Bibliographic data

Wood, Dean; Remnant, Robert: The People We Are, Canada's Multicultural Society. Toronto: Gage, 1980, 223–224.

Multiculturalism and alternatives

[p. 223]

[black-and-white photograph showing children at a ceremonial act]

[caption:] At Edmonton’s Alex Taylor Elementary School, when celebrating the Chinese New Year, everyone gets a cultural immersion course – including teachers.

Should multiculturalism be part of every province’s social-studies curriculum? What else could schools be doing?


A policy of “multiculturalism within a bilingual framework” is the latest approach to the structure and direction of Canadian society. Other policies have been promoted and practiced in the past. […]

[p. 224]

The Canadian Mosaic

The idea of multiculturalism is based on an image of Canada as a mosaic. A mosaic is a work of art made of variously colored pieces of stone, glass, wood, etc. put together to create a pattern or picture. Those Canadians who favor multiculturalism see the languages, customs, traditions, and lifestyles of Canada’s many different peoples as the bits of material that fit together to form a harmonious society. In this mosaic view of Canada, differences in people and cultures are not only desirable, but essential to our society.

[It is important to note that none of the following alternatives to multiculturalism would involve legally forcing people to accept assimilation. Since Canada is a free society, the process would be a gradual one. Each new generation would become assimilated to the structure and direction of the society.] a

The Melting Pot

One commonly proposed alternative to the multicultural mosaic is the melting pot. The idea suggests that all ethnic groups in Canada blend together to form a single, common, national culture and society. There would be no provision or encouragement for ethnic groups to preserve distinctive features of their own culture. Ideally, all ethnic groups would be equal, although the language and basic institutions of the society would probably be those of the dominant group, which in Canada would be English.


Another alternative, and one that has been strongly supported at various times in our history (particularly early in this century) is Anglo-conformity. Under this policy, all Canadians, including Francophones, would be expected to adopt the culture and language of English Canadians. Complete assimilation of all non-English cultural groups would be encouraged and actively supported, both officially and through social pressure. As with the melting pot, Canadian society would have a single, common, national culture, but it would be English culture and not a mixture of many cultures.

Anglo- and Franco-conformity

This alternative, recognizing the strength of the Francophone society in Canada, proposes that all Canadians assimilate to either Anglo-Canadian or Franco-Canadian culture. As with Anglo-conformity, there would be little opportunity and no encouragement for people of non-English or non-French origin to retain their cultures. Social status and economic success in society would depend on being assimilated.

No Official Policy

One final alternative remains to be looked at: simply to do nothing, in an official sense, and let our society develop without any publicly stated direction. Before the official policy of multiculturalism was adopted in 1971, that was essentially the situation.

The development and direction of Canadian society will depend on which alternative is chosen. That choice depends on all of us, as Canadians.

[a] Editor’s note: The squared brackets and the text in them are part of the original.

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