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Multiculturalism is Key to Capacity Building in Canada and Around the Globe

Since its first articulation in the 1970s, the concept of multiculturalism in Canada is one that has been readily embraced by immigrants and second and third generation Canadians. In Canada, multiculturalism has been seen as the ticket that gives Canadians from many cultures an equal space in Canada's social, economic and political structures.

The inclusion of multiculturalism in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the early 1980s marked a high point in the recognition of cultural diversity. The passing of the Multiculturalism Act in 1988 further strengthened the position of minority cultures in Canada.

Through the efforts of the United Nations, multiculturalism today is increasingly based on the concept of global ethics. These are equity, human rights and responsibilities, democracy, protection of minorities, peaceful conflict resolution and fair negotiation. In the United Nations Human Development Report 2004, authors argue that all people have the right to maintain their ethnic, linguistic, and religious identities. They further contend that the adoption of policies that recognize and protect these identities is the only sustainable approach to development in diverse societies.

"If the world is to reach the Millennium Development Goals and ultimately eradicate poverty, it must first successfully confront the challenge of how to build inclusive, culturally diverse societies,"

Malloch Brown, Human Development Report 2004.

Canada has been a leader in multiculturalism through its policy and programs and by offering community organizations an environment to thrive. Associations formed in Canada to meet the needs of ethnocultural communities provide for the physical, economic, cultural, spiritual, and recreational needs of communities.

The action of forming associations to deal with socio-cultural and economic issues empowers ethnocultural communities (whether newly arrived or established), enables the formation of bonds among people and helps to find remedy for issues of concern to their community.