Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism: A Brief Timeline

The federal Multiculturalism Policy came into force as a result of The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism’s 1969 report (which also led to the Official Languages Act and the Commissioner of Official Languages).

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is enacted and prescribes in its section 27 that it: “shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians”.

Multiculturalism Policy is enshrined into the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. Federal institutions are required by the Act to: ensure that Canadians of all origins have an equal opportunity to obtain employment and advancement in those institutions; promote policies, programs and practices that enhance the ability of individuals and communities of all origins to contribute to the continuing evolution of Canada; promote policies, programs and practices that enhance the understanding of and respect for the diversity of the members of Canadian society; collect statistical data in order to enable the development of policies, programs and practices that are sensitive and responsive to the multicultural reality of Canada; make use, as appropriate, of the language skills and cultural understanding of individuals of all origins; and, generally, carry on their activities in a manner that is sensitive and responsive to the multicultural reality of Canada. The Multiculturalism Program begins to report annually on efforts in this regard.

Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism (CAPAR) was launched following the 2001 World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. CAPAR was a five-year horizontal plan led by the Department of Canadian Heritage with the goal of ensuring that all Canadians were included in society and the economy through the elimination of barriers to full and active participation and opportunity. CAPAR included more than 40 initiatives and strategies that were part of existing budgets and programs in more than 20 departments and agencies. In addition, $53.6 million in funding was allocated to nine new initiatives within four departments (Department of Canadian Heritage, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, Employment and Social Development Canada, and the Department of Justice). CAPAR sunset in 2010 and was not renewed.

The Multiculturalism Program is transferred from PCH to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. It is transferred back to PCH in November 2015. At the time of its transfer, it performs public outreach and education activities (Black History Month, Asian Heritage Month) and provides funding through the Inter-Action program. This funding is delivered through Events (delivered in the Regions) and Projects (delivered at HQ).

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage released a report entitled “Taking Action Against Systemic Racism And Religious Discrimination Including Islamophobia”. This report made 30 recommendations, including a call to reinstate and update CAPAR (which sunset in 2010) through engagement with civil society, grassroots organizations, and interfaith groups.

Budget 2018 announced $23 million in new funding to Canadian Heritage over two years to tackle racism and discrimination, with a focus on Indigenous Peoples and racialized women and girls. This funding included $2 million to engage Canadians on a new anti-racism approach. The Community Support, Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Initiatives program (CSMARI) was launched to replace Inter-Action and delivers the community funding through three streams: Events, Projects and Community Capacity Building.

A cross-country engagement towards a new anti-racism approach held in 2018-2019 consisted of 22 in-person forums that welcomed approximately 600 people and 443 organizations. Equally, all Canadians were invited to participate through an online survey.

Budget 2018 also announced $19 million to the Public Health Agency of Canada and PCH to address the significant and unique challenges faced by Black Canadians. PHAC received $10 million over five years to develop research in support of more culturally responsive mental health programs in the Black Canadian Community. PCH received $9 million over three years to enhance local and community support for Black Canadian youth. Within the $9 million for PCH was just over $7 million to create the Community Support for Black Canadian Youth Initiative (CSBCY).

Budget 2019 announced $45 million for Building a Foundation for Change: Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-2022, which will aim to counter racism in its various forms, with a strong focus on community-based projects. The Strategy was launched in June 2019, and the Anti-Racism Secretariat implemented in Fall 2019. The new Anti-Racism Action Program, created through the Strategy, was launched in September 2019.

Budget 2019 also announced $25 million for Employment and Social Development Canada to support projects and capital assistance to celebrate, share knowledge and build capacity in Black Canadian communities.

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