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Canadian multicultural experiment turns 36

Apr 02,2007
Canadian Ambassador H.E. Marius Grinius Provided by the Canadian Embassy
Canada, the first country in the world to officially implement multiculturalism as a national policy, celebrated its diverse makeup late last week at Ewha Womans University. The Canadian Embassy and the Quebec Office in Seoul promoted the philosophies of multiculturalism and bilingualism at their French-Canadian Cultural Festival, which was held in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Ewha’s Department of French Language. Canadian Francophone films and literature were showcased, and Canadian Ambassador H. E. Marius Grinius was on hand to deliver a speech on the history of the groundbreaking Canadian bilingual and multicultural experiments.
He opened with a discussion of how English and French came to co-exist in Canada.
“The longest-standing test of Canada’s capacity to balance unity and diversity is the challenge of linguistic duality,” he began.
The origins of modern-day Canada spawn from the clashes between France and Great Britain as they vied for control of North America in the 17th and 18th centuries. Apparently unsatisfied with their many centuries of warfare in the European arena and less than concerned with the land claims of the aboriginals who already inhabited the continent, the two countries continued their age-old rivalry in what was then known as the New World.
This culminated in Britain’s defeat of the French in the Seven Years’ War, and the two reaching a peace agreement in 1763.
“The stage was set for a century of debates and tensions that resulted in the creation of the Canadian Confederation in 1867,” said Grinius.
The Quebec Act of 1774 saw both languages gain official status in the Canadian legal system, and with the July 1, 1867 Confederation, Canada’s “birthday,” French and English “were accorded official, constitutional status,” the ambassador said.
Quebec, which is the largest of Canada’s 10 provinces, maintains a population that is 85.8 percent French-speaking.
The province has been a source of strife within the country, with ongoing campaigns to separate from Canada gaining and losing strength, depending on the current political climate. The separation movement seems to be in a downturn of late, with 58 percent of respondents to an Angus Reid poll seeing the results of recent elections in the province to be good news for the country as a whole.
Within Quebec, a stronghold of English speakers is clustered around Montreal, Canada’s second-biggest city after Toronto. Outside the province, “English-speaking Canadians make up 94 percent of the population of the combined provinces and territories other than Quebec,” the ambassador said, making English the most-spoken language in the vast but sparsely populated country.
However, “the bilingual character of Canada is a fundamental part of [Canadians’] national identity,” said Grinius, noting that each language enjoys equal importance in all Canadian governmental institutions. “Both English and French communities exist in every province and territory of Canada,” he added.
Ambassador Grinius then embarked on a summation of the so-called “mosaic” multicultural system in Canada, which allows citizens to maintain their cultural, religious and racial heritage, while at the same time being Canadian.
“More than 200 ethnic origins are represented in Canada,” according to the ambassador, and “immigration now accounts for more than 50 percent of Canada’s population growth.”
Around 200,000 Koreans live in Canada, he said. Chinese are the largest minority, making up 2.8 percent of the population.
While multicultural societies face many challenges arising from conflicting values and customs, the multicultural system, which began in Canada in 1971 and spread rapidly to Western Europe, can be seen as a pressure gauge with which to monitor whether the wide range of cultures of the world can, in an increasingly polarized world, live peacefully together.


By Richard Scott-Ashe Contributing Writer [richard@joongang.co.kr]



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