June 27 is Canadian Multiculturalism Day. That’s right, fitting nicely on the calendar between National Indigenous Peoples Day (June 21) and Canada Day (July 1) is our day to celebrate the many varied cultures that make up our country. Recognition and promotion of multiculturalism is actually an explicit government policy here in Canada. In fact, Canada was apparently the first country in the world to make acceptance and promotion of multiculturalism an official policy back in 1971 (making this the 50th anniversary of multiculturalism policy in Canada). This policy commitment was further strengthened by the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1988.
While I’d like to focus on the positive multicultural aspects of Canadian society today, it goes without saying that not all peoples and cultural groups are treated equally here and some truly awful things happen to some Canadians because of their race or cultural identity or other aspect of who they are. As I write this, one of the top headlines on the CBC website is “Man with knife attacks sisters wearing hijabs outside Edmonton, RCMP say.” Police say the man yelled racial slurs at the two young women, who fortunately both seem to be recovering. Earlier this month in London, Ontario four members of a family were killed in a targeted attack, apparently because of their Muslim faith. Asian Canadians are also targets of discrimination and crime, especially since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to these recent incidents, this week evidence came to light of hundreds unmarked graves at the site a residential school, the second such discovery in recent weeks . As a country, we must do better recognize and deal with the crimes and injustices of the past and the present.
A step towards doing better as a society is simply to understand each other better and the experiences of different groups of people here in Canada. Here at VPL, we have a variety of books to help with that. Parents out there, we have some great children’s non-fiction books in our collection that celebrate Canada’s multicultural nature. First, we have the Indigenous Communities in Canada series of books, each of which focuses on a specific group, such as the Iroquois or Ojibwe. We also have a series of books called Immigration to Canada: Then and Now, each of which is about the experiences of people who immigrated to Canada from a particular place, such as Southeast Asia or the Middle East. For older children, there’s the excellent book Making Canada Home: How Immigrants Shaped This Country, which gives detailed accounts of the experiences of people from all over the world who immigrated here and how they helped create the Canada we know today.
Adults looking to learn more about different cultural groups here in Canada and about immigrant experiences may be interested in the following:
- Blanket Toss Under Midnight Sun: Portraits of Everyday Life in Eight Indigenous Communities
- Wherever I Find Myself: Stories by Canadian Immigrant Women
- Homes: A Refugee Story
For more books and other resources related to multicultural experiences in Canada, check out our Canadian Multicultural Day list on VPL’s online catalogue. Also, the City of Vaughan has collected a series of videos highlighting local creative and cultural organizations in recognition of Canadian Multicultural Day, so have a look there as well!