ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Multiculturalism and the Aboriginal Peoples in Canada

The challenges posed by ethnic minorities have compelled many a modern state to accept multiculturalism as state policy. Canada’s contributions to development of the theory and practice of multiculturalism are well known. However, within Canada itself there are segments like the aboriginal peoples who consider that multiculturalism does not adequately address their problems, experiences and concerns. Looking at different trajectories that have shaped Canadian multiculturalism, this article throws light on the aboriginal critique of multiculturalism and shows how the indigenous peoples of Canada have been shaping their own future outside the framework of multiculturalism.

Of late, there has been a growing recognition that almost all modern states are, in fact, multi­cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-nation states. Earlier in many a country, the dominant nations which held state power followed the policy of assimilation and attempted to homogenise the mino­rities – the tribals and indigenous peoples, linguistic and religious minorities, and smaller ethnic groups/nations, by imposing a dominant national culture, language and religion. But with different minorities asserting their auto­nomy and identity, modern states have realised the limitations of the “melting pot” theory. Increasing opposition to assimilation, movements for cultural identity and social justice and struggles for poli­tical auto­nomy/independence have compelled the modern states – western as well as non-western – to respond to the challenges by devising strategies that ­accommodate the minorities’ quest for identity and autonomy within the ambit of the nation state. Multicultu­ralism is one such conscious intervention espou­sed to deal with the challenges of ­growing diversities.

The Canadian Model

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