The Greatest Prime Minister in Canadian History for Promoting Ethnic Diversity and Communities was Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

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Changes into the contemporary time frame in Canada have occurred because of ideologies of different leaders. A leader that has altered the course of history is Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, who was in leadership from 1968 through 1984. One of the objectives of Trudeau was to create policies that promoted diversity within various communities, specifically with an agenda which pressured minority groups to become a part of the social, economic and political realm in Canada. Trudeau did this by coining the term multiculturalism, which was associated with was based on a sense of integration based on social initiatives within different communities. Declarations and policies which were centered on creating a diverse community were then made under his jurisdiction (Wood, Gilbert, 2005). The continuous agenda of Trudeau and the way in which he promoted multiculturalism is one which continues to be used today with initiatives through the policies and political actions which were first implemented by Trudeau.

The concept of multiculturalism was pushed by Trudeau because of the changing climate and environment in Canada and the world. Trudeau came into power after World War II and through various world revolutions based on cultural diversity and ethnic equality. Canada was also experiencing a large amount of immigrant pressures from other regions, specifically which began as an offset from World War II. The social pressures of this time were based on the desire to offer minorities the same potential as others in society while integrating opportunity. Trudeau followed these social pressures and stigmas with his own vision of creating an ethnically diverse set of communities through policies and procedures expected in society (Driedger, 2001).

Premise 1: The social demands in Canada before and during the 1960s pressured Trudeau to promote multiculturalism in the community.

When Trudeau came into power in 1968, his main agenda was to promote the concept of ethnic diversity. From the 17th century, Canada had a large influx of immigration that came into the country. Before this time, there were also diversity promotions in terms of both Aboriginal land and those who had found the contemporary nation of Canada. As this grew and continued to divide, ethnic communities began to be more visible within the Canadian territories, specifically because of physical and racial differences. The largest influx came during the World Wars, based on those from Europe that began to migrate to America from the war. Asian communities also began to establish during this time. As the racial differences were noted, it was also expected that a change in the ethnocentrism and division between communities be erased. The 1960s pressured this, specifically because of the need to change accommodations in Canada for ethnic diversity while allowing minorities to have the same equal opportunities as those within Canada (Forbes, 1993).

The complexities of the ethnic diversity can be traced back to the 1700s in Canada. French and English Canadians created the terms of democracy which were based on different hierarchies and policies which were within society. Through specific policies, an autocratic monarch was created. The immediate change in society was to divide those within specific regions while creating a sense of differences through ethnicity, community, physical features and background. The divisions which were a part of this caused the political structure to form based on the hierarchical structure and monarchy. The complexity created was based on the outside forces from Europe which created the system and which promoted division within the community (Trudeau, 1958). The perspective which Trudeau held was to break down the boundaries which were created in society.

The concept of ethnic diversity, as well as the terms of multiculturalism, became important in the social stigmas of Canada. The pressures that were surrounding from the immigration and wars, as well as the alterations in society, also led to the desire to a specific sense of leadership to be in place that would change the divisions within communities. The social desire that was arising during the time of Trudeau were then able to create meaning out of the initial development of multiculturalism, specifically to establish a different series of concepts related to what it meant to integrate ethnicity into the community.

“Multiculturalism has acquired many meanings. As policy, it variously thought of as designed to foster immigrant integration, improve race relations, reduce communal conflict, encourage good citizenship, support national cohesion, and enjoin cultural assimilation” (Karim, 2009).

The social meaning that was based around ethnic diversity then became the driving force of creating policies during Trudeau’s time. The different conflicts which society desired to resolve during this time, specifically which were linked to the concept of citizenship and national change, then became the basis for acquiring new political policies. Trudeau was able to take a sense of leadership in the pressures to develop new perspectives of good citizenship and assimilation within the community (Karim, 2009).

The changes within society and during the time of Trudeau were then furthered by the perception that was a part of each of the cultures in Canada. The attitudes toward equality began in 1948, specifically with Canada’s changing attitudes toward immigrants, changing cultures and the ethnic diversity that has grown. The philosophies began to accumulate in society as early as the 1950s and were based on creating a country that was a melting pot for immigrants. The main objective was to have a place which was more welcoming for ethnic diversity, specifically for immigrants as well as native cultures which persisted in holding onto their cultures. Race, ethnic and religious differences were already accepted into the communities by the 1960s with the belief that immigrants and natives could keep their original culture while accommodating to society. It was the attitude of creating and supporting a melting pot that Trudeau held to when moving into political influence (Stevenson, 2010).

