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Provincial multiculturalism policies in Canada, 1974-2004: a content analysis.


This article provides an analysis of the origins, evolution, provisions, and value of provincial multiculturalism policies during the past three decades as well as some prognostications on their continued evolution and future value. It suggests that although such policies have been overshadowed by national multiculturalism policies, their past, present, and future importance in supplementing that policy should not be underestimated, since such policy supplementation helps to reinforce the shared commitment of all Canadians to the multicultural ethos. It also suggests that more intergovemmental collaboration involving the federal, provincial, municipal, and Aboriginal governments is required to ensure that this policy supplementation function maximizes the consonance and coordination of their joint efforts to strengthen the multicultural ethos for purposes of advancing social cohesion and the public good across Canada.

Ce document analyse les origines, l'evolution, les dispositions et la valeur des politiques provinciales sur le multiculturalisme au cours des trois demieres decennies et presente des pronostics sur leur evolution et leur valeur dans l'avenir. Il suggere que, meme si les politiques provinciales sont eclipsees par la politique nationale du multiculturalisme, il ne faudrait pas sous-estimer leur role passe, actuel et futur de complementarite. En effet, ces politiques contribuent a renforcer l'engagement commun de tous les Canadiens envers la philosophie du multiculturalisme. Le document souligne aussi que les gouvernements federal, provinciaux, municipaux et autochtones doivent collaborer davantage pour s'assurer que cette fonction de soutien de la politique federale vient maximiser l'harmonisation et la coordination de leurs efforts visant a renforcer la philosophie du multiculturalisme, dans le but de promouvoir la cohesion sociale et le bien public dans tout le Canada.


A core element of Canadian identity and pride is the multicultural ethos which values not only the preservation and perpetuation of various cultures, but also cross-cultural understanding and harmonious cultural coexistence. This ethos relating to cultural diversity, cross-cultural understanding, and cultural coexistence has been, and remains, a central component of Canadian political culture and the public philosophies which have shaped public discourse and public policies and programs in this country in recent decades. This includes the multiculturalism or, as in the case of Quebec, intererculturalism (1) policies and programs at the national, provincial, and local levels (Kymlieka 1998; Fleras and Elliott 1992, 2002). Despite the value that the majority of Canadians place on the multiculturalism ethos, they are by no means unanimous in their support for the multiculturalism policies and programs adopted by governments at the national, provincial, and local levels. Indeed, such policies and programs have been contested over the past three decades, and they remain so (Abu-Laban and Stasiuslus 1992; Abu-Laban 1994; Kymlicka 1998; Jedwab 2005). Unfortunately, they are contested in the absence of much information or understanding regarding their precise nature or purpose (Biles 2002; Jansen 2005). The central objective of this paper is to provide an analysis of the origins, evolution, and provisions of the provincial multiculturalism policies promulgated from 1974 to 2004, as well as their prospects and potential value in the future.

An analysis of the multiculturalism policies of the three northern territories is beyond the scope of this work largely because none have a singular policy explicitly devoted to multiculturalism. Their focus has been less on advancing the goals of multiculturalism comparable to those of the provinces than on advancing four other important policy goals that are rooted in their unique ethnocultural configuration. The first two goals have been cultural preservation and acculturation designed to ensure that indigenous languages, customs, and values survive. The other two have been employment equity and diversity management both in the governmental and nongovernmental sectors to ensure that the workforce is representative of the indigenous population and that the services provided meet their needs.


The provincial multiculturalism policies of the past thirty years are a product of a combination of three sets of factors. The first major set consists of several very influential political movements which emerged during the 1960s and gained momentum during the subsequent decades. The ethnic revival movement prevailed on a global basis as ethno-cultural groups became increasingly interested in the recognition, celebration, and preservation of their respective cultures in the face of what was perceived as a cultural homogenization process that was operating at the national and international levels. Minority rights movements entailed an assertion of these rights at the international, national, and sub-national levels. In the Canadian context, this particular movement produced the Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism in the 1960s, the Canadian Multiculturalism Policy in 1971, the Canadian Human Rights Commission in 1977, and ultimately, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982 (Leman 1999). The third political movement is what might be termed "cultural cosmopolitanism" which subordinated the "cultural parochialism" that prevailed during most of Canada's first century as a country. This "cultural cosmopolitanism" influenced not only the culinary palate of Canadians by enhancing their appreciation of so-called ethnic cuisine, but also their political consciousness by enhancing their understanding and appreciation of diverse cultural traditions and values.

The second major set of factors contributing to the development of provincial multiculturalism policies are political and policy rationality. Political rationality was evidenced by the fact that it made for good politics to enact multiculturalism policies in the context of those three movements; Canadians viewed themselves as "global cosmopolitans" engaged in a historic project for humanity in producing the ideal model for "cultural co-existence" both within other countries and within the global polity. Thus, multiculturalism was seen as a historic project benefitting not only cultural communities within Canada and the Canadian community as a whole, but ultimately also other sub-national, national, and global communities. This element of Canadian pride (some might say conceit) provided multiculturalism and interculturalism policies with considerable political cachet in the partisan and nonpartisan political domains at the national and provincial levels (James 2005). In short, the prevailing view was that political kudos would be gained by enacting and supporting such policies (Fleras and Elliott 1992, 2002).

