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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Building the Canadian Mosaic: A Survey of Historical Developments, 1920-1982

by Ihor Cap, Ph.D.
The interwar years witnessed a people at crossroads with the meaning of Canadian identity and unity.  One definition or viewpoint restricted the meaning of the term Canadian to the "disparate partnership" between the former British and French colonists who have come to share its name and the principles for which it stands (Falconer, 1925).  According to Falconer's (1925, p.603) outline of history, the two underlying principles of Canadian unity were " -  attachment to Great Britain, and a determination not to be absorbed, in the United States, the second, except in the case of Quebec, being derived from the first." A second viewpoint extended this partnership to the non-British and non-French element because, as Hurd (1928) concluded, "Canadians have a common bond of unity in Canadian citizenship.  That was broad enough to include Canadian nationals of every race and of every tongue.” (p.627) The latter viewpoint came in response to the glowing fervour about " insistence on the existence and recognition of a Canadian race." (Hurd, 1928, p.615) Officiating the "one-race nation” or melting-pot concept became futile given "bona fide differences" in the extent of language acquisition (note that the Parliament and records of Canada are officially bilingual), in fertility (and mortality) rates and in the extent of intermarriage between the British and French elements and the "average foreign race" when compared to either group in the majority on the same behavioural indices. (Hurd, 1928)
Consequently, the melting pot concept  fell  wayside to the appearance of a new interpretation of the continuing press for assimilation, introduced by Foster (1926, p.135) in these words:
In many minds the term "assimilation" is confused with amalgamation.  Does the former necessarily imply intermarriage - the fusion of races?  Is not assimilation rather the incorporation into our national life of all people within our borders for their common well-being.  Is it not the working together side by side for the common advancement, each race contributing something of value and so slowly but surely evolving a new people enriched by the diversity of its origin?
This alternation of questions and answers germinated additional interest and appreciation for the "mosaic" concept of Canadian culture - some of it significantly enough, from publicists and various service agencies working to facilitate immigrant adjustment (Ukrainian Community Development Committee - Prairie Region, 1986, p.8; Standing Committee on Multiculturalism, 1987, p.16). Serious study and growth in research with persons grouped round this centre of interest emerged in the 1930s (Swyripa, 1978, p.45). In any case, the pioneers round this concept forced themselves to learn through their own studies about the "mosaic" of traits and backgrounds of groups immigrating to Canada (Swyripa, 1978, p.41). These studies not only uncovered the many and various experiences in our national history which shaped the perceptions and attitudes of new Canadian arrivals, they also served as a direction ­indicator as to what is or may be inherited from a group's culture to enrich Canada (Swyripa, 1978, pp.41-42). Fourteen years after the initial questions were posed, there was a small congerie of agencies and programmes experimenting with ethnocultural groups and cultural maintenance (e.g. the Advisory Committee on Cooperation in Canadian Citizenship) ­regrettably, "...with little support from government." (Task Force on Multiculturalism in Manitoba, 1988, p.12) By 1946, citizenship training programmes evinced a change of direction, at least in purpose.  Formally, they aimed to foster positive social relationships between  the  various  ethnocultural  groups. Informally, however, these courses merely initiated “. . . the process of assimilation." (McLeod, 1975, p.27)
Nevertheless, except for the more recent infamous internment and dispossession of West Coast Japanese Canadians during wartime (Richardson, 1990, p.174), it was in the years following World War II and under the combination of internal and international pressure, that the different aspirations and expectations of ethnocultural minority groups (e.g., cultural pluralism, structural change and recognition of their contribution to developing Canada) came to be more tolerated (Creighton, 1970, p.301,306,311; McLeod, 1975, pp.27-28; Richardson, 1990, pp.180-183; Task Force on Multiculturalism in Manitoba, 1988, pp.12-13). Only under sustained pressure and after the federal government implemented the Multicultural Policy was there official recognition and support for cultural pluralism in Canada and general statutory protection of ethnocultural minority languages guaranteed in Section 38 of the Official Languages Act (Statutes of Canada, 1969,c.54).
The twin policies of official bilingualism and official multiculturalism stemmed  from the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism's inquiry into and
". . . report upon the existing state of bilingualism and biculturalism in Canada and to recommend what steps should be taken to develop the Canadian confederation on the basis of an equal partnership between the two founding races, taking into account the contribution made by the other ethnic groups to the cultural enrichment of Canada and the measures that should be taken to safeguard that contribution" (Order-in-Council, 1963).
A positive by-product of these recommendations later found expression in Sections  97 and 98 of the Official Languages Act (1988), as amended. The amendments granted additional rights and services in “English and French or any languages of the aboriginal peoples of Canada” provided for in the Official Languages Ordinance and Languages Ordinance of the Northwest Territories Act and the Yukon Act, respectively (Statutes of Canada 1988a, c.38).
