Multiculturalism Works

August 12, 2022


Canada is fortunate to have a population that is made up of numerous distinct ethnic and cultural groups. Since the 1970s the Canadian Government officially adopted the ideology of Multiculturalism because of its emphasis on the social importance of immigration.

In the early days of the promotion of Multiculturalism, the dominant culture was very intimidated by the influx of various ethnic and cultural groups. It was often said that “if you come to Canada, you should be forced to adopt the Canadian culture”. This confused me because I didn’t fully understand what exactly “Canadian culture” was? My Canadian friends identified as Italian, French, or even European. Should I be adopting one of these cultures to be considered Canadian? Should I be eating more poutine, or adopting the word “eh” into my vocabulary? I was already using a tuque and ordering a double, double from Timmy’s. I even bought a Two-Four from the beer store for the May 2/4 long weekend, but I was still not considered Canadian enough.

When local governments began promoting multicultural events in various cities, that is when I “came out of the closet” and openly practiced my ethnic culture. I was no longer afraid to be me. I did not have to be embarrassed about practicing my culture openly in public. I could freely wear my ethnic clothing, eat my ethnic food and observe my culture’s art and music being appreciated by all. It also gave me the opportunity to learn about and appreciate the food, art and music of other cultures. It made me a more aware and appreciative person. To me, appreciating the cultures of all communities is what made me a true Canadian.

Multiculturalism is intended to encourage the various cultures to thrive in our society. I believe that a true “melting pot” would only flourish in a society that shows respect and appreciation for all cultures within that community. Some people believe that the promotion of multiculturalism would promote tribalism…. It would cause people to only interact within their own communities. That is not true. People tend to be intimidated by what they don’t know or understand. When people don’t understand the language that you speak or the religion that you follow or the food that you eat, they tend not to make the effort to integrate. This gives rise to tensions between people of different cultural backgrounds. People are too afraid that multiculturalism would result in their culture being eroded. However, the more one is exposed to other cultures, the more comfortable one become with integrating.

I believe that there are a lot more advantages to Multiculturalism than most people realize. It promotes a higher level of tolerance towards minorities, which in turn leads to a more peaceful society. When we learn from different cultures, life becomes much more exciting. It helps us to be more respectful of others and appreciate the cultural values and social norms of all. Beyond the Food and the Festivals, interacting with people of various backgrounds helps us to breakdown the ethnic or social stereotypes that one may have previously adopted. This helps us to look at things from various points of view and to work collaboratively in diverse ethno-social groups. In a multicultural society one is exposed to new ways of doing things and a different perspective of looking at things. This could only benefit us as a society.

The most important benefit of Multiculturalism is that it promotes the adoption of social justice for all. On this Multiculturalism Day let us all celebrate the diversity of all the communities in Canada and to affirm our commitment to democracy, equality, and mutual respect to all cultures in our world.

Sam Padayachee
National Equity Representative for Racialized Members