What is the difference between individual rights and group rights?

What is the difference between individual rights and group rights? Why does a tension exist between these two kinds of rights in liberalism (illustrate with an example)? How does Kymlicka justify the liberal defense of minority rights?

A right refers to the legal, social, and ethical principles guiding the application of the concept or liberty or privilege. Rights further describe sets of essential normative rules and regulations owed to individuals and emanates from various legal systems and social conventions (Johansson et al., 2016). The two common forms of rights are individual and group rights. Individual rights descry personal liberties or entitlement accorded to individuals to enable them pursues their life-related objectives and goals. Common forms of individual rights include the right to life, and right to free expression, and the right to pursue personal gratification. These rights are fundamental in modeling the behaviors of individuals based on pertinent legal, regulatory, and societal standards (Johansson et al., 2016). Alternatively, group rights describe sets of collective rules and regulations governing the behaviors of individuals in those groups. In particular, under group rights, members share and apply jointly different rules and regulations. The primary objective of group rights is to promote collective cohesion, integration, and peaceful coexistence. Some common examples of group rights in Canadian societies includes the right to practice native beliefs and norms, the right to educate children in native language, and the right to cultural preservation among the Aboriginal peoples, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples (Spinner-Halev, 2017). Group rights are important to Canadian citizens because it promotes the depiction and practice of identity and encourages cultural integration and acceptance. Through such culturally environments, the quality of life in Canadian societies has been experiencing massive improvements.

The concept of liberalism describes unique political and moral philosophical standpoint aiming to promote the idea of civil liberty and quality. The concept emphasizes on social justice based on the universal argument that equity and equality are good societal goals. Notably, liberalism argues that tension exists between individual and group rights (Cohen-Almagor, 2018). For instance, according to liberalism certain group rights can suppress or limit the application of individual rights. For example, in Canadian societies, the group right on the practice of cultural heritages and languages may prevent other people from engaging in meaningful discourses. While liberalism promotes civil liberty and equality, certain individual rights may violate or suppress group rights. For example, the right to free expression is limited if such rights prevents the Aboriginals from enjoying some of their collective right such as speaking the native language and practicing their traditional prayers. Likewise, the practice of such group rights may prevent individuals from enjoying their rights such as the right to happiness (Cohen-Almagor, 2018). For example, an individual may find the Aboriginal’s cultures irritating or annoying further limiting their right to enjoy their lives and space. Therefore, the perceived tension between group and individual rights emanate from the inherent need and desire to enjoy personal space without undue judgment and limitations. In Canada, the sexual equality act (from the Charter of Rights) was a major cause of tension between women’s individual rights and the Aboriginals’ skewed perception of gender. In such cases, strict application of group rights will translate into serious violation of individual rights. Therefore, societies should develop relevant strategies to integrate various tenets of individual and group rights to eliminate such tension (Spinner-Halev, 2017). While certain limits are reasonable, the concept of liberalism should guide the practice or application of individual and group rights in the Canadian societies.

Subsequently, Kymlicka provides different justification towards his liberal defense of minority rights. According to Kymlicka, individuals and societies should emphasize on strict adherence to the certain rights that are specific to various minority groups. In particular, Kymlicka encouraged contemporary societies to focus on protecting minority rights (Kymlicka, 2018). Therefore, he encouraged the application of cultural specific rights to enable the minority groups to thrive in their respective societies. State agencies should facilitate the development and application of relevant laws and policies within the confines of liberal ideals (Kymlicka, 2018). Primarily, Kymlicka in encouraging liberal societies to protect their minority groups from the excesses of the majority groups. Accordingly, according to Kymlicka, the promotion of individual rights and freedom is fundamental in defining the relationships between the minority and majority groups.  The Canadian policy on multiculturalism is an example of a viable strategy that liberal countries can use to protect the rights of the minority groups (Kymlicka, 2018). However, through such policies, Kymlicka opines that societies should ensure that the application of majority cultural rights is not suppressing the enjoyment of minority rights. Kymlicka alludes that the protection of minority rights should shape how individuals in such cultures perceive different societal issues. Essentially, Kymlicka believed in individual freedom, equality, and democracy as important factors that can promote and sustain minority rights. I believe that Kymlicka used a relevant approach in explaining the perceived relationship between minority rights and societal cultural viewpoints.


Cohen-Almagor, R. (2018). Between Individual Rights and Group Rights. Academicus International Scientific Journal, 9(18), 9-25.

Johansson, E., Emilson, A., Röthle, M., Puroila, A. M., Broström, S., & Einarsdóttir, J. (2016). Individual and collective rights expressed in educator and child interactions in Nordic preschools. International Journal of Early Childhood, 48(2), 209-224.

Kymlicka, W. (2018). Liberal Multiculturalism as a Political Theory of State–Minority Relations. Political Theory, 46(1), 81-91.

