Multiculturalism, National Unity and the Canadian Economy
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 6 Apr 1978, p. 364-378
Cafik, The Honourable Norman A., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
The Commonwealth as precursor of the policy of multiculturalism, and how that is so. Canada's multicultural policy as a pragmatic policy stemming from an awareness of the reality of Canada where at least 30% of the people are of neither English nor of French extraction. Implementation of the policy results in the expansion of the dimensions of human freedom. The freedom to maintain one's own language and cultural heritage. The need to create conditions under which this cultural retention is even more possible. The policy as a contribution to human understanding between the various peoples that make up the Canadian population. A unique policy. The negative terms in which this multiculturalism is sometimes perceived. Theicentral ssue of national unity and the need for national understanding. Problems with the Canadian economy. The need for new solutions. Some positive statistics about Canada's economy and society.
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6 Apr 1978
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Full Text
APRIL 6, 1978
Multiculturalism, National Unity and the Canadian Economy
CHAIRMAN The President, Peter Hermant


Ladies and gentlemen: In the past few years, nothing has pervaded the Canadian consciousness more than the word "culturalism"--biculturalism, multiculturalism, and even uniculturalism.

In the continuing debate as to the direction which Canada must now pursue, following the election of the Parti Quebecois in Quebec and their announced intention to separate that province from Confederation, we have, as a nation, been exposed to a staggering number of points of view.

We have created hyphenated Canadians, immigrants who have come here and contributed to the growth and prosperity of this nation. As Dave Broadfoot put it so gracefully a few weeks ago, "A Canadian--unhyphenated--can be defined as a displaced person with seniority."

Frankly, it is not so surprising that a young and developing country would depend for its expansion on people from other parts of the world. It is equally obvious that Canada would be very attractive to many people. The opportunities for freedom of speech and freedom of initiative alone made our country alluring, not to mention space, water, recreation and so on, all of which we who were born here tend to take for granted.

During this period of self-examination, we often hear about the difference between the American approach to their immigration and ours described in terms of melting pot versus mosaic, union versus confederation, the republic versus the parliamentary system.

There is no doubt that an immigrant to the United States is expected to change. As Jean de Crevecoeur wrote in his Letters from an American Farmer in 1782, "Here individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men. The American is a new man who acts upon new principles."

In Canada, we have used the word "mosaic" to describe how new Canadians acclimatize themselves to our society.

Ironically, the term is thought to have been first used in the book Romantic Canada (1922), written by an American travel-writer, Victoria Hayward, wherein she wrote of the Canadian prairies, "It is indeed a mosaic of vast dimensions and great breadth, essayed of the Prairie."

So, given the complexities of the issue and the trend of bureaucracy, it is not surprising to find that in Canada we have a Minister of State specifically dealing with the cultures in their infinite variety, our guest of honour today.

The Honourable Norman Cafik would seem to have been an ideal choice to face the challenges of the diversity of Canadian society.

He was born in Toronto of a Ukrainian-Polish father and a Scottish-Irish mother. He was educated just east of this city in Pickering and Oshawa and started his business career in publishing.

Bitten by the political bug, he was initiated by two unsuccessful runs for Parliament and was finally elected in 1968, representing the constituency of Pickering.

In his parliamentary career, he has been a member of the Public Accounts Committee and the standing committee on External Affairs and National Defence; he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministers of National Health and Welfare and Consumer and Corporate Affairs; he was chairman of the standing committee on Finance, Trade and Economic Affairs. He was appointed Minister of State for Multiculturalism, and Deputy House Leader in September of 1977.

Prior to his appointment, however, Cafik was a bit impatient. In fact, he hold Mary Trueman in The Globe and Mail that, "I've been on the short list for some time--but the short list was always too long."

While he was waiting, his political career was not without controversy. He made news by opposing the TimeReader's Digest bill proposed by the government and by exposing, during his tenure on the Public Accounts Committee, the cost over-runs on the Bonaventure refit. He also had the pleasure of representing the government's point of view on the Pickering airport controversy.

Obviously, Norman Cafik is used to the heat and enjoys the kitchen.

As the minister representing Canada's diverse cultures, he has travelled abroad representing this country at international conferences and has been travelling across the nation, speaking to large numbers of ethnic groups.

