Since the start of this year, we have been doing a decent amount of outreach about our ongoing efforts in the community, as well as educating everyday Canadians on multiculturalism and anti-racism values. We have had the opportunity to have our booths at several different events in the city of Calgary, as well as across Alberta. During these events, we have been promoting some of our projects and also promoting our mission.
The most common question we get is:
What does it mean for Canada to be a multicultural society?
A lot of people don’t understand the meaning of multiculturalism itself and what it means for Canada to be a multicultural country. Does it mean we have no identity? How can we be all cultures at once? And what about cultural practices that are against our freedom of rights?
Thinking of multiculturalism with the questions above can be fairly confusing. What is Canada’s identity? To put it simple:
Multiculturalism exists when people accept and encourage many cultures to thrive in a society. Multiculturalism can lead to many great outcomes, including racial and ethnic harmony, which simply means that people from different backgrounds get along well together. Living with and accepting different cultures helps us understand each other and discourages hatred and violence. Canada officially became a multicultural society in 1971 when the government began to recognize the value and dignity of Canadians of all races and ethnic groups, all languages and all religions. This is very important to understanding because it means our legislation and law says we are a multicultural nation. This makes Canada incredibly unique, and racialized (people of colour) in this nation expect equal treatment.
Furthermore, we think it’s important to note that no culture is constant. In fact there are very few things in life that remain constant. Every culture is constantly evolving as humans are. There are no strict “laws” for cultures and old practices, so in Canada we do not support practices that go against our basic human rights.
But why is it that if Canada is a multicultural country that racism still exists? Why do children feel embarrassed or bullied if their parents wear their ethnic clothes or have an accent? Why does police brutality against people of colour (especially Indigenous and Black) in Canada still exist? And why do we still judge people based on their background?
People have hatred or distrust toward a certain race or ethnic group that is systemically rooted. When Canada as a nation was created, it was not created with multiculturalism in mind, nor an anti-racism lens, which would have had an intersectional approach for all people. However, regardless of the reality that systemic racism does exist, according to our laws promoting hatred is not allowed in Canada. Everyone has a right to preserve their own culture and we must also respect each other’s right to do the same. There is no scientific proof that people from a certain background have certain qualities. This a lie that racism has bred. And the more people that continue to enforce that mentality in their daily lives, the bigger they get. We as citizens need to think before we speak and act. Our words and actions have more meaning than we imagine. They not only represent us, but contribute to our society as a whole.
So how do we end it?
Systemic Changes in Policies.
We need to challenge and change our society for the better through the systems that continue to oppress. This can look like changing laws, reorganizing societal strictures, reforms, creating new systems, electing politicians and parties with an equity lens and more.
Let’s start talking to our children, youth, adults and seniors about multicultural and anti-racist values and help to mitigate racism from society. Let’s accept one another and embrace each others cultures, values and beliefs as equal to ours. Different, but equal. But we can’t do it alone. It requires a team effort through everyone in society. So we ask you to do the same.