Spinner-Halev, J. (2017). Land, Culture and Justice: A Framework for Group Rights and Recognition. In Indigenous Rights (pp. 147-170). Routledge.



What specific policies constitute Canadian multiculturalism policy? Do some research of your own on this policy, and give an example of an instance of how it has been applied. Do you think the policy in your example supports or undermines national Canadian unity? Why or why not?

The Canadian policy of multiculturalism aims to promote peaceful coexistence among individuals from different cultural groups. Markedly, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau pioneered the concept of multiculturalism in Canada in the period between 1970s and 1980s. Trudeau government wanted to preserve the unique cultural practices among the immigrants and the Aboriginals. Under the Canadian multiculturalism, the Prime Minister envisioned a peaceful, integrated, a united country. Therefore, the policy was a government’s response to the growing diversity and complex nature of ethnic and racial composition in the country. The primary tenets of multiculturalism included increased recognition and appreciation of such ethnic and cultural diversities with the primary intention of protecting and preserving individuals and groups’ ability to practice their beliefs and norms (Sánchez-Flores, 2010). Specifically, the policy encourages the integration of various cultural characteristics, innate assumptions, norms, and practices. Canada identifies and appreciates the rich and exceptional diversity of its population. Therefore, through the implementation of the multiculturalism policy, Canada’s primary intention was to encourage and sustain equal and fair treatment of individuals from the minority racial and ethnic groups such as the Aboriginals.

One of the policies constituting the Canadian policy of multiculturalism was the increased government’s acknowledgement the innate desire to preserve, enhance, and share the unique cultural heritages among minority groups. Similarly, it emphasized on the increased recognition and promotion of fundamental characteristics of such cultural heritages (Appiah, 1994). Another important policy was that it allowed individuals to practice and apply their cultures through the elimination of possible obstacles or barriers. Furthermore, it resulted in the formation of institutions that could promote, encourage, and assist different ethnic groups to practice their cultures. By fostering the recognition and appreciation of diverse cultural perceptions, the Canadian government aimed to preserve such rich diversities (Phillips, 2007). For example, the multiculturalism policy resulted in the introduction and application of English and French as the official national languages in the country. The policy was lenient on the influx of immigrants and supported their integrations into the mainstream Canadian societies.

Other application of the Canadian multiculturalism policy was evident in the country’s education system. Specifically, the country introduced unique cultural perspectives in the school curriculum among other related policy frameworks. For instance, the primary role of the Multiculturalism Directorate was to recognize and promote the innate understanding of cultural and racial diversities among the students. Through such understandings, educational institutions could develop relevant framework capturing unique racial and ethnic dimensions and practices. The policy allowed teachers to conduct lessons in their own languages to the corresponding groups of students (Makarenko, 2010). Additionally, the modified curriculums recognized the important role of racial and ethnic diversities as a form of identity. The frequent interactions between students from different cultural groups further aimed to enhance cultural integration, understanding, and appreciation of diversity. The creation of educational systems and societies incorporating individuals with similar origin and historic contributions to the Canadian society was essential to the country’s socio-economic development (Makarenko, 2010). Through such systems, the Canadian federal government hoped to foster the inherent understanding and creativity arising from the constant interactions between the students and other important stakeholders. The students under the Canadian multiculturalism policy further learned to appreciate the importance of equity and inclusivity irrespective of ethnic and racial affiliations.

Overall, I think that the identified multiculturalism policy examples support Canadian national unity and identity. For instance, the policy encourages the increase integration of immigrant communities and Aboriginals back into the mainstream societies. The primary intention of the multiculturalism policy was to promote national unity, which I believe it has done so well. The primary assumption is that individuals are free and equal irrespective of their socio-cultural, political, and economic affiliations (Sen, 2006). Therefore, policymakers should more strategies on how multiculturalism policies can further strengthen cultural integrations and other related influences. I believe that Canada has been largely successful in its quest for a society that appreciates civil liberty and quality in the relationship between groups and individuals.


Appiah, K. A. (1994). Identity, authenticity, survival: Multicultural societies and social reproduction. Multiculturalism: Examining the politics of recognition, 149.

Sánchez-Flores, M. J. (2010). Human Difference and the Multicultural Dilemma. In Cosmopolitan Liberalism (pp. 127-166). Palgrave Macmillan, New York.

Sen, A. (2006). Making sense of identity. In Identity and violence; the illusion of destiny (pp. 18-39). New York: Norton.

Makarenko, J. (2010, January 12). Multiculturalism Policy in Canada. Retrieved from mapleleafweb: http://www.mapleleafweb.com/features/multiculturalism-policy-canada.html

Phillips, A. (2007). Multiculturalism without culture (Vol. 8). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.