Canadian Multiculturalism Day: Celebrating multiculturalism in Canada
June 26, 2023 – Defence Stories
Embracing Multiculturalism in the CAF: Canadian Armed Forces members giving the Punjabi folk dance Bhangra a try at CFB Esquimalt in 2019.
June 27 is Canadian Multiculturalism Day, an opportunity to recognize, celebrate, and learn about the importance of multiculturalism to the Department of National Defence (DND), the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), and to the country. Canada has long been recognized around the world as a role model for multiculturalism and our society is known as a mosaic of many cultures. In fact, Canada’s 2021 Census reported over 450 ethnic or cultural origins by participants.
In 2002, the Government of Canada enacted Multiculturalism Day as a day to celebrate the vast and important contributions that Canadians of different cultural backgrounds have made to our society. This day is also a great time to highlight other cultural celebrations happening in June, like National Indigenous History Month, Italian Heritage Month, Portuguese Heritage Month and Filipino Heritage Month. Canadian Multiculturalism Day is about embracing and recognizing the rich, vibrant, and diverse cultures that make up this great country.
The history of multiculturalism in Canada
The author John Murray Gibbon is largely recognized for popularizing the idea of Canadian multiculturalism and a new way of thinking about immigration with his 1938 book “Canadian Mosaic: The Making of a Northern Nation,” which contrasted greatly with views on cultural assimilation at the time. Yet prior to 1970, most of Canada’s immigration was only from European countries. The Immigration Act of 1976 lifted some restrictions on immigration from other continents.
In 1971, the government of Canada adopted multiculturalism as an official policy, becoming the first country in the world to do so. The intent was to preserve the cultural freedom of all people and recognize cultural contributions of diverse ethnic groups to Canadian society. In 1982, multiculturalism was recognized by section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In 1988, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act received Royal Assent. This Act recognizes and promotes that multiculturalism reflects the diversity of Canadian society, that all persons have the right to full and equitable participation in all aspects of Canadian society, and that all have the right to preserve and share their heritage. In 1995, the Employment Equity Act was passed by the federal government, which aimed to eliminate barriers to socio-economic participation of immigrants and minority groups.
Honouring Canadians of all backgrounds and cultures
On this day, we recognize, appreciate, and honour the multicultural fabric that makes up Canada. Multiculturalism is an essential part of what it means to be Canadian. Diversity is one of Canada’s greatest strengths and the participation of Canadians of all backgrounds in our country’s civic life is of tremendous value.
But as we pause to reflect on the varied backgrounds of DND employees and CAF members, we are also reminded that many cultural groups still experience acts of discrimination based on race, xenophobia, and hateful conduct, which is unacceptable and runs counter to the values of the Defence Team. The first and most important principle found in the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces Code of Values and Ethics is to respect the dignity of all persons. This is a day to celebrate the different cultures and personal heritage DT members bring to the workplace. Being open to other perspectives enriches us personally and professionally, and taking steps to foster a sense of belonging in our workplace makes us stronger as a team. We must continue to actively foster this cultural richness and the benefits it brings.
Let us educate ourselves on the rich history of multiculturalism in Canada and the many ethno-cultural backgrounds shaping our society. Let us learn from the lived experiences of culturally diverse DT members and foster moments celebrating the plurality of our multicultural heritage.
In relation to Canadian Multiculturalism Day, there are several resources and organizations available to DT members:
- Canadian Multiculturalism Day is the official website for Canadian Multiculturalism Day.
- Canadian Multiculturalism Act is the Act preserving and enhancing multiculturalism in Canada.
- A History of Multiculturalism in Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia is an education guide on multiculturalism in Canada.
- A CAF Story – A cook at sea is the story of a Mauritian immigrant to Canada who became a cook in the Royal Canadian navy.
- Anti-Racism Resource Hub is a website with guides, tip sheets, and resources to help Defence Team members on their journey to accelerate systemic change within the Department.
- Addressing anti-Asian racism outlines how to confront and denounce anti-Asian racism and discrimination.
- Defence Visible Minorities Advisory Group (only accessible on DWAN) applies a unique perspective to the job of building, nurturing and retaining a talented and diverse DND/CAF civilian and military workforce.
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