The best example of the effect Mr. Cafik is having is taken from a report by Ivan Harmata in the Ukrainian newspaper in Winnipeg, following his address to the twelfth Ukrainian Congress. After a column of superlatives about Mr. Cafik's speech, the report closes with the following words which are particularly a propos today. "With the vagaries of politics being what they are, and with the impending general election, no one can say how long the Honourable Mr. Cafik will guide the destiny of his multicultural portfolio. But there is one thing certain, judging by his address to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, the cause of multiculturalism in Canada has at last found its champion."

Ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure for me to introduce to you the Honourable Norman A. Cafik, Minister of State for Multiculturalism, and Deputy House Leader, who will address us under the title, "Multiculturalism, National Unity and the Canadian Economy."

THE HONOURABLE NORMAN CAFIK: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Ladies and gentlemen: It is a great pleasure and honour for me to be here today, to address such a distinguished audience. Your dedication here in the Empire Club to two fundamental principles, to Canada and to the Commonwealth, is shared by myself, and I am sure, the vast majority of Canadians.

Some months ago I had the great honour and privilege of hosting a luncheon for Her Majesty the Queen, in Ottawa. At that luncheon we had about six hundred leaders of the ethnocultural communities from right across Canada. I had the privilege at that time of proposing a toast and making a few comments. I spoke of the Canadians of many cultural backgrounds and of the contribution they have made to this country. I also spoke of the nature of our policy of multiculturalism.

Her Majesty showed herself, through her questioning of me, to be quite impressed with this new policy, and felt that it had a tremendous application in Great Britain, in relationship to the cultural plurality that exists in that country. She asked me if I would be prepared to meet with some of her advisers, some of her Cabinet in England, to discuss the policy. She also indicated that the policy, although it has not been formalized within the Commonwealth, really is very much like the Commonwealth itself which is made up of many lands, cultures, languages, traditions and histories. In a way, the Commonwealth is probably a precursor of the policy of multiculturalism. It brings together various nations under one common banner and one common allegiance to work together in human terms to create understanding among themselves, to work together for their own economic, social and cultural benefit and to share that example with the rest of the world.

While I was in Belgrade a few weeks ago at the Conference on Security and Economic Co-operation in Europe, I took the opportunity to have a luncheon for the Commonwealth countries who were represented at that conference. I spoke about our policy, and about the human rights issue. I congratulated them for the positions they had taken at the conference, and just generally shared information with them because we all have one thing in common, her Majesty the Queen, and membership in the Commonwealth.

Lord Roberts, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for Great Britain, and I spent a great deal of time talking about multiculturalism. He drew to my attention that Her Majesty had talked to him and to the full Cabinet in Britain, expressing her interest in this particular policy direction. Lord Roberts praised the policy at great length there, and at the other dinner that he had in my honour with all the NATO countries. He said he thought it is really the wave of the future, and I think it is.

The policy of multiculturalism was enunciated by the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons, in 1971. The actual policy came out of the studies of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism which had been established to look into the nature of Canadian society. Their report said that we do not have a bilingual and bicultural country at all--we have a bilingual country but we are multicultural.

The multiculturalism policy is a pragmatic policy which stems from an awareness of the reality of Canada, which is that about 30 per cent of our people are of neither English nor of French extraction, and that we all contributed to the building of this country. The policy encourages the sharing of these cultural heritages and backgrounds with fellow Canadians in an integrated society. We are not encouraging cultural isolation, or cultural ghettos, but encouraging all Canadians to enter into the mainstream of our society with respect and understanding for each other.

The dimensions of human freedom have been expanded by the implementation of this policy. We recognize that when someone comes from abroad to become one of our citizens, they are free to retain their cultural background, and their values. They can do that here by virtue of the freedom offered to all individuals within our land. Multiculturalism has roots in that dimension of freedom within our society.

Every one of us, or our ancestors, emigrated to this country, and together we have created a unique society, a society benefiting from the sharing of our many cultures, traditions, and backgrounds.

It is fundamental to the growth and success of this country that we live together in a spirit of mutual respect, human understanding, and equal opportunity for everyone, no matter what his race or background.

I am not suggesting that we don't have equal opportunity--in large measure we do, and I think the opportunities provided to Canadians of varying backgrounds and races are the envy of almost every country in the world. We have achieved a great deal, but there are still some impediments to which we must address ourselves to ensure that all Canadians, in fact as well as in theory, have equal opportunity with every other Canadian. We must remove whatever impediments may exist to full and equal participation in our society.

