Multiculturalism and Intergroup Relations

By James S. Frideres | Go to book overview
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Huguette Labelle

In the perspective of Canadian history, the meaning of multiculturalism has changed rapidly and fundamentally within little more than a generation. That is demonstrably true of public policy. Whether it is equally or even more true of public attitudes is a more subjective question on which it would be imprudent of me to comment. Happily that is a matter beyond the scope of my theme: "Multiculturalism and the New Canadian Constitution."

The constitution, or more precisely that part of the written constitution known as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, contains a fundamentally important statement of national policy on multiculturalism. This is a declaration that has relevance because of the potential impact on the policies, programs, and activities of government, and also on the expression of public will. I would therefore like to discuss multiculturalism in action, both its problems and the measures taken to solve them. While the policy has not eliminated problems in how ethnic groups interact with other groups, it has offered some flexibility with regard to how specific problems can be resolved.

Let me start by quoting from the two relevant sections of the Charter. Section 15 states:

(1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex, age or mental and physical disability.


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