Sociology 211

December 1, 2004


Multiculturalism in practice


We have reviewed the various attitudes and practices that have lead to those of some ethnic and racial groups being denied opportunities or being the brunt of negative views that members of some other groups have.  These are the problems of ethnocentrism, stereotypes, prejudice, discrimination, and racism.   If multiculturalism is to be meaningful in Canada, then part of this should be a reduction or elimination of prejudice, discrimination, and racism, since these have the effect of denying people opportunities.  Near the start of the semester, we discussed various meanings of multiculturalism – for Fleras and Kunz it is “a constructive engagement with diversity as different yet equal.” (p. 192).  This could be through official policy, but also through attitudes of individuals, acceptance in institutions, participation across a full range of activities, and equitable treatment with the social structures of Canada. 

Multiculturalism may refer to policy, but it also applies to ideology and practice of individuals, so there can be a “civic multiculturalism” (Fleras and Kunz, p. 15), which involves all members of society, not just official institutions or minorities.  To create greater equality and fuller participation, and broaden the scope of multiculturalism, it should be concerned with social practices and social relations, and not just with government policy.  That is, multiculturalism could be a way of constructing more positive social relations, and this can only be accomplished by members of society, perhaps with a strong input from government but also as part of what some call civil society.  In terms of the subjects of multiculturalism, my view is that it should be inclusive, dealing with all citizens and individuals.  It should not be confined to dealing only with “minorities” and minority issues, even if that is how it emerged and what it is a large part of its focus. 


Principles of multiculturalism.  One way to address multiculturalism was to consider the principles of multiculturalism as identified in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act.  These are as follows.


Diversity.  These are statements that outlines diversity in Canada, the multicultural reality that exists in Canada.  Diversity here is essential to multiculturalism, in that without diversity there might be little need for the remaining principles. 


Harmony.  Without harmony, diversity could lead in a direction of distrust, suspicion, and conflict.  These are a guiding principle for constructing positive social relationships and forms of social interaction in a society.


Equality.  Even with harmony in a diverse society, there might be some left out and some who are treated unequally.  That is, a seeming harmony could exist even in a slave society, if those who are slaves accept their lot and do little to challenge it.  Equality an mean many different things, and multiculturalism does not promise equality in terms of what social scientists sometimes refer to as equality of condition.  That is, there could be many economic and social inequalities in a society with equal opportunity.  The primary emphasis here is on equality of opportunity and providing for the possibility of equitable participation. 


Overcoming barriers.  One way to deal with inequalities would be to identify barriers such as discrimination, racism, lack of resources, etc. and attempt to overcome them.  This is stated in the Act, although many would argue these are hidden and not acted on.


Resource.  Here the references are to the past, present, and future.  Presumably this addresses Canadian identity and the manner Canda evolves as a nation or state. 

It is the latter type of diversity that Parekh regards as central to multiculturalism, since societies have increasingly “found themselves faced with distinct cultural groups” (p. 4).  Previously nations with single cultures, there are immigrants of different ethnicity or national minorities that have either not forgotten their history and culture, or have rediscovered it.  Parekh then distinguishes multiculturalism from monoculturalism

It might welcome and cherish it [cultural diversity], make it central to its self-understanding, and respect the cultural demands of its constituent communities; or it might seek to assimilate these communities into its mainstream culture either wholly or substantially.  In the first case, it is multiculturalist and in the second monoculturalist in its orientation and ethos.  Both alike are multicultural societies, but only one of them is multiculturalist.  (p. 6).

Historically, Canada was monoculturalist, and some might argue it still is.  But it has become more multiculturalist.  This is partly officially directed but partly a social change or social movement that has led to Canadians treating multiculturalism as part of Canada’s self-understanding, orientation, and practice.  People have incorporated this into their social relationships – at least many people have. 


One of the tests of whether multiculturalism is effective in Canada, is to examine some of the structures that exist, to see how they have changed – whether discrimination has been reduced.  Another is to examine attitudes and attempt to determine whether they have changed.  As argued earlier, reducing prejudice and racism does not just involve a change in attitudes but may also associated with reducing discrimination. 


Over the next couple days, I will discuss three topics – one structural (ethnicity of university administrators), one policy (employment equity), and one in the realm of attitudes (student views about multiculturalism). 


1.  University administrators.  This comes from data obtained and analyzed by Reza Nakhaie, a sociologist at University of Windsor (Nakaie, 2004).  His analysis is in the same issue of Canadian Ethnic Studies as the article on discrimination against Muslims.  Nakhaie notes that diversity of students at universities has changed, as university attendance moves more toward mirroring the population as a whole.   There are many structural inequities associated with university attendance, but attendance has become more common over the last thirty years.  The explicit quotas limiting entrance of Jew and some other minority groups in the 1930s and 1940s no longer exist.


