Before Trudeau's 1971 announcement on bilingualism and multiculturalism, studies focused on British and French charter group relations, and assimilation of others to these dominant languages and cultures (Driedger, 2000). During the seventies and eighties multiculturalism got a boost from a royal commission, and much research focused on multiple identities and pluralism, which generated much research on cohesion, solidarity and conflict. Since the eighties, more demographic diversity led to increased work on race, racism, and the challenges of inequality, and human rights. We shall discuss these periods of research and debates in that order in this paper. Unfortunately, much has been left out, such as contributions by French sociologists, research on first nations, and much more.
Early Chicago sociologists, sometimes referred to as "The Chicago School", did extensive research in cultural pluralism and ethnic relations. "Those particularly concerned with ethnic studies included Robert E. Park, W.I. Thomas, Louis Wirth," and their students (Persons, 1987:33). Thomas and Park emphasized quite different assimilationist and pluralist contributions, and two of their students, Karl Dawson and Everett Hughes, who began Canadian sociological studies at McGill University in Montreal, also emphasized ethnic and race relations. Robert Park is well known for his race relations cycle which evolved as a sequence of stages from the initial social contact (which often resulted in conflict) to competition, accommodation, and, finally, assimilation of ideas, cultures, or populations. In contrast, W.I Thomas and F. Znaniecki's five volume The Polish Peasant in America, dealt with reorganization to maintain ethnic solidarity.
S.D. Clark (1975, 1976) has done helpful historical overviews of sociology in Canada where he expounds on students of the Chicago School, who did important work in ethnic and race relations, including C.A. Dawson and Everett Hughes who both came to Montreal to begin sociology in Canada at McGill University. Carl A. Dawson, a graduate of Chicago, came to McGill University in Montreal in 1922 to found the Department of Sociology (Clark, 1976:134-135). Dawson had studied with Park and began his ethnic research in Montreal, and later turned to research of ethnic groups on the western prairies (Persons, 1987:74). In Canada there were fears of cultural disunity, similar to fears in America, especially as large numbers of immigrants entered eastern cities and the West. The British, who were the majority in Canada at that time, pushed hard for restricting immigration to groups from Britain and the countries of northern Europe. Some students of Dawson's began using metaphors such as "patchwork quilt" and "mosaic", so McGill researchers were quite controversial, seen as being too sympathetic to pluralism and a diversity of immigrants (Persons, 1987; Shore, 1987:233).
It was to this Montreal setting that Everett Hughes came in 1927 to join Dawson at McGill after taking his Ph.D. at Chicago. While Dawson never learned French, Hughes did; the two divided their research, with Hughes studying Quebec, and Dawson studying the West. In his eleven years at McGill, Hughes quickly discovered that the Chicago theories did not fit well into the study of the French-Canadian experience. Hughes broke decisively with the Chicago ethnic assimilation doctrines, in publishing French Canada in Transition. Horace Miner, a student of Hughes at McGill, studied St Denis, a rural Quebec parish, as a village counterpart which was not influenced by industry, and in 1949 Miner revisited St Denis and published changes he found (Guindon, 1988, Jateau, 1992:322-5). The studies of Hughes and Miner broke new ground in that they did not follow the Parkian race relations cycle, but rather followed the ethnographic methods of Robert Redfield (anthropologist at Chicago) and his study of villages in Mexico. Ethnic communities were studied in their own right, more akin to earlier Chicago interests of Thomas and Znaniecki and Polish communities. …