January 18, 2012
Recap from last semester: It is problematic to understand race as biological and cultural
1. Official Multiculturalism in Canadian Public Policy and Law
Multiculturalism sets up a hierarchy in which the “culture” (i.e., white people) is set up above the
so-called “multiculture” (everyone else)
Entrenched Charter in the constitution was an obsession of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
since the 1960s, and he finally saw that dream come to pass in 1982. Section 15 is used as a legal
tool against discrimination based on sex or race etc.
However, sexism and racism in Canadian society were not huge concerns of Trudeau. Trudeau was
not overly concerned with issues related to sexism and racism in Canada. Rather, he was
concerned with the rise of the Quebec Sovereignty Movement.
Multiculturalism, like the Charter, didn’t come about because of serious concerns amongst federal
politicians about racism in Canada; rather, it came about by a way of delegitimizing Quebec’s
claims to be an important culture. If we we’re a multicultural nation, Quebec’s culture is one
a. Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism
The government appointed a Royal Commission to study and recognize solutions to
The Royal Commission of bilingualism and biculturalism taught the Canadians to talk about
bilingualism and biculturalism and so-called Quebec problems, hearings were held from
The commissioner heard about more than just English and French relations, that Canada
was not a “bilingual” or “bicultural” society should not have come to a surprise by those
running the hearings in the 1960s.
Given Canada’s colonial legacy, there are obviously a variety of cultures, mainly a variety of
The commissioner found that biculturalism was unable to account for a variety of regions
and communities in Canada that were neither English or French such as not only Aboriginal
people, but also Aboriginal communities in Nova Scotia
As such, it was in the 1960s that multiculturalism replaced biculturalism in Canadian
The idea of multiculturalism was convenient for Trudeau and other Federalists, as he
believed that it might save the day for a united Canada. The “multicultural” people were
neither English, nor French, became the moral club with which to create aspirations for
Quebec (i.e., sovereignty).
b. Federal Multiculturalism Policy (1971)
Multiculturalism policy refers to the claim in 1971
This policy seems to reverse earlier attempts to assimilate new immigrants. Yet,
multiculturalism was multiculturalism within a bilingual framework. Indeed, the original
English/French multiculturalism was far more important to Trudeau.
In the late 70s to early-mid 80s, the federal government allotted far more money to develop
bilingualism than it did for multiculturalism.
The Canadian Multiculturalist Council was established in 1993
c. Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982)
The Charter included multiculturalism as an important part of the Canadian identity.
1 d. Canadian Multiculturalism Act (Bill C-93, 1988)
In July of 1988, the conservative government passed the Canadian Multiculturalism Act
This act formalized the government’s multiculturalism policy, and “recognized all
Canadians as full and equal participants in Canadian society”, by establishing legislation to
protect ethnic, racial, linguistic, and religious diversity.
In 1988, multiculturalism was very much about diversity and celebrating cultural, and
The term “multiculturalism” was coined in 1960, and officially the multiculturalism policy
was developed in the 1970s and 1980s.
2. Multiculturalism from 1990s-Present
a. In political discourse
In the 1990s, multiculturalism has become a major part of Canadian political discourse
b. Demand from above (i.e., Trudeau, and the vast majority of federal politicians),
rather than below
This is a policy entirely initiated by the federal government; it wasn’t a policy that grew
from dissention/complaints from the people
This is referring to class – it’s more of a demand from politicians, than from Canadian
There are different social justice organizations that are working on the issues of race and
racism in the 70s, 80s and today. None of these organizations lobbied for anything
remotely relating to the multiculturalism policy. Feminists, anti-racists, immigrants and
other social justice organizations never called for multiculturalism in the form it resembled
in the 70s, 80s, 90s or today. Multiculturalism policy has basically never come from below,
and is entirely something that came from above.
Its roots, which are really important to its ineffectiveness (i.e., adjusting social justice
today), are within the ideological discourse to undermine Quebec nationalism.