Ethnic Distribution of Canadian University Administrators and Canadian Population, by Year


University presidents

















Other European

































Other European
















Canadian population

















Other European
















Source:  M. Reza Nakhaie, “Who Controls Canadian Universities?  Ethnoracial Origins of Canadian University Administrators and Faculty’s Perceptions of Mistreatment,” Canadian Ethnic Studies, XXXVI, No. 1, 2004, pp. 92-110.  (percentages adjusted to total one hundred per cent in each column).


Nakhaie also notes that universities often claim to be universal institutions, committed to pursuit of truth, and not being concerned with the source or consequences of such statements.  This would appear to make them ideal institutions in not recognizing racial or ethnic differences among students or staff, but being non-discriminatory and open to participation to all.  Such may be the case in some circumstances, but curricula at universities has been shown to be Eurocentric – in fact, the structure, values, and procedures of universities may be considered by some to be Eurocentric.  In addition, universities have been male dominated, and powerful and influential people at universities have often been closely connected to the dominant power structures of Canadian society.  Porter’s analysis of the vertical mosaic demonstrated this.  Groups with power are reluctant to give it up, and attempt to protect their power, privilege, and dominance.  University structures are no different than those of other institutions in society, so perhaps one should not expect a more representative set of personnel than in other parts of society.


In his article, Nakhaie examines two issues – ethnic representativeness at various levels of university administration or management and perceptions of mistreatment of visible minorities within universities.  While there are methodological problems analyzing ethnicity of individuals, the method used was to examine the last name of the individual, along with other information, such as direct knowledge of the administrator, picture of the administrator, or asking others familiar with the individual to identify his or her ethnicity.  There were 18 universities in 1951 and 45 in 2001.  Results concerning ethnic representation are in the table.


The findings are fairly clear – British ancestry is by far the most common, with “the higher the administrative position, the higher the likelihood of British representation.”  (p. 97).  For French, the pattern is the opposite.  For those of European background, other than English or French, the pattern is also clear – a considerable increase.  While comparable data concerning other institutions in Canada are not available, this is consistent with the view that Europeans of non-British and non-French background have become able to participate more fully in Canadian society.  These were the groups that pushed for recognition in the 1960s, and some argue that this was the group that multiculturalism was aimed at.  Those of aboriginal or visible minority background constitute most of the “Other” category.  This group has become much more important in numbers since 1971, and now accounts for about one-fifth of the Canadian population.  But representation of this group is nowhere near their proportion of the population, and if Nakhaie’s figures are reasonably complete, the situation may be deteriorating.  Note though that the recently named President of the University of Alberta is Dr. Indira Smarasekara, an engineer, who was born in Sri Lanka and immigrated to Canada in 1977.  She is currently a Vice-President (Research) at UBC.  Nakhaie argues

Surely such an under-representation of visible minorities justifies various charges of racism directed at Canadian universities.  Faculty and students have felt that racial minorities are under-represented, that recruitment, promotion, power, and privilege are granted based on race, that curricula are basically Eurocentric, and that few resources have been allocated for the implementation of equitable and anti-racist policies and practices.  (p. 100). 

While Nakhaie’s data do not prove this, they certainly do not contradict it, and tend to support it.


A sample of Canadian university professors also provided information on their views concerning treatment of visible minorities in universities.  Responses generally indicated that professors did not consider there to be mistreatment – the average (mean) was 1.7 on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 indicated fair treatment and 5 indicated unfair treatment.  This means that some considered treatment unfair, but overall treatment was considered fair.  Second, visible minority professors were 30-50% more likely to consider treatment unfair (mean of 2.3-2.4).  Nakhaie states “visible minorities experience the academy different from their counterparts of European origin.”  (p. 101).  Third, among visible minority groups, Chinese appear to be considered least mistreated, with Black, Indo-Pakistanis, Arabs, and Aboriginals being considered to be treated less fairly. 


Nakhaie concludes by arguing that universities are little different than other Canadian institutions in changing – there have been many positive changes for visible minorities and others, but there is a

need for policies that help integrate visible minorities into the academy.  We need to abandon the common misconception that universities are more tolerant, more objective, and more open than other places of employment.  Universities are a microcosm of the wider society, and prejudice and racism may be endemic.  (p. 104). 

Nakhaie argues that shifts in immigration policy and patterns, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, and other policy and societal changes has helped more accommodate more visible minority members in Canadian universities.  But there is still a long way to go to achieve university administrations that mirror the ethnic composition of the population of Canada.


