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Canada's past, present, and future: Identity and legislation

  • Canada's past, present, and future: Identity and legislation

The following blog post was written by Tahira Ebrahim, Centre Liaison Officer at the Centre for Excellence in Immigrant and Intercultural Advancement.  

June marked both National Aboriginal Day and Multiculturalism Day, and is also known as Pride Month. The month of June reflects the inherent dynamic and complex society within which we live and our multi-prismatic society. The freedoms, needs, and accommodations of various communities’ raises the almost clichéd question: At what point do your rights infringe on mine?   

Understanding the connections between these commemorative events can be confusing. The multicultural value of Canada is often recognized by noting that Canada was built by immigrants, and yet the peoples and communities of this land were, and continue to be, fully functioning at the time of European arrival.  

Can the honoring of Indigenous communities and nations in Canada coincide with the recognition of immigrant contributions to the same land?  The implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and the implementation of the 94 recommendations are steps towards unpacking our country’s discriminatory and racist past.  Although we cannot change the colonial history of Canada, continuing to share in the efforts to Indigenize our College are ways to support the success of our Indigenous communities within Canada. 

While our country, provinces, and cities continue to implement the 94 recommendations of the TRC, our communities are also struggling with an increase in volume from populist groups who are challenging the concept of multiculturalism within Canada.  With it, has come debate around particular freedoms, such as the freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of religion.  

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is premised with its first section, that no right is absolute. Rights are limited by “reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society” (Canadian Charter, 1982, s 1).  What’s more, freedoms, such as the freedom of speech, are also contained by parameters established by the Canadian Criminal Code, outlining when speech is deemed as hate speech, and therefore punishable in the eyes of the law. Interestingly, although the government continues to make amends for the injustices faced by our Indigenous communities, legislation such as the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, and in our case, the Alberta Multiculturalism Act and the Alberta Human Rights Act, have already established laws to protect non-Indigenous and non-Anglo-Saxon communities.  

Yet as we move forward as a country, there is a recognition that there is still work to be done, to recognize, affirm, and institutionalize the rights of additional identities. June 15 of this year, marked the passing of Bill C-16, which included gender identity and gender expression within the Canadian Human Rights Act as grounds to prohibit discrimination. Undoubtedly, this addition is a step to create a more inclusive Canadian society.  

Visit our photo gallery for pictures from our Multiculturalism Day event, which also took place on National Aboriginal Day, on June 21.  

Sources: Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, s 7, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act 1982 (UK), 1982, c11