Canada is globally known as an ethnic mosaic. According to Statistics Canada (2011), one out of five people in the country are born abroad. The influences of heterogeneity are significant to Canadian identity because the nation is shaped by relationships of diverse ethnicities and overcoming struggles for social cohesion. I believe that multiculturalism is integral to Canadian society because it promotes civility, acceptance and appreciation for differences.
In reaching the Multiculturalism Act of 1988, Canada has taken many steps to achieving its current international reputation. Despite its humble but cooperative beginnings of the fur trading industry, the nation has a historical tract of hostile relations before and after Confederation:
• French minority in Lower Canada sought political reform to preserve their language and religion;
• Black Loyalists who were entitled to land as British subjects that served in the war were resented;
• Aboriginal children were forced to attend residential schools to strip them of their traditions;
• Chinese immigrants were imposed with unjust working conditions for the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway; and
• Japanese Canadians were interned following the attack on Pearl Harbour.
From these episodes, the government to this day compensates historically affected groups. In the present, though prejudice has since waned, citizens continue to strive for social cohesion through civic participation. To further illustrate my case point, I will share an anecdote. On one of the days of job shadowing a municipal planner at the City of Burnaby, I observed a meeting of a community coalition, the Burnaby Intercultural Planning Table. These individuals’ interests were indeed vested in achieving intercultural harmony; they discussed methods to resolve misunderstandings and planned programs and events to promote inclusiveness of diverse groups. Their most recent event was having open house tours of local religious institutions: Sikh, Islam, and Anglican. I was taken aback and inspired to see such positive synergy and involvement in my hometown. This led me to introspect on the value of multiculturalism and hence I have chosen this topic.
The coexistence of different people presents opportunities for open dialogue with the insight of various perspectives, as seen from my personal experience. Discourse of such nature can discuss matters like what approaches are best to enhance the intercultural richness and liveability of communities. Successfully executing forums involving radically different thinkers requires and demonstrates the utmost respect and cultural sensitivity. In this manner, the practice of openness dissolves the barriers of prejudice, preconceived misconceptions and misunderstandings. Transparency is a vital trait of democracy and this also applies to the consequences of upholding the attitudes of multiculturalism.
Moreover, multiculturalism calls for the willingness to understand. When different groups of people live in close proximities, tolerance may already seem to be a difficult point to reach collectively. However, there is a clear distinction between tolerance and acceptance. With tolerance, there is a certain notion of apathy towards understanding others and this does not suffice in bettering society. An accepting society has merit in acknowledging these differences, recognizing their value and allowing for collaboration among these groups, rather than drawing conclusions from a particular cultural perspective and working in isolation opposing each other.
Most importantly, preventing social exclusion to improve the welfare of a community is indicative of appreciating differences. In appreciating differences, we can also appreciate the surprisingly vast amount of similarities across cultures as we share the universal human condition. Combining diversity and social cohesion forms a nurturing, creative platform, which is especially appealing to young creative class professionals that are crucial in developing tertiary industries.
As one of the most multicultural countries in the world, Canada models civility, acceptance and appreciation. The ethnic mosaic is a continuing legacy as immigration introduces many newcomers of various backgrounds to Canada’s major urban centres and their surrounding suburban municipalities. Pardons for tensions in historical relations remind us that though multiculturalism is now a fundamental element of our lives, it is a valuable privilege that cannot be taken for granted. Therefore, the diverse social fabric of Canada is something to celebrate: I believe that this diversity is truly what makes our nation a unique place!