Multiculturalism in Canada

Respecting differences

Understanding the words Multicultural: Many cultures

  • Multicultural society: people of many cultures living in the same community.
  • Multiculturalism: understanding, acceptance, mutual respect, inclusion and working together to build united communities.


Myth: Multiculturalism divides people. Ethnic minorities don’t feel the need to mix with Canadians.

Fact: it is the hate, prejudice, discrimination and misunderstanding that divide people. The reality is that when some people experience discrimination based on their ethnicity they group together for support. Sometimes people group together because they share common experiences and interests, such as the arts, music and sports. The goals of multiculturalism programs are to bring people together through inclusive communities and institutions. Inclusion promotes unity. Exclusion divides people.

Myth: Multiculturalism weakens national unity.

Fact: Hate and cultural conflict divide a nation. Respect inclusion and cooperation unite a nation. Multiculturalism strengthens a nation through programs which work towards cross-cultural understanding, the elimination of racism and the full participation of all citizens into the social, political and economic life of Canadian society.

Myth: Because of multiculturalism, people think of themselves as members of their native countries first and as Canadian second.

Fact: Multiculturalism says we are all Canadians first. It welcomes newcomers, promotes the values of good citizenship and aims to provide all citizens with a sense of Canadian identity and belonging. Multiculturalism also respects the right of everyone to value their cultural heritage. Being a Canadian means that you have the right to be proud of your Canadian nationality and your cultural heritage. Pride in one’s cultural heritage, freedom from being made to feel ashamed of one’s heritage, and respect for others foster a sense of self-worth and mutual respect.

Myth: Multiculturalism is only for the benefit of new immigrant and visible minorities.

Fact: Multiculturalism is for all Canadians. We all have a culture. We are all part of a multicultural society. Multiculturalism promotes the respect and appreciation of the cultural heritage of all Canadians.

Myth: Multiculturalism promotes “third world” immigration and discriminates against immigrants from Europe who “play the rules”.

Fact: Multiculturalism is not an immigration policy. Canada’s immigration policy is based on a system intended to be impartial and admits people from all over the world. British Columbia was a multicultural society when it joined Canada with residents both Aboriginal and from many parts of the world. It will continue to be a multicultural society even if immigration were to stop.

Myth: Multiculturalism is only song and dance events from other cultures. It isn’t really important.

Fact: The priorities of provincial multiculturalism programs are : cross-cultural understanding; conflict resolution; the elimination of racism; the full participation of all British Columbians into the social, economic and political life of British Columbia. Cultural festivals and the preservation of culture are not priorities of multiculturalism programming.

Myth: When people come to Canada they should adopt our way of doing things. Why do we always have to change for them?

Fact: Newcomers are faced with making considerable adjustments to a new society. They also contribute to the social, economic and political fabric of our society. Multiculturalism promotes the integration of newcomers into an evolving society. The Canada we live in today is different from Canada fifty years ago and will be different from the Canada of the future. Societies evolve through time. Living in an evolving society requires all of us to adapt.

Myth: Multiculturalism allows visible minorities to think that they do not need to observe our laws.

Fact: Multiculturalism helps people to understand their rights and responsibilities in Canada including respect for the law. Multiculturalism also promotes a legal code and a justice system that are fair to all.

Myth: Multiculturalism costs too much money.

Fact: The social and financial consequences of hate crimes, racism and conflict for outweigh the financial cost of a multiculturalism program. United, harmonious, peaceful communities are productive and prosperous. Multiculturalism programs work toward achieving unity, assisting in increasing cross-cultural understanding and reducing conflict and racism in our society.

Myth: The melting pot model is better than the multiculturalism model.

Fact: Global experience indicates that nations which have tried to “assimilate” citizens of different cultural backgrounds or have denied people a sense of heritage, have seldom (if ever) succeeded in their efforts. Cultural plurality is enduring; efforts towards cultural or religious homogeneity have often amounted to a tyranny of the majority, producing deep and bitter divisions. Rather than unite a nation these efforts have resulted in permanent divisions.

In Canada, experience has shown that minorities do not wish to be marginalized. They want to become full participating citizens. It is discrimination that keeps them separate. Multiculturalism works towards the full participation of all its citizens into an evolving society as ell as developing institutions that provide access to services and opportunities. We were the first nation in the world to have government multiculturalism policies. We can be proud that this is a manifestation of our desire to be fair and respectful. Other nations are now looking at the Canadian model so that they can learn from our experience.

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