Immigrant Minorities under Canadian Multiculturalism

Published date01 January 2014
Date01 January 2014
AuthorInderjeet Mann
Subject MatterArticles
Immigrant Minorities
under Canadian
A Study of Sikh and
Muslim Communities,
Inderjeet Mann1
Canada has a growing and diverse immigrant population due to various immigrat ion
acts since the 1970s, and it has ever since remained in an ascending order.
Canadian immigration policy has been shaped by two principal imperatives:
demography and economics; felt-need to populate the vast empty geographical
expanse and/or need for young and preferably educated and skilled immigrants
to work the economy. In the period after the Second World War, economic
needs have largely determined official policy towards immigration. As Canada
is becoming an aging society, in the last several decades, both demography and
economics led to be liberalized the immigration policies. After 1970s, the huge
migration from non-European countries had heightened the ethno-cultural
diversity; it created numerous issues among immigrant groups and Canadian
mainstream society and its institutions, and prevailing state laws. First segment
of the article briefly highlights immigration history of Sikh and Muslim commu-
nities in Canada. Second explores the issues of Sikh and Muslim communities
in Canada under the state-sanctioned policy of multiculturalism. Third traces
the challenges to both specified groups in the aftermath of 9/11 events. Last
concludes all parts of study.
Sikh immigration, diversity, integration and discrimination
International Studies
51(1–4) 145–161
2017 Jawaharlal Nehru University
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/0020881717726851
1 Centre for Canadian, US and Latin American Studies (CCUSLAS), School of International Studies(SIS),
Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, India.
Corresponding author:
Inderjeet Mann, CCUSLAS, SIS, JNU, New Delhi, India.
146 International Studies 51(1–4)
Canada as a nation has emerged as a result of immigration from different parts of
the world but primarily from the Western world. Now, Canada has the largest
foreign-born population (20.6%) among the G8 countries, and this figure is
only second to Australia (26.8%) across the world (Statistics Canada, 2011b).
Compared with many other countries, Canada’s distinctive characteristic of large-
scale skill-based immigration and their integration based on multiculturalism
policy has been proved relatively successful in the Canadian public, which
promoted a general positive attitude towards mass immigration (Reitz, 2012).
Canadian multiculturalism policy is believed to serve as an important social cause
for such popular views. Multiculturalism was essentially the initiative of the
Canadian state to recognize and station various diversities in a fixed place in a
cultural hierarchy.
However, critics are unsparing when they argue that multiculturalism is nothing
but an elite response to manage diversity. That it does not encourage integration
rather it follows division, distancing and stationing of diverse ethnic groups in a
politico-cultural power hierarchy. By encouraging their isolation from each other,
state encourages divisiveness and even pitting one ethnic group against another,
and thus facilitates continued domination of the Anglophone Canadian political
elite. For example, Chinese and Indian groups are seen protesting against restrictive
immigration measures but separately.
Moreover, aftermath of 9/11 episode, Canadian multiculturalism policy has
constrained immigration friendly because of the operation and processing of security
priority. Over the 40 years that have passed since multiculturalism’s inception in
1971, this policy has fuelled ongoing debates among academics, politicians, media
and Canadian public, particularly on its role in promoting social justice and equity
for racialized and ethnic minorities. However, one of the critiques is that racial-
ized minorities have yet to be treated as ‘real’ Canadians or as equal partners with
the white-dominant group, although multiculturalism claims that all cultures in
Canada enjoy ‘equal’ status. Ever since its adoption in 1971, supporters and critics
of multiculturalism have debated its impact on the social, economic and political
integration of immigrants or ‘visible minorities’ and descendants. Supporters
argue that multiculturalism assists in the integration of immigrants or ‘visible
minorities’, removing barriers to their participation in every sphere of Canadian
life and making them feel more welcome in Canadian society, leading to a stronger
sense of belonging and pride in Canada.
Multiculturalism, as an ‘official’ policy in Canada, provides ‘limited’ and ‘rea-
sonable’ space to ethnic groups for preserving and maintaining their different
cultural heritages by exempting them from existing state laws. Multiculturalism
policy, particularly in Canada, goes something beyond to ‘individual rights’ which
are guaranteed in The Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982). Multicultural rights
in Canada are being provided to different ethno-cultural groups in kinds of
relaxations or exceptions those facilitate increase of the degree of their integration
in Canadian society. In fact, multicultural rights are ad hoc adjustments that aim
to boost up the level of integration.

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