Canada is among the countries with the highest rate of immigrants in the world. Thousands of immigrants have reached the shores of the vast North American country last year alone. But immigration is one of the fundamental bases in the construction of the Canadian nation, given that out of a population of over 30 million, over 30% of Canadians have their roots elsewhere, or at least they come from different ethnic backgrounds.
The origins of the first Canadian immigrants were mainly Scottish, Irish, German, Italian, Chinese and Ukrainian. In fact, European and Chinese immigrants were part of the first waves that inhabited the Canadian lands at the turn of the nineteenth century. Starting from the Second World War, a new wave brought to North America people coming mainly from India, South America and the Philippines, representing now the 5% of the population of Canada.
The situation regarding the indigenous populations is different since the ‘first nation’ native inhabitants are not homogenously distributed in the country but they rather live in some areas where they can carry on their traditions.
The Inuit - also known as Eskimos - live in the northern territories of the western side of the country, partly in Quebec and partly in Terranova. In order to finance the commercial and social activities of the indigenous community, since the end of the 1950s, Inuit cooperatives have been established. The Metis (in Spanish ‘mestizo’ or half- blood), were recognized as aboriginal inhabitants only with the proclamation of the Constitution Act. Their homeland is constituted by the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, as well as sharing the Northwest Territories with the Inuit.
This ethnic composition places multiculturalism and tolerance as the backbone of the Canadian society.
The Canadian political action towards multiculturalism was defined with the Multiculturalism Act of 1988. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act derives from the debate on the issue of bilingualism and biculturalism started in the sixties, a question still debated today with a certain vivacity among the Francophone and English-speaking inhabitants. Always from the sixties the question of aborigines derives, still unresolved today. The first political step towards multiculturalism was made in the 70s when the Multiculturalism Policy of Canada was adopted, implementing a declaredly multicultural policy for the first time in global history. The second step of the country in this direction was the confirmation of the adoption of multicultural policies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom in the 80s.
Truth is, we can no longer bind ourselves to the ideology of nation-states: today more than ever we must train ourselves to recognize the plurality and dynamism of the elements that contribute to the formation of identities. We must also remember that every society is multicultural, because different value systems coexist. It is right to say that some scholars, however, prefer to the concept of multiculturalism that of interculturalism because these cultures would interact with one another and enrich one another rather than just coexisting. Also, the term ‘tolerance’ here in Canada is a bit dismissed because it recalls a sort of passive acceptance which is not typically Canadian. Multiculturalism is always celebrated in public events and many non-traditionally Canadian festivities have become part of Canadian culture, from Chinese New Year to Día de los Muertos (Day of the dead, a Mexican festivity).
Chinese New Year and Día de los Muertos are now part of Canadian festivities