Canada’s history has been marked by competing visions of the country and regional grievances about how the federation works. Multiple and frequently conflicting identities and interests have sustained these historical tensions. This study explores how the growing visible minority population views important dimensions of the Canadian federation.
Antoine Bilodeau and his co-authors address the question of whether people from visible minority backgrounds in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia see the same Canada as the majority population. Social exclusion and discrimination are more commonly experienced by members of visible minority groups than by the majority population. In the face of these challenges, the authors focus in particular on how this growing segment of the Canadian population relates to the longstanding regional grievances and demands for constitutional reform that still structure many contemporary Canadian political debates.
The authors show that, compared with the majority population, members of visible minority groups as a whole have a stronger sense of loyalty to the federal government than to provincial governments, express greater support for Canada’s national policies, and are less inclined to endorse historical grievances about the Canadian federation. As for competing national and provincial visions of Canada, members of visible minority groups embrace a national vision more strongly than the majority population.
However, the extent to which members of visible minority groups hold distinctive views about the Canadian federation depends on the province they live in and whether or not they were born in Canada. In Ontario, visible minorities’ views are almost indistinguishable from those of the majority population. In Alberta and in British Columbia, visible minorities born abroad hold somewhat weaker regional grievances than the majority population. However, those born in Canada see the federation in similar terms as the majority population. The greatest difference between visible minorities and the majority population is in Quebec, where visible minorities born abroad and those born in Canada express considerably stronger support for a national vision. The differences in outlook on the federation between non-French speaking members of visible minority groups and the rest of the Quebec population are particularly striking.
The findings suggest that the federal government’s multiculturalism policy offers a model that appeals to members of visible minority groups. Its highest level of support is among visible minorities in Quebec, whose government has never supported multiculturalism policy and has yet to offer a formal and official alternative.