We must create conditions through our policy conducive to cultural retention for groups who wish to retain their culture. We don't say as a government that any group is obliged to retain its culture; we live in a free society: those who wish to retain and pass those values on are free to do so.

I read an article, I think it may have been in the Royal Bank's bulletin, which impressed me considerably when it talked about the blandness that would exist in our society if in fact we were just a unicultural country. All you have to do is look at Toronto, and I am sure that the immigration and so on has caused some tensions and some difficulties which we are big enough to be able to overcome, but the fact of the matter is that this city and this country are more stimulating because of the cultures we share here.

Now, the bottom line of this policy is to contribute to human understanding, human understanding between the people who make up this country. If we in Canada, with only twenty-three million people, in a land of enormous size, with a great natural potential, and economic potential, if we can't learn to live together with respect for each other, then we are going to fail as a nation. Worse than that, if we who have pioneered this policy in the world, if we fail in creating goodwill within our society, then how can we ever expect to live in a peaceful and an orderly world? The world has a multiplicity of countries, languages, colours, creeds, and backgrounds, all trying to work together in an international sphere, and if we can't pull it off in this country then not only will we fail but the whole of humanity will fail.

I think Her Majesty was right when she thought of this as a unique_ op licy. I think the Minister in Great Britain was right when he indicated that he felt that this policy is very much needed not only in his own country, not only in the Commonwealth, but in the world. So I think this policy is good for Canada; it is fundamental to this nation.

It's important in terms of national unity; we must dispel the notion that the whole question of national unity relates only to Canadians of Anglo-Celtic or French backgrounds. There are many other people in this country and all of us are Canadians. If we are going to have co-operation in the world we must start at home, and that is what this policy is all about.

The policy of multiculturalism is perceived in negative terms by some. I think that generally Canadians of French background suspect that it may erode their position in Canada and relegate them to some peripheral group. That impression is not justified but we have to deal with it. They don't want to be assimilated by the English-speaking of North America; they want to retain their own language, their culture, and their traditions. That is a legitimate concern of theirs, and they must recognize that it is also a legitimate concern of Canadians of other backgrounds, because they can't have it both ways. They can't have those rights for themselves and deny them to others; there is a commonality of interest there.

Multiculturalism is viewed in negative terms I think by many in the Anglo-Celtic community. Many view it as a new divisive policy, which it is not. It is a policy to create understanding.

The ethnocultural communities largely support the policy but they think it is a political ploy to get a few votes. The fact of the matter is that we are working, through this policy, to benefit all Canadians. When a government does things well they ought to be supported and I have no objection to that whatsoever. But that's not the motivation--it's one of the by-products.

The second thing I want to talk about is national unity. Last night I was at a multicultural meeting in Scarborough, and someone there asked me why the federal government had not addressed itself to these central issues of national unity and divisions within Canada ten years ago, or, why in fact had not governments fifty years ago solved many of these basic fundamental problems of equal opportunity and respect in our society. I drew to his attention that ten years ago when Trudeau came on the scene and did talk about these things, everybody just yawned and fell asleep.

Politicians can only deal with issues when the public perceives them to be issues. If you try to deal with an issue, however real it may be, if it does not rest well in the minds of those who elect their government, then they think that you are creating a phoney issue. If you look back at what Prime Minister Trudeau said ten years ago, you will find that it is not far different from what he is saying today. The only difference is that the Canadian public now understand that his perception of the problems in this country was in fact justified at that time. People are willing to listen now to some discussion about these fundamental issues. We couldn't do these things ten years ago.

That raises another fundamental point. Many people in Canada, if not all, are deeply agitated and concerned about the fact that we have a provincial premier, Rene Levesque, who is publicly advocating the separation and break-up of this country. I don't think that this should drive us to despair. His movement onto the political scene in this country has brought some of the real issues into the consciousness of Canadians, and I think that it will contribute to the possibility of their resolution. Rene Levesque is only one of a number of separatists that we have had in Canada.

Looking back to the beginning of Confederation one finds that Nova Scotia wanted to get out of Confederation after it joined. One finds that British Columbia tried to separate twice, because the railroad wasn't being built fast enough. Manitoba didn't seem to want to come in at all, but it did.

