MOMENT IN TIME: OCTOBER 8, 1971 – Canada’s multiculturalism policy is introduced

In 1971, prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau announced multiculturalism as an official government policy – a first of its kind in the world. In his speech to the House of Commons, Mr. Trudeau said that no single culture could define Canada and that the government accepted “the contention of other cultural communities that they, too, are essential elements in Canada.” In a rare moment of parliamentary unity, Mr. Trudeau faced no opposition that day as no one wanted to vote against a policy that fought against discrimination. The Liberal Party’s goal was integration – to formally respect the diversity of Canadian citizens’ many different languages, religions and cultures. The policy grew out of a Royal Commission studying bilingualism and biculturalism and the unrest of the October Crisis and rising Québécois nationalism. But what happened next in the country was just as interesting, author Erna Paris wrote in a 2016 Globe editorial. “Over the next decades, official multiculturalism evolved into an ingrained collective value. Incrementally, Canadians began to define themselves as citizens of a multiethnic, multireligious society.” The policy helped shape Canadian society but, as protests against systemic racism continue in this country, there is much room to improve. 


About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: