By Tom Godfrey
Many of us would not be here today and the face of Canada would be different if it was not for the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau who introduced our multiculturalism policy almost 45 years ago today.
Our official multiculturalism policy that changed the cultural makeup of this country was made into law in October 1971. It was intended to preserve the cultural freedom of all individuals and provide recognition of the cultural contributions of diverse ethnic groups to Canadian society.
The policy set the tone and changed the face of Toronto and Canada over the last four decades. It helped us to win a Nansen Refugee Award in 1986 that was presented by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. It also helped us to become an envy of the world with people from 140 countries resettling here.
The policy came about as the Trudeau Liberals was seeking to expand its voting base. It first began as a recommendation from a 1963 Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism that was trying to develop an equal partnership between British and French.
The commissioners, as an afterthought, were instructed to consider the cultural contributions of the many other ethnic groups that made up Canada. They soon had the votes of the visible minority communities in the fold.
That tradition continues today with Justin Trudeau, now Prime Minister, plowing ahead just after being elected to successfully resettle about 25,000 Syrian refugees in Canada.
We cannot ignore that back then Canada had a population of just over 14 million people, according to a 1951 Census. About 14.7 per cent of the immigrants were female and almost half were from the United Kingdom. Some 13.7 per cent of the newcomers were from the U.S., 9 per cent from the former USSR and 8 per cent from Ireland, the census showed.
The census indicated that in the early 1950s there were about 18,020 “negroes” reported in Canada and that 97 per cent of the population was of European origin.
It led to Pierre Trudeau loosening up federal immigration laws so immigrants from the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and South and Central America could easily migrate to Canada and sponsor their relatives.
Today Toronto has become one of the most multicultural cities in the world and according a Statistics Canada 2006 census, some 49.9 per cent of our population are now foreign born. The most common reported ethnic origins of Toronto residents are those from England, that makes up 12.9 per cent; China with 12 per cent, Canada with 11.3 per cent, Ireland with 9.7 per cent, India with 7.6 per cent and Italy 6.9 per cent.
Share Online Inc., operating as Sharenews.com, is the website of Share Newspaper, a weekly community newspaper which has served the Black and Caribbean community in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) of Ontario, Canada since April 9, 1978.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2016. 8:40 p.m. [GMT]