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).
The legal or customary rights of languages other than English or French were preserved in Section 22 of the Charter. Aboriginal, treaty or other "rights or freedoms that have been recognized by the Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763" were not affected by the Charter (Section 25). As far as multiculturalism was concerned, Section 27 asserted that "This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians." The Charter's provision for equality rights (Section 15, effective 1985) was an additional guarantee, in law that stated:
15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.Lastly, the federal and provincial governments were committed to (a) "promoting equal opportunities for the well”‘being of Canadians," (b) "furthering economic development to reduce disparity in opportunities," and specifically (c) "providing essential public services of reasonable quality to all Canadians," as framed in Section 36(1) of the Charter.
To these ends, the Parliamentary Task Force on Participation of Visible Minorities in Canadian Society urged the federal government to consider recommendations contained in their Report and, in particular, the advisability of immediately (1) adding all visible minorities (non-whites) to the list of groups targeted for mandatory affirmative action within the public service (i.e., women, the disabled, Aboriginal peoples, and Blacks in Nova Scotia) by the Treasury Board in a policy statement issued June 27, 1983, and (2) introducing in Parliament a Multiculturalism Act, as indicated by Government in a Speech from the Throne, December 1983 (Special Committee on Participation of Visible Minorities In Canadian Society, 1984). Soon after, the Government tabled “An act respecting multiculturalism” (Bill C-48) which died on the order paper in the House of Commons when Parliament dissolved for the 1984 election (Secretary of State of Canada, 1987, p.15).
The Employment Equity Act and Regulations, created by statute in 1986, were major steps toward beginning nondiscriminatory rights for persons or groups disadvantaged in Canadian society. This Act operationalized the principle that "employment equity means more than treating persons in the same way but also requires special measures and the accommodation of differences" (Statutes of Canada, 1986, c.31, s.2). It required federally regulated employers (with 100 or more employees) to implement programs ensuring that visible minorities, Aboriginal peoples, women and the disabled achieved a degree of representation "that is at least proportionate to their representation" in the external labour force (Statutes of Canada, 1986, c.31, s.4), and to report their results each year to the Minister, in prescribed manner (Statutes of Canada, 1986, c.31, s.6). The same was required of employers who bid on federal contracts of $200,000 plus under the Federal Contractors Program, established the same year (Employment and Immigration Canada, 1990, p.2). Affirmative action programs or activities are helped and protected by Section 15(2) of the Charter that provides a constitutional guarantee to their amelioration of conditions.
Affirmative action, in the Canadian context, is not to be confused with programs involving the establishment of "quotas" across or in a particular sector of the economy. Nor does it concentrate on using the complaints of individual workers as a basis for redress, as with equal opportunity or equal remuneration legislation. It requires the cooperation of employers in "identifying and hiring or promoting or training" qualified (Gunderson, 1976) individuals who, by virtue of their group affiliation, find themselves arbitrarily and extensively excluded from the workplace (Abella, 1984). Employment equity and contract compliance measures function from this perspective.
The Government of Canada, basing itself on the Constitution of Canada, and in light of the Canadian Human Rights Act and international agreements on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and Civil and Political Rights of individuals to which Canada is a party; bearing in mind the multicultural heritage and rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada recognized in the Charter, the provisions outlined in the Official Languages Act and equality of status to which all Canadians are entitled to under the Citizenship Act, enacted the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988 (Statutes of Canada, 1988b, c.31). Today, by and with the advice and consent of the Houses of Parliament, the Canadian Government:
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 (Statutes of Canada, 1988b, c.31, p.836).Further, all federal institutions were directed to:
(a) ensure that Canadians of all origins have an equal opportunity to obtain employment and advancement in those institutions;
(b) promote policies, programs and practices that enhance the ability of individuals and communities of all origins to contribute to the continuing evolution of Canada;
(c) promote policies, programs and practices that enhance the understanding of and respect for the diversity of the members of Canadian society;
(d) collect statistical data in order to enable the development of policies, programs and practices that are sensitive and responsive to the multicultural reality of Canada;
(e) make use, as appropriate, of the language skills and cultural understanding of individuals of all origins; and
(f) generally, carry on their activities in a manner that is sensitive and responsive to the multicultural reality of Canada. (Statutes of Canada, 1988b, c.31, s.3.(2), pp. 838”‘839)
Here again, as in 1971, the Government escaped further opportunity to create or establish a full-fledged Ministry of Multiculturalism and an Office of the Commissioner of Multiculturalism "to ensure that the multicultural diversity of Canada is served and that the objects and principles of this Act are implemented in all the programs and services provided to members of the public and in particular are sensitive to the ethnocultural demographic particularities across the regions of Canada", as recommended by the Standing Committee on Multiculturalism (1987, p.79) in accordance with its mandate under Standing Order 96(3)(d), an examination of multicultural policy. Rather, Section 4 of the Act assigned the Minister (designated for the purposes of this Act) general responsibility for encouraging and promoting a coordinated approach to the implementation of programs and practices in support of this policy. The approach involved consultation with organizations representing multicultural interests and the Canadian multiculturalism advisory committee (CMAC), and other Ministers of the Crown who ". . shall take such measures as the Minister onsiders appropriate to implement the multiculturalism policy of Canada" (Statutes of Canada, 1988b, c.31, s.5.(l)). The chairperson of the CMAC shall have submitted to the Minister a yearly report on the activities of the CMAC and ". . . on any other matter relating to the implementation of the multiculturalism policy of Canada that the chairman considers appropriate" (Statutes of Canada, 1988b, c.31, s.7. (3)). The apparent lack of any definitive deployment strategy compromised the basis of a strong and well-defined Act. On the same issue, the Task Force on Multiculturalism in Manitoba (1988, p.17) concluded as follows:
Stripped of its preamble, which recognizes the Charter of Rights and various international conventions and covenants, the Act does not provide any mechanism for compliance. It encourages rather than enforces compliance.Bill C-18, an Act to establish the Department of Multiculturalism and Citizenship, was the first official administrative measure taken by the Government on May 18, 1989 to strengthen the existing provisions in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act (Multiculturalism and Citizenship Canada, 1991, p. 1). Under Bill C-18, the Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship shall "initiate, recommend, coordinate, implement and promote national policies and programs" relating to multiculturalism and citizenship, citizenship registration, and the participation of every citizen in the mainstream life of Canada within the context of the values inherent in Canadian citizenship, such as human rights, fundamental freedoms and related values (Statutes of Canada, 1991a, c.3, s.5, p.2). As the second annual report on the operation of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act indicated, "interim arrangements announced by the Prime Minister in September 1988 remain in effect until this becomes law" (Multiculturalism and Citizenship Canada, 1991, p.1).
