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Canada’s Racial and Ethnic Struggles


There is deep complexity in terms of ethnic and racial relations in Canada today. The different racial and ethnic groups found in Canada are all varied in terms of their socio-political and economic opportunities which each one of them is endowed with. This network of complexity conspicuously reveals three key pillars through which the different ethnic groups can be identified.

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Firstly, there is the relationship between the native Canadian people and those who are not natives. Secondly, bearing in mind that the two official languages spoken in Canada are English and French, another axis of variation as far as ethnicity is concerned is also identified in language culture. The last category of relationship is that which exists between immigrants and the group which is perceived to be above the others or colonizers. Due to the prevalence of such differentiations in regard to racial and ethnic complexity, the Canadian society has become stratified in all the main areas of social, political and economics. Moreover, both the private individuals and the public at large attach so much relevance to these differences. For instance, matters to do with land and language rights are all enshrined and equally affected by the wider ethnic and racial relations in Canada. Other important areas with respect to race and ethnicity include discrimination, immigration rules and policies as well as prejudice (Marger, 2009). Hence, even though Canada is starting to understand the racial and ethnic differences within its society, the future goal is to gain a better social setting because of the disproportionate stratifications of wealth and power among her minority citizens.

Ethnic Groups

Although there is a broad relationship among all the ethnic and racial relations issues highlighted above, it should be understood that the different ethnic groups are affected in a variety of ways. One such difference is on language use by different ethnic groups. For instance, there has been a growing controversy over the use of both English and French as national languages, an issue which is equally distinct but related to other linguistic groups like Greeks and Italians (Kernerman, 2006). Nevertheless, the manner in which different ethnic groups relate should be comprehended within the domain of accessing and affording some control on some of the vital resources they require in their day-to-day use. This goes a long way in the need to formulate and implement some policies which will not only benefit one particular ethnic group at the expense of the rest but ensure equity for all irrespective of race or ethnic background.

As it stands right now, there are a myriad of inequality platforms which have been neatly crafted with the passing of time.

There are several factors which have precipitated these racial and ethnic imbalances. For example, the circumstances which may have led to entry of specific immigrants to Canada can set the precedence on how that particular group will be treated forthwith. An elaborate example of such a circumstance would be the inception of a colonial authority by a foreign power (Kernerman, 2006). Additionally, immigration patterns involving individual persons or even large family groups can dictate how they will be handled thereafter and this is actually what led to the ethnic and racial relations patters being witnessed in Canada.

Regardless of the nature of immigration used, the size of a particular group has also played a key role in aggravating the ethnic and racial imbalance in Canada. The population size has also determined how visible a group is in terms of the political, social and economic organizations it is capable of forming. Small groups are less likely to stamp their authority owing to the fact that they can only afford to control small scale holdings which are less felt and respected by the society in general.

Besides, the level of support which can be obtained from other friendly ethnic groups or the international community may determine how best a particular ethnic group merits in the contemporary Canadian society. The international scale on the reputation of the countries which a given ethnic group originated from has also been instrumental in shaping the ethnic and racial status of the different groups in Canada (Vera & Feagin, 2007). Hence, as can be observed, there are several factors which should be borne in mind when addressing and attempting to understand the genesis, development and impact of ethnicity and race as it is in Canada.

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There are those ethnic groups which have managed to gain absolute power and drive over certain important resources like employment opportunities in certain sectors of the economy. In addition, there are those who have taken over the dominance of certain institutions. Such kind of control has led to ethnic interests being given the first priority. The racial and ethnic gains are also extended further within the society in order to benefit those who are of the same race. In some instances, those ethnic groups which have total control over certain resources will not permit others to enjoy similar benefits. Moreover, they will also attempt to create bureaucratic organs and policies within such institutions in order to curtail any attempts of facilitating reforms. Although the ethnic groups which have been disadvantaged may sometimes make attempts to introduce change to ethnically dominated institutions, it is not easy to achieve significant success and this is widely dependant on the factors which led to the ethnic or racial inequity itself. Therefore, as much as there have been initiatives to restructure these institutions or control other resources which have been dominated by certain ethnic groups, little success has been recorded. In the event that some breakthrough is realized, it often takes a considerably long period of time.

The significance of the Natives

The way the native people relate with the other ethnic and racial groups in Canada is notable in two ways. Firstly, the issue of marginalization comes on board. Secondly, the dependence factor is also instrumental among the native Canadian population. The native group was displaced owing to the immigration, settlement and growth of the English and French populations (Heron, 2001). One of the main issues of concern was land bearing in mind that there were some treaties which had been crafted earlier. One such agreement was the Indian treaty. The patches of land which belonged to the Indian community were put under the control of a Commission. This was later moved to be under the control of the British North American Act and finally the government took over the oversight role of these lands.

Even as this was happening, some parts of Canada were taken over by the federal government. This was done with the pledge that the community would be given social aid.

It is also understood that the federal government wanted to control and also manage land resource which belonged to the native population, there was need to enact some laws. For instance, the Indian Act was specifically put in place to cater for this need. Under this act, Indians were given two different definitions; those with status and those without status. Moreover, an organizational structure was established and mandated with the task of administering the affairs and concerns of the native population. Surprisingly, the authority was purely run by the non native population. Nevertheless, the native population has started finding its way to the administration of their affairs because some of them are being recruited in different capacities. The existence of the self government courtesy of the aboriginal group has continued to make it possible for decentralization of the administrative duties of this group to take place. However, this has not been smooth owing to continual opposition and resistance form the parallel provincial authorities (Driedger & Halli, 2000).

