Sen. Paul Yuzyk imagined multiculturalism as Canada’s contribution to the world

Good long read by Joanna Smith for Multiculturalism Day, with its focus on Yuzyk highlighting the early bipartisan basis for multiculturalism:

In 1963, newly elected Liberal prime minister Lester Pearson had launched the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism as a response to growing tensions between English-speaking Canada and Quebec, where nationalism was on the rise. Paul Yuzyk had been named a Progressive Conservative senator for Manitoba that year. In his maiden speech in the red chamber early in 1964, he balked at this notion of cultural dualism.

Indigenous people were on the land long before the French and the British arrived, he said, and it was immigrants from elsewhere in Europe, including Ukrainians, who answered the call to settle the western provinces.

Those who did not descend from either of the so-called founding nations — the people Yuzyk referred to as the “third element” in Canadian society — saw their share of the population more than double since the turn of the century, he told his colleagues.

Multiculturalism — or “unity in continuing diversity,” as he also called it — should be celebrated as part of what makes Canadians who they are, he argued, but also Canada what it is.

“This principle, in keeping with the democratic way, encourages citizens of all ethnic origins to make their best contributions to the development of a general Canadian culture as essential ingredients in the nation-building process,” he said.

***

In response to intense lobbying by Yuzyk, Ukrainian community and other groups, the commission dedicated the fourth volume of its report to the contributions of ethnic groups and recommended ways to foster and protect their cultural and linguistic development.

On October 8, 1971, Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau responded by unveiling his government’s new multiculturalism policy.

“Although there are two official languages, there is no official culture, nor does any ethnic group take precedence over any other,” Trudeau said in the House of Commons.

“It was just such a vindication and an acceptance of the reality in Canada,” said Vera Yuzyk.

The focus on multiculturalism was happening as Canada was also opening its borders to a greater diversity of immigrants. In 1967, it became the first country in the world to introduce a points-based system that linked permanent residency to the ability to contribute to Canada.

The doors would open wider still a few years later, allowing for more immigration based on family reunification and refugees, boosting the number of newcomers from non-European countries.

Source: Sen. Paul Yuzyk imagined multiculturalism as Canada’s contribution to the world | National Post

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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