in the country was first adopted officially by the Federal government in the course of Pierre Trudeau’s premiership in the 1970s and 1980s.

In the year 1971, the Canadian government would become the first country globally to declare multiculturalism as an official policy of the state. As observed from the previous paragraphs, this step would chart the way to an evolving cultural pattern in the country.

While the Canadian society remains diverse, progressive, and multicultural, the country’s political parties are ever cautious about posing any criticisms to the high levels of immigration witnessed by their country.

Nowadays, multiculturalism is perceived to be a touchstone and the defining point of the Canadian national identity and also as a point of prestige for the Canadian citizens, regardless of their race and ethnicity. Presently, this policy is portrayed in the country’s legal system, through the ‘Multiculturalism Act’ of the year 1988, among other key sections of the country’s governing laws and policies such as the ‘Charter of Rights and Freedoms.’

The implementation of the Canadian multicultural policy would pave way for subsequent legislation transformations and study and these would lead to the full inception of the ‘Canadian Multiculturalism Act’ of the year 1988; a defining point that would mark a transition to maximum economic and social participation and involvement by racial minorities in the country.

The Act fully recognized the value of racial and cultural diversity in the country and for this, it guaranteed the freedom for all people to enhance, preserve and share their varied cultural heritages as one way of removing cultural barriers from the Canadian territory (Berry et al., 2006).

Through the strong policies of the Act, people from all cultural groups are recognized and valued as Canadian citizens and are expected to take full force in contributing towards the country’s national identity. Moreover, the policy encourages both the Canadians and the immigrants to take part in the society by exploiting their full potential and ability in enhancing social, economic, and cultural integration levels.

As a matter of fact, the Canadian multiculturalism has been looked upon with great admiration by other countries, both developed and developing. Supporters of the Canadian move to officially embrace the policy have always observed that the trend has progressively helped to bring both the locals and the foreigners together, thus turning them as part of the diverse society of the country.

According to many native Canadians, immigrants do help the society to advance politically and economically and in that case, there is an acceptance between the natives and the foreigners (Angus, 2008). For these reasons, there have been increased demand and emphasis for changes in the Canadian multicultural policy, for this was viewed as a certain way to promote greater racial harmony and equality in the country. This way, Canada is a multicultural and multiracial nation which has been recognized universally for their zealous attempts to promote and facilitate race and ethnicity relations among all people across the world.

The Canadian multiculturalism policy has continued to play a significant role in eradicating social and political locations normally triggered by citizenship, race, sexuality, class and gender, among others. The Federal government has always recognized the diversity of its population as regards the above characteristics of its diverse population.

This is achieved through the foundations of the ‘Canadian Multicultural Act’ which has been designed to enhance, preserve, and promote the multicultural heritage of every Canadian citizen in the society and their right to acquire equal opportunities in the social, political, economic, and cultural life of the country.

As provided in the Act, all existing federal institutions and organizations will have to ensure that people of all races and ethnicity enjoys equal chances to gain employment in those organizations. However, where the policy of multiculturalism may have served its purpose in the Canadian society, it has been fraught with many controversies and critics from all over the world.

Achievements and Challenges of the Canadian Multiculturalism

There have been a lot of debates on the issue of the multicultural policy as witnessed in Canada. Ever since the policy was officially incepted in the country way back in 1971, supporters and critics from across the world have constantly debated its objectives, impacts and implications on the integration of immigrants, ethnic and racial groups, as well as religious minorities in the country.

There have been mixed reactions about the policy, with those in favor of and others against the policy coming up with arguments to support their varied claims.

For instance, those in support of multiculturalism policy would tend to argue that, by removing the barriers to full participation in the Canadian society, the policy has continued to play a positive role in the promotion of integration among people of different races and ethnicities in the country, when compared to other countries that are yet to make multiculturalism official.

Considering the high levels of mutual acceptance and interactions among native Canadians and immigrants, there would be a high possibility of the immigrants becoming real citizens in the long term, thus being able to take part in the overall social and political activities of the country.

Those against multiculturalism, on the other hand, would maintain their stand that the policy acts as a big threat to the national cohesion, among other notable drawbacks. Other critics have also viewed multiculturalism as a barrier to social inclusion and immigrant integration.

On the same line, some scholars have also expressed their views and perceptions by pointing out that multiculturalism, which focusing mainly on the overall preservation of cultural, religious, and/or ethnic identities, is less effective compared to those policies that are centered on educational and economic integration.

Critical intersection analysis of the policy

Various aspects of social identity such as gender, race, sexuality, class, and citizenship are expected to raise different behaviors, reactions and/or relationships in different oppression systems. In most cases, immigrants to foreign nations or countries are treated as members of specific groups in the society having limited privileges and rights to their lives.

These groupings are likely to result in structural inequalities and discriminations for these minority groups, owing to the different stereotypes associated with varied aspects of their identities (Banting et al., 2007). Aspects such as race, ethnicity, and citizenship normally intersect with other factors in the line to establish patterns of exploitation and domination.

