Sample Sociology Essays on Multiculturalism in Canada

For centuries, the only form of cultural diversity formally recognized in Canada was biculturalism. The focus culture and heritage has been on the French-English and Protestant-Catholic dichotomies. Lord Durham who first visited Canada in 1838 narrated that he found two cultures (he called them ”nations”) in the country. He also mentioned that a single state was blossoming, but he was mistaken. Lord Durham’s oversight did not take into account the existence of the Canadian Aboriginal community as well as the influx of immigrants into the nation from the gold rush era to the 21st century, which is characterized by globalization. The of Rights and Freedoms Charter and particularly the equality rights provision, has generated a propagation of legal as well as social science debates; at the center of most of these deliberations exists that question of how Article 27 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms interpretation consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of all Canadians.

Contextual Overview

Multiculturalism in Canada National Identity

Over the years, the term “multiculturalism”, has become common in social discussions about equality and due to various interpretations of multi-culture or the pluralism of culture, minority groups have gained significant voices in representation. According to Modood, (2017), the term ‘multiculturalism’ has been used to define social settings in which multiple cultures are present in a community or a national state. In other words, ‘multiculturalism’ describes diversity is society. A study by Vertovec and Wessendorf, (2015) indicated that in Austria and Denmark, the presence of guest workers and illegal immigrants from all over the world as well as metics has bred multiculturalism ithin them. In Canada multiculturalism refers to more than the mere presence of diversity in society.

The Canadian Multiculturalism Act provides a platform for the Canadian government to actively participate in the integration of minority groups as well as new immigrants into the nation’s identity. The most significant difference between the kinds of multicultural aspects experienced in Canada and Europe where the populations of natives and foreigners differ conversely is that the Canadian government provides citizenship or, at the very least, the related benefits of citizenship. For instance, health care and social insurance to individuals who wish to provide their skill set to the community. Furthermore, the Canadian government also attempts to endorse the integration of newcomers institutionally as well as psychologically. Institutional integration improves the representation of Canada’s multicultural population in public institutions such as the police force, although it does not necessarily precipitate psychological integration, which involves a sense of belonging and nationalism. Since psychological integration is practically intangible and therefore difficult to measure, the Multiculturalism Act perhaps can only affect policies that ensure institutional integration hoping that institutional integration can promote psychological integration.

Article 27 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms 

Arguably, Canada has never been a nation-state. As indicated by Mandel (1994), Canadian history indicates that the nation was first inhabited by natives before it was discovered and colonized by British and French explorers in the 18th century. During the gold rushes of the 19th century, a significant number of immigrants settled in the Western side of the country, thus  increasing the population of non-natives. As explained by (Hogg and Kramer, 1992), by the late-19th century to early-20th century, Canada had gained the profile of one of the world’s main immigrant-receiving societies (Bakhov, 2013). The trend of increased immigration continued throughout both World War 1 and 2, with additional immigrants coming from Eastern Europe. From the aforementioned information, it is clear that unlike other nations that have two demographics of populations (natives and immigrants) Canada has three. First, the nation has its Aboriginal minority population called ‘First Nations’, a group that continues to be considered as the most disenfranchised in the country. Second, the state has a national minority located in the province of Quebec. This demographic is the only French-speaking community in the entire country. Lastly, there exists the vast population of foreign-born population, who according to Driedger (2011), about one in four citizens were born outside of the country. Section 27 was introduced to ensure equality for all the Canadian demographics mentioned above by allowing all citizens to practice their religions in addition to preserving their cultural identities devoid of the fear of persecution.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was first introduced in the national parliament in 1980; however, it did not refer to multiculturalism. According to Fidjeland (2019), the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms vaguely mentioned and acknowledged the right or the existence of rights of the Aboriginal people in an unofficial language, thus partially providing constitutional protection against discrimination. However, the lack of direct reference to multiculturalism was noted and criticized by a part of the parliament. Consequently, a Special Joint Committee of Parliament was formed to study the resolution and the body revealed that multiculturalism was a significant issue in preserving the identity of the Canadian communities as 100 of the 150 witnesses heard by the committee commented on the phenomenon (Roberts and Ferguson, 2013). In response to these demands, Jean Chretien, the then Minister of Justice introduced an amendment that ended became Section 27 of the enacted Charter. It can therefore be academically argued that from its initiation chapter 27 was brought to existence to protect the diversity as perceived in Canada by each demographic.

The significance of section 27 is based on the fact that it does not only give explicit instruction to judiciaries within the Constitution to but also offers room for choosing appropriate constitutional interpretations that are biased to maintaining diversity in cultural matters. It can be argued that the general freedoms of conscience, religion, expression, and association provided for in section 2 and the protection from discrimination in section 15, make section 27 silent as implication of freedoms are clear. However, without this statute (Article 27), both aforementioned parts of the Constitution would have strong monolithic or (more often) dualistic overtones thus draconian in nature and not democratic. The term ”culture” is a significantly multifaceted phenomenon and section 27 has a valuable role to play in the conceptualization of a wide range of constitutional rights. Several of the more important constitutional rights that could be influenced by a ”multicultural” method to interpretation are Particular Freedom of Conscience and Religion, Equality Rights, and Language Rights.

