May 21 is World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. Canada’s growth was, and is, driven by the diverse cultures that have come to call this country, home. Our multiculturalism and diversity are legally protected. This has given each of us an opportunity to learn and grow intellectually, emotionally, morally and spiritually. Accepting and recognizing that cultural diversity is conducive to dialogue among civilizations and cultures, respect and mutual understanding.
1. The Diversity of Cultural Expressions is More Important Than Ever
The United Nations reports that one-third of the world’s major conflicts have a cultural dimension to them. Cultural diversity promotes peace. This makes our society a more interesting place to live. Despite the emphasis on multiculturalism and social equality as public policy, people living in Canada are not always treated equally as illustrated in this Statistics Canada report. The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the varying experiences and perceptions of some of Canada’s diverse populations. In 2020, the number of police-reported hate crimes in Canada increased by 37%. As a result, a number of governmental and non-governmental initiatives have been developed for people to report hate crimes and non-criminal hate incidents online. The Province of British Columbia has launched the ResilienceBC Anti-Racism Network, a province-wide approach to identifying and challenging racism.
2. Multiculturalism Increases Innovation and Creativity
Different cultures bring alternative ways of looking at things and doing things. We get insights into food, languages, music, arts and literature, history, religion and more! In Canada, immigration improves trade between Canada and an immigrant’s country of origin. 35% of Canada’s Research Chairs are foreign-born. And, immigrants to Canada win proportionally more prestigious literary and performing arts according to this Burnaby Intercultural Planning Table report.
3. Multiculturalism Improves Business Development and Economic Growth
Skilled immigrants are a key source of information for Canadian companies in the global economy. Immigrants open doors to investment opportunities and help attract foreign investment to Canada. Bringing new education, work experience, and an understanding of a global business context is necessary to keep Canada competitive. According to this CIC News article, “immigrants who have recently landed or who will be landing in the near future are still poised for a bright future in the Canadian labour market.” With many governmental efforts to attract newcomers, this is good news for immigrants considering Canada as their home.
4. Multiculturalism Helps People See What They Have in Common
Many organizations in the Lower Mainland help newcomers and residents learn from each other and create a dialogue with each other. Here, at NewToBC, we have the Library Champions Project, a three-month volunteer program for new immigrants. The training helps newcomers realize the programs, services and resources available to them through libraries and immigrant and community service agencies to help them share this information with others. Participants find that regardless of country of origin, languages spoken or cultural norms, there is a commonality in shared experiences of being a newcomer to this country. So the differences fade into the background.
Multiculturalism was intended to preserve the cultural freedom of all individuals. Most importantly providing recognition of the cultural contributions from diverse ethnic groups to Canadian society. As we increase our immigrant populations, there is still much work to do to recognize the benefits and strengths these populations bring. On May 21, take a moment to celebrate the diverse country that we have chosen as our home.