June 27 is Multicultural Day. In 1982, multiculturalism was recognized in section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act was subsequently passed in 1988.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Canadian Multiculturalism Policy. It was on October 8, 1971 that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau announced that the policies of multiculturalism and bilingualism would be implemented in Canada.
“Multiculturalism encourages the elimination of barriers to economic and social participation regardless of race, ancestry, creed, to name just a few,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas. “They called it employment equity. We call it doing the right thing.”
Despite its rocky start, multiculturalism played a major role in opening Canada’s doors to immigration of people from other parts of the world other than Europe. During the 60s and 70s, the country saw an increase in its workforce from people who came from the Caribbean, Mexico and Latin America.
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer, Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida acknowledges that “while Canada’s open-door policies have given us reasons to celebrate, we cannot deny that there is still so much more work to do to make this country fairer and more equal for everyone.”
Far too many racialized and Indigenous peoples face systemic racism and discrimination as their lived realities every day. The aim of multiculturalism was not to create division, but to make our country stronger. Its goals were, and continue to be, to unite our differences under the spirit of togetherness.
This year as we celebrate, we pause and reflect on the various incidents of racism, domestic terrorism and hate that continue to target Indigenous and racialized communities. The hanging of nooses at construction site in Toronto, the discovered remains of thousands of Indigenous children found at former residential schools across Canada, and the killing of an innocent Muslim family in London, Ontario reminds us that there is still so much work left to do.
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