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Responsibility for multiculturalism was transferred from the Deptartment of Canadian Heritage to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration.

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Canada/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.4 Cultural diversity and inclusion policies

Cultural minorities in Canada are diverse in scope and definition. In Canada, the term, "cultural minorities" applies to ethno-cultural, official languages, ethno-racial, religious and demographic populations, including immigrants. "Visible minorities" are yet another definition with populations totalling over 4 million in 2001. One-half of the population in Toronto and Vancouver, Canada's largest and third largest cities, respectively, will soon be comprised of visible minorities according to current and projected immigration trends. Immigrants already constitute 44% of Toronto's population and 38% of Vancouver's population. In 1950, when the landmark Massey-Lévesque Commission linked cultural diversity and Canadian identity, 92% of Canada's population growth was a product of the domestic birth rate. Today, immigration, defined as persons who are, or have been, landed immigrants in Canada, excluding non-permanent residents, has outpaced the natural birth rate in Canada, and accounts for 20% of Canada's population and 53% of the country's overall population growth. The immigrant growth rate from 2001 to 2006 was 14%. Indeed, without continuing high levels of immigration, Canada would be unlikely to produce enough natural growth in the population to expand its population and labour force. While the majority of the Canadian population of more than 33 million is still descended from either Great Britain or France, 47% of Canadians reported multiple origins or at least one origin other than British, French, or Canadian and more than 200 different ethnic origins were reported in the 2006 Census (Statistics Canada 2007).

While Canada does not officially recognise specific ethno-cultural minorities, the 39th Parliament of Canada voted, November 22, 2006 to recognise that the Québecois form a nation within a unified Canada.

Until recently, the Department of Canadian Heritage was responsible for the implementation of the Multiculturalism Programme, based on the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, (1985 and assented to in 1988) - see  chapter 5.3.8. It is now part of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Canada's diversity is a source of enormous benefit to Canada's social, political, economic and cultural development. However, there is growing evidence that while many members of ethno-cultural / racial communities participate fully in all aspects of Canadian life, others encounter barriers, some long term, to their full participation in society. The Multiculturalism Programme fosters awareness among federal institutions of their obligations under the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, and also aims to support the removal of barriers related to race, ethnicity, cultural or religious background that would prevent full participation in Canadian society. The Programme is active in supporting civil society, research and policy development, public education and promotion, and public institutions (including federal institutions). (Annual Report on the Operation of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, 2006-2007)

Examples of best practices under each of the foregoing activity areas include projects funded by the Programme such as:

  • Support to Civil Society: Mosaic antic-racism youth project in the Northwest Territories; a youth leadership for inclusion in Northeastern Ontario; Third International Symposium on Hate in the Internet conducted by the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith; Baraka 2007 developed by the Black Islanders Cooperative in Charlottetown, PEI during Black History Month in Canada; Black Youth in Action designed to promote black youth community leadership and to counter racism in Halton, Ontario; Condition of the Haitian Community forums in Montreal held by the National Council of Citizens of Haitian Origin; and Responding to the Educational Challenges of Newcomer Students and Families in focus groups led by the Multicultural Women's Organisation of Newfoundland and Labrador;
  • Research and Policy Development: Report on Visible Minorities in Urban Cities and the rise of ethno-cultural "ghettoes" in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, and the Demographic Imbalance between City and Country;
  • Support to Public Institutions: United against Racism - Designing Inclusive Schools Conference in Winnipeg for Aboriginal students; National Transcultural Health Conference organised by the Montreal Children's Hospital; and a Health Guide for New Arrivals and Health care Workers in Moncton, New Brunswick; and 4. Public Education and Promotion: Black History Month each February, annual March 21 Racism, Stop It! National Video Competition, Asian Heritage Month recognised each May; and the 11th annual Mathieu da Costa Challenge involving texts and drawings submitted by youth from 9 to 18 in commemoration of the first recorded black person to set foot in Canada; participation in the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF) in Prague; National Historic Recognition Programme and Community Historical Recognition Programme, apologies for the Chinese Head Tax and for the Komagata Maru incident in which Indo-Canadian migrants were refused disembarkation in Vancouver in 1914.

The Department considers such support as contributing to inter-cultural understanding and the social cohesion of the country and helping to develop collaborative frameworks with other Canadian Heritage programmes and other government departments and agencies to address specific challenges facing ethno-cultural / racial communities in Canada (see  chapter 4.2.7 and  chapter 4.2.8). Support is provided by Canadian Heritage and other Portfolio institutions to organisations working with ethno-cultural / racial communities across the country. Since the provisions of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (1988) apply to all federal institutions, and not just to the programmes administered by the Department of Canadian Heritage, significant levels of federal support and regulations are directed at ensuring that federal government activities are carried on in a manner that is sensitive to the multicultural reality of Canada. For example, the Broadcasting Act (1991) has had a significant impact on Canadian society because it outlines the governance of the CBC, the establishment of the CRTC and the regulation of the broadcasting industry. Another example is the Canada Council for the Arts, which has, since the 1980s, adapted programmes and procedures to ensure proper reflection of Canada's cultural diversity. For example, its Equity Office provides a strategic focus on equality of opportunity for visible minority artists and organisations.

In broad terms, principles of diversity are implemented throughout the federal government, in order to ensure:

  • equitable and comprehensive access to culture by all Canadians;
  • equitable access to public funding for creators and cultural institutions representing diverse communities;
  • growth of a steady stream of Canadian content reflecting the full ethno-cultural diversity of the Canadian people that tells Canadian stories and embodies the voices of Canadian talent and creators in both official languages;
  • equitable access to employment in federal cultural institutions; and
  • enhanced social cohesion and reduced social exclusion through the simultaneous recognition of differentiated identities and the forging of a new sense of belonging.

