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Canada’s gap between multiculturalism policy and treatment of ethnoracialized minorities

Although Canada's multiculturalism policy aims to increase inclusivity, has this happened yet?

Rajvir Gill

Andrea González

The Global Pluralism Monitor: Canada report recognizes that underpinning diversity in Canada is the legacy and influence of Canada’s multiculturalism policy that encourages respect for cultural diversity. A key aspect of this policy is to reduce discriminatory barriers and increase inclusion to allow for all Canadians to feel that they belong. For example, the preamble of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act states:

“Government of Canada recognizes the diversity of Canadians as regards race, national or ethnic origin, colour and religion as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society and is committed to a policy of multiculturalism designed to preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of Canadians while working to achieve the equality of all Canadians in the economic, social, cultural and political life of Canada.”

While this Act has proved to be influential, the lived realities of ethnoracialized minorities is not yet a complete reflection of the purpose and spirit of the Act.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Canada’s immigration policies, which to the surprise of many around the world, are designed in a way that limits the possibility of many to immigrate to Canada. For example, due to Canada’s immigration policies, new immigrants to the country are often required to be highly educated. However, even when meeting this requirement for entry, Canada struggles to fully recognize or utilize new immigrants’ training and skills especially in professional categories, resulting in the immigrant generation bearing economic hardship. Therefore, the Monitor recommends enacting policies to counteract the economic structures that limit new immigrants’ chances at a high quality of life in Canada.

Overall, the Monitor report shows that ethnoracialized minority groups face greater levels of discrimination compared to others, resulting in varying levels of income and unemployment across these groups compared to the non-racialized majority. This begs the question of whether Canada’s multiculturalism policy is being implemented effectively in all public and private institutions as promised by the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. 

Read more about the status of ethnoracialized minorities in the Global Pluralism Monitor: Canada report.