The policy rationality was that, faced with an increasingly diverse set of cultural, national, and provincial communities, provincial governments concluded that special policies were required which contributed to achieving two related objectives. One was valuing and celebrating, rather than devaluing and problematizing, this cultural reality. The other was maximizing social and economic benefits while minimizing the social and economic costs of such a reality. Once that policy rationality was adopted by the national and provincial governments, the only issue to consider was how this could best be accomplished. The prevailing view among many governmental and non-governmental stakeholders was that an important first step was the articulation and adoption of multiculturalism policies in the hope that the right policies could contribute to various public policy goals, but particularly to social cohesion and economic development.

The third major set of factors which contributed to the adoption of provincial multiculturalism policies are what might be termed "policy leadership" and "policy emulation." Policy leadership was initially provided by the federal government when it adopted its multiculturalism policy in 1971. That policy had a significant influence both on the decisions of some provincial governments to adopt a comparable multiculturalism policy and on the nature and scope of that policy. Saskatchewan was the first province to be influenced by, and to emulate, the federal policy when it enacted the first multiculturalism act in 1974 (Saskatchewan 1974). Given that the provincial motto is "from many peoples, strength," perhaps it is not surprising that Saskatchewan would be the first to enact such a statute. Within a few years, other provinces followed Saskatchewan's lead and adopted their own multiculturalism policies. Such emulation continued as each province enacted and revised or repealed their respective policies. Furthermore, such emulation was not confined to provinces. The federal government's 1988 act also entailed some emulation of Quebec's interculturalism policy emphasizing the importance of fostering positive intercultural relations and social cohesion (Canada 1988). This particular emulation was prompted by a shared problem. Both orders of government faced opposition to what might be termed a first-generation-style multiculturalism policy that emphasized the preservation, promotion, and celebration of heritage cultures and cultural diversity. Whereas the Quebec provincial government faced opposition from conservative "Quebecois nationalists," the federal government faced opposition from conservative "Canadian nationalists." Both clusters of nationalists complained about the adverse effects which that style of multiculturalism policy was having (and would continue to have) on building a singular and sustainable national identity either among the Quebec citizenry, in the case of the former, or among Canadian citizens in the case of the latter (Ship 2005).

The foundations for Quebec's contemporary interculturalism policy were articulated in five major policy statements and statutes produced between 1981 and 2004. The first, titled Autant de facons d'etre Quebecois (Quebecois: Each and Everyone), was produced in 1981 by Premier Rene Levesque's Parti Quebecois government in the wake of the 1980 provincial referendum on sovereignty-association. That policy statement indicated that the major goals of the provincial government's interculturalism policy were to:

* develop cultural communities and ensure maintenance of their uniqueness,

* sensitize francophones to the contribution of cultural communities to Quebec's heritage and cultural development, and

* facilitate the integration of cultural communities into Quebec society, especially those sectors historically excluded or underrepresented within institutional settings. (Quebec 1981)

The second, titled The Council for Intercultural Relations Act (1981), provided the institutional basis for its interculturalism policy by creating an advisory council.

The third, The Declaration on Interethnic and Interracial Relations, was produced by Premier Roberta Bourassa's Liberal government in 1986. That policy statement articulated the following five key principles: anti-racism, equality rights, full representation and participation, and economic, social and cultural development of ethnic, racial, and cultural groups (Quebec 1986).

The fourth, Let's Build Quebec Together: A Policy Statement on Immigration and Integration, was produced in 1990 by Premier Robert Bourassa's Liberal government. This policy statement articulated the following three key characteristics of the province:

* Quebec is a French-speaking society;

* Quebec is a democratic society in which everyone is expected to contribute to public life;

* Quebec is a pluralistic society that respects the diversity of various cultures from within a democratic framework. (Quebec 1990)

This policy statement added that the goal is to produce a formal "moral contract" between newcomers and native-born Quebeckers. Quebec would declare itself a unilingual francophone society that is ethno-culturally pluralistic and respectful of cultural differences. Immigrants would subscribe to Quebec's Charter of Rights and contribute to Quebec nation-building in co-operation with native-born Quebeckers.

The fifth, titled Action Plan on Immigration, Integration and Intercultural Relations, was produced in 2004 by Premier Jean Charest's Liberal government. Although devoted primarily to immigration and integration rather than intercultural relations, this particular document echoed some of the principles and goals of the interculturalism policy articulated in those earlier policy statements. It did so in various parts of the document, but particularly in what it termed the "fourth pillar" of its action plan, titled "A Qurbec Proud of its Diversity," wherein it spoke of the importance of appreciating its diversity, capitalizing on its value by establishing partnerships with cultural communities for purposes of immigration and integration, and fostering harmonious relations among all communities within the province (Quebec 2004).

Other important documents which articulate Quebec's interculturalism policy include its various statutes establishing the ministries responsible for cultural communities, citizens, and immigration (Quebec 1996). It is noteworthy that Quebec changed the name of the department responsible for its interculturalism policy in 1996 from the "ministry for cultural communities and immigration" to the "ministry for relations among citizens and immigration." This name change underscores the importance that the Parti Quebecois government led by Lucien Bouchard placed on the intercultural dimension of what is tantamount to its multiculturalism policy (Symons 2002; Piche 2002). Recently, however, Quebec's Liberal government led by Jean Charest changed the ministry's name to what it had been prior to 1996. The decision to do so seems to be a symbolic act to send a message to "cultural communities" that they will be valued and served by this government more than they were by its predecessor.