The Department of Canadian Heritage also targets youth, an important demographic minority, in its program and policies, in order to increase young Canadians' knowledge and understanding of Canada, its history, people and institutions; and their appreciation for Canada's cultural diversity, linguistic duality and heritage, through reciprocal "home stay" exchanges, thematic forums, learning materials and activities, and employment and internship opportunities. In 2005-2006, over 21 000 youth benefited from departmental programs directed at youth, including Exchanges Canada, Katimavik and Young Canada Works. More still benefited from learning materials and activities funded by the Canadian Studies Program. Participants were able to better understand both the diversity and the shared aspects of the Canadian experience, and connect with one another and their communities.

Provisions for Aboriginal People

Aboriginal societies have a unique place in Canadian society that is recognised in the Constitution, celebrations, arts, heritage and cultural activities, the government's policy agenda and by Canadians in general. In order to move beyond the stage of "recognition" to a more dynamic inclusion, participation and contribution of Aboriginal societies to Canada's civic life, an informed partnership with Aboriginal societies is necessary - a partnership founded on the collective goal of preserving and strengthening Aboriginal cultures as a key to the vitality, well-being and development of Aboriginal communities, the enhancement of understanding across diverse communities and the overall enrichment of Canadian life.

According to the 2006 Census, 1.173 million persons reported having Aboriginal ancestry / origin and, of those, 75% reported identifying with at least one Aboriginal group. A majority of the Aboriginal identity population resides in urban areas (494 095), 20% in rural areas (196 135) and 29% on reserves (286 080). Urban areas accounted for a large portion of the increase (56%) in the Aboriginal identity population between 1996 and 2001.

  • In 2006, the large majority of the Aboriginal identity population was First Nations (almost 60%) and the remainder was Métis (almost 29%) and Inuit (4.3%). In a medium-growth scenario, the Aboriginal share of the total Canadian population is expected to increase to 4.1% by 2017, up from 3.4% in 2001. Growth in Aboriginal populations in Canada from 1996 to 2006 was 45% compared to just 8% for non-Aboriginals. The Aboriginal median age is projected to increase from 24.7 to 27.8 years while that of the total Canadian population is expected to increase from 37.1 years to 41.3 years. (Statistics Canada, Projections of the Aboriginal Populations, Canada, Province and Territories, 2001-2017).
  • The Aboriginal population is also very young. According to the 2001 Census of Population children under 15 years of age represented 37% of the total Aboriginal identity population. Moreover, the Aboriginal identity population will continue to be much younger than the total Canadian population. However, only 21% of the Aboriginal identity population reported having an Aboriginal mother tongue (i.e. the first language learned and still understood) and only 4% of urban Aboriginal identity youth (15 to 24 years old) reported an Aboriginal mother tongue. It should be noted that some of the Aboriginal data contained in the Statistics Canada projections 2001-2017 are controversial because they did not take into account "ethnic mobility" in terms of self-identification or -attribution, therefore affecting the population numbers, especially those of the Métis.

Although the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development administers the bulk of federal legislation and programmes pertaining to Aboriginal peoples in Canada, the Department of Canadian Heritage provides programmes to support an Aboriginal infrastructure at the national, regional and community levels for Inuit, Métis, Non-Status Indians and First Nations living primarily in urban and rural off-reserve communities. These programmes enable Aboriginal people to address social, cultural and economic issues affecting their lives in Canadian society. In broadcasting, one of the most powerful instruments addressing Aboriginal culture is the Aboriginal People's Television Network (APTN) while the Canadian Television Fund, another of Canada's major cultural instruments, maintains a special envelope that funds Aboriginal-language productions. A National Gathering on Aboriginal Artistic Expression was held in 2002 and National Gatherings on Aboriginal Culture and Tourism were held in 2003 and 2005.

The Urban Multipurpose Aboriginal Youth Centres Programme (UMAYC) is administered by the Department of Canadian Heritage to develop a network of urban, multipurpose, Aboriginal youth programming in Canada. Programming provides accessible, Aboriginal community-based, culturally relevant and supportive projects, programmes, services and counselling to urban Aboriginal youth and facilitates their participation in existing programmes in order to improve their economic, social and personal prospects.

The Canada Council for the Arts also supports cultural diversity through its engagement with Aboriginal artists. The Aboriginal Arts Secretariat develops policies, programmes, strategic initiatives and budgets to support Aboriginal artistic practices in all arts disciplines. The Aboriginal Peoples Collaborative Exchange Programme offers funding to Aboriginal groups and individuals for projects that involve the sharing, appreciation, understanding or awareness of traditional and / or contemporary knowledge and practice. Other examples of greater culturally diverse and Aboriginal inclusion include:

  • a new definition of "professional artist" inclusive of a range of cultural practices and traditions;
  • an increased representation of culturally diverse and Aboriginal artists at about 20% of the total number of peer assessors;
  • new programmes in Aboriginal music, dance, visual and media arts added to existing programmes in theatre and writing;
  • the number of culturally diverse and Aboriginal employees exceeding demographic representation in the population; and
  • increased outreach to diverse communities in addition to translation of programme information into several languages.

According to the Report on Plans and Priorities (2006-2007), the Department of Canadian Heritage plans to respond, pursuant to consultations with its partners in the Canadian Aboriginal language community, to the Report of the Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures (2005) in regard to the establishment of a policy on Aboriginal language preservation, revitalisation and promotion and the development of tools that enable Aboriginal languages to be heard, read and recognised in public places and to make the languages accessible to all speakers, on and off reserve, in those places where the languages are used (see  chapter 4.2.5). For legal references to Aboriginal People, please see  chapter 5.3.8.

Chapter published: 19-01-2011

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