Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Multiculturalism: Sorting Identities, Rights, and Conflicts

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Multiculturalism: Sorting Identities, Rights, and Conflicts

Article excerpt


Multiculturalism studies in Canada evolved into three major visions and debates after World War II. In the early 1970s, the British and French peoples assumed monolingual-monocultural states, and expected that others would assimilate into their dominant cultures. In the 1970s, this was changed to official bilingual and multicultural visions where more diversity was accepted. By the 1980s, demographic diversity called for debates on equal rights for all, without discrimination and prejudice. Multiple identities, however, often clash, but slowly more diverse visions and structures emerged. Here is a brief summary of the historical and sociological changes that occurred in Canada.


Les etudes sur le multiculturalisme au Canada ont donne lieu a trois visions et debats majeurs depuis la deuxieme guerre mondiale. Au debut des annees soixante-dix, les Canadiens anglais et francais ont cru en deux etats monolingues et monocultureis, et s'attendaient a ce que les autres s'assimilent a leurs cultures dominantes respectives. Au cours des annees suivantes, un changement vers des visions de bilinguisme et de multiculturalisme officiel s'est opere, alors qu'on acceptait une heterogeneite grandissante. Pendant les annees quatre-vingt, la diversite demographique a provoque des debats sur l'egalite des droits pour tous, sans discrimination ni prejudice. Cependant, meme si des identites multiples se telescopent souvent, des visions et des structures diverses ont pourtant peu a peu emerge. Ceci est un court resume des changements historiques et sociologiques qui se sont fait jour au Canada.


Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau announced in 1971, that Canada would be a "Bilingual and Multicultural" country:

I am happy this morning to be able to reveal to the House that the government has accepted all those recommendations of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism as contained in Volume IV of its reports directed to federal departments and agencies. Honourable members will recall that the subject of this volume is "the contribution by other ethnic groups to the cultural enrichment of Canada and the measures that should be taken to safeguard that contribution" ....

A policy of multiculturalism within a bilingual framework commends itself to the government as the most suitable means of assuring the cultural freedom of Canadians. Such a policy should help to break down discriminatory attitudes and cultural jealousies.

National unity, if it is to mean anything in the deeply personal sense, must be founded on confidence in one's own individual identity; out of this can grow respect for that of others and a willingness to share ideas, attitudes and assumptions. A vigorous policy of multiculturalism will help create this initial confidence. It can form the base of a society which is based on fair play for all ....

The government will support and encourage the various cultures and ethnic groups that give structure and vitality to our society. They will be encouraged to share their cultural expression and values with other Canadians and so contribute to a richer life for us all ....

In conclusion, I wish to emphasize the view of the government that a policy of multiculturalism within a bilingual framework is basically the conscious support of individual freedom of choice. We are free to be ourselves. But this cannot be left to chance. It must be fostered and pursued actively. If freedom of choice is in danger for some ethnic groups, it is in danger for all. It is the policy of this government to eliminate any such danger and to "safeguard" this freedom (Axworthy and Trudeau 1992).

The Trudeau era began in 1968 and ended sixteen years later in 1984, when a half a dozen major events took place including 1) implementation of the Bilingual and Bicultural Commission findings, 2) declaration of Canada as a bilingual and multicultural nation, 3) dealing with the FLQ crisis, 4) repatriating the Canadian constitution, 5) including a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and 6) funding and supporting grants and research in ethnic and race relations. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.