Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

The Canadian Ethnocultural Council and Evolving Multiculturalism

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

The Canadian Ethnocultural Council and Evolving Multiculturalism

Article excerpt


Following the announcement of the multicultural policy in October of 1971, the Federal Government appointed members of ethnic communities to the newly created Canadian Consultative Council on Multiculturalism to participate in the formulation of recommendations which would address the challenges of implementing that policy. When the work of that committee was concluded, some of the ethnocultural groups took the initiative to create a new body which would continue addressing policy matters of concern to the cross section of communities. Thus, the Canadian Ethnocultural Council, a grassroots organization comprised of voices representing many ethnic and racially diverse communities and organizations, was established in 1980. It played a key role in shaping the implementation of the policy. This paper discusses that role and the precedent set by the Canadian Ethnocultural Council in implementing cross cultural cooperation at the grassroots level.


Suite a l'annonce de la politique du multiculturalisme en octobre 1971, le Gouvernement federal a nomme des membres des communautes ethniques au Conseil consultatif canadien sur le multiculturalisme nouvellement cree, pour contribuer a l'elaboration de recommandations qui visent a repondre aux defis poses par la mise en place de cette politique. Une fois que ce comite a eu termine son travail, quelques groupes ethnoculturels prirent l'initiative d'en creer un second pour continuer a traiter de sujets qui preoccupent une variete de communautes. Ils ont donc fonde en 1980 le Conseil ethnoculturel du Canada, une organisation de base qui comprend des voix d'un nombre communautes ethniquement et racialement diverses. Cet organisme a joue un role cle dans la definition et la mise en oeuvre de la nouvelle politique. Cet article porte sur ce role et sur le precedent cree par le Conseil ethnoculturel du Canada dans la mise en place d'une cooperation interculturelle au niveau de la base.


The fortieth anniversary of the multiculturalism policy confirms the gradual evolution and development of the policy since the Federal Government's initial announcement which officially acknowledged what was already a reality. Indeed, we were a multicultural country and the policy gave that reality a public face. Implicit in it were the sociological, demographic, and public policy factors which have given the policy direction over the years. As we take stock of the changing diversity of Canada, continuous policy review is a constant requirement, addressing and adjusting to new situations and issues reflecting our changing Canadian society.

Since its inception and institutionalization, the policy of multiculturalism has had an influence on the Canadian mainstream. Political parties have courted the ethnic vote; institutions and places of employment have adapted to the changing reality. Multiculturalism has also had its opponents, with some referring to it as a "myth" or a "cult" (Bissoondath 1994). Quebec has been uneasy about the policy, viewing it as a challenge to its own distinct society (Dewing 2009). Opponents believed that the policy fostered divisiveness instead of cohesion, that it would ultimately erode the unity of Canada (ibid.).

Diversity in Canadian society is here to stay. Within the framework of this policy and Canada's immigration program, the onus is on the Federal Government to revisit the policy on a regular basis to ensure continued harmony and a functioning society.


The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, whose report focused on the English and French, the "two founding nations," set the stage for a response from the third segment of Canada's population--its ethnic communities who had been settling this country in large numbers since the nineteenth century with most having immigrated from the British Isles and Europe. The Commission's original objective was to recommend the development of Canadian Confederation rationalized on the basis of an equal partnership between the "two founding races"

The response to the report, primarily from the large Ukrainian and Italian communities of the time, took that original objective one step further to a new level. …

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