Multiculturalism has long been a debatable topic in Canada since 1971, when the federal government implemented it as an official policy (Schaefer & Haaland, 2009, p. 246). As more individuals in Canada have different ethnic backgrounds, the use of multiculturalism is intended to encourage racial and ethnic diversity in Canadian life. This policy has its supporters, but also its critics who question the effectiveness of multiculturalism as an official policy to deal with racial and ethnic relations in Canada. Even though many critics argue that the Canadian official policy of multiculturalism has serious impacts on immigrants and minority groups, the economic, political, and social advantages that this policy provides outweigh those drawbacks.
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Multiculturalism helps integrate visible minorities into the labour market. Canada has experienced more participation of members of minority groups in different business sectors, such as transportation, communications, and banking. The increased participation is the result of the government’s effort of providing a number of programs to ensure equality in the workplace. According to the Public Service Commission (2007, as cited in Dib & Turcotte, 2008), the public service had an increase of minority employees from 1% in 1986 to 8.6% in 2006. One of the programs implemented by the federal government is the Employment Equity Act that serves to maintain equal opportunities in the work force for women, Aboriginal people, and visible minorities (Dib & Turcotte, 2008).
Marketplaces offer economic opportunities to the general Canadian population. Not only individuals of minority groups, but also Canadians are benefited from the buying and selling of goods in these markets. Department stores, meat and vegetable markets are example of places where a great selection of cultural products are sold, contributing to the Canadian economy through the employment of both minorities and non-minorities. Looking Ahead Initiative (2004, as cited in Dib & Turcotte, 2008) reported that visible minorities represented 48% of the total consumer market in Toronto, 39% in Vancouver, and 20% in Montreal. All ethnic groups have their own cultures and traditions which sometimes limit their eating style. Different factors like religion or health may influence their option for traditional food. Dib and Turcotte (2008) point out that 70% of the kosher food in the Canadian market are consumed by two major religious groups, the Jews and the Muslims. They also add that there was a significant growth in this market, from $480 million in 2000 to over a billion in 2007.
Members of minority groups have a high participation in the Canadian political process. As immigrants have better chance of becoming a citizen in Canada than in any other Western country, they are more involved in the electoral process like voters, members of parties, or candidates for political offices. According to Adams (2007, as cited in Kymlicka, 2008), Canada has more foreign-born members in the parliament than any other country. Compared to the US which has 2% of foreign-born in the House of Representatives or Australia with 11%, Canada has a higher number of foreign-born in the federal parliament which accounts for 13%. For example, Dib and Turcotte (2008) reported that in 2004, 8.3% of the candidates running for federal office were minorities and that the members of parliament elected in the same year were 7.8% visible minorities.
Educational institutions are spaces where a culturally diverse population of students interacts. The government has made an effort to offer a great range of programs that suit the needs of minorities, providing a welcome environment to students with different ethnic backgrounds. Minority groups make up at least one-fifth of the Canadian student population and by 2016, they will account for one-fifth of the total Canadian population (Statistics Canada, as cited in Dib & Turcotte, 2008). As a response to this increasing number, a large variety of programs and services have been implemented in schools, universities, and colleges in order to provide the best opportunities to all minorities. Examples of these programs are the teaching of world religions, pre-schools, and day-care facilities. According to the OECD (2006, as cited in Kymlicka, 2008), children of immigrants perform better in schools than children of non-immigrants. Moreover, in 2006, 17% of the total university graduates were members of a visible minority group (Dib & Turcotte, 2008). This fact also contributes to the Canadian economy, since more international students are choosing Canada as a destination for their studies. There were more than 153,000 international students in 2004, spending $25,000 per person only in school-related expenses, making the total of $3.8 billion a year (Dib & Turcotte, 2008).
The multiculturalism policy has contributed to the growing intermarriage rates. There has been a growth in the trend of marriages among different ethnicities, races, and religions. Statistics Canada 2001 census reported that there was an increase of 35% of mixed unions from 1991 to 2001 and this number represents 3.1% of the total unions in Canada. This trend is more common in major unban cities, such as Toronto and Vancouver which in 2001 the average intermarriage was of 30% (Dib & Turcotte, 2008).
Last but not least, multiculturalism has encouraged the sense of mutual acceptance and integration into the society. Compared to any other Western country citizens, Canadians are more likely to view immigrants as essential to their identity. Most Canadians are proud of the diversity in the country and proof of this is the increased support for multiculturalism from 74% in 1997 to 85% in 2003 (Kymlicka, 2008). As a result of this acceptance, Canadians respect other religions more than people in other countries. For example, surveys of Focus Canada in 2006 showed that 83% of Canadians agree that Muslims do not represent a threat for the safety of the general population, but that they contribute positively to the Canadian society (Kymlicka, 2008). In addition, there are more interactions between visible minorities and native-born Canadians through activities, such as sports, music, and dance. In 2001, there were 11,700 artists from minority backgrounds, this number increased by 74% from 1991 (Dib & Turcotte, 2008). All individuals share some feelings of national pride and an evidence of this is the common languages they speak. Dib and Turcotte (2008) state that for 47% of visible minorities, English is their first language, for 26% it is French, and for 27% it is both. The integration of visible minorities into neighbourhoods is relatively even. In comparison with the US or European countries where assimilation is encouraged, Canada has an almost complete absence of social isolation or ghettos (Kymlicka, 2008).
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In conclusion, it has been shown above that multiculturalism as an official policy for races and ethnicities in Canada provides a large number of advantages for both the visible minority population and native-born Canadians. Despite of some drawbacks that this policy might bring, the society in general is benefited from all the economic, political, and social benefits. At last, it is important to mention that this policy like any other is not completely perfect, so future research is required to solve some issues related to multiculturalism, such as racism and discrimination, underrepresentation of minority groups in the media, and economic and religious issues.
- Dib, K., Donaldson, I., & Turcotte, B. (2008). Integration and Identity in Canada: The
Importance of Multicultural Common Spaces. Canadian Ethnic Studies, 40(1), 161-187.
Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.
- Kymlicka, W. (2008). THE CURRENT STATE OF MULTICULTURALISM IN CANADA.
Canadian Journal of Social Research, 15-34. Retrieved from SocINDEX with Full Text
- Schaefer, Richard T., & Haaland, Bonnie (2009). Racial and Ethnic Inequality. 3rd Canadian ed.
Sociology: A Brief Introduction (pp. 233-260). McGraw-Hill Ryerson.
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