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Introduction: Overview of Multiculturalism in Canada
Twenty-Five Years of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act
Multiculturalism has a long history in Canada and is supported by a broad framework of laws and policies. Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy, to underline the value of pluralism including the rights of Aboriginal peoples and Canada’s two official languages. The policy became law in 1988, and 2013 marked the 25th anniversary of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. The preamble of the Act affirms multiculturalism as a fundamental Canadian characteristic, “recognizes the diversity of Canadians as regards race, national or ethnic origin, colour and religion as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society and is committed to a policy of multiculturalism designed to preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of Canadians while working to achieve the equality of all Canadians in the economic, social, cultural and political life of Canada.”
The Canadian demographic landscape has changed significantly since 1988. According to the 1986 Census, the main ethnic origins in Canada at the time were: British (34%); French (24%); ‘Other’ (25%); ‘Other’ with French and British (12%); and British and French (5%). The 15 largest ‘Other’ origin groups were: German, Italian, Ukrainian, Dutch, Aboriginal, Polish, Scandinavian, Chinese, Jewish, South Asian, Black, Portuguese, Hungarian, Greek and Yugoslav. By 2011, more than 200 ethnic origins were reported with 13 different ethnic origins that surpassed the one million mark, including English, French, Scottish, Irish, German, Italian, Ukrainian, East Indian, Dutch and Polish. Recent data from Statistics Canada’s 2011 National Household Survey also shows that:
- Canada had a foreign-born population of approximately 6,775,800 people, representing 20.6% of the total population—the highest proportion among G8 countries.
- In addition to English and French, more than 200 languages were reported as mother tongue.
- The proportion of the population who reported religious affiliations other than Christian—including Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist—continues to grow. In 2011, about 2,373,700 people or 7.2% of Canada’s population reported affiliation with one of these religions, up from 4.9% a decade earlier.
- 1,400,685 people reported an Aboriginal identity, representing 4.3% of the total Canadian population, which was approximately 32,852,300.
As Canadian society evolves, so too has the Government of Canada’s approach to multiculturalism. Always is the goal of fostering adherence to common values and promoting an inclusive citizenship that comes with rights, responsibilities and a respect for core democratic values. The Government of Canada’s Multiculturalism Program supports integration and social cohesion to ensure that Canadians of all origins have equal opportunities to participate in society to their full potential.
Figure 1: Percentage of the Population by Broad Ethnic Origin Reporting Categories, 1996, 2001, 2006 Censuses and 2011 National Household Survey
Text version: Percentage of the Population by Broad Ethnic Origin Reporting Categories, 1996, 2001, 2006 Censuses and 2011 National Household Survey
|Canadian, British and/or French||64%||61%||57%||55%|
Results may not add to 100% because of rounding
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) provides strategic direction for implementing the Canadian Multiculturalism Act through its Multiculturalism Program, which is focused on the following policy objectives:
- Building an integrated, socially cohesive society;
- Helping federal and public institutions to respond to the needs of a diverse society; and
- Engaging in discussions on multiculturalism at the international level.
CIC provides approximately $8.5 million in annual funding to non-governmental and community organizations to support long-term, multi-year projects and local events that foster intercultural and interfaith understanding and promote civic memory and a respect for core democratic values.
Public education programs and outreach initiatives such as Black History Month, Asian Heritage Month and the Paul Yuzyk Award for Multiculturalism aim to increase public awareness and inform public dialogue.
To help public institutions become more responsive to diversity, CIC works with provinces and territories through a Federal- Provincial-Territorial Multiculturalism Network and with federal departments and agencies through the Multiculturalism Champions Network (MCN).
CIC also promotes Canada’s approach to diversity through engagement with national and international organizations. These include the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF), the Global Centre for Pluralism, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
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