Cultural Diversity in Canada: The Social Construction of Racial Difference

1. Introduction

Recent public discourse has used the term “cultural diversity” to refer to the apparent growth of non-white population, other than the aboriginal people, in Canadian society. Underlying the popularity of the term “diversity” is a rising public awareness towards differences of people, which may be imagined or real, based on superficial distinctions such as skin colour and other features. The sensitivity towards racial differences has partly to do with a widely held belief that immigration since the late 1960s has altered the cultural mix of Canadians, and that the increase in diversity has caused, among other things, tensions and adjustments in Canadian society. Such a popular view is not entirely groundless, although many features are distorted or exaggerated. The purpose of this paper is to clarify the facts of diversity and to explain how racial differences in Canadian society have been produced and constructed, with the view of shedding light on policy options for the future.

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