How did Canada become so multicultural? This answer has its roots in the 17th century where both French and English colonies settled in Canada, and continued through the next centuries. With the Revolutionary War in the US, many who were loyal to England fled the US for fear of being on the wrong side. As things settled, immigrants from Europe looked at Canada as a safe haven to get away from the overcrowding, poverty, disease, taxes, the banking system, and religious intolerance, to start a new life.
Although Canada was quite open to immigration, it was far from prejudicial freedom, as we can see from the treatment of first nations inhabitants, as well as other newcomers used to build the trans-Canada railway. However with the fur trades of the 18th & 19 centuries, interactions with aboriginals increased, and they began to intermarry (the Metis).
In 1812, the US invaded Canada in an attempt to take over the country, but with the support of England, the eventually repelled them off. This is when the forts along the St Lawrence were built.
As conflict arose in the 1830’s between the French & English colonies, England began encouraging more settlement in Canada, and eventually the English overpowered the French. However the French were allowed to maintain their culture & language.
As the American Civil War broke out (1860-1865), many slaves escaped to Canada (who had already abolished slavery), with the support of great Canadians like Laura Secord.
By 1867, the BNA act amalgamated 4 provinces (Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick , Nova Scotia), into a confederation, and in 1897 had its first Prime Minister Sir Wilfred Laurier.
In the years following, Canada experienced two new waves of immigrants with masses of Jews, Poles, Ukrainians and Asians recruited to work on farms & fisheries, and in mines & factories. The second wave hit with immigrants looking to escape the two World Wars (I &II), and the devastation left in Europe.
With its centennial year in 1967, Canada was made a nation separate from England with its own flag, and began to open its doors wider to immigration. This gave way to visible minorities from China, India, Southease Asia, and the Carribbean.
In 1971 the P.M. Pierre Elliot Trudeau made Canada the first country in the world to develop a Multiculturalism Platform, adopting the two official national languages of French & English, and in 1988, Ottawa passed the Multicultural Act which was meant to ensure that all individuals of various cultures receive equal treatment from the government, to promote & respect diversity in Canada.
The Employment Equity Act of 1995 required all employers in Canada to hire a percentage of their staff from the groups containing: women, disabled persons, Aboriginals and other visible minorities. This gave place to immigrants to obtain jobs that appeared previously restricted, such as the RCMP, police, and military.
Today in Canada, multiculturalism is honoured in many ways, such as with festivals like the Quebec Winter Fair, Caribana, The International Film Festival, the CNE, and Multiculturalism Day on June 27.
Throughout its history, its clearly evident that Canada has taken great strides in ensuring all cultures, visible minorities and ethnicities feel welcome in this country that is celebrated globally as a the most peaceful, friendly, multicultural nation in the world today.