Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

From Heritage Languages to Institutional Change: An Analysis of the Nature of Organizations and Projects Funded by the Canadian Multiculturalism Program (1983-2002)

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

From Heritage Languages to Institutional Change: An Analysis of the Nature of Organizations and Projects Funded by the Canadian Multiculturalism Program (1983-2002)

Article excerpt


This article aims to shed light on debates relative to the Canadian Multiculturalism Policy through an analysis of the evolution of the attribution of grants by the multiculturalism program, according to the nature of the organizations and projects selected for the 1983-2002 period. Results show that, in a context of drastic reduction of the amounts granted during that period, multiethnic organizations, notably those associated with visible minorities, were the principal recipients. In addition, along with the changes in the orientation of the policy, initiatives aiming at intercultural understanding, institutional adaptation, and raising public awareness of racism clearly dominated over more traditional objectives, such as the maintenance of heritage cultures and languages or the support of the specific needs of communities.


Le but de cet article est d'eclairer les debats sur la Loi sur la politique canadienne du multiculturalisme en analysant I'evolution de I'attribution des subventions du programme du multiculturalisme, selon la nature des organismes et des projets selectionnes pour la periode 1983-2002. Les resultats montrent que, dans un contexte de reduction drastique des sommes attributes pendant cette periode, les organismes multiethniques, notamment ceux issus des minorites visibles, en sont les principaux beneficiaires. Par ailleurs, dans la foulee des changements d'orientation de la politique, les initiatives visant la comprehension interculturelle, I'adaptation institutionnelle et la sensibilisation du public au racisme dominent clairement les objectifs plus traditionnels, tels que le maintien des langues et des cultures d'origine, ou le soutien aux besoins specifiques des communautes.


This evolution, reflected in the various redefinitions of the programs supported under the Policy and the official underlying rationales, can be divided--at the cost of simplifying a more complex reality--into three major phases. In spite of the multidimensional character of the 1971 proclamation, the Policy was originally characterized by an emphasis on the reproduction of heritage languages and cultures of origin, associated with the longer-standing communities which had resisted the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism (Government of Canada 1970). During the 1980s, the Policy gradually evolved--in part through a shift of community leadership to visible minorities--towards a greater emphasis on issues such as participation, the fight against racism, institutional adaptation, and raising the awareness of the majority of Canadians, a development that was formally embodied through the adoption of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1988. Finally, in the mid-1990s, as a result of pressures from the new Anglo-Canadian right and the renewed secessionist threat in Quebec, the promotion of a sense of belonging to Canada and of social cohesion took on more and more importance, as ultimate goals to be supported by the objectives, restated in 1995, of citizenship participation, social justice, and identity (Government of Canada 1989, 1991, 1995, 1998).

However, in spite of these multiple mutations, or perhaps partly because of them, the Multiculturalism Policy of Canada has never ceased to fuel debate, both among academics and decision-makers and in public opinion (Berry et al. 1983; Abu-Laban and Stasiulis 1992; Corbo 1992; Bissoondath 1994; Li 2003). Criticisms in this regard emanate from opponents to any form of factoring of diversity in the public sphere, as well as from supporters of such recognition who then take issue, not with this normative position in itself, but rather with the limitations of the Policy's definition and implementation. Without any pretensions to comprehensiveness, one may nonetheless, for heuristic purposes, summarize the debate relating to the effects of the Multiculturalism Policy into five broad categories of criticism, which the authors have, in varying degrees, identified. …

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