The evolution of provincial multiculturalism and interculturalism policies between 1974 and 2004 consists of some notable developments during each of those three decades (Leman 1999). During the first decade, four provinces adopted multiculturalism policies either in the form of statutes or policy statements. The first to do so was Saskatchewan which enacted its Multiculturalism Act in 1974 (Saskatchewan 1974) and amended it four years later to eliminate the reference to the department responsible for funding multiculturalism programs and projects (Saskatchewan 1978). In subsequent years during that decade, three other provinces promulgated multiculturalism or interculturalism policies in the form of policy statements rather than statutes (i.e., Ontario in 1977, Quebec in 1981, and P.E.I. in 1983). In 1982 Ontario provided a statutory basis for its multiculturalism policy of 1977 by enacting the Ministry of Culture and Citizenship Act (Ontario 1990) which articulated some principles that would guide the provincial government's policies and programs.

During the second decade, several provinces enacted one or more statutes that dealt with multiculturalism or interculturalism. Whereas some of the statutes provided the principles and parameters of their respective policies, other dealt with the creation and operation of ministerial advisory and advocacy councils. This included three statutes enacted in 1984: Alberta's Cultural Heritage Act defined multiculturalism as a fundamental characteristic of the province's society, noting that multiculturalism provided cultural, social, and economic benefits for Albertans; the Manitoba Intercultural Council Act (Manitoba 1984) authorized the minister to establish a ministerial advisory council and outlined various issues related to its composition, functions, and operation; and Quebec's Council of Intercultural Relations Act (i.e., Loi sur le conseil des relations interculturelles) which, like the Manitoba statute, established a ministerial advisory council. Four other statutes enacted during the second decade included the following: Nova Scotia's Multiculturalism Act in 1989; Alberta's Multiculturalism Ac in 1990; the Manitoba Multiculturalism Act in 1992; and British Columbia's Multiculturalism Act in 1993 (Leman 1999).

During the third decade, three of the statutes enacted during the previous two decades were repealed, reformed, or supplemented. In 1996 Alberta repealed its original multiculturalism statute just six years after it had been enacted. In so doing, the Alberta government decided not to enact another multiculturalism statute. Instead, it enmeshed two elements of the repealed statute, one noting that the province valued multiculturalism, and the other permitting the continuance of funding for educational multiculturalism programs and projects under the "Human Rights, Citizenship, and Multicultural Education Fund" (Alberta 2000). By repealing that act, the provincial government eliminated both the Multiculturalism Commission (MC) which managed the distribution of multicultural grants and provided advice to the minister, and the Multicultural Advisory Council (MAC) which provided advice to the Multiculturalism Commission. Evidently, Alberta's statute was repealed largely in an effort to achieve the goal of statutory and administrative consolidation that was part of Premier Ralph Klein's neo-conservative governance reform agenda, rather than a radical shift in the government's general orientation toward multiculturalism within the province (Leman 1999). The fact that it could repeal that act without much protestation attests both to the lack of attention devoted to the provincial multiculturalism statutory or policy framework in that province and possibly also to the importance that government, interest groups, and the general public attached to it.

In 1997 Saskatchewan repealed the Multiculturalism Act it had enacted in 1974 and modified slightly in 1978. Unlike Alberta, however, it replaced it with another statute titled An Act to Promote and Preserve Multiculturalism (Saskatchewan 1997). The amendment occurred after nearly five years of reviewing the statutory, policy, and organizational framework for multiculturalism in that province because some stakeholders felt that it was outdated (Saskatchewan 1995, 1996a, 1996b). The two major differences between Saskatchewan's statute of 1997 and the previous one are: first, that the former was modeled on the federal act of 1988 and placed a slightly greater emphasis on interculturalism rather than cultural promotion and preservation; and second, that the latter eliminated the provisions authorizing the minister responsible for multiculturalism to establish and appoint the Saskatchewan Multicultural Advisory Council (SMAC) as well as the process and criteria for funding programs and projects related to multiculturalism. The decision to eliminate the SMAC was part of a policy and organizational consolidation initiative in the cultural sector launched by the provincial government in the mid-1990s. That initiative ultimately led to the creation of a community-based, non-profit organizational entity known as SaskCulture Inc., consisting of a multiplicity of members from the six so-called "communities of interest" within the cultural sector (i.e., multiculturalism, heritage, cultural industries, arts, Indian Nations, and Metis Nation). Within SaskCulture Inc. exists the Multiculturalism Committee which, in collaboration with the community-based Multiculturalism Council of Saskatchewan consisting of approximately three dozen regional, unicultural and specialized organizations, is mandated to provide both advice and secretariat support to that organization on multiculturalism issues and initiatives (SaskCulture 2004). The decision of Saskatchewan's provincial government to eliminate SMAC coincided with the federal government's decision to eliminate the Canadian Multicultural Council. In both cases the decision seemed to be based on a belief that the advisory function was being performed by an array of community-based organizations, and there was no need to institutionalize a special ministerial advisory committee for that purpose.

