Europeans began arriving in North America in 16th century or about 500 years ago. At that time, approximately 300,000 Aboriginal peoples were inhibiting this vast continent. It is estimated that they have lived in eastern part of Canada for approximately 10,000 years. Scandinavians, British and French were the first settlers in Canada and until 1840 there were no other Europeans exploring Canadian coast. First Chinese arrived in 1858. Then, there was a large wave of immigrants from Ukraine (starting from 1897). In between those years and after that period more than 100 different nations have arrived and settled on Canadian land.
Immigration is a vital component of the Canadian economy and national identify. There are very few countries in the world where immigration is associated with country’s ‘brand’: USA, Canada, Australia and New Zeeland. However, Canadian government is recognized as a global leader in developing innovative immigration policies and addressing multicultural issues at government policy level. In 1971 Canada become the first country in the world to adopt a Multiculturalism Policy. “The policy not only recognized the reality of pluralism in Canada, but seemed to reverse the earlier attempt to assimilate immigrants. It challenged all Canadians to accept cultural pluralism, while encouraging them to participate fully and equally in Canadian society.” (Canadian Studies, Mount Allison University, 1997)
Increasingly troubled English-French relations in Canada in mid 60s pushed for a different political approach. The bilingual framework that was proposed was a new model of citizens’ participation where parts fitted into a whole and therefore, reasons for assimilation were dropped (French are not required to learn English and can maintain their culture which is quite different from the rest of Canada). Ten years after, in l988, Bill C-93 was passed as the Canadian Multiculturalism Act.
What did it mean for Canada? Unlike American ‘melting pot’, Canada became a country that embraces cultural mosaic; where new immigrants do not need to fit it but are encouraged to maintain their culture, identity and heritage. Currently, there are a variety of government-funded initiatives and programs that support social inclusion of ethnic minorities and immigrants in Canada.