Record of the University of Regina.  The data for the University of Regina come from the Employment Equity Report for 2002 and 2003.  These are available at the web site:

This is an annual report of the University, and appears to be required under two provisions, the Federal Contractor Program (FCP), which sets guidelines for organizations doing business with the federal government.  Organizations employing one hundred or more persons who have or plan to bid on contracts of more than $200,000, must commit themselves to employment equity.  (Employment Equity Manual).  In addition, the University has an employment equity plan that has been approved by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.  These data thus emerge because of a requirement for and stated commitment to employment equity.  


There are four designated equity groups – women, people with disabilities, visible minorities, and aboriginal people.  The benchmarks are targets for a representative workforce, set by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC).  SHRC states  that “The guiding principle of employment equity is that the workforce should reflect the working age population as a whole.  All groups should be able to access the full benefits of employment and make a full contribution to Saskatchewan’s social and economic well being.”  (SHRC, Employment Equity Report 2003, p. 2).  See SHRC, equity part of web site:  Exactly how these benchmarks are obtained is not clear from the report, but appears to be loosely based on data from the Census of Canada. 



University of Regina – Employment Equity

Workforce Analysis of Staff by Occupational Group, 2003


Occupational group


Number of employees




Visible Minority

Senior management – executive

11 (28%)

0        (0%)

2         (5%)        

1       (3%)


Senior management – faculty related

4  (23%)

1        (6%)

0         (0%)

2     (12%)


Faculty – permanent

111 (32%)

5        (1%)

11       (3%)

61   (18%)


APT – permanent

95 (63%)

1        (1%)

0         (0%)

11     (7%)


Support staff – clerical – permanent

239 (89%)

14      (5%)

12       (4%)

6       (2%)


Support staff- maintenance, trades – permanent

30 (17%)

9        (5%)

7         (4%)

13      (7%)



599 (50%)

37      (3%)

43       (4%)

107   (9%)


Note:  The total exceeds the sum of the numbers in each column, since there are some other categories of temporary or term employees.  The above categories include most of the permanent employees of the University of Regina.




Benchmarks are not provided in the 2003 report.  The following benchmarks are those reported in University of Regina Annual Employment Equity Report 2002.  According to the Report (p. 4), these come from the Saskatchewan Human Right Commission. 

·        Aboriginal people – 12.2%


The above come from reports provided on the University of Regina, Human Resources, web site at  Other information about the employment equity programs at the University of Regina is available at    Information on provincial equity programs is available at, the web site of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.



The definition of visible minority is the same as that examined earlier in the semester – nonwhite or people of colour, other than aboriginal people, from one of the ten categories.  Aboriginal people are those who identify themselves as First Nations, Metis, or Inuit.  The data refer only to those who have declared themselves as a member of one or more of the four designated groups.  At the time of initial employment, employees are asked whether they consider themselves in one of these groups or not.  There is thus some possibility of the count being lower than indicated, since some may not consider themselves members of one of the designated groups.


The data from 2003 indicate a serious shortfall in the aboriginal and disabilities categories.  While there has been some progress in the aboriginal category, there has been little increase in the number of employees in the disabled category.  Overall percentages of female and visible minorities and females more than meet the benchmark level. 


But when the data are analyzed by type of job, there are major gaps in meeting the benchmarks.  The three upper levels – management and faculty – fall short in terms of female, aboriginal, and disabilities.  In the case of faculty, there is over-representation of visible minorities, and the level of visible minorities for faculty is close to the level of visible minorities in the Canadian population as a whole.  The one visible minority senior management – executive level is likely the Dean of Engineering.   Women are heavily concentrated in the clerical and APT group (Administrative, Professional, and Technical), that is in support staff, other than trades. 


In the case of visible minorities, there has been an increase in the percentage of these recently, especially in the case of faculty.   The percentage was only 10% in 1999, so considerable progress appears to have been made in terms of increasing the University’s visible minorities.  In terms of aboriginal people, figures from the First Nations University of Canada (FNUC) are not included.  If numbers from FNUC and the other federated colleges were included, it is possible that the University would come close to meeting the aboriginal target.  Since 1999, there has been little change in the percentage of women or women faculty.



Nakhaie, M. Reza.  2004. “ Who Controls Canadian Universities?  Ethnoracial Origins of Canadian University Administrators and Faculty’s Perception of Mistreatment,” Canadian Ethnic Studies, Vol. XXXVI, No. 1, 2004, pp. 92-110.



Last edited December 1, 2004