Multiculturalism has never had much class-awareness. Anti-racism in Canada has never
been part of official multiculturalism. In other words, multiculturalism is not a policy that is
concerned with the way in which the wage hierarchy (i.e., how much people make), is
racialized; it’s not concerned with which the ways the advancement and employment is
very much dependent on race; it’s not concerned with racial profiling of individuals on the
street. Ultimately, it’s not concerned with any of these social justice-related topics.
c. Concerns granting/funding, electoral politics, "ethnic" cultural fairs and religious
celebrations, legal defenses in court (but not social justice)
Multiculturalism relates to granting, funding (i.e., cultural affairs, religious celebrations,
legal defenses in court), electoral policies, outcomes
d. Organizes social, cultural, political and legal spaces in Canada
Funding – an array of federal incentive programs towards multiculturalism have
immerged; a national research institute on multiculturalism and race-relations started in
the 90s; Canadian Heritage supports multiculturalism programs such as heritage language
e. Video clip: Little Mosque on the Prairie, "Flying While Muslim" (2007)
In the post 9/11 era, the general representation of Muslims is as terrorists and potential
terrorists which is very problematic
Ann Coulter – incredibly racist conservative woman
2 3. Multiculturalism and Canadian Nationalism
Multiculturalism serves as a means for Canada to promote an image of benevolence and tolerance
(i.e., “American’s are so racist”). Multiculturalism is often a way to celebrate Canadian national
Nationalism: the ways in which a community of people comes to imagine themselves as having a
shared history, shared identity. It’s the way of differentiating class (i.e., Canadians from
The Canadian nation is supposedly about hockey, Tim Hortons, people who take pride in our
universal healthcare, people who say “eh” a lot, etc.
a. Form of moral superiority over the U.S.
Much of Canadian nationalism develops moral superiority over our neighbors in the South
For example, unlike the US, we have universal healthcare; and also, unlike our racist
neighbors in the North with their slavery and melting-pot ideology, we see ourselves as a
cultural mosaic with multiculturalism.
b. Yet multiculturalism is seen as a problem when (white) images of "Canadiana" are
Yet at the same time, conservatives and sometimes liberals have seen multiculturalism as a
problem when white images of “Canadiana” are disturbed. How far should multiculturalism
It’s OK to have multiculturalism, until its conflicted with the white norms of society
i. Mounties wearing turbans
This is evident in the case of Baltef Singh Dhillon applied to the RCMP and met all the
requirements except one. He was denied entry because he refused to remove his turban,
because doing so was against his faith.
There was a move to change the dress code of RCMP to allow men to wear turbans,
instead of the traditional hat. The image of the Canadian Mountie is certainly an image
caught up in Canadian nationalism as well.
This caused uproar – 150,000 signed petitions to keep the traditional RCMP dress code; it
was presented to parliament
The RCMP uniform was given a sort of iconic status in Canadian and American popular
culture, and it seems to represent some sort of quintessential “Canadianess”.
Eventually, this dress code policy was amended, and Dillon until this day, works as a
ii. French-Canadians wearing hijabs
Another example of a scandal that immerged when multiculturalism is said to go “too far”
is equally racist debates about hijabs in Quebec.
In September of 1993, Emilie Ouirnet was excluded from her high school for wearing the
hijab in contravention of the dress code. This was publicized which led to a debate in both
Quebec and nationally.
There was a fear that the image of “Canadiana”, in this case the image of the white French
Canadian, was being interfered with by girls wearing hijabs.
There was a series of discussions in the mainstream media about how this was a
“betrayal” of Quebecois/ French identity. In these discussions, there was the assumption
that women, who wear these hijabs, are somehow oppressed. Such discussions have put
whiteness, western values against brownness, and eastern/orientalist/Muslim values.
3 4. Critiques of Multiculturalism from Anti-Racism Feminists
a. Multiculturalism relies on a series of false dichotomies:
Multiculturalism does not relate to social justice whatsoever, because it does not relate
the actual issues that women of color in general, and women of color in particular deal with
(i.e., racism, economic discrimination, limited employment opportunities, and other forms
of institutional marginalization. It doesn’t claim to address these things, and doesn’t even
acknowledge that these exist; but it does claim to combat racism. However, Canadian
cultural anxiety around the Mountie with the turban and the woman with the hijab is that
multiculturalism doesn’t do a good job of dealing with racism at all.
Multiculturalism is all fine and good, just as long as it doesn’t challenge the hegemony in
Canada – as long as the dominant culture (i.e., whiteness) remains dominant, and the so-