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Celebrating Canadian Multiculturalism Day

multiculturalism dayCanadian 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 four-day celebration that began on June 21 with National Aboriginal Day, continued on June 24 with Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day (Quebec’s National Holiday), and will end on July 1 with Canada Day.

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
  • 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.

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 application 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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