It has been 50 years since Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau announced that Canada will become a multicultural society. Canada’s Multiculturalism Act was the first act of its kind in the world and secured our place in global history. The Act is intended to capture the desire of Canadians to create, support and live in a society that is a “mosaic” of culture. Where cultures remain intact while contributing to the whole of our society. At the time, this idea was counter to many other countries that were promoting cultural assimilation or the “melting pot” idea of national unity.
Stephen Marche, captured this important difference best when he explained what makes Canada’s Multiculturalism Act unique is that we believe in and want “diversity for its own sake. Differences are to be respected, not overcome.” We know that multiculturalism can thrive when people accept and encourage various cultures to co-exist in a town, city or even within an organization or place of work. Multiculturalism leads to racial and ethnic harmony. In Canada, everyone has a right to preserve their own culture and we must also respect each other’s right to do the same.
Imagine living in a place where people can be different but equal.
If indeed Canada has been a multicultural country for 50 years, why do some Nova Scotians still feel embarrassed about their accent or are bullied when wearing pieces of ethnic clothing? Why does police brutality against Indigenous and Black peoples still happen disproportionately? The complex answer to these questions is that despite the desire for a multicultural society by the majority, systematic racism exists in Canada, which is exemplified by the actions of individuals.
While economic and political landscapes, family structures, jobs and methods of communication have all dramatically changed since 1971, one thing remains the same: Canadians expect and deserve equal treatment. There were naysayers back in the ‘70s but the majority didn’t let that stop them from adopting the Multicultural Act and creating the framework for a safe country for all.
Therefore, just like the citizens of Canada decided 50 years ago, we at Connect are going to continue our work with a feminist, intersectional approach. We will continue to lobby for systematic changes to laws and policies. We will use our programming to talk to children, youth and adults about anti-racist actions, and multicultural values. We will take action as individuals and as an organization to ensure the Multicultural Act of Canada lives on for another fifty years.
What will you do to ensure all Canadians can be different but equal?