June 27, 2018

Today Marks Canadian Multiculturalism Day!

Posted by Legal Team - Bellissimo Law Group PC

Today marks Canadian Multiculturalism Day, a day created in 2002 to celebrate “the contributions of Canada’s diverse people to Canadian society.”[1]

It is the official policy of the Government of Canada to “recognize and promote the understanding that multiculturalism is a fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage and identity and that it provides an invaluable resource in the shaping of Canada’s future”.[2]

Multiculturalism not only means that Canadians have roots in every country in the world, the Government of Canada’s multiculturalism webpage states that it is about “ensuring that all citizens keep their identities, take pride in their ancestry and have a sense of belonging.”[3]

According to the 2016 census, Canadian citizens by birth make up 77 percent of Canada’s population.[4] However, the contributions of immigrants to Canada is significant. As Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, recently said, “while immigrants represent approximately 20% of Canada’s population, they comprise 50% of all science, technology, engineering and math degrees… recent immigrants now surpass Canadians in self-employment and private business ownership.”[5]

Some Canadians only considered themselves Canadian after participating in a formal citizenship ceremony. In that way, the importance of these ceremonies cannot be understated. Three years ago, the Federal Court held that Ms. Zunera Ishaq could become a Canadian citizen without removing her niqab during the oath taking portion of a citizenship ceremony. The Court found that the sections of the policy found in section 6.5 of Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s CP 15: Guide to Citizenship Ceremonies that ordered would-be Canadian citizens to remove their full or partial face covering were unlawful.  Signing the “written oath or affirmation of citizenship form, rather than a visual confirmation of the candidate saying the oath” was sufficient proof that the oath had been taken in Honourable Justice Boswell’s view.[6] His judgment was upheld by the Federal Court of Appeal.[7]

Ms. Ishaq’s legal victory highlights just one of the many barriers that remain in multicultural Canada. As we ponder the meaning and consequences of multiculturalism, we should consider that Canada is home to people of all faiths and cultures, including indigenous people, migrants, and persons with various medical conditions and disabilities. We should consider how Canada can become a better home for those who are here and those to come.