Premise 2: Trudeau used both political policies and expected actions within communities to promote ethnic diversity.

When Trudeau came into power, there were driving forces that were based on the melting pot that were already within society. Trudeau was able to use this to create policies and to gain support from the community. The main role which Trudeau held was to promote ethnic diversity within communities and to allow the political arena to value the main components of this diversity. Even though social realms were promoting the melting pot, politics were not open to the liberalization of the area to enhance minorities and ethnic diversity. When Trudeau came into power, there was a lack of structural basis to promote ethnic diversity within communities. The beginning of Trudeau’s power was based on creating a sense of optimism with the idea of liberalized policies and social progress. The ideologies were juxtaposed with an economic crisis, which led many in society to question the politics and which demanded changes within society. Trudeau used these two elements to establish liberal policies based on opening a future that provided more opportunity to all individuals. The agenda was able to confront the social pressures and the economic alterations which were required during this time. Creating the idea of liberalism then allowed Trudeau to establish a set of policies and a framework that changed Canada into a set of territories into one which promoted ethnic diversity and which unified in terms of a national identity, as opposed to one which was based on smaller communities (Laxer, 1977).

The first problem which arose when Trudeau came into power was the October Crisis, which occurred in 1971. This occurred after two government officials were kidnapped in Quebec. The result was the force of militia action by the Canadian Forces, specifically which altered powers among civilians throughout Quebec. Many begin to criticize this move, specifically because of the War Measures Act, which gives citizens the right to have civil liberties. The result was a set of violent outbreaks with those who were interested in liberalism, changing powers within the government and having limits with what the militia could do in response to specific crisis situations. To gain order, Trudeau responded by setting in motion specific policies and options that liberated Quebec and Canada and which ensured peace by recognizing the civilian expectations within society (Just Watch Me, 1999).

The turn – around from the October Crisis led into a series of policies and declarations which were designed to show both a sense of liberalism a well as peace among the nation. Trudeau began in 1971 with the term multiculturalism, which stated that a nation should be open to multiple cultures, all which were able to freely express the traditions and values that were descended from the past. The Declaration of Multiculturalism was made in 1971 which declared two segments to the making of Canada. The first was a unified national agenda, specifically which was based on the policies of the land which individuals were designated to follow. The second was a promotion of immigrants, aborigines and citizens of Canada that were able to freely practice culture and various lifestyles within Canada. The agenda that Trudeau set with this declaration, as well as with the policies which followed, were based on providing equality to all while ensuring that cultures could continue to be recognized for their own ethnicity within Canada (Lammert, Sarkowsky, 2009).

To establish the liberalism and ideas of promoting ethnic diversity that the society demanded, Trudeau continued this same foundation throughout his career. By 1980, Trudeau had moved from the basic Declarations and policies to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The sections in this guaranteed equal rights to all citizens. The charter states

“Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability” (Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1).

The equal rights move into specific types of rights which are applicable to both those of aboriginal and immigrant cultures. The charter includes an understanding of minority rights and stated that there was the need to promote official languages of Canada while establishing regional languages which cultures could keep. Educational rights, multicultural expressions and the practice of keeping specific cultures were also guaranteed with these ideas of liberalism. The charter specifically announced how aboriginal rights and immigrant laws could be maintained, specifically to establish a sense of peace among different categories of individuals while creating and establishing a national identity Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1).

The Charter which Trudeau put into place was then furthered with continuous action to promote ethnic diversity and to ensure liberalism and equality among the citizens of Canada. The Charter led into other promotions which were easily implemented. There was an expectation of policies and actions to take place after the Charter, specifically which would promote ethnic diversity while allowing Canada to remain an established national identity. The Charter is one which is still used today in the understanding of multiculturalism, liberalism and equal rights and became the height of Trudeau’s leadership.

The establishment of the Charter led to other concepts of ethnic diversity which continue to propel forward. There are now several types of diversity and levels of multiculturalism which are a contribution to the community, specifically from the policies which Trudeau implemented. The creation of multiculturalism and the Charter led to the Canadian model for diversity which is based on a tri-partite structure. The structure consists of ethnic responsibility and diversity with specific types of communities, including Aboriginals, Francophones and immigrants. The importance of the legal frameworks which followed Trudeau’s implementation of this structure is one which broke the old agendas in the legal processes and began to change the way in which ethnic diversity was approached. Before this time, the political hierarchy created divisions with treaties and separation acts with the Aboriginals and native Indians. Trudeau was the first to break this through the Charter and with references to the Constitution. The objective was to create cultural preservation while supporting the differences in the community. The foundation which Trudeau laid in terms of the tri-partite structure propelled forward ideas of community into sets of diversity policies in the community, all which became rooted in liberal – democratic values (Kymlicka, 2005).