Unlike Saskatchewan and Alberta which repealed their original multiculturalism statutes, Manitoba supplemented its statute in 2001 by enacting the Manitoba Ethnocultural Advisory and Advocacy Council Act which created a twenty-one-member ministerial advisory body consisting of sixteen members selected by ethnocultural organizations and five members appointed by the provincial government (Manitoba 2001). Manitoba's decision to establish such a council stands in stark contrast to the decisions of the Alberta, Saskatchewan, and federal governments to eliminate theirs. Clearly, there are differences among governments on their views regarding the substantive and symbolic importance of such councils.

The result of the evolution of multiculturalism or interculturalism policies during those three decades is that, as of 2004, nine provinces have promulgated such policies either in the form of statutes or policy statements. The only province without such an explicit policy either in the form of a statute or a policy statement is Newfoundland and Labrador. Of the nine provinces with such policies, five have only statutes which are devoted exclusively to multiculturalism or interculturalism (i.e., British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta, and Nova Scotia), two have both statutes and policy statements (i.e., Quebec and Ontario); and two have only policy statements (i.e., New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island).


There is a remarkable similarity among the various provincial multiculturalism and interculturalism policies in length, structure, and substance. The reason for this is that they are modeled both on the Canadian multiculturalism policy of 1971 and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988 (Canada 1971, 1988) and also on the original provincial policies. Most of those provincial policies are relatively short and contain provisions that deal with one or more of the following matters either explicitly or implicitly: policy goals, organizational mechanisms, the rights of cultural groups and their members, and resources for groups and organizations involved in advancing multiculturalism. Each of these is discussed in turn below.

Provisions on Policy Goals

All such statutes and policy statements contain provisions which articulate one or more of the following four categories of policy goals:

* Fostering awareness and appreciation regarding the multicultural (i.e., culturally diverse) nature of the province and the value of such diversity;

* Fostering cross-cultural understanding and social harmony within the province;

* Fostering participation by members of ethno-cultural groups in the economic, social, cultural, and political life of the province;

* Fostering the preservation, promotion, and sharing of cultural heritages.

Those four categories are comparable to those which have been articulated either explicitly or implicitly both in Canada's multiculturalism policy of 1971 and the Multiculturalism Act of 1988 (Jansen 2005; Canada 1971, 1988, 2004a).

The policy goal of fostering awareness and appreciation regarding the multicultural (i.e., culturally diverse) nature of the province and the value of such diversity is articulated either explicitly or implicitly in every provincial multiculturalism policy. It is articulated explicitly in the policies of all four Western provinces, and implicitly in the policies of Ontario, Quebec, and the three Maritime provinces. The policy goal of fostering cross-cultural understanding and social harmony is articulated explicitly in the policies of all provinces except Alberta, Ontario, and New Brunswick. The policy goal of fostering economic, social, cultural, and political participation is articulated explicitly in the policies of the four Western provinces and Quebec, and implicitly in the policies of Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.). The policy goal of fostering cultural preservation, promotion, and sharing is articulated explicitly in the provincial policies of Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and P.E.I., and implicitly in the provincial policies of British Columbia and Alberta.

Interestingly, several policies seek to allay concerns regarding the potentially deleterious effects of this particular goal on provincial identity and unity. In doing so they articulate what may be termed the "unity in diversity" issue. Notwithstanding the fact that such policies acknowledge the existence of a plurality of diverse cultures, they underscore the importance of the singularity and unity of the provincial community and provincial polity. This is underscored explicitly in the policies of Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec and implicitly in the policies of most, if not all, of the other provinces. Manitoba's policy states that "the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba believes that Manitoba's multicultural society is not a collection of many separate societies, divided by language and culture, but is a single society united by shared laws, values, aspirations, and responsibilities within which persons of various backgrounds have the;

* freedom and opportunity to express and foster their cultural heritage,

* freedom and opportunity to participate in the broader life of society; and

* responsibility to abide by and contribute to the laws and aspirations that unite society. (Manitoba 1992)

New Brunswick's policy states that its "policy on multiculturalism strives for a unity which does not deny or eradicate diversity, but which recognizes and transcends it," and that the province "wishes to affirm the legitimate place of diverse cultures and the cultural values inherent in them while, at the same time, encouraging a sense of how they are a part of New Brunswick society" (New Brunswick 1986). Ontario's policy states that one of the policy goals is "encouraging the sharing of cultural heritage while affirming those elements held in common" (Ontario 1990). Even Quebec's successive interculturalism policies have proclaimed the importance of developing cultural communities and ensuring the maintenance of their uniqueness, and the capitalization of their value (Quebec 1981, 1990, 2004).

Provisions on Organizational Mechanisms

Most of the provincial multiculturalism policies stipulate that the lead role and responsibility for multiculturalism and interculturalism rests with the designated minister for multiculturalism. Only Nova Scotia's policy stipulates that such a role and responsibility also rests with a cabinet committee. Generally, all such government ministers are to be supported by staff in departments responsible for other governmental functions. Manitoba's policy is the most explicit in this respect in that it calls for the creation of a secretariat within a department to deal with multiculturalism (Manitoba 1992). However, neither Manitoba's policy nor that of any other province requires the creation of a separate and distinct department to deal with multiculturalism matters.

