This content is also available in: Vietnamese
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n Canada, there are immigrants from almost every country in the world. In the 2013 Canadian government’s “Facts and Figures,” over 177 diverse countries were identified as the Country Source of immigrants in Canada. Globally, there are a total of 195 countries, meaning 91% of all countries are represented in Canada. Currently, it is reported that there are 157,450 Vietnamese immigrants living in Canada.
[pull_quote_right]According to Canada Immigration Program (October 2004), Canada has the highest per capita immigration rate in the world. A 2013 study, which surveyed approximately 3 million individuals, revealed that “Canada is home to 6.8 million foreign-born residents or, 20.6 per cent of the population… and the highest in the G8 group of rich countries.” In 2011, the National Household Survey (NHS) identified that most of these people migrated from mid-east Asia.[/pull_quote_right]
Canada’s multi-ethnic population has been recognized by many great leaders around the globe. Former US President Bill Clinton has been quoted saying, “In a world darkened by ethnic conflicts that tear nations apart, Canada stands as a model of how people of different cultures can live and work together in peace, prosperity, and mutual respect.” A multicultural society or a country known for its “tossed salad” culture is what differentiates Canada from the rest of the world.
But did Canada always embrace immigrants with open arms? It may be of surprise to some to learn that prior to World War II, Canada was not as inviting to newcomers as it is today. In the early 1900s, Canada was a British colony struggling to carve out its own identity. Up until the post-World War II era, Canada was known as “a rock of British imperial certainty in the new world” according to the Encyclopedia of Canada’s People. The attitude of Canadian “gatekeepers” at this time communicated that new Canadians would be better off to adapt to the British ways for the betterment of themselves and their families. Pre-World War II Canada was a remote country in the new world with Britain’s stamp embossed upon it.
It wasn’t until after World War II that Canada separated itself from Britain and began to re-evaluate its identity, turning its attention towards those interested in resettling in Canada. Returning back from World War II, Canadians were surprised to find economic growth and opportunity in the major Urban Industrial sector. This economic opportunity quickly resulted in a need for additional labour resources and therein was the problem. The previous immigration restrictions prohibited the assembly of such a workforce. Upon this assessment, the solution was clear: immigration restrictions were to be pushed aside and newcomers were looked upon with kinder favour. Thus began a new Canadian attitude, one of which welcomed new citizens from all over the globe who were looking for new opportunities.
It was the province of Saskatchewan that pioneered the enactment of the Bill of Rights in 1947 – a legislation that went beyond guaranteeing the freedom of expression, association and religion. The following year, Canada signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other provinces followed soon after – officially making Canada a multi-cultural and friendly country.
In 1967, the last racially discriminatory barriers to immigration were removed. Upon this, the majority of newcomers shifted from those of Southern and Western European descent, to a largely Asian and Caribbean populous. Prior to this change, there were only a few small communities of visible minorities.
Violent catalysts such as World War II and the fall of Saigon spawned immense emigration to Canada as hundreds of thousands of refugees sought sanctuary from their war-ridden countries. From 1975-1991, nearly 100,000 Vietnamese people journeyed long distances and endured undesirable circumstances to reach Canada, a country they would eventually call home.
In 2002, the date June 29th was declared “Canadian Multicultural Day” by the Government of Canada. This day has been chosen to celebrate multiculturalism and to appreciate the contributions of the various multicultural groups and communities which sew the fabric of Canadian modern society.