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Canadian Multiculturalism: Global Anxieties and Local Debates


  • There is a widespread perception that multiculturalism has failed. (Europe)
  • Canadians may be blind to growing evidence of stresses and failures in ethnic relations in Canada.
  • We show that there are indeed stresses and strains within Canadian multiculturalism, with real issues that require serious attention.

The Global Context

There has been a major shift in the general trends regarding immigrant integration in the western democracies. (Example: Netherlands).

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This global backlash and retreat is now widespread. (Example: Council of Europe 2008,10).

4 disadvantages of multiculturalism in the European debate:

  • Residential ghettoisation and social isolation of immigrants.
  • Increased stereotyping, and hence prejudice and discrimination.
  • Political radicalism, particularly amongst Muslim youths.
  • The perpetuation of illiberal practices amongst immigrant groups.

The Canadian Model

  • Canada is a multicultural country along many different dimensions.
  • 2 Levels of this policy in 1971
  1. 1. Small Multiculturalism Directorate.
  2. 2. Multiculturalism is also a government-wide commitment.

The original 4 goals of the policy

  • Assist all Canadian cultural groups that have demonstrated a desire and effort to continue to develop a capacity to grow and contribute to Canada.
  • Assist members of all cultural groups to overcome cultural barriers to full participation in Canadian society.
  • Promote creative encounters and interchange amongst all Canadian cultural groups in the interest of national unity.
  • Assist immigrants to acquire at least one of the Canada’s official languages in order to become full participants in Canadian society.

Evaluating the Policy

  • Evidence about immigrant integration.

Example: On average, second-generation members of ethnic minorities match the educational achievement of their majority counterparts and move into the workforce without difficulties.

  • Evidence about attitudes towards immigrants within the larger society.

Example: The majority of Canadians are supportive of immigrants and are comfortable with their place in society.

The Role of Multiculturalism

At the institutional level, multiculturalism leads to the development of more inclusive and impartial public institutions. Under the implementation of multicultural policies, children of immigrants are more likely to receive better education and successfully enter the workforce later in life. Immigrants in Canada also show a more substantial interest in the work of public institutions and play a more active part in the country’s public life than their counterparts in other states. Feeling accepted at an individual level and having a strong national identity that is not separate from their ethnic identity contributes to immigrants having a vested interest in the country’s social, economic, and political prosperity. Thus, multiculturalism leads to full integration into Canadian citizenship and results in immigrants having a strong social position.


Religious diversity within multiculturalism has not been adequately addressed

The authors of the discussed article note several aspects of Canadian multiculturalism that have not been thoroughly examined. All these issues require serious attention to be able to prevent potential problems in immigration. One of such matters is the religious diversity within a multicultural setting. According to Banting and Kymlicka (2010), this is, at the moment, “the most controversial domain of multiculturalism.” Although many policies support open secularism, separate religious groups in Canada still experience many issues that are not satisfactorily addressed. Religious minorities in the country are not supported as thoroughly as ethnic minorities are due to the absence of effective mechanisms for resolving theological conflicts. There is a need to establish an independent body tasked with resolving issues raised by religious minorities in Canada.

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The relationship between immigrant ethnic minorities and native ethnocultural minorities needs further examination

Canada’s multicultural policies are aimed at three distinct minorities: the immigrant community, the bilingual French fact, and First Nations, the aboriginal population of the country. As the three communities have distinctly different legacies and needs, the policies that support them and protect their rights in the country are separate and do not necessarily account for other factions’ needs. As the members of those communities share many public spaces and services, it is important to ensure that the rights of one ethnocultural minority are not infringed upon or compromised in favor of another one. Therefore, the relationships between the First Nations, French fact, and the immigrant population needs to be more closely examined to identify potential issues and set policies for prevention.

  • Some of the potential racism and discrimination patterns in the country are not thoroughly examined and are not addressed by appropriate policies.
  • Despite a significant number of multicultural policies set in place to support Canada’s ethnocultural communities, there are still incidents of discrimination. There are two main prejudices encountered in Canada: anti-black and, most recently, anti-Muslim. They are aimed at what can be described as visible minorities and are often addressed by various policies. However, both visible and not visible minorities can become victims of bias and intolerance. For example, the aboriginal population of the country is not considered to be a visible minority. Nevertheless, its members often become victims of discrimination and racism. Thus, there is an urgent need to examine prejudices against minorities that are not visible and consider new discrimination patterns to set appropriate policies.
  • Overall, the discussed article raises several questions on multiculturalism in Canada. The main question is: Why is the multicultural approach in Canada seen as more successful than a similar strategy in Europe? In Canada, policies promote a mutual understanding between native-born citizens and immigrants and encourage the latter community to assume an active part in the country’s public life. Although there are still some multiculturalism issues that must be addressed, there is a foundation for further debate. Further questions from the audience about the discussed article are welcomed.


Banting, K., & Kymlicka, W. (2010). Canadian multiculturalism: Global anxieties and local debates. British Journal of Canadian Studies, 23(1), 43-73.

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