Premise 3: Coining terms such as multiculturalism and ethnic diversity into different documents allowed different ethnic groups to slowly become a part of Canadian society.

The approach which Trudeau took in response to society with the policies developed then created new definitions and an understanding of ethnic diversity. The definitions were established by perspectives which he created in relation to the term of multiculturalism. The term is one of the most essential in the establishment of ethnically diverse communities throughout Canada. Even though Trudeau’s main objective was to set specific standards and policies in relation to multiculturalism, others were able to redefine what this meant and how it could be applied to given situations. The concept of multiculturalism in terms of Trudeau was based on the passing of bilingualism first, which established both English and French as the national languages of Canada. The Official Languages Act was followed by the statements of Trudeau about multiculturalism, which established that all Canadians should be shown equal worth. The recognition of diversity. however, was attacked by specific groups, specifically through the Francophone elite. Trudeau responded by creating three categories for multiculturalism, including the Aborigines natives, immigrants and those who had established the country. The result was a reinterpretation of multiculturalism, which included social justice, inclusiveness and empowerment of the nation (Klid, 2003).

Changing the objective of multiculturalism and the way in which the term can be used is one which continues to change with Canada’s policies and belief in liberalism. Trudeau was able to establish a strong basis which defined the concept of multiculturalism and the identity of the nation. The agenda was furthered with interpretations that could be made from the policies in which he initiated as well as the alterations used to respond to given situations. The view of multiculturalism was able to allow those during Trudeau’s time more support to create more ethnic diversity in communities while establishing stronger ties with the policies and declarations which were a part of the decisions. By creating a constitutional multicultural state, it provided a different identity to Canada based on assimilation and pluralism based on diversity. The term of multiculturalism, as established in 1971, then became one of the most integral parts of Canada and the way in which policies and societal responses were attributed to the term. While there may be some clashes of culture, Trudeau’s terms and actions were able to implement a different understanding of equal distribution of power and the ability to keep the social identity of Canada alive (Khan, 2010).

The most important component of multiculturalism that came from the political realm was based on the ideologies established from this. The change from Trudeau’s announcements and Charters to multiculturalism led to shifts in how many looked at Canadian culture. Social status, incorporation of diversity in communities and the celebration of ethnicity slowly became a part of Canadian identity. Individuals in society began to associate with multiculturalism by identifying with the changes that Trudeau had incorporated into the community. The social stigma which arose from this began to change the functions in society while creating a sense of celebration and tolerance within the community. This was followed by an understanding by the community that was based on the belief in equal rights, liberalism and democracy. Multiculturalism was able to move beyond the aspects of policies by the government and became a term that created the identity of Canada in terms of an alternative culture and a liberal society (Bisoondath, 1994).

The importance of multiculturalism was built with the foundations of Trudeau. however, the establishment with identity and culture is one which is continuing to lead to changes within society. The discourses which are now associated with multiculturalism are coming not only from the policies and foundation by Trudeau. Now, the term is one which has established questions of how society should work in terms of diversity while working toward a true sense of equality among those in society. The discourse and practice of establishing communities that are multicultural in nature is the term and identity that is most pertinent to Trudeau’s work. The incorporation into modern society is one which is able to provide new and alternative perspectives that are a part of the works of Trudeau. The establishment is one that is now leading to urban spaces and revitalization of communities that are interested in creating more multiculturalism and who desire to stand with the liberal freedoms that were an offset of the Charter by Trudeau. From the current discourses, it can be seen that Trudeau promulgated a new foundation in society based on multiculturalism. Defining this term and using it in policies and Charters then led to a new foundation within society (Wood, Gilbert, 2005).