On September 27, 1989 and February, 1990, the Minister of State gave additional substance and form to the new directions of Canadian multiculturalism and citizenship by introducing in the House of Commons Bill C-37, an Act to establish the Canadian Heritage Languages Institute, and Bill C-63, an Act to establish the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (Multiculturalism and Citizenship Canada, 1991). The main purpose of the Canadian Heritage Languages Institute was said to facilitate the acquisition, retention and use of heritage languages throughout Canada (Statutes of Canada, 1991b, c.7, s.4). Other activities in furtherance of its purpose described in Section 4 of the legislation were to:
- promote the learning of heritage languages;
- develop quality heritage language instruction programs;
- assist in production of new Canadian-oriented teaching materials;
- assist in the development of heritage language learning standards; and
- plan the dissemination of heritage language information, existing resources and research.
(a) eight hundred thousand dollars, to constitute the capital of an Endowment Fund to be invested and earn income to be expended for the purpose of the Institute; and (b) an additional five hundred thousand dollars, to be expended for the purpose of the Institute (Statutes of Canada, 1991b, c. 7, s. 22. (1) ).The purpose of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation was to facilitate "the development, sharing and application of knowledge and expertise in order to contribute to the elimination of racism and all forms of racial discrimination in Canadian society" (Statutes of Canada, 1991c, c.8, s.4). To fulfill its purpose, Section 4 of the legislation required the Foundation to:
- promote effective race relations training and development of professional standards;
- act as a clearinghouse, providing information about existing race relations resources, policies, programs and research; and
- collaborate with business, labour, community and other organizations, public institutions and governments, in eliminating all forms and manifestations of racial discrimination.
On November 25, 2005, An Act to amend the Official Languages Act (promotion of English and French), 2005, c. 41 was enacted “to enhance the enforceability of the Government of Canada’s obligations under Part VII” of the Official Languages Act. It renumbers subsection 41(1) of the Official Languages Act with three amendments. Essentially they speak to (1) the duty of federal institutions to ensure positive implementation measures of the commitments to the Official Languages Act, (2) granting the Governor in Council additional powers to make regulations regarding federal institutions that speak to this part of the Act, and (3) providing any person with an application for remedy under this part of the Act.
Bill C-331, An Act respecting the Internment of Persons of Ukrainian Origin Recognition Act (2005, c.52) acknowledged the first ever internment operations that took place on Canadian soil during World War I. The Parliament of Canada has taken upon itself to express deep sorrow for that event and this enactment provides for further negotiations between specified Ukrainian-Canadian organizations and the Government of Canada in respect of measures deserving of that recognition. These may include, but are not limited to, the installation of commemorative plaques, public education initiatives which exhibit information concerning the internment of Ukrainians and their contribution to the development of Canada, a commemorative stamp or set of stamps, and the promotion of the shared values of multiculturalism, inclusion and mutual respect notwithstanding. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko are the three Ukrainian-Canadian organizations in the forefront of these negotiations. Other measures of the Act aim towards a better public understanding of (a) the consequences of ethnic, religious or racial intolerance and discrimination; and (b) the important role of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the respect and promotion of the values it reflects and the rights and freedoms it guarantees. (See section 2.1) Section 6 of this Act affirms that these negotiations “shall not be interpreted as constituting an admission by Her Majesty in right of Canada of the existence of any legal obligation of Her Majesty in right of Canada to any person.”
An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (Bill C-21, chapter 30, 2008) received Royal Assent in Her Majesty’s name on June 18, 2008. Bill C-21 repeals section 67 of the Canadian Human Rights Act and continues to protect the customary aboriginal and treaty rights of the First Nations peoples of Canada as recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982. A comprehensive review of the Act’s interpretive and non-derogation measures pertaining to Aboriginal authorities is required within five years after its enactment.
The Parliament of Canada recognized and honored the contribution that persons of Italian origin have made and continue to make to Canada in Bill C-302, the Italian Canadian Recognition and Restitution Act as passed by the House of Commons April 28, 2010. They also apologized to Italian Canadians for designating them as “enemy aliens” and interning them during World War Two. During their internment, Italian Canadians labored without pay on various road construction projects and cleared land. Section 5 of this Act instructs the Canada Post Corporation to issue a series of stamps commemorating these and other infringements of their rights. Bill C-302 also provides for appropriate redress for this action in the form of public education.
To the author's knowledge, no other legislation from 1982 was relevant to this 30 year review.
Ihor Cap, Ph.D.
Ihor Cap is a member of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Canada.
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