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Cultural Diversity in Canada: The Social Construction of Racial Differences

NCJ Number
Peter S. Li
Date Published
27 pages
This document discusses racial differences in Canadian society and policy options for the future.
Cultural diversity refers to the apparent growth of non-White population, other than the Aboriginal people, in Canadian society. There is a rising public awareness towards differences of people based on superficial distinctions such as skin color and other features. This sensitivity is partly due to a widely held belief that immigration has altered the cultural mix of Canadians and that the increase in diversity has caused tensions and adjustments in Canadian society. Canada is a multicultural society made up of three basic elements: the British, the French, and other Canadians. Changes in immigration regulations resulted in the adoption of a universal point system in assessing prospective immigrants, irrespective of country of origin or racial background. Since the 1970's, Canada has relied upon waves of Asian labor in the development of major industries and projects in western Canada. Immigration statistics suggest that about 2.3 to 2.6 million members of visible minorities were added to the population between 1968 and 1995. The tendency of recent immigrants to settle in metropolitan areas gives the impression that there have been dramatic changes in diversity. When the Federal multiculturalism policy was announced in 1971, it was described as an enlightened policy to allow individuals to pursue a cultural life of their free choice. Increased racial diversity in the 1980's created a new demographic reality that demanded changes in the multiculturalism policy. Racial distinctions were reproduced by unequal life chances and normative values regarding people of color. Another dimension in the politics of difference is the debate over the social cost of racial diversity. In recognizing the value of cultural differences and racial diversity, Canada is better positioning itself in a world that is becoming increasingly globalized in economy and culture. 6 footnotes, 46 references