The development of political life and institutions in Canada shows that in the lifetime of every prime minister the most central issue that had to be dealt with was keeping the nation united. Many of us today tend to think of it as a new phenomenon. It is not, and even after Rene Levesque goes, which he surely will, separatism will not disappear.

I don't think Rene Levesque has the slightest hope of ever being elected for the second time in the province of Quebec. The public opinion polls give a potential leader of the provincial Liberal Party more support in Quebec than they give Levesque. It is also significant that more Quebecers support Trudeau than support Levesque. Levesque promised that he would put the question to a referendum and that he would not unilaterally abuse his rights as a premier to promote separation. He has violated his commitment and the people of Quebec know it.

National understanding is our most pressing need. In cultural terms we have to understand each other, but we have to also understand ourselves, our country, our institutions and our economy, at the same time. Let's look at a few areas that are counter-productive in our society.

There is the question of regionalism in Canada. I had a meeting with the editorial board of one of the major newspapers in Edmonton a couple of months ago. The editor-in-chief asked me what the federal government was going to do about western alienation, and when were we going to start dealing with the real problems in western Canada.

I replied that I wanted to know what he was going to do about it, because he has more influence on the perceptions of the public, and this problem is a problem of perception. For example, I asked, if they were to make a list of every single law they wanted changed, and every policy they wanted implemented, in the Government of Canada, and I went back to Ottawa and put every one of them in place within a month, then what would they, as news editors, do the Monday after that was accomplished? They would write that it is only tokenism from Ottawa; there must be an election coming; the people don't really care--it's only a few crumbs. Joe Clark would say exactly the same thing.

Many of the issues that divide us are more attitudinal /problems than they are real problems. There are some real problems, but if you solved them all, you still would not have solved the problem of perceptions. In the Maritimes, or in Quebec, in each area, everybody is looking at their own particular concerns and they feel that Ottawa is too remote to really care. As long as these attitudes prevail, as long as politicians spend their time in being partisan about these issues, criticizing even the best of policies, we will not be able to develop in unity and understanding to our full potential. There are times when this government deserves praise but you don't hear that praise. We should set aside many of our partisan concerns and begin to look at problems as Canadians, begin to see things in their context.

That leads me to the next area I want to talk about briefly, and that's the economy. The concept of "understanding" implies more than putting a researcher to work and gathering up a few statistics and then saying, "Now I understand the economics of this country." Understanding implies knowing the relationship between isolated facts, putting them into context. Many people seem to see the isolated facts and draw conclusions which are not only invalid but which are counterproductive to the very purposes that we're trying to serve in the economy. We have to do more than just identify problems. Anybody can identify problems. The real challenge to all of us is to identify solutions.

I realize, and the government realizes, that we are in a state of inflation. We also realize that this is one of the major concerns of all Canadians today. We know that it has an enormously negative impact in Canada. Other countries have inflation and sometimes to a greater extent than Canada. We are working with a complex problem.

The value of our currency is very important. In the House of Commons, there were questions relating to the value of the dollar. Two absolutely contradictory views were put forward by two financial critics for the opposition. One person said we should make sure that the dollar doesn't go below a certain level and expressed all the dangers inherent in that, and received great applause from all his backbenchers. Then the other said we should let the dollar float because the lower it gets the better it is for employment, and it would work better for job creation and international competition.

Now I don't know which of those two ideas you people opt for but you can't agree with both. The value of our currency is important, and it's a two-edged sword. If there are benefits for those who are exporting, there are disadvantages for those who are importing.

The overall balance of payments, obviously a problem, has improved considerably in the last couple of years. Government deficits are a real problem which we must solve. There must also be some hard action with regard to changing trends in government spending. We are taking action, but much more has to be done. In the First Ministers Conference we finally evoked for the first time an agreement from all provinces to limit their percentage of increase in spending to less than that of the GNP, which the federal government has been doing for the last couple of years.

In the area of labour-management relations we have made significant progress. Two years ago Canada had one of the worst records in the world of lost time through strikes and other conditions in the labour force. Today it is one of the best in the world. There has been quite a turnaround, but that doesn't give us room for complacency because I am sure those improved conditions were the result of the Anti-Inflation Program.