All of the multiculturalism policies promulgated until the early 1990s contained provisions for the creation of distinct, stand-alone, ministerial advisory committees. However, two of the policies enacted thereafter (i.e., Alberta's and Saskatchewan's) eliminated any references to such committees. As a result of the changes to Alberta's and Saskatchewan's policies during the 1990s, only seven of the provincial policies contained provisions regarding the creation and functions of such ministerial advisory committees by 2004 (i.e., British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and P.E.I.). Although these committees, as well as those that had been abolished, were established to perform essentially the same function, the extent to which they have done so at any point in time has varied. Of these advisory bodies, Quebee's has been, and remains, the most institutionalized. It is a semi-autonomous body which was established by statute to perform both an advisory and research function for the Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities. The Intercultural Council is appointed by the minister and is served by a secretariat consisting of six administrators and researchers who are managed by the chair of the council (Quebec 2005). The council is very active and plays an important role in facilitating consultations and in providing research and advice related to intercultural matters in that province. By contrast, some of the other advisory councils are not very active; indeed, some are essentially moribund. For example, by 2004 P.E.I. did not even appoint members to its Ministerial Advisory Council, and the community-based Multiculturalism Council became almost completely inactive. Ironically, this occurred after an unprecedented unanimous endorsement of the multiculturalism policy by members of the provincial legislature in April 2002 in response to an MLA's intemperate comments regarding race relations a few days earlier (Prince Edward Island 2002).

Of the seven provincial policies that contain provisions regarding their respective ministerial advisory bodies, those of British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec stipulate their size and composition, and those of the three Maritime provinces do not. Thus size remains a matter of ministerial discretion. The range in the size of advisory councils is quite broad (i.e., Quebec, fifteen; British Columbia, seventeen; Manitoba, twenty-one; Ontario, sixty). In Ontario's case, the committee is organized along regional lines in an effort to ensure that there is representation from all regions. Although ultimately it is a minister or cabinet (e.g., Ontario and Nova Scotia) who appoints such members, in at least two jurisdictions, ethno-cultural and multicultural organizations have a role in the selection process. In Manitoba, for example, sixteen of the twenty-one members are selected by ethnocultural organizations, with the other five selected by the province. Similarly in P.E.I., two members of the Ministerial Advisory Council are selected by the community-based Multiculturalism Council. Although there are no criteria or conditions regarding such appointments in most policies, there is a reference in several to selecting persons who either work with, or are members of, associations dedicated to the advancement of multiculturalism or interculturalism. The chairpersons of such committees are generally appointed by a minister or by the cabinet, either entirely on their own or based on the recommendations of the committee (e.g., New Brunswick and P.E.I.).

Regardless of their precise configuration or composition, the major functions of such advisory bodies are to:

* review existing multiculturalism legislation, policies, and programs,

* review the activities of the provincial government or any of its agencies or local authorities which have an impact on multiculturalism,

* identify needs, concerns, and preferences of cultural groups,

* provide advice to the minister and the government as a whole regarding any issues related to multiculturalism, including funding for multiculturalism-related initiatives,

* assist in promoting multiculturalism, and

* produce an annual report outlining activities and recommendations.

The only other major types of organizational mechanism involved in the multiculturalism sector are provincially established or sanctioned bodies which provide a combination of financial management and advisory functions related to financial resources targeted for that sector. This includes Alberta's Human Rights and Citizenship Commission. In 1997 Alberta disbanded the Multiculturalism Commission which had performed that function from 1990 to 1997, and the Human Rights and Citizenship Commission became responsible for the disbursement of financial resources within the multicultural sector and for providing any advice related to such resources (Alberta 2000). Another example of this type of organization is SaskCulture Inc., a community-based, non-profit umbrella organization of cultural associations in the province. In 1997 it was mandated to perform a trustee function for the Culture Section of the Saskatchewan Lotteries Trust Fund for Sport, Culture, and Recreation. In performing those functions, it is assisted both by its own Multiculturalism Community of Interest Committee (MCIC) and by the community-based Multiculturalism Council of Saskatchewan which performs a secretariat function for the MCIC (SaskCulture 2004).

These two provinces decided that establishing organizational mechanisms to assist in the distribution of financial resources was more important than maintaining the traditional ministerial advisory councils which were mandated advice. One possible explanation for this is a belief that the type of advice previously provided by ministerial advisory councils can be provided by other community-based organizations interested in multiculturalism, interculturalism, immigration, and the integration of newcomers. These community-based organizations are established by the member organizations themselves rather than by the provincial government. It will be interesting to see whether other provinces will follow their example in the future.

Provisions on Rights and Benefits for Cultural Groups and Their Members

Provincial multiculturalism policies are not significantly different in the recognition and protection of rights for cultural groups and their members. None of the policies provides any cultural group or any members of such a group with special or unique rights. Even what appears prima facie to be a potentially significant substantive difference regarding the relationship between human rights and multiculturalism in Alberta as compared to other provinces is not so clear cut. The apparent difference exists because Alberta's multiculturalism policy is enmeshed with its human rights policy in its Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act, which contains substantial provisions regarding the protection of the rights of all Albertans, including members of various cultural groups. Although there is no denying that Alberta is unique in this respect, it is not significantly different than any of the other provinces in the extent to which it is committed to the protection of fights for members of cultural groups. The reason for this is that in other provinces such rights are protected in provincial legislation which establishes human rights commissions to deal with the rights of all individuals, including members of ethnocultural groups. The fundamental difference between Alberta and the other provinces, therefore, is essentially one of policy packaging and policy administration. Whereas in Alberta the human rights and multiculturalism policies are embodied in a single statute, in other provinces those two policies are dealt with in separate statutes or policy statements. Despite such differences, however, ultimately the rights of such groups and their members are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which has primacy over provincial statutes and policies except in cases where its "Notwithstanding Clause" is invoked by any provincial government in relation to some rights.

