Multiculturalism, as a term, first came into vogue in the 1960s to counter "biculturalism," a term popularized by the Royal Commission on BILINGUALISM AND BICULTURALISM. It has to a considerable extent replaced the term "cultural pluralism," although that term is still used in Québec. Its use has spread from Canada to many countries, notably Australia. The term is used in at least 3 senses: to refer to a society that is characterized by ethnic or cultural heterogeneity; to refer to an ideal of equality and mutual respect among a population's ethnic or cultural groups; and to refer to government policy proclaimed by the federal government in 1971 and subsequently by a number of provinces. When the Multiculturalism Policy of Canada was proclaimed in 1971, Canada became the first country in the world to officially implement a legislative framework for multiculturalism. In addition to formalizing a policy to protect and promote diversity within Canadian society, the policy addressed the rights of Aboriginal peoples and formally supported the use of Canada's 2 official languages.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) included multiculturalism as an important part of the Canadian identity, and multiculturalism was entrenched in the Charter which specifically recognized it as a Canadian value. In July 1988 the Conservative government passed the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, which formalized the government's multiculturalism policy "to recognize all Canadians as full and equal participants in Canadian society" by establishing legislation to protect ethnic, racial, linguistic and religious diversity within Canadian society.

With the advent of the British explorers in the 18th century, the gold rushes of the 19th century, and the settlement of the West in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Canada became one of the world's main immigrant-receiving societies, a position it retained through the 1920s and after the Second World War (seeIMMIGRATION; IMMIGRATION POLICY). Except in French Canada, ethnic and cultural groups were presumed to be assimilated by the English majority. This expectation was replaced first by the paradigm of the "melting-pot," ie, the creation of a new ethnic or cultural group out of the combined elements in the population, and then by the ideal of the "mosaic," ie, the collaboration of all ethnic and cultural groups, which would retain their distinctive characteristics within the society as a whole. The mosaic or VERTICAL MOSAIC was the precursor of multiculturalism.

It was only after the turbulent 1960s that the provincial and federal governments adopted explicit policies of multiculturalism, although, in the first decade, the federal government allotted these policies far less money than the policy of French-English bilingualism. Federally, there has been a minister responsible for multiculturalism since 1972, and the Canadian Multiculturalism Council and a Multiculturalism Directorate within the Department of the Secretary of State were established in 1973.

Government policies of multiculturalism have been viewed with hostility and suspicion by many. The policies were viewed by some French-Canadians as injurious to the French-Canadian position as one of the 2 linguistic communities of which Canada is composed; some scholars decried them as a means of buttressing Anglo-Saxon dominance by diverting the efforts of the non-French and the non-English from political and economic affairs into cultural activities and excluding other ethnic groups from power and influence. Advocates from ethnic groups viewed multiculturalism policies as unacceptable substitutes for aid and many considered the policies and programs to be bribes for "the ethnic vote."

Since the 1970s, multiculturalism has become part of Canadians' sense of identity and has evolved as a collective state of being known as "social cohesion." At times, hostility and suspicion toward multiculturalism resulted from ambiguities in policy statements and in the term multiculturalism; subtle but necessary distinctions between cultural and structural assimilation, culture and ethnic group were not always clearly communicated. Aspects of the multiculturalism policy have been misunderstood and were presumed to categorize or divide ethnic groups within mainstream society rather than, more accurately, describe them as cultural fractions that integrate to form Canadian society.

Multicultural policies in the 1970s did not meet the needs of all immigrants, especially with the increase of "visible minorities," and were more closely aligned with long-established ethnic groups of European background. Nonetheless, the introduction of the term and what has been called the multicultural movement called attention to important aspects of diversity within society and engendered political recognition and the need to expand government programs.

Many of the original programs, such as the Stop Racism campaign, were developed under the multiculturalism policy to address hate and bias in Canada, but more recently programs have shifted their focus to immigration issues and to the support of new arrivals including assistance with professional accreditation and access to employment. Multiculturalism programs have also recognized the historic significance of certain ethnic groups by developing educational initiatives such as those promoting awareness of the UNDERGROUND RAILROAD and Black History Month that were designed to educate Canadians about the BLACK community and its history in Canada.

Prime Minister TRUDEAU's declaration of Canada as a bilingual and multicultural nation resulted in an explosion of multicultural research, expanding the ethnic agenda. Publications and literature were developed, many national research surveys were launched, ethnic identity research escalated, and organizations were established to support diversity. Multiculturalism was celebrated as a new vision to expand the Canadian sense of identity and a global understanding of all ethnic communities.

Since 1871 the census has included a question regarding ethnicity and by 1901 the country of birth has also been recorded. Diversity, heterogeneity and multiculturalism have increasingly been recognized by Census Canada, when in the 1981 census they allowed multiple ethnic designations, which 1.2 million chose. In the seventies, white European heritage scholars studied their own ethnic identities and solidarity, and by the eighties this shifted to racial "visible minorities." In 1996 "Canadian" was included as an ethnic origin, and 10.2 million respondents reported multiple ethnic group heritages. By 2001 the census recorded more than 200 different ethnic origins, and at the beginning of the 21st century, the population of British, French, or Canadian ethnic origins had decreased to less than half the population. Migration has increasingly shifted from European countries to people from Middle and East Asia, increasing the number of different races, religions, languages and customs in Canada.

Originally it was assumed that ethnicity would be weakened by industrialization; instead globalization has weakened the nation-state. The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples, edited by P.R. Magocsi (1999), is a good example of the multicultural research in Canada; the compendium of essays distinguishes the point that individual ethnicity does not replace Canadian identity; instead it defines Canadians and their position in the world. In 2003, the Ethnic Diversity Survey, the most comprehensive portrait of the ethnic and cultural background of people in Canada and Canadian society that had ever been undertaken, was conducted by Statistics Canada and Canadian Heritage. The most recent census reported that almost a quarter of the population were born outside of Canada, and 70% of the foreign-born population reported a mother tongue other than English or French.

Culture is communicated in as many diverse expressions as the multiculturalism within Canada. Through languages, festivals, cultural practices and beliefs, music or art and food, cultural communities across Canada celebrate their heritage and unite through shared identity as Canadians. The Ethnic Diversity Survey found that more than half of all Canadians retained "a strong sense of belonging" to their ethnic or cultural group. In 2002, to recognize and celebrate the diversity of the population, the federal government proclaimed June 27 of each year as Canadian Multiculturalism Day.