Canada – A Multicultural Society

On November 13, 2002, the Government of Canada, by Royal Proclamation, designated June 27 of each year as Canadian Multiculturalism Day. Canadian Multiculturalism Day is an opportunity to celebrate our diversity and our commitment to democracy, equality and mutual respect and to appreciate the contributions of the various multicultural groups and communities to Canadian society.

Canadian society is often depicted as being “very progressive, diverse, and multicultural”. Multiculturalism was adopted as the official policy of the Canadian government during the premiership of Pierre Elliot Trudeau in the 1970s and 1980s. Multiculturalism is reflected in the law through the Canadian Multiculturalism Act and section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Broadcasting Act of 1991 asserts the Canadian broadcasting system should reflect the diversity of cultures in the country.

Immigration has played an integral part in the development of multiculturalism within Canada. However, Asians encountered legal obstacles limiting immigration during the 1800s and early 1900s. As of 2006, Canada has grown to have thirty-four ethnic groups with at least one hundred thousand members each, of which eleven have over 1,000,000 people and numerous others are represented in smaller amounts. 16.2% of the population self identify as a visible minority.

Canada currently has one of the highest per capita immigration rates in the world, driven by economic policy and family reunification. Canada also resettles over one in ten of the world’s refugees. Canada receives its immigrant population from over 200 countries of origin. As indicated below, over 50 percent of new immigrants admitted in 2010 came from 10 source countries.

Permanent Residents Admitted in 2010, by Top 10 Source Countries

Rank Country Number Percentage
1 Philippines 36,578 13.0%
2 India 30,252 10.8%
3 People’s Republic of China 30,197 10.8%
4 United Kingdom 9,499 3.4%
5 United States of America 9,243 3.3%
6 France 6,934 2.5%
7 Iran 6,815 2.4%
8 United Arab Emirates 6,796 2.4%
9 Morocco 5,946 2.1%
10 Republic of Korea 5,539 2.0%

Source:Historical population of Canada since confederation, from 1867–2009

The 1988 Canadian Multiculturalism Act affirms the policy of the government to ensure that every Canadian receives equal treatment by the government, which respects and celebrates diversity. The “Act” in general recognizes:

  • Canada’s multicultural heritage and that that heritage must be protected.
  • The rights of Aboriginal peoples.
  • English and French remain the only Canadian official languages, however other languages may be used.
  • Social equality within society and under the law regardless of origins, race or creed.
  • Minorities’ rights to enjoy their cultures.

The Canadian charter of rights and freedoms recognizes the fact that multiculturalism is quite important, as that is what makes Canada unique. Everybody has equal rights in Canada. People are free to practice their religion. No one from another cultural background in Canada is forced to leave his or her culture and adopt the Canadian culture. Everyone is given the full right to preserve all of his or her cultural values within the laws of Canada.

Mary Jone Causing Buchholtz
Immigration Program Student at Ashton College
under the tutelage of Jose Godoy Toku


Multiculturalism in Canada
Canadian Multiculturalism Day
Annual Report on the Operation of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act 2010-2011

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