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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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3 The Introduction of a Multicultural Policy in Canada, 1963–1971


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The Introduction of a Multicultural Policy in Canada, 1963–1971

In the early 1970s Canada introduced a multicultural policy, which replaced integration as the government’s main approach towards the settling of migrants. A multicultural policy emerged out of a philosophy of multiculturalism; there was a distinction between the two. A philosophy of multiculturalism replaced the “new nationalism” as the basis of Canadian national identity. Furthermore, a post–White Canada policy was adopted in the early 1970s after a non-discriminatory immigration policy had been introduced in the late 1960s.

The “New Nationalism,” the French-Canadians, and a Non-discriminatory Immigration Policy

It was our purpose to develop national symbols which would give us pride and confidence and belief in Canada.1

The foregoing quote from Pearson on the adoption of the new Maple Leaf flag in 1965 encapsulates the essence of the “new nationalism” during this period. It emerged as something to potentially fill the void left by the demise of Britishness in English-speaking Canada. The “new nationalism” involved the construction ← 81 | 82 → of local symbols of identity to replace those of British race patriotism. Pearson elaborated upon what the “new nationalism” meant in a speech on the occasion of Dominion Day in 1963:

Our national identity was not easy to create and it will not be easy to preserve and develop … That is why we more than most people must always make a special...

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