These patterns of collective failure whereby institutions fail to offer appropriate services to people simply because of their race or ethnicity can obviously be observed through attitudes, processes, and behavior expressing discrimination through ignorance, racist stereotyping, unwitting prejudice, and thoughtlessness among other ways expressing discrimination against people in a specific community.

As it would be expected, the interplay of gender, sexuality, class, race, and citizenship in the Canadian society is most likely to be the same as in any other place in the world, which is characterized by high immigration rates.

This, however, is not the case with Canada, where the multicultural policy remains official and which is enforced by the ‘Canadian Multicultural Act, 1988.’ The multicultural policy in the country has continued to form a new political and demographic reality over the years, thus leading to greater social equality in all the institutions of its diverse society, irrespective of the various social identities defining those demographics.

More importantly, visible minorities in the Canadian society have increasingly continued to share the country’s liberal-democratic values and norms, regardless of their religious differences and affiliation. These rights would include those of women and gays.

However, irrespective of the strong policies regarding the fundamental human right perceived by the Canadian government, there are still cases of collective experiences of people of different race and ethnicity being exposed to unequal treatment in various segments of the society.

This is clear evidence that despite the positive impacts of the Canadian multicultural policy, the aspect of racism is still one of the major stumbling blocks towards full integration of the policy’s holy missions to the diverse Canadian society.

This, however, is likely to offer great challenges for the policy, considering the way it can be applied to address racism and other systems of oppression and exploitation in the country. Cases of racism in the Canadian territory have been characterized by the minority group’s progressive lack of fair and equal access to employment opportunities, exclusion, and marginalization over the years (Fleras, 2010).

This comes up despite the right to equal treatment for all Canadian citizens, whether natives or immigrants, being a fundamental requirement of the ‘Canadian multicultural Act of the year 1988. In this case, there is an urgent need for the Canadian society to adopt ways of addressing the resulting disparities by trying to foster racial justice, inclusion and equity in all government institutions.

Policies that are likely to eliminate structural and institutional access barriers leading to inequities ought to be adopted, to bring a transformational change in the agenda of the Canadian multicultural policy.

This actually would be a timely intervention to the issue considering the fact that; some policies in various segments of the diverse Canadian society have incessantly continued to instill negative effects on its marginalized groups, mainly constituted of immigrants.

Structural and institutional obstacles impeding equal treatment for every Canadian citizen is much consistent and anticipated with the aim of coming up with an inclusion framework which is likely to ensure for full recognition and respect for all Canadian citizens regardless of their ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, citizenship or even race.

This would not only help to establish an inclusive society characterized by equality, but it will also generate a more valued Canadian society that recognizes and practices the fundamental rights of human rights.


As observed from this report, Canada is increasingly becoming a culturally and ethnically diverse country, and for that reason, multiculturalism policy is arguably one of the major responses of the Federal government towards this diversity.

Multicultural policy as perceived by the Canadian government is indeed one of the key aspects that define better the country’s character. Multiculturalism in Canada is as old as the nation itself and this reflects the country’s history, as well as its current reality as an official multicultural nation since the year 1971.

As it is observed here, owing to its multicultural policy, Canada has continued to welcome immigrants from all parts of the world, without taking any chance to compromise the legacies of its founding ethnic groups, which include the Aboriginal people, the French, and the British.

Through this strategy, the highly-controversial multicultural policy has played a significant role in transforming Canada as a nation that values the great diversity of people within its political boundaries and which reflects the surging transnational nature of the global communities.

The most successful ways of integration realized in Canada have been outlined in this report, as observed through the culturally interwoven fabric of the country’s multicultural population. Apart from offering an intersectional analysis of key social and political locations as they are related to the multicultural policy, this paper has also called on the need for the Canadian society to adopt new strategies of addressing those differences appropriately, in all sectors of the community.


Angus, I. (2008). Identity and Justice. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Banting, K., Thomas, J., Courchene, T., & Seidle, L. (2007). Belonging? Diversity, recognition and shared citizenship in Canada. Montreal: Institute for Research in Public Policy.

Beckfield, J., & Krieger, N. (2009). Epi 1 demos 1 cracy: Linking political systems and priorities to the magnitude of health inequities-Evidence, gaps, and a research agenda. Epidemiologic Reviews, 31(1), 152-177.

Berry, J., Phinney, J., Sam, d., & Vedder, P. (2006). Immigrant youth: Acculturation, identity and adaptation. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 55(3), 303-332.

Buzzelli, M. (2001). From Little Britain to Little Italy: an urban ethnic landscape study in Toronto. Journal of Historical Geography, 27(4), 573–587.

Edwards, B. (2010). Who do we think we are: Writings on citizenship and identity in the twenty-first century. Journal of Canadian Studies, 44(1), 221-228.

Fleras, A. (2010). Unequal Relations: An Introduction to Race, Ethnic and Aboriginal Dynamics in Canada. Sixth Edition. Toronto: Pearson Canada.

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