Some of the provincial policies contain provisions which address the issue of the limits of multiculturalism and interculturalism in terms of either the collective rights of ethnocultural groups or individual rights of members of such groups. They do so either explicitly or implicitly. Quebec's policy, for example, articulates such limits explicitly. According to Kymlicka, Quebec's "interculturalism" policy is explicit in noting that it operates within the following three important limits constituting "the bedrock of the 'moral contract' between Quebec and immigrants which specify the terms of integration," namely: "recognition of French as the language of public life; respect for liberal democratic values, including civil and political rights and equality of opportunity; and respect for pluralism, including openness to and tolerance of others' differences" (Kymlicka 1998). Comparable limits regarding language are contained in New Brunswick's policy which states that "New Brunswick's policy on multiculturalism recognizes the great value of cultural diversity set in the context of the province's official bilingualism status" (New Brunswick 1986). Similarly, Saskatchewan's policy states that the goal is to "promote the official languages of Canada and recognize the many different languages spoken in Saskatchewan" and "support the continued development and expression of all cultures within the framework of democratic principles and the laws of Canada" (Saskatchewan 1997). This particular provision is especially interesting in light of the emerging demands from members of some ethnocultural groups for the right or authority to apply their own religious laws in areas that fall within the scope of family law. These examples reveal that these provincial policies are very similar to the federal multiculturalism policy in terms of some of the limitations articulated therein. According to Kymlicka, such limits do not exist only in provincial policies; they also exist in the national policy, in that it

(a) works within the framework of official bilingualism, and insists that immigrants learn and accept English or French as the languages of public life in Canada,

(b) works within the constraints of respect for liberal democratic norms, including the Charter and the Human Rights Act, and insists on respect for individual rights and sexual equality, and

(c) encourages openness to, and interaction with, people of different origins, rather than promoting segregated and inward-looking ethnic ghettoes. (Kymlicka 1998)

Contrary to some misconceptions among those not familiar with provincial multiculturalism policies, none of the policies contain provisions which confer any direct financial benefits or any other type of benefits to any particular group or organization. More specifically, none of the policies contain a list of groups or organizations upon which such benefits either must or may be conferred. Instead, all of the policies contain general provisions which either explicitly or implicitly authorize a cabinet minister responsible for multiculturalism to support the efforts of such groups and organizations in advancing the goals of multiculturalism.


What has been the substantive and symbolic value of the multiculturalism policies promulgated during the past three decades? More specifically, what has been their substantive value in shaping or influencing government policies and program initiatives, and what has been their symbolic value in influencing perceptions of either the multicultural nature of a province or the government's strategies in dealing with that multicultural nature?

Provincial multiculturalism policies have performed three substantive functions. Their first, and arguably most important, function has been to provide a conceptualization, articulation, and promotion of both the multicultural diversity of their community and the multicultural ethos which resonates with the visions and values of their respective provincial communities. More specifically, they have allowed each provincial government to determine the precise way in which they want to portray and explain various matters related to the cultural configuration of their provincial community and the purposes, principles, and implementation of their policy. This is an important function in light of the federal government's national multiculturalism policy becausse it allows each province to articulate a provincial multiculturalism policy which may or may not be perfectly consonant with the national policy. The most notable example of this, of course, is Quebec's interculturalism policy.

Their second substantive function has been to provide legitimate governmental authority for establishing various components of the organizational, management, and financial framework needed to advance the goals of multiculturalism and interculturalism and to allocate financial resources. Regardless of their precise forms or provisions, all such policies have generally identified governmental and non-governmental organizations that performed management or advisory functions related to the formulation and implementation of multiculturalism policies and programs. As well, most, if not all, either explicitly or implicitly sanctioned the allocation of financial resources for multiculturalism programs.

Their third function has been to provide a legal, or at least a moral, imperative for governments to promote the multicultural ethos within the provincial community. The legal imperative has been much more pronounced in the case of multiculturalism and interculturalism policies embodied in statutes, because statutes have a more substantial legal standing in a court of law than do policy statements which are neither adopted nor ratified by the legislature. Ultimately, of course, the extent to which any policy creates a legal imperative depends on how governments interpret their legal obligations therein and how citizens and the courts constrain them to interpret those obligations. What is important to note in terms of creating a legal imperative is that most statutes tend to be permissive rather than prescriptive in terms of ministerial responsibilities related to multiculturalism. In outlining such responsibilities, various policies state that a particular minister either "is responsible" for performing the various functions or "may" perform such functions; the word "must" is generally not used in outlining ministerial responsibilities or functions. Consequently, the minister and the provincial government have considerable discretion both in what they do in relation to multiculturalism and interculturalism and in how they do it. Moreover, those who wish to challenge what they do and how they do it are not likely to find much of a legal basis in the statute. A more likely basis for any legal appeal is Section 27 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which states that in applying it to any policies or practices of the federal and provincial governments it "shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians." In this respect, it is noteworthy that the value of multiculturalism policies in advancing group rights is very limited. Such rights are protected by other statutory and constitutional documents such as the human rights and ombudsman acts, the Canadian Human Rights Act, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Collectively, such statutory and constitutional documents provide important safeguards for the rights of various ethnocultural groups and their members (Kymlicka 1998).

