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Multiculuralism: Practicing Respect and Tolerance

Canada is described as a ‘cultural mosaic’. It is a country where over 30 million inhabitants reflect a cultural, ethic and linguistic makeup found nowhere else on the planet.

Multiculturalism is fundamental to our belief as Canadians that all citizens are equal. Multiculturalism ensures that all citizens can keep their identities, can take pride in their ancestry and have a sense of belonging. Acceptance gives Canadians a feeling of security and self-confidence, making them more open to, and accepting of, diverse cultures. The Canadian experience has shown that multiculturalism encourages racial and ethnic harmony and cross-cultural understanding, and discourages ghettoization, hatred, discrimination and violence.

* Canada Heritage Multiculturalism website

The above information was taken from the Government of Canada’s Multiculturalism website. It describes a society that embraces cultural differences and diversity.

But is this true? Do all Canadians embrace and respect people of different cultural heritage? Do some Canadians feel discriminated against because of their culture, their beliefs, their traditions?

Does racism and intolerance exist in your community? Most definitely.

Many young people face harassment, intolerance and violence every day because they may have a different skin tone, talk differently, wear different clothing. Many are called names, harassed, bullied, attacked.... Yet we describe our country as a "cultural mosaic" embracing diversity in both policy and practice.

So-called ‘hyphenated’ Canadians (children born to Canadians of different cultures backgrounds ie. Chinese-Canadian, Filipino-Canadian) constantly face the question ‘Where are you from? Can you speak English?’.

But there is room for optimism as well. Youth across Canada have involved themselves in many anti-racist initiatives, showing leadership in the struggle for the elimination of racism and intolerance. Whether they are confronting racism, mounting anti-racist campaigns, reclaiming their heritage, entering a profession dominated by whites or achieving goals despite everyday and institutional racism, young people are transforming the panorama of race relations in this country.

Here are some ideas to help you develop a story on multiculturalism and tolerance:

1. Profile. What is racism? Give examples of racial behaviours. What are some ways to confront racism?

2. News/Opinion. What makes people insult others by labelling them, calling them names such as paki, nigger, wop, kook, chink, etc.). Is it fear of an unknown? Is it a need to feel in control, superior? Do a survey in your school.....what do other students/teachers feel about this?

3. Describe ways you and young people in your generation can help to change intolerance in our society? Anti-racism campaigns in your school/community? Standing up for someone you know is being treated unfairly.

4. Profile. Your story. Challenges you face as a ‘ ‘hyphenated’ Canadian. Conflicts between respecting the traditional values and practices of your family/culture and more modern Canadian perspectives and attitudes. Challenges facing you in the teen dating world, future career decisions, etc.

5. Entertainment. Look at some popular programs on Television popular with young people.

- What is the racial/ethnic mix on the show like?
- From which racial groups do the main characters come?
- If there are a variety of groups represented on the show, are they also represented in a variety of roles? Is there any inter-racial dating? Do you think these shows reflect reality?
- If yes, why is reality like this? If no, how are your visions of society affected by watching these shows? Especially young children.
- How would your self-image, self-esteem and self-empowerment be affected if you were one of the "missing" or misrepresented groups?

6. Profile someone in your community or someone you know - a parent, grandparent. Ask them about their heritage, their traditions, why they came to Canada, struggles they went through and what it means to them to be a Canadian citizen. A personal story about someone you know.

7. Entertainment: Music/Fashion/Art/Books in Canada are all influenced by our country’s diverse population. Tell us about Canadian artists/writers etc. that come from different backgrounds. Tell us about the different interests/tastes of youth from different backgrounds or even different regions of Canada. How are they different?


http://www.pch.gc.ca/multi Heritage Canada Multiculturalism website
http://www.pch.gc.ca/march-21-mars/ March 21st Stop Racism Day
http://www.cbc.ca/news/indepth/background/un_raceconference.html CBC Backgrounder on Racism
http://www.gnb.ca/hrc-cdp/e/sayno.htm New Brunswick ‘Say No to Racism' webpage
http://www.hri.ca/racism/humanrights/index.shtml UN Racism and Human Rights webpage
http://www.unac.org/yfar/index_e.htm Youth Forums Against Racism
http://www.kwmc.on.ca/resources/yarv/ Kitchener-Waterloo Youth Against Racism
http://understanding.takingitglobal.org/diversity Taking it Global: diversity
http://www.statcan.ca/start.html Statistics Canada
http://www.info-canada.com/ Info on immigration
http://www.schoolnet.ca/aboriginal/menu-e.html First Peoples SchoolNet Website
http://www.ayn.ca/ Aboriginal Youth Network
http://www.nlc-bnc.ca/caninfo/ecaninfo.htm National Library
http://www.citzine.ca/e/home/index.shtml Magazine for Canadian ‘on being Canadian'


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