The non status Indians are also inclusive of the native ancestry. The federal government does not regard and repute them as highly as the status Indians. Notwithstanding this relationship, both the status and non status Indians are under the effect of ethnic and racial ideologies of who is superior or inferior in the society. Hence, both the superiority and inferiority complexes still reign high.

The Canadian society in general has continued to experience the effects of racism and negative ethnicity in a variety of ways. This is a reality on the ground contrary to some perceptions that it was a practice perpetuated in the past. It is true that the bad historical records of racial practices are still fresh in the memories of Canadians and the contemporary society is up in arms to seek redress in this social ill. There seems to be a new beginning in the effective fight against racism. However, the efforts which are being directed to the fight against this societal vice has been limited in some ways if a comparison is drawn between Canada and the United States if America. For example, issues such as lack of equity in the wages paid to the different ethnic groups still abound in Canada (Clifton et al., 2005). The pursuit towards superiority complex by some racial groups in Canada is a clear contrast between the two countries. Although some important historical records detailing the oppressive racism attitude and practices in Canada may not be there, there is a clear indication that the modern Canadian society is still struggling to untie itself from this form of social slavery.

Historical lessons

Even as there is a general realization of the need to combat all acts of negative ethnicity and racism in Canada, we still have a legacy of racial oppression which dominated Canada in the past like in the case of aboriginal people being ripped off their resources and also restricted from engaging in gainful economic activities when they are below the age of 30. These records have also documented how social genocide was executed among these disadvantaged groups at the expense of protecting the superiority of certain ethnically superior communities (Breton, 2005). Such historical lessons in place should give impetus to Canadians, both young and old, in fighting for and defending the social rights of all races and ethnic groups. The Canadian society should target at creating values which are liberal and equitable to all and sundry. This can only be achieved if all the key sectors of the society are vetted afresh to ensure that racial and ethnic balance is well sustained. A critical look at the political structure of the Canadian society should reflect the needs and concerns of all races and ethnicities in a bid to erase the grim reality of the old discriminative practices which has been the order of this society for a considerable long period of time. Job opportunities and how different groups are treated especially at work place should be another notable area to be addressed by the Canadian society having acknowledged racism is a foe to socio-political and economic progress. Hence, racial discourse in the interest of the ‘super’ few should be long gone and a thing of the past. This should be attainable sooner than later.

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The relationship between English and French groups

The government institutions have often been the subject of struggle between these two groups. Each of these societies has at many times sought to stamp authority in the main government authorities so that they can influence decision making process as well derive significant benefits associated with such positions. There are quite a number of acts which have been enacted in the historical past all aiming at establishing a framework for the equitable distribution of power. These two language societies have also been up in arms to ensure that each one of them is duly recognized as an important state language and culture worth embracing.

Fortunately, there are issues which have been given redress in the recent past. For example, equitable distribution of jobs alongside running of key government institutions has been top on the agenda (Clifton et al., 2005). This is indeed a good promise for the future in regard to societal balance. In order to achieve this, the size of each ethnic group has been put into consideration and the proportion which each one of them should be accorded as far as the available resources are concerned. Furthermore, international relations and local economic factors such as education, industry and commerce and allowances which are advanced to individual families have also been given due consideration in regard to fairness to all racial and ethnic groups in Canada. Whenever the two language groups will be present in the Canadian society, the urge to control political power and other crucial areas within the wider society will still be a bother bearing in mind that issues will often transit with respect to time. One obvious reason why the French and English societies have been on the limelight is the distinction which exists in their wealth and size of population. Further, the role played by British in realigning the Canadian society cannot be ignored.

The Anglophone and Francophone groups have also reacted in a unique way to the other ethnic groups in Canada (Breton, 2005). There has been what could be referred to as ethnicity at individual or collective level. In the quest to re-orient the Canadian society to accommodate the different ethnic groups, the relationship between the Anglophones/Francophone and the rest of Canadian society needs to be amended by restructuring or modifying institutions and government authorities to accommodate all the groups.


In summing up this paper, it is imperative to note that in spite of the dull historical past detailing the practice of racism and negative ethnicity, the Canadian society is gradually beginning to comprehend the racial and ethnic differences which has engulfed it for several decades. Therefore, the greatest need remains in creating a firm social platform through which this oppressive social ill can be addressed critically so that the minority communities may also secure a position to enjoy power and wealth that the society is endowed with.


Breton, R. (2005). Ethnic Relations in Canada: Institutional Dynamics –2005 publication, New York: McGill queen’s up.

Clifton, R. A. et al. (2005). Recent Social Trends in Canada, 1960-2000 (Comparative Charting of Social Change). Montreal: McGill- Queen’s University Press.

Driedger, L., & Halli, S. (2000). Race and Racism: Canada’s Challenge (New Ed ed.). Ottawa: Carleton University Press.

Heron, M. P. (2001). The Occupational Attainment of Caribbean Immigrants in the United States, Canada, and England (New Americans (Lfb Scholarly Publishing Llc).). New York: Lfb Scholarly Publishing.

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Kernerman, G. (2006). Multicultural Nationalism: Civilizing Difference, Constituting Community (Law and Society). Vancouver: Ubc Press.

Marger, M.N.(2009). Race and Ethnic Relations (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Vera, H. and Feagin, R. J. (2007). Handbook of the sociology of racial and ethnic relations, New York: Springer Science.

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