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Democracy and Diversity

Exclusion and National Identity

"There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship"
- Ralph Nader

"Civilizations should be measures by the degree of
diversity attained and the degree of unity retained."
- W.H. Auden

When you think of a Canadian, what do you imagine? What does a Canadian look like? Where are Canadians born? And what values, likes and behaviours would you describe as being Canadian? Every country has a national identity. This identity is an image of how the majority of the people in a country seem themselves. A national identity helps to promote a sense of social cohesion by making the citizens feel like they belong to the country and it represents whom they are. But what happens when some people do not feel like they are part of the national identity?

The point of this section is to explore what groups may f eel excluded from the Canadian national identity as well as what strategies can be employed to help broaden the idea of what and who can be Canadian. Although various groups have been excluded from the Canadian identity, this section focuses on those who have been left out or ignored because of their ethnicity, colour, or religion. However, many of the springboards can be used to explore the issue of exclusion on other basis such as ability, age and socio-economic standing.

Multiculturalism in Canada: Who Can be a Canadian?

One of the key characteristics of Canada is the fact that we are a multicultural country. This means that the Canadian society consists of Aboriginal Peoples and people from all over the world. Canada is often seen as the model for cultural diversity and for good reason. In 1971, Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy. Today, the Canadian government oversees the policy through the Department of Canadian Heritage As a recent Federal Government report noted

Canada's experience with diversity distinguishes it from most other countries. Our 30 million inhabitants reflect a cultural, ethnic and linguistic makeup found nowhere else on earth. Approximately 200,000 immigrants a year from all parts of the globe continue to choose Canada, drawn by its quality of life and its reputation as an open, peaceful and caring society that welcomes newcomers and values diversity
         

Although multiculturalism only became an official policy a few decades ago, "diversity has been a fundamental characteristic of Canada since its beginnings. At the time of European settlement there were more than 56 Aboriginal nations speaking more than 30 languages" (Ibid).

Today Canadians come from all over the world. People who are born in Canada are automatically Canadian citizens. However, thousands of people born elsewhere also immigrate or move to Canada and become citizens by successfully completing the citizenship test. Try the test:

Exclusion: /k"sklu:d/ verb (-ding) 1 shut out, leave out. 2 make impossible, preclude. Exclusion noun

."I speak of a Canada where men and women of Aboriginal ancestry,
of French and British heritage, of the diverse cultures of the world
demonstrate the will to share this land in peace, in justice, and
with mutual respect."


Pierre Elliott Trudeau,

Former Prime Minister of Canada, 1982

It may be difficult to believe that in a country as multicultural as Canada certain groups may feel excluded. As the above quote by the late Pierre Trudeau notes, Canadian multiculturalism and democracy go hand in hand. Both concepts advocate each individual's right to be part of the greater society. When this right is denied, an act of exclusion occurs. The concept of exclusion is important to discuss because it stands in opposition to democracy and multiculturalism and undermines the ideals of both. This; however, has been and continues to be the case. The springboards can provide you with both information and ideas about exclusion.

Suggestions for Teachers

 

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Last Updated: 29-Mar-2004