Freedom of Conscience and Religion

Under section 2(a), Section 27 has been used to define the content of freedom of conscience as well as religion to include indirect coercion. As evidenced during the R v Edwards Books and Art Ltd [1986], all coercive burdens on religious practice, whether done intentionally or otherwise, foreseeable or unexpected, are hypothetically within the ambit of Article 2 (a) (Edwards, 2002). A more limiting interpretation would be unreliable because of the Court’s decision in R. v. Big M Drug Mart Ltd. and with the Court’s responsibility to translate what is brought before it under Article 27 of the Charter to preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of all Canadians (Edwards, 2002). Nevertheless, this does not suggest that each burden on religious practices is invasive to the constitutional promise of freedom of religion. Legislative or administrative exploit, which augments the cost of practicing or otherwise establishing religious beliefs, is not forbidden if the burden is trivial or insubstantial. Additionally, Section 27 has also been cited as a consideration in determining the stipulations under which a woman may be allowed to wear a niqab while testifying at a criminal trial. The section also has been used to aid interoperate section 14 right to an interpreter to include more than just services in English and French.

Equality Rights 

As mentioned, Canada is made up of a variety of minority cultures that strive to secure ample representation. Section 27 probably has its most significant influence in the ‘equality rights” presented under section 15. Kirmayer et al., (2003) states that it is a multicultural society, the concept of equality is traditionally misrepresented with ”sameness”. Under the sameness standard, equality is construed as a platform to make everyone observe a Sunday Sabbath, or guarantee that schools follow a similar curriculum. Nevertheless, in a pluralistic society, true equality comprises of more than just sameness. As explained by Kallen(2012), it requires equal respect in addition to reasonable accommodation for the dissimilar values and needs of all the groups that make up the society. With this in mind, as far as cultural differences are concerned, section 27 affirms that it is a pluralistic understanding of equality that is represented as well as entrenched in the Charter. For example, as used by the juries in the Northwest Territories, section 27 provided a cultural context within which to examine the equality guarantee under section 15. The judges’ reasoning was closely connected to the cultural makeup of northern communities and drew heavily upon section 27 of the Charter for support. It can, therefore, be concluded that section 27 can be the voice behind the identification and protection of multiculturalism instead of a part of legislation that is used as a ‘fits all’ law due to the precedent set in other cases.

Language Protection

In a country that has a high percentage of immigrants as well as foreign British and French settlers, choosing the official national language has traditionally been a challenge. As indicated by (Kallen, 2012), language is a fundamental part of the culture and has been an aspect of contention when it comes to the identity of the French-speaking and Aboriginal minorities in Canada.

As explained by The Ontario Court of Appeal which invoked section 27 in support of its ruling, during the Ontario Minority Language Education Reference that the minority educational language guarantee in section 23 of the Charter implies the right of linguistic minorities to control the administration of educational facilities for their children (Kallen, 2012, p.145).

Other Rights

Apart from protecting the rights presented above, there exist other kinds of constitutional rights such as the Education tights of 1867 that section 27 plays a significant role in endorsing. However, it remains undocumented within the as well as assembly, this legislation could be assisted by section 27 in instances where minority groups in the country have taken a stance to protect their culture.

The Educational rights provided under section 93 of the Constitution Act, 1867 as well as its provincial equivalents could also be supported by judicial interpretations under section 27.

Conclusion

Canada is considered a nation of immigrants because of the influx of foreign-born nationals who have been part of the nation for centuries. Since the 18thand 19th centuries, Canada’s Aboriginal communities have been absorbed by the French and British settlers then soon after the global population that has made the North American nation their home. With such an influx of different culture in one locality, multiculturalism is part of the Canadian national identity. Article 27 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enacted to protect cultural heritage. The article allow the courts to interpret the law in terms of protecting heritage and culture leading to fair judgments for all Canadian citizens particularly those of minority groups. Article 27 has been used extensively to determine cases involving religion, language, and equality rights. Article 27 offers a clear and practical indication of the mandate to protect the heritage as well as identity while cultivating on the nation’s diversity. Nevertheless, Article 27 depends on judicial interpretation that may be contested in a court of law, with this in mind; there is need for research on the limits of using this part of legislation in protecting other rights. A significant function for section 27 will be to aid judges and juries in determining whether some limits on Charter rights are reasonable as well as demonstrably defensible in a free and democratic nation within the meaning of Article 1 of the Charter. A limitation on a constitutional right could be justified if it is perceived to serve the resolve of protecting or enhancing the multicultural nature of Canadian society.

 

References

Bakhov, I. S. (2013). Government Multicultural Policy in Canada in the Period of 1970-2000-s. Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research15(10), 1450-1454.

Driedger, L. (2011). Multiculturalism: sorting identities, rights, and conflicts. Canadian Ethnic Studies43(1), 221-236.

Edwards, R. A. (2002). Judicial Deference under the Human Rights Act. The Modern Law Review65(6), 859-882.

Fidjeland, S. L. (2019). Multiculturalism in an everyday perspective: Immigration and settlement services in Vancouver, Canada (Master’s thesis, The University of Bergen).

Hogg, P. W., & Kramer, P. (1992). Constitutional law of Canada (Vol. 2). Toronto: Carswell.

Kallen, E. (2012). Multiculturalism: Ideology, policy and reality. Journal of Canadian Studies17(1), 51-63.

Kirmayer, L. J., Groleau, D., Guzder, J., Blake, C., & Jarvis, E. (2003). Cultural consultation: A model of mental health service for multicultural societies. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry48(3), 145-153.

Mandel, M. (1994). The Charter of Rights and the legalization of politics in Canada. Thompson Educational Publishers.

Modood, T. (2017). Multiculturalism. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, 1-4.

Roberts, L., & Ferguson, B. A. R. R. Y. (2013). Canada: The challenge and response to ethnic diversity. Multicultural variations: Social incorporation in Europe and North America, 33-72.

Vertovec, S., &Wessendorf, S. (Eds.). (2015). Multiculturalism backlash: European discourses, policies and practices. Routledge.