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Celebrating Canadian Multiculturalism Day

Canadian Multiculturalism Day

Canadian Multiculturalism Day is celebrated on June 27 each year. According to the Government of Canada, Canadian Multiculturalism Day is an opportunity to celebrate the country’s diversity and its commitment to democracy, equality and mutual respect, and to appreciate the contributions of the various multicultural groups and communities to Canadian society.

Canadian Multiculturalism Day is part of Celebrate Canada, which is a celebration that also includes National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day (Quebec’s National Holiday) on June 24, and Canada Day on July 1.

Note: Canadian Multiculturalism Day is not recognized as a public (statutory) holiday in any of the Canadian jurisdictions.

Canada’s commitment to multiculturalism

The following are landmark events that showcase Canada’s commitment to multiculturalism:

  • 1947: Passage of the first ever Canadian Citizenship Act
  • 1960: Passage of the Canadian Bill of Rights
  • 1963: Establishment of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism
  • 1969: Book IV of the Bilingualism and Biculturalism Commission Report emphasizes the bilingual and multicultural nature of Canada. Also, introduction of the Official Languages Act.
  • 1971: Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy (Multiculturalism Policy of Canada). The Policy also confirmed the rights of Aboriginal peoples and the status of Canada’s two official languages.
  • 1977: Passage of the Canadian Human Rights Act
  • 1982: Adoption of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
  • 1984: Special Parliamentary Committee Report, Equality Now, calls for a Multiculturalism Act and establishment of a national research institute on multiculturalism and race relations issues.
  • 1986: Passage by Parliament of the Employment Equity Act
  • 1988: Passage of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act
  • 1996: Government establishes the Canadian Race Relations Foundation
  • 1997: Renewed Multiculturalism Program announced
  • 2002: Government of Canada, by Royal Proclamation, designated June 27 of each year as Canadian Multiculturalism Day.
  • 2015–16: The Government of Canada resettled 25,000 Syrian refugees between November 2015 and February 29, 2016. Canada’s commitment to resettling Syrian refugees to Canada continued into 2016. #WelcomeRefugees. On the 17th of May in 2016, the government announced the creation of the Office of Human Rights, Freedoms and Inclusion (OHRFI), which replaced the Office of Religious Freedom established in 2013 and was given an expanded mandate. The Government of Canada delivered a formal apology for the Komagata Maru incident in 1914, when 352 out of 376 passengers of the ship, primarily of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu origin, were refused entry to Canada because of the immigration policy of that era.
  • 2017: Some 49,775 people claimed asylum in Canada in 2017, including 20,593 who came in at irregular crossings, mostly in Quebec. About 300,000 landed in other immigrant categories. In March 2017, Motion M-103 on systemic racism and religious discrimination was passed by the House of Commons, and on the 8th of June in 2017, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage began a study on these subjects.
  • 2018: In February 2018, the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage published a report entitled Taking Action Against Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination Including Islamophobia.

All provincial governments have adopted some form of multiculturalism policy. At present, six of the 10 provinces – British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and Nova Scotia – have enacted multiculturalism legislation. Eight provinces – British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia – have created a multiculturalism advisory council that reports to the minister responsible for multiculturalism. In Nova Scotia, the legislation is implemented by both a Cabinet committee on multiculturalism and advisory councils. Ontario has an official multicultural policy and the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration is responsible for promoting social inclusion, civic and community engagement and recognition. The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador launched the province’s policy on multiculturalism in 2008 and the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills leads its implementation.

While the territorial governments do not have multiculturalism policies per se, they have human rights legislation that prohibits discrimination based on, among other things, race, colour, ancestry, ethnic origin, place of origin, creed or religion. In Whitehorse, the Multicultural Centre of the Yukon provides services to immigrants.

(Source: Library of Parliament > Research Publications Canadian Multiculturalism, Publication No. 2009-20-E

Diversity in the workplace

Canadian Multiculturalism Day gives employers the opportunity to reflect on how they can create an inclusive and supportive work environment. For instance, this can include modifying recruitment and hiring practices to reach a more diverse applicant pool. In order to do this, employers should consider reviewing their HR policies and practices to spot any barriers. This exercise will also give employers the opportunity to identify areas of improvement and revise their policies and practices accordingly.

Once employers have successfully overcome those barriers and improved on the diversification of their workforce, employers should then support and engage with those employees. This would consist of implementing the right workplace culture. In order to effectively accomplish this, employers should educated themselves on the employees’ cultural backgrounds, as well as learn their interests outside of the workplace. What helps advance workplace inclusion is building relationships with employees through increased understanding, education, knowledge and trust.

Employers should also be mindful of culturally significant events and holy days, and provide employees the time off so they can participate in such events and observe such days. In order to do this, employers may want to consider offering a float day to employees for them to use at their will for such events or days.

Interested in celebrating in your community?

To view events that are being held in your province or territory, visit the Government of Canada website here.

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Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B. Managing Editor

Managing Editor at First Reference Inc.
Yosie Saint-Cyr, LL.B., is a trained lawyer called to the Quebec bar in 1988 and is still a member in good standing. She practiced business, employment and labour law until 1999. For over 18 years, Yosie has been the Managing Editor of the following publications, Human Resources Advisor, Human Resources PolicyPro, HRinfodesk and Accessibility Standards PolicyPro from First Reference. Yosie is one of Canada’s best known and most respected HR authors, with an extensive background in employment and labour across the country. Read more
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