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March 1994, Volume 1, Number 2

Multiculturalism under Fire in Canada

Canada's 1988 Multiculturalism Act was attacked in the House of Commons after the government issued its fifth annual report on activities supported under the act. In 1993-94, the Multiculturalism Department made grants totaling C$ 25.5 million, half of which is spent on programs that reach all Canadians, one-fourth of which is spent to combat racism (including the annual March 21 anti-racism day), and one-fourth is spent to support ethnic artists and ethnic studies. Multiculturalism was the policy that emerged from a 1971 Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism.

Several Reform MP's demanded that the Multiculturalism Department be abolished. The grants it currently makes to ethnic groups, they argue, tend to "ghettoize ethnic minorities," and promote group differences rather than pride in being Canadian. During the Fall 1993 campaign, Reform Party leader Preston Manning called for cutting immigration from 250,000 to 150,000 annually, and end to federal spending on multicultural activities. Bloc Quebecois MPs opposed multiculturalisms because, they asserted, the government's policy ignores Quebec's distinctiveness.

The government responded that diversity does not have to lead to division, that newcomers have a right to live in ethnic enclaves, and that multiculturalism strengthens Canada's economy by forging new international trade links.

Multiculturalism is an especially contentious issue in Toronto, whose almost 4 million residents are 60 percent non-English or French (31 percent of Canada's 27.3 million people in 1991 had neither English or French roots). Canada's 4.3 million foreign-born residents, 16 percent of the population, are concentrated in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

"MPs attack multiculturalism" Toronto Star, February 8, 1994;