Contemporary Realities and Future Visions: Enhancing Multiculturalism in Canada

By Nakhaie, M. Reza | Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview
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Contemporary Realities and Future Visions: Enhancing Multiculturalism in Canada

Nakhaie, M. Reza, Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal


The purpose of this article is to highlight the success and failure of multiculturalism in Canada and to present policy suggestions for enhancing its future. While multiculturalism is a defining characteristic of Canada's contemporary national identity, the reality of multi-culturalism is both complex and problematic. Based on previous empirical evidence and several social surveys as well as the 2001 census, it is shown that there are significant inequities among ethno-racial groups, most of which are experienced by visible minorities and recent immigrants. Although there is some evidence of lower civic society participation among ethno-racial minorities, this is limited to the formal political arena. Nevertheless, it has been shown that visible minorities possess a "warm feeling" toward Canada alongside similar feelings for their own ethno-racial communities. Ultimately, it is argued that the contradiction between ideologies rooted in individualism and collectivism can be viewed as an explanation of why multicultural policies have shown limited success in addressing ethno-racial inequities.

Cet article cherche a presenter le succes ainsi que l'echec du multiculturalisme au Canada, et a presenter des recommandations de politiques visant a ameliorer son futur. Bien que le multiculturalisme soit une caracteristique intrinseque a la definition de l'identite nationale contemporaine au Canada, sa realite est a la fois problematique et complexe. Selon certaines donnees empiriques anterieures, plusieurs releves demographiques et le recensement de 2001, il existe des inegalites significatives parmi les groupes ethniques, dont souffrent surtout les nouveaux immigrants et les minorites visibles. Malgre les preuves d'une faible participation civique des minorites ethniques, il a toutefois ete demontre que les minorites visibles font preuve d'un sentiment de "bien-etre" face au Canada ainsi qu'un attachement semblable a leur propre communaute ethnique. Finalement, l'article soutient que la contradiction qui existe entre une ideologie ancree dans l'individualisme ou dans le collectivisme pourrait en fait expliquer pourquoi les politiques multiculturelles ont recueillies un pietre succes en matiere d'inegalites ethniques.


This article discusses how we can enhance the future of multiculturalism in Canada. I discuss present ethno-racial inequalities in Canada before outlining reasons for the limited success of multiculturalism. Several suggestions are then made regarding what should be done if the policy is to accomplish its goals.

Canadian multiculturalism is built on the three pillars of social justice, civic participation, and identity (specifically, a sense of belonging to Canada). In this first section, I offer evidence of the success and failure of these pillars using data collected from the Census of Canada (2001), the Ethnic Diversity Survey (2002), the Canadian Election Survey (2000), and the Academic Profession Survey (2000).

With respect to social justice, a wide range of empirical research focusing on socioeconomic inequality demonstrates that ethno-racial minorities generally achieve higher education levels, yet are statistically less likely to appear in the upper income groups or to work in the types of occupations to which such educational credentials usually lead (see Lian and Mathew 1998; Herberg 1998; Gee and Prus 2000). We can further state that recent immigrants experience more of these types of inequities. Those who arrived in Canada in the 1980s and later have lower incomes, on average, and work at lower-level occupations compared to those born in Canada. Finally, among recent immigrants a clear demarcation exists between those classified as visible minority and the British or French charter groups (Reitz 2001; Reitz and Sklar 1997; Li 2000). These differences tend to persist even after education and other social capital characteristics are accounted for.

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