The history of Canada and its cultural riches is rooted not only in the oldest of its customs and tradition practiced thousands of years ago but also in keeping up with the current trends and modern practices till date. Canada, as a host to the world’s major population epitomizes multi- culturalism and a pluralistic view of the society at large. Canada stands tall with its arms open to the immigrant population all over the globe thereby reflecting vast discrepancies and diversity in culture, ethnicity, values and traditions.
Canada’s history dates back to the first group of settlers the natives or the Canadian aboriginals to have lived on the coast. It was not until thousand AD that Canada became the pivot of Europe’s Great powers contestation that is Britain and the French. The first expedition was sent Canada by England’s King Henry VII in the fifteenth century. Soon after, the French rival,
Jacques Cartier set off to the New France as their established claim to Canada. So Canada became a pawn in the French and Britain rivalry which later on culminated in the handling of the New France in the hands of British on the terms of the Treaty of Paris. Quebec and the Canadian islands of Miquelon and St. Pierre came under the French control owing much of its tradition and culture to the French. Rest of the Canadian provinces was controlled by the British. In 1791, Canada was bifurcated into Lower and Upper Canada by the British Canada when the term Canada was used for the first time. However, it was not until 1867, when Canada got its official recognition under the Dominion status under the British rule. Therefore, the culture of Canada mirrors Canada’s contested history under the Britain and French.
An Insight into Canada’s Culture-
Canada reflects the British and French culture owing to its colonial history. Apart from them, Canada has been subject to subsequent waves of immigrations for all over the world adding to its vast cultural riches. Immigrants from Northern and Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America migrated to Canada and have maintained and retained their cultural and ethnic identity. The culture of immigrant groups are also reflected in the country’s language, religion, customs and food habits. For instance, the constitution of Canada recognizes Canada as bilingual with English and French as its official languages. Apart from the official languages, the languages of immigrant groups such as Punjabi, Chinese, Italian, German, Spanish and various other languages also occupies an important place in Canada. Canada also abounds in religious diversity such as Roman Catholics and Protestants, Sikhs, Hindus, Islam, Buddhism and others. Canada’s immigrant population makes the culture of Canada a melting pot of cultural diversity reflected in the Canadian way of lifestyle, music, dance, art and artifacts, cuisine, literature, sports, film making and son and so forth.
Canada stands as the living example of the phenomenon of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism became the Canadian government’s official policy when President Trudeau endorsed the governments program of “multiculturalism within a bilingual framework” in 1971. Along with two official Canadian languages, the government recognized various cultural and ethnic groups as a part of the larger Canadian identity. The essence of multiculturalism lies in the recognition of various cultural-ethnic groups, the advancement of diversity, protection of the rights and liberties, ensuring equality, cultivating harmony and togetherness. Multiculturalism strives to make the world a better place to live in thereby, making it a reality wherein various ethno- cultural groups and communities co-exist and flourish. Canada’s multiculturalism also got constitutional recognition when in 1982 the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was adopted. The Charter besides providing protection and maintenance of Canada’s multicultural heritage also provides legal protection to ethnic cultural groups from perceived offences. These provisions were further consolidated with the passage of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1988. The federal government has been constantly working towards the betterment of Canada’s multicultural policy with the passage of several acts from time to time.
Perception towards Canada’s Culture
Given, the array of policies and acts adopted by the Canadian government, it can be said that the government and the Canadian themselves identify multiculturalism as an important feature of the Canadian national identity. The perception differs from place to place. For instance, many Quebecois are apprehensive of the government’s multicultural policy as they view it as an intervention in their internal matters. The policy is also viewed as a means to dominate the culture of ethnic minority under the umbrella of multiculturalism. Multiculturalsim is also seen by some analysts as a diversion from the sole Canadian values and entity. The policy emphasizes the promotion of lot of diversity at the cost of unity. In the process of the accommodation of diverse cultures, the actual culture of Canada is being repudiated. Similar arguments are also suggested by some commentators who believe that Multiculturalism entails ethnic separatism when groups are allowed to maintain and practice their own cultures. Nevertheless, multiculturalism remains a defining feature of Canada’s cultural heritage.
America’s Cultural Influence
Although the terms the United States of America and culture might not seem synonymous with each other yet at the same time the fact cannot be overlooked that today, the culture of the US has permeated every aspect of human life. The culture of the USA stands undefied having a swaying influence all across the world. The world idealizes America not only as a super power manifested in its military might and economic capabilities but also the aspect of soft power reflected in the American ideals, values, culture, the concepts of freedom and liberty and so on and so forth. The cultural export of America commenced with the American Freedom, the idea of new world, when people from all over the world looked forward to reach the far off land to experience freedom and liberty in every aspect of their lives. Today, the American popular culture music, dance, movies (Hollywood), television series, fashion, lifestyle, food and technology with its creative enterprise has penetrated each and every corner of the world. The US offers a plethora of educational and cultural exchange programs global in its outreach. America’s cultural identity diversified overtime with the influx of immigrants.
Among other soft power resource leadership is also an important aspect of the soft power. Both the US and Canada are living examples of multi cultural society and social cohesion. Both these countries have accommodated diverse ethnic groups and people of different nationalities. They have assimilated with the mainstream Americans yet retaining their ethnic and cultural identities. While, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has set an example of unity in diversity by his policy of multiculturalism, the United States on the other hand continues to grapple with its national identity when leaders such as Donald Trump are adamant to restore the white America contrary to the American essence of “among one, many”.