The symbolic value of the multiculturalism policies in all provinces except Quebec has also been relatively limited in that they have not been very significant in influencing public perceptions of either the multicultural nature of a province or the provincial government's strategies in dealing with that multicultural nature. Their limited value in this regard is evident in the fact that very few people are even aware that such policies exist. To determine whether this is so, one need only do three things: first, review the major daily newspapers in various provinces to see that there is little, if any, coverage of provincial multiculturalism policies in most provinces; second, review the extant academic literature on provincial multiculturalism policies to see that very little, if anything, is written on provincial multiculturalism policies; and third, ask people in provinces other than Quebec whether a provincial multiculturalism policy exists; the vast majority are likely to respond that they do not know. Further evidence of this is that very few people seem to attach much importance to the existence of such policies either within or outside the provincial community, likely because very few people know they exist. Generally, these are people who belong to organizations which constitute the multicultural policy community and policy networks therein. Most people only know about the national multiculturalism policy and would be surprised to know that their own provincial governments have had multiculturalism policies for the past thirty years. The major reason for this is that provincial multiculturalism policies have generally not been the focus of any significant public discourse or debate comparable to that which has surrounded the national multiculturalism policy. Even when something relatively major occurs (either in terms of changes in policy or in political dynamics), generally very little, if any, media attention is devoted to it, and very few people know what happens. The only exception to this is when politicians make disparaging remarks about, or question the value of, ethnocultural diversity or multicultural policies, as happened in Quebec after the referendum in the infamous speech by Premier Parizeau, or in the case of the MLA in Prince Edward Island who made some intemperate comments regarding race relations. Only at such times does media and public attention gravitate to the multiculturalism policies and programs of a province. For better or worse, it has generally been the federal multiculturalism policy which has captured the attention and imagination of most Canadians. That policy is usually the focus of their thinking whenever they wish to praise or criticize the value placed on multiculturalism or interculturalism within the country. The prominence of the federal policy has diminished the symbolic value of provincial policies.

Quebec may be an exception to most of the foregoing generalizations regarding the substantive and symbolic value of such policies because more attention is devoted to the existence, nature, and importance of its interculturalism policy in Quebec than in any of the other provinces (Piche 2002). Quebec's policy is an integral part of the provincial government's efforts to convince everyone that the "Quebecois nationalism," espoused by autonomists and sovereignists, accepts and accommodates cultural diversity. At a substantive level, pursuant to its interculturalism policy the Quebec government has established and resourced an extensive institutional and programmatic infrastructure devoted to interculturalism initiatives. At a symbolic level, the Quebec government's interculturalism policy is very valuable in reminding everyone that it recognizes and values both the existence of cultural diversity and harmonious social relations among various cultural groups in the province. Thus, the policy serves a symbolic function as a "safety valve" which the provincial government modulates as needed for various purposes, including fostering intercultural understanding and harmony. Both for the Quebec government and various non-governmental groups the interculturalism policy has served as an important appeasement for cultural communities concerned about the ramifications that the development of a francophone Quebecois nation existing either within or outside Canada would have on them. Ironically, this is comparable to the appeasement that led the federal government to enact its multiculturalism policy in 1971 as a counterweight to its bilingualism policy.

In summary, with the exception of Quebec's interculturalism policy, the substantive and symbolic value of the multiculturalism policies of other provinces has been relatively limited. This is not to suggest that they have been of no value. Although such policies were overshadowed by national multiculturalism policies, their past, present, and future importance in supplementing that policy should not be underestimated. They have provided some important policy supplementation to the federal policy which has helped attest to and reinforce the shared commitment which Canadians in all provinces have to the multicultural ethos. This is true even if the only ones who are aware of the policies are a select group of elected and appointed government officials and representatives of groups who are active within the multicultural policy community.


To reiterate, the objective of this article has been to examine the origins, evolution, content, and value of provincial multiculturalism policies. The objective in this concluding section is to provide a summary of the major findings regarding each of those aspects of the policies during the past three decades, some prognostications on the future of such policies, some suggestions for potential reforms to such policies, and some suggestions for further research related to such policies.

The major findings regarding multiculturalism policies from 1980 on can be summarized as follows. First, multiculturalism policies have been very prevalent. Indeed, all provinces except Newfoundland and Labrador have had some sort of policy in the form of a statute or a statement. Second, such policies have been the product of the same factors which shaped the national multiculturalism policies: the ethnic revival, minority rights, and cultural cosmopolitanism movements; and policy and political rationality. Third, only a few provinces have repealed or reformed their original policies. Fourth, some policies have been embodied in statutes, others in policy statements. Fifth, despite differences in their precise nature and scope, they are quite similar in terms of their provisions regarding their purposes, their policy goals, and the conferral of rights or benefits to any groups, but less so in their provisions regarding organizational mechanisms devoted to multiculturalism. Sixth, their substantive and symbolic value has been limited, but by no means insignificant.

