Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Multiculturalism Definition:

A doctrine of state policy of active encouragement and support of the co-existence of multiple cultures within a same territory.

Related Terms: Human Right, Pluralism, Interculturalism

The active government administrative and financial support to the preservation of disparate cultures and their disparate and even conflicting features, differences notwithstanding, as opposed to a passive government policy of toleration and protection of members of minority cultural groups.

For example, the 2011 Multiculturalism Act of Nova Scotia:

"... encouraging recognition and acceptance of multiculturalism as an inherent feature of a pluralistic society ...  without sacrificing their distinctive cultural and ethnic identities.... [E]ncouraging the continuation of a multicultural society as a mosaic of different ethnic groups and cultures."

The preamble of Canada's Federal multiculturalism statute:

"[P]ersons belonging to ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities shall not be denied the right to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion or to use their own language.... The Government of Canada ... is committed to a policy of multiculturalism designed to preserve and enhance the multicultural heritage of Canadians."

In some instances, albeit rare, multicultural laws have been used to displace the traditional and highly envied English-French bi-cultural history of Canada (itself, arguably, a multicultural relationship). For examples, some Muslim communities in Canada, rather than embrace Canadian ideals of gender-free human rights, seek to perpetuate ancient religious practises by requiring facial coverings upon girls and women alone, or imposing arranged marriages.

In February of 2011, British Prime Minister James Cameron said:

"Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream. We’ve failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values. So, when a white person holds objectionable views, racist views for instance, we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious frankly – frankly, even fearful – to stand up to them. The failure, for instance, of some to confront the horrors of forced marriage, the practice where some young girls are bullied and sometimes taken abroad to marry someone when they don’t want to ...."

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