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Multiculturalism Turns 40: Reflections on the Canadian Policy

From: Canadian Ethnic Studies
Volumes 43-44, Numbers 3-1, 2011-2012
pp. 1-3 | 10.1353/ces.2011.0029

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This is the second special issue published by Canadian Ethnic Studies to commemorate the 40th anniversary of multiculturalism. In the last special issue, we traced the genesis of multiculturalism to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in Canada, also known as the Laurendeau-Dunton Commission, which was established almost fifty years ago under Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson to investigate the relationship between the English and French in Canada. The Commission's tenure was from 1963 to 1969 and its most significant impact on Canada was the recommendation of the 1969 Official Languages Act. However, during the Commission's hearings across Canada, they heard from many non-British and non-French who refuted the notion that Canada was "bicultural" and who argued that Canada was more than just the two cultures of French and English. The Commission acknowledged this argument, investigated further, and this resulted in one of the six volumes of their final report, entitled The Cultural Contribution of the Other Ethnic Groups published in 1969 as Book IV. Shortly thereafter, in 1971, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau created Canada's multiculturalism policy, within a bilingual framework. This was a first in terms of corporate pluralism in the world. Subsequently, in 1988, Canada's first Multiculturalism Act was passed in parliament led by the Progressive Conservative Government and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

It has been four decades since the implementation of the Canadian policy on multiculturalism. Thus, in late September/early October, 2011, in Ottawa, Canada, the Canadian Ethnic Studies Association along with the Association for Canadian Studies, held a joint conference entitled Multiculturalism Turns 40: Reflections on the Canadian Policy. This Conference offered a unique opportunity to exchange views and ideas in Canada's capital on the occasion of this important anniversary. The papers presented addressed not only the specific topic of Canada's multiculturalism policy, but also related topics regarding ethnicity, racialization and immigration. Thus, there was a wide range of papers on matters such as the evolution of policy on multiculturalism, current debates over multiculturalism, the impact of multiculturalism on Canadian society, multiculturalism and ethnic identity, multiculturalism and immigrant integration, multiculturalism and official languages, multiculturalism and community formation, multiculturalism and social cohesion, the role of the media and multicultural policy, multiculturalism, equality and social justice, comparing the Canadian approach to other countries. These papers represented a variety of perspectives and academic disciplines.

This special issue, along with the last one, includes just some of the excellent papers presented at this conference. The reader will find that both special issues have a breadth of articles that can be approximately categorized as: 1) historical; 2) theory and theorization; 3) social and public policy; and 4) case studies—multiculturalism on the ground. This special issue begins with three exciting contributions from historical, theoretical, and policy perspectives. In the first article, John Berry examines multiculturalism policy concerning intercultural relations in a culturally plural society from theoretical and historical lenses. In analyzing three hypotheses bearing on intercultural relations that are partially derived from statements in the Canadian multiculturalism policy, the author concludes that research in Canada and elsewhere supports the continuation of the multiculturalism policy and programs that are intended to improve intercultural relations. Ho Hon Leung continues this discussion in the second article that analyzes emerging challenges facing Canadian multiculturalism in the 21st century with a goal to develop a theoretical and policy framework that advances a more inclusive, equal and democratic society. Another theoretical, historical and policy article is the contribution by Elke Winter who argues that the conflict between Canada's linguistically defined founding nations has helped to consolidate multiculturalism as part of Canadian national identity in the 1990s, which also had a negative impact on the integration of claims for group rights and parallel institutions that reemerged on the political scene in the early 2000s.

Foregrounded in the first three articles, the special issue then presents us with case studies that contextualize some of these concepts and debates in real-life experiences of different ethnic groups in Canada. One case study is Morton Weinfeld's analysis of the loyalties of Jewish Canadians, while the other piece by Rebecca Margolis examines the interplay between multiculturalism and the changing...

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