In the area of unemployment, people ask why we don't create more jobs. It is difficult to do that and decrease government expenditures at the same time. In terms of employment, Canadians have the impression that Canada has failed to provide jobs, but the simple fact is that in terms of job creation in Canada, we have done better than any of our trading partners. More jobs (per capita) have been created annually in Canada in the last ten years than in the United States or any of the OECD countries. This is a positive point that Canadians should be aware of.

Government intervention in business is a real problem. I have worked with the business community and with others to ensure that the government takes into account any adverse impact on incentive in industry that future policies may have.

We really need, as I have been advocating for the last ten years, a cost-benefit analysis of every federal government program to ensure that the money is being well spent, and serving the public interest.

In the case of open-ended funding from the federal government to the provinces, I think we need more control, and we're taking steps to do that now in terms of block funding. The indexed pension programs of the federal civil service are being examined.

One perceives that there is some lack of confidence in our society today. In part, we need to place our problem in the proper perspective and realize that progress is being made. We also need politicians to be honest with themselves and with the people, to recognize past mistakes, and to look for new and better solutions. That takes courage.

We need new solutions. I don't think the same solutions that worked in the past will necessarily work today. For instance, if you want to stimulate growth and employment, traditionally you either cut taxes or you provide more funding into the economy to give people more buying power. But what happens when you give people more buying power today? Maybe they spend it in Mexico, Florida, or the Bahamas, because we now possess most of the basic necessities, things we did not have twenty years ago. We now use increased buying power for luxury things, for travel, or for savings.

When Earl McLaughlin, President of the Royal Bank, examined our economy over the last seven years, he indicated that personal incomes have increased in Canada by 38 per cent compared with 17 per cent in the United States. Investment spending in Canada increased in that seven year period by 168 per cent and by only 107 per cent in the U.S. Canadian corporate profits after taxes increased by 186 per cent during that period, while in the United States corporate profits on the same basis increased by only 179 per cent.

Mr. McLaughlin stated that inflation is a very severe problem, but he talked also about the national peril that would be involved if we were to stop inflation by legislating against food or energy price increases. He said that would not be in the long-term interest. He concluded his remarks by saying Canada's economic performance stands proud under almost any comparison, and I agree with him. Although we must strive for improvements, we must remember that there are positive aspects as well.

In personal consumption over the last ten years, Canada was first on an average of all the OECD countries. The United States was fourth. The increase in Canada was 6.5 per cent and the U.S. had 3.4 per cent increase in the same period.

In real disposable income, we were fourth of the OECD countries at 4.2 per cent, the U.S. had 1.6 per cent. Total number of new jobs created in Canada: we were first of all the OECD countries at 3.2 per cent annualized. The United States were second at 1.8 per cent. Now we might think we have failed, and we have in the sense that we haven't created enough jobs for enough people because of the enormous growth in the labour force in Canada--a higher rate than any country in the western world, but at the same time more new jobs have been created in Canada than in any of the industrialized western countries.

In terms of the growth of our Gross National Product we stood at 42 per cent while in the same period, government expenditures have increased only by 41 per cent.

We don't need to despair on social terms, on economic terms, and I don't think we need to despair of the unity of our nation. When you look at the services in this country, the mileage of paved roads alone, when you look at everything we have developed over the last hundred years, and then you remember the immense size of this nation, the challenges of weather and geography, I don't think any nation in the history of man has achieved so much with so few people.

Now, we are still a young nation, with a long way to go to develop our full potential. It is helpful sometimes to take a look back on the road we've travelled and remember just how far we've come. We need to take pride in ourselves. If we do as well in the next hundred years as we have done in the last hundred years, we will, in my opinion, remain the envy of most of the countries of the world.

The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Catherine R. Charlton, a Director of The Empire Club of Canada.

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Multiculturalism, National Unity and the Canadian Economy

The Commonwealth as precursor of the policy of multiculturalism, and how that is so. Canada's multicultural policy as a pragmatic policy stemming from an awareness of the reality of Canada where at least 30% of the people are of neither English nor of French extraction. Implementation of the policy results in the expansion of the dimensions of human freedom. The freedom to maintain one's own language and cultural heritage. The need to create conditions under which this cultural retention is even more possible. The policy as a contribution to human understanding between the various peoples that make up the Canadian population. A unique policy. The negative terms in which this multiculturalism is sometimes perceived. Theicentral ssue of national unity and the need for national understanding. Problems with the Canadian economy. The need for new solutions. Some positive statistics about Canada's economy and society.