Canada has had a long history marked by changing demographics and diverse cultures. Since 1981, the country’s demographic trends have changed dramatically, from predominantly native residents to the addition of immigrants to the new cosmopolitan state. According to a population census conducted in 2006, the visible minority, which included people from India, China, and Pakistan, accounted for over 26% of the population. In terms of language, around one million Canadians speak Chinese, a rise of 18% since 2001. Approximately 59 percent of the population lives in metropolitan urban centers, as one might expect. The changes in the demographics as a result of globalization, pose a challenge to the ideology of Canadian identity.
Canadian identity has been a questionable aspect for a long period. It can either be described regarding multiple cultures, colonial history, different immigrant composition or proximity to a domineering and powerful country. Identity refers to the distinct character belonging either to a specific individual or common to a particular social group or category. Social identity refers to the identification accorded to an individual as a result of another social actor (Kingsford 45).The specific aspects form the foundation for the criteria for membership within a social group. It is, therefore, a multi-faceted ideology that permits the choice of identity concerning a variety of aspects including gender, occupation, religion, origin, and culture. In the year, 1972, the CBC Radio program titled ‘This Country in the Morning’ held a contest of expressing the Canadian identity. The winning entry was given Heather Scott, a 17-year old student. She said she was as Canadian as possible; An inspiring answer which became a memorable quote in media articles and programs since.
The Canadian identity has been described by many scholars as aboriginal. Aboriginal identity refers to different groups of people whose interests vary according to the socio-political, demographic, cultural and economic dimensions. They are not composed of a uniform, single-minded entity; however, they have different origins. Canada as a country is composed of major groups such as Inuit, Indians, and Metis which are further divided into subgroups including Red River Métis, Nunavut, Western Métis, Cree, Inuvialuit, Cree, Ojibwa, and much more. Multiculturalism identity in Canada was enforced by the enactment of the multicultural policy Act in 1988.The policy aims at promoting equity in all the cultural groups. It helps protect the cultural identity and heritage of the Canadians.
According to Letourneau’s article “Reconstructing Canadian Identity “.The current government’s decision to restoring symbols and emblematic figures of monarchy is received with mixed reactions. The president Mr. Harper is applauded at the same time criticized by the citizens. Some scholars like Trudeau concur with the government citing loss of Canada’s historical roots and heritage and undermining of Quebec nationalism (Jeffers 109). Whereas others criticize the move as a political approach to state branding.
It is evident that the identity of Canada as a country is affected by the cultural, political and social framework. The foundations of Canada’s multiculturalism policy are complex. The effort to attain a balance between conflicting liberal and common values, into-operating those associated with the rights of citizens, against the rights of groups is complicated. Therefore the main aim of this dissertation is to explore the elements of Canadian national identity as a multi-cultured nation.
Socio-cultural and political context of Canadian national identity
The culture of Canada embodies elements such as artistic, literary, musical, humor, and culinary. These elements are the true representations of the Canadians. Throughout history, the culture of Canada has been influenced by the traditions and cultures of the two European Nations, French and British. However, there were some cases of indigenous cultures, which also played a role in mainstreaming the culture Canada. Furthermore, the Canadians have learned to adopt the American Culture because of the migration between the two nations, proximity to one another, television, and shared the language (Norcliffe 98).
Over the years, Canada has always be described as a diverse, progressive, and multicultural nation. Its federal government has been the initiator of the multicultural ideology because it emphasizes on the nation’s social importance. Moreover, Canada draws its culture from the policies and the wide range of constituent nationalities, with the aim of promoting a society that is constitutionally protected. Canada identifies its culture with various institutions such as National park system, health care, CCRF (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms), and military peacekeeping. In that case, the government of Canada has managed to influence its culture with institutions, programs, and law as well. Various corporations have been crowned to promote Canada Culture through media entities, including NFB (National Film Board) and CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation). These two media entities promote events and programs, which are the true definition of Canada traditions (Matthews 49). The government has also been working hard to protect the cultural identity of Canada. It has managed to set up legal minimums, which define the cultural content of Canada. The bodies, which implements these legal minimums include bodies such as CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission).
The political element of the Canada national identity emphasizes on regional autonomy, personal liberty, freedom of religion, and constitutional law. Most of these ideas were stemmed out from the North America government laws, English civic traditions, French civil law traditions, and British common law. After all, the stated goals of Canadian Government include good government, peace, and order. The political system of Canada also has the element of traditional liberalism. The rights of people in Canada have risen to be legal and political importance. This has been demonstrated through bodies such as CRF (Charter of Rights and Freedoms). Even though the political system promotes enormous freedom in Canada, people are also encouraged to have a sense of collective responsibility, as it will help with the general support for foreign aid, gun control, and universal health care (Samuels 56). Furthermore, the political cleavage or identity of Canada is analyzed based on positions such as the economy, diversity, federal, provincial relations, and religion. When it comes to economy cleavage, the Liberal Party of Canada stood for the British classical liberalism in the late 19th century. The primary agenda was to support freed trade and conservatives, which later brought up the issue of protectionism. However, in 1990, the liberals shifted their agenda to a position that promotes trade and economy and not issues relating to conservativeness as such.
Regarding diversity, which includes multiculturalism and bilingualism, conservatives have been considered to be the majority. This has reduced the scope for actual bilingualism and thus promoting more assimilationist approach amongst the Native people and immigrants. Similarly, the liberals have become more pluralistic, and they have enjoyed the government support for the cultures of the minority group. On the other hand, bilingualism supports the Canada view as a state that consists of two different societies, which include Quebec and English Canada. However, the latter advocates for the protection of the culture and French language that exists in Quebec. Still, bilingualism diversity does not advocate for the issues that affect the minorities in the larger part of Canada Country.
In conclusion, Canada is a nation whose identity is defined by the social-cultural and political elements. Canada is a country has many cultural practices and political influences. Its demographic patterns have never remained constant and have changed notably since 1981. Apart from the Native people and original inhabitants, Canada has become a cosmopolitan state, which accepts immigrants from the entire world. Even the recent population census indicates that the percentage of the minority group was more than 26%. In that case, the social, political, and social bodies of Canada calls for everybody to adhere to the standards for social responsibility. Whether you belong to the minority or majority group, Canadian people believe in National identity, which can only achieve by recognizing political, social, and cultural elements. However, challenges exist because political culture requires people to have collective values, attitude, and opinions. People have different needs and satisfaction, which cannot be measured socially, politically, or culturally. The question of adequately representing the feelings of both the minority and majority is always at bay.
Kingsford, William. The History of Canada. Toronto: Rowsell & Hutchison, 1980. Print.
Jeffers, J F. History of Canada. Toronto: Canada Pub. Co, 1986. Print.
Samuels, Raymond. National Identity in Canada and Cosmopolitan Community: The Cultural Context and Political Legacy of Former Prime Minister John Turner As the Last Great Liberal Champion of Canada. Ottawa: Agora Pub. Consortium, 2003. Print.
Matthews, Geoffrey J, and R L. Gentilcore. Historical Atlas of Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993. Internet resource.
Norcliffe, G B, and Paul Simpson-Housley. A Few Acres of Snow: Literary and Artistic Images of Canada. Toronto [Ont.: Dundurn Press, 1992. Internet resource.