The focus on Trudeau and the way in which he approached ethnic diversity is one which is pertinent today and in terms of Canadian studies. The actions which were taken by Trudeau were important not only because of his identity in creating ethnic diversity. There is also a direct relationship to what was occurring in society before and during Trudeau’s leadership time frame. There is also a direct association with how his different policies and declarations were able to alter Canadian history, both during and after this time frame. Trudeau was able to lay a framework in terms of diversity that moved Canada into new policies, actions, economics and social values. More important, the changes which he made showed how Canada had evolved as a nation through immigration and accepted lifestyles within the nation. The challenges which Trudeau met were valuable specifically because of the way in which they associated with lifestyles, social movements, culture and political values within Canada.

While there is strong evidence over the values and changes which Trudeau made in terms of ethnic diversity, there are also several counter arguments that don’t believe in the leadership of Trudeau as changing the ethnic diversity of communities. While there is a direct relation to the term of multiculturalism and the Charter created by Trudeau, it is believed that these were related to responses from external sources, as opposed to Trudeau’s leadership. The same concepts in the United States and Europe, as well as alterations which were occurring to move into the contemporary time frame, all directly impacted the necessary movements toward ethnic diversity. More important, there is a direct relation to the idea of the melting pot which Canada accepted as early as 1948, which shows that the concept of ethnic diversity was occurring before Trudeau’s time.

Even though there may have been outside sources which altered ethnic diversity, it would have not been brought into political realization or a sense of realism without Trudeau’s continuous promotion of the terms of ethnic diversity. The definition of Multiculturalism in 1971 by Trudeau is what began this. The Charter was also one which was initiated by Trudeau and would have not been recognized or made outside of his leadership. The objections to this show the same fallacy, specifically by the Francophone elites who opposed diversity. Before this time, there was also opposition to terms of ethnic diversity which divided communities. This was seen in Canada’s history with divisions among communities, beginning with the aborigines of the country. The actions and commitment which Trudeau showed throughout his term as Prime Minister then show direct evidence to his ability to offer the most prominent terms and commitment to ethnic diversity.

The observation of Trudeau’s commitment to ethnic diversity is one which leads into a larger picture about Canada and the evolution which has been created over time. The creation of multiculturalism from the beginning of Trudeau’s time as prime minister was based on bringing peaceful commitments in society and to assisting with diversity that could help in the economy and with those in varying communities. The ability to have bilingualism and multiculturalism then began to spread with attitudes in society and in the political realms of Canada. Today, the terms and expectations are expected within the cultural values and political realm of Canada and are continuously displayed in other regions, such as Europe and the United States (Lammert, 2009). The affiliations which Trudeau made with multiculturalism and the approach toward creating a diverse Canada then became pertinent in recognizing how both equality and diversity can create a stronger foundation for society and a nation.


Secondary Sources

Bisoondath, Neil. (1994). Selling Illusions: The Cult of Multiculturalism in Canada. Toronto: Penguin Books.

Driedger, Leo. (2001). “Changing visions in ethnic relations.” The Canadian Journal of Sociology. 26 (3), 421-451.

Forbes, HD. “The Challenge of Ethnic Conflict Canada: From Bilingualism to Multiculturalism.” Journal of Democracy 4,no 4, (2008).

Khan, Asad. 2010. “Multiculturalism is Failing Canada, Needs a Review.” Winnipeg Free Press (October), 2010.

Klid, Bohdan. (2003). “Multiculturalism is About Inclusiveness, Social Justice and Empowerment, Says Former Director of Canada’s Multiculturalism Program.” University of Alberta: Canadian Institute of Ukranian Studies.

Lammert, Christian, Katja Sarkowsky. (2009). Traveling Concepts: Negotiating Diversity in Canada and Europe. New York: Verlag.

Laxer, James, Robert Laxer. (1977). The Liberal Idea of Canada and the Question of Canada’s Survival. New York: Lorimer.

Trudeau, Pierre Elliott. (1958). “Some Obstacles to Democracy in Quebec.” The Canadian Journal of Economics and Political Science. 24 (3).

Wood, Patricia, Liete Gilbert. (2005). “Multiculturalism in Canada: Accidental Discourse, Alternative Vision, Urban Practice.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 29 (3), 679-691.

Primary Sources

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canada Act, 1982.

Kymlicka, Will. (2005). “Ethnocultural Diversity in Liberal States: Making Sense of Canadian Models.” The Art of the State.

Stevenson, Garth. “Contrasting Images: ‘Multiculturalism’ as Conceptualized in Canada and the United States.” Presentation to the Annual Meeting of Canadian Political Science: Brock University, 2010.


Just Watch Me: Trudeau and the ‘70s Generation. National Film Board of Canada. Directed by Catherine Annau, 1999.

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