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The Search for a New National Identity

The Rise of Multiculturalism in Canada and Australia, 1890s–1970s


Jatinder Mann

This book explores the profound social, cultural, and political changes that affected the way in which Canadians and Australians defined themselves as a «people» from the late nineteenth century to the 1970s. Taking as its central theme the way each country responded to the introduction of new migrants, the book asks a key historical question: why and how did multiculturalism replace Britishness as the defining idea of community for English-speaking Canada and Australia, and what does this say about their respective experiences of nationalism in the twentieth century? The book begins from a simple premise – namely, that the path towards the adoption of multiculturalism as the orthodox way of defining national community in English-speaking Canada and Australia in the latter half of the twentieth century was both uncertain and unsteady. It followed a period in which both nations had looked first and foremost to Britain to define their national self-image. In both nations, however, following the breakdown of their more formal and institutional ties to the ‘mother-country’ in the post-war period there was a crisis of national meaning, and policy makers and politicians moved quickly to fill the void with a new idea of the nation, one that was the very antithesis to the White, monolithic idea of Britishness. This book will be useful for both history and politics courses in Australia and Canada, as well as internationally.
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2 Integration Policy in Canada, 1953–1963


← 48 | 49 →



Integration Policy in Canada, 1953–1963

As the foundation of English-speaking Canadian national identity began to unravel and break down, integration replaced assimilation as official government policy in dealing with migrants in Canada. Integration encouraged migrants to retain their own cultures as well as incorporate themselves into the Canadian one. The culmination in the demise of the belief in Canada as an integral part of a wider British world was the UK’s decision to seek membership in the EEC. Growing US dominance and the Quiet Revolution in Quebec added to these pressures.

The Demise of Britishness, the French-Canadians, and the Unravelling of the White Canada Policy

Ready, aye, ready no more1

The foregoing quote by Pearson, the minister for external affairs during the Suez Crisis of 1956, famously marked the end of Canada’s automatic loyalty to the British Empire. Alongside the unravelling of Britishness, whiteness was also slowly broken down. Building on the 1950 reforms, which allowed limited numbers of Indian, Pakistani, and Ceylonese citizens to migrate to Canada, and the 1952 Immigration ← 49 | 50 → Act, the government continued to gradually dismantle the racial assumptions behind the White Canada immigration policy. However, this was very much a slow process, and more traditional pronouncements continued to be made. For instance, in late 1954 Jack Pickersgill, the minister of citizenship and immigration, made clear that while the government did not discriminate against any single person...

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