In 1971, Canada was officially declared to be multicultural.  The federal policy of multiculturalism took effect and was directed toward  "preserving human rights, developing Canadian identity, strengthening citizenship participation, reinforcing Canadian unity and encouraging cultural diversification within a bilingual framework" (Department of the Secretary of State of Canada, Multiculturalism, 1987, p.11).  The endorsement came after ethnocultural minority leaders forcefully rejected the terms of reference espoused by the Commission, “an equal partnership between the two founding races”, “Anglophone”, “Francophone” and especially “biculturalism” (Heyman, 1978; Lupul, 1978), words and attitudes impervious to the cultural being and contributions of “other ethnic groups” who, “...came to Canada during or after the founding of the Canadian State” (Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, 1967, p.xxvi).” The “other” Canadians and Aboriginals, for comparison, outnumbered those of French ancestry in seven provinces, the Yukon and Northwest Territories by a ratio of about 7 to 1 and outnumbered the British population in the three Prairie Provinces and the Territories, according to data from the 1971 census (Hlynka, 1981, pp. 22-23).  Such regional variation was part and parcel of Canada’s history of settlement, geographic evolution and political organization. It compelled the Government to add to the Commission’s mandate a clause requiring the Commission to take “into account the contribution made by the other ethnic groups to the cultural enrichment of Canada and the measures that should be taken to safeguard that contribution” (Order in Council, 1963). This added mandate also resulted in Volume IV of the Commission’s 1969 Report, The Cultural Contribution of the Other Ethnic Groups (Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, 1969).

The Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism finished  its work March 31, 1971.  An official response to the multilingual and multicultural recommendations contained in Volume IV of the Commission's Report emerged in the House of Commons on October 8, 1971 with Prime Minister Trudeau's announcement of implementation of a policy of "multiculturalism within a bilingual framework." The Prime Minister revealed to the House ". . that there cannot be one cultural policy for Canadians of British and French origin, another for the original peoples and yet a third for all others. For although, there are two official languages, there is no official culture, nor does any ethnic group take precedence over any other” (House of Commons, 1971, p.8545). This statement of policy committed the federal government in four ways: helping cultural survival and group development, overcoming cultural barriers to full participation, promoting creative encounters and cultural interchange in the interest of national unity and assisting immigrants to acquire at least one of Canada's official languages (House of Commons, 1971, p.8545).  It is unfortunate to note that, while implementation of official bilingualism proceeded through legislation, official multiculturalism was merely Government policy and had no legislative base.  Furthermore, government assistance to “cultural survival and development of ethnic groups” proceeded only to the extent “that a given group exhibits a desire for this,” while no such condition was placed upon the ethnocultural majorities or official language groups (House of Commons, 1971, p.8581).
Subsequent legislative affirmations espoused equality between the ethnocultural majorities and ethnocultural minorities and equality of conditions for all Canadians.  Of overriding importance were The Constitution Acts 1867 to 1982, a consolidation of the Constitution Acts 1867 to 1975 and The Constitution Act, 1982.  Consolidated as of October 1, 1989, it contained various direct amendments (i.e. repeals, amended provisions, substitutions) and indirect amendments (i.e. alterations by United Kingdom Parliament, additions by Parliament of Canada, alterations by the Legislatures), spent provisions, a general procedure for amending the Constitution of Canada, and a general amendment renaming the British North America Act, 1867 to the Constitution Act, 1867 (Department of Justice Canada, 1989).
The Acts consolidated what leaders-governments-after-next historically strived to promote and protect: basic human rights.  Canada's record of' safeguarding these rights, was divided into three periods, each moulded by a set of mechanisms specific to the time and culture of the period (Greene, 1989): first, the period, from 1867 to 1960, of contentious action or inaction on the part of the judiciary to effectively invoke or negate the existence of "an implied bill of rights" (of civil liberties principles) inherited from the U.K.'s unwritten constitution by virtue of the principle of legislative supremacy pursuant to the preamblary statement in the original Constitution Act, which reads as follows:
(29th March 1867.)            
Whereas the Provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick have expressed their Desire to be federally united into One Dominion under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with a Constitution similar in Principle to that of the United Kingdom (Department of Justice Canada, 1989, p.1);
second, the period between 1960 and 1982, in which the first Canadian Bill of Rights was born to failure because of a judiciary reluctant to negate the principle of legislative supremacy; and, third, the period, from 1982 up to the present, which interrupted the narrow judiciary actions and interpretations mindful of civil liberties associated with the first two periods in light of the form and spirit effected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Greene's (1989, p.38) review of the circumstances leading to the adoption of the Charter showed that it acts as the "key-instrument" in the Government's concerted nation-building strategy that evolved from 1967 to 1982:
    • to create the conditions that would encourage a stronger national identity to counteract the forces of provincialism;
    • to patriate the constitution (end the role of the U.K. Parliament in the constitutional amendment process, and provide for an entirely Canadian amending procedure); and
    • to extend language rights and to create new ‘mobility rights’ so that Canadians would feel at home in any province and would not be deterred from moving within the country (Greene, 1989, p.38).
Author Information:
Ihor Cap, Ph.D.
Ihor Cap is a member of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Canada.
Related Articles in This Series
Building the Canadian Mosaic: A Survey of Historical Developments, 1867-1920
Building the Canadian Mosaic: A Survey of Historical Developments, 1982-2012