There is little indication that there will be much change from the status quo in terms of either the number or the nature of multiculturalism policies. In no province is there a substantial and sustained movement for such change. Part of the reason for this is that, as noted previously, not many people know or care about the existing policies. Another reason is that some of what could be accomplished within the scope of revamped multiculturalism policies is being accomplished through what might be termed the "multiculturalization" or "interculturalization" of other provincial policies and programs. Although currently there is no movement toward repealing or reforming the existing multiculturalism policies, this could change if cultural diversity and race relations become more problematic and politically significant (Kymlicka 2005; Banting and Kymlicka 2005). If that occurs, greater attention will likely be devoted either to reinvigorating the existing policies or promulgating new ones. In both cases the objective will be to articulate more clearly the dual goals of interculturalism and cultural promotion and preservation, as well as the means by which to achieve them. The goal of interculturalism will be articulated primarily to acknowledge the importance of promoting anti-racism, social cohesion, and social harmony within the provinces. The goal of cultural promotion and preservation will likely be profiled primarily to acknowledge the value and importance of Aboriginal cultures. The goal of interculturalism will likely receive greater prominence because it seems to have greater resonance and support among the public than the promotion and preservation of various cultures. This is evident in the discourses on multiculturalism and interculturalism in Canada and in public opinion polls that probe elements of that discourse (Angus Reid Group 1999). Positive views on the ethos of interculturalism and cross-culturalism tend to be greater than they are for multiculturalism. This would be in keeping with the trend which has been evident in Quebec's interculturalism policy, in the federal government's multiculturalism policy of 1988, and in the policies of other provinces related to multiculturalism and the corresponding organizational mechanisms which were promulgated thereafter (e.g., Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia, and Manitoba). Both of these goals were also prominent in the process which led to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In subsequent years, they have also been very influential in shaping an array of provincial policies in various policy sectors.

In considering whether to repeal or reform their respective policies, it is imperative that provincial governments begin collaborating with other orders of government in producing a pan-Canadian policy framework designed to strengthen the multicultural ethos and advance the goals of multiculturalism. To facilitate such collaboration, they should institutionalize regular meetings of federal, provincial, territorial, municipal, and Aboriginal elected and appointed officials so that they can discuss the potential for intergovernmental coordination and co-operation in developing and implementing policies and programs related to multiculturalism and interculturalism (Canada 2004b). The involvement of the municipal government leaders is essential because much of the discourse, dynamics, and development regarding multiculturalism has been, and will continue to occur, at the municipal level. Many of the major municipalities have already realized this and have been very proactive in developing their own versions of multicultural policies which are labeled interculturalism, cultural diversity, and race relation policies (Poirier 2006). Similarly, the involvement of Aboriginal government officials is equally important because in most communities the Aboriginal presence is a significant component of diversity. Special efforts should be made in this regard to ensure that Aboriginal leaders see the value of participating in such meetings regarding multiculturalism policies which resonate with and serve their people. Also important in this respect is the involvement of the leaders of regional cultural and sub-cultural groups (such as the Acadians and Fransaskois) which exist across Canada. Involvement by Aboriginal governments and the recognition of these particular cultures and subcultures will contribute immensely to efforts being made to create a new consciousness that multiculturalism is for all Canadian citizens and permanent residents and not merely for immigrant-based ethnocultural groups.

This article provides the first relatively extensive comparative analysis of provincial multiculturalism policies during the past three decades. There are many things that remain to be examined regarding these particular policies. Of primary importance are the following: the precise factors that influenced the decisions of each provincial government regarding, among other things, enacting, reforming, or repealing any of the policies discussed in this paper; the actual multiculturalism programs and projects of each province; the funding targeted for such programs and projects; and the nature and adequacy of the organizational mechanisms devoted to advancing the goals of multiculturalism. Such research will provide governmental and non-governmental actors with a base of information needed to make future decisions regarding multiculturalism policies, programs, and projects. Such research is important because in the future, as in the past, multiculturalism will continue to be a central feature of the Canadian national and provincial communities (Biles, Tolley, and lbrahim 2005).


The author wishes to acknowledge the exceptional research assistance and insights provided by Max Shapiro in producing this article.


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(1.) Whereas other provinces have labeled their policies as "multiculturalism" policies, Quebec has intentionally labeled its policy as the "intercultural relations" policy. In this article the term "multiculturalism" will be used to refer to all such policies collectively, and the term "interculturalism" will be used when referring specifically to Quebec's policy. Whether Quebec's interculturalism policy is tantamount to a multiculturalism policy is a debatable point (Kymlicka 1998), but that is beyond the scope of this article.


Joseph Garcea is an associate professor in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Saskatchewan where he teaches courses in public policy, federalism, and local governance. He is leader of the citizenship research domain for the Prairie Centre of Excellence on Immigration and Integration, and an affiliate of the Canadian Immigrant Observatory in Low Immigrant-Populated Areas. The focus of his research and publications is on immigration, citizenship, and multiculturalism policies, local and multi-level governance, and Indian urban reserves.
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Author:Garcea, Joseph
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Date:Sep 22, 2006
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