Racism in Canada


I Love Canada, Ottawa, April 2012

The results of the first round of the French pres­i­den­tial elec­tions came as no sur­prise: the two favourite can­di­dates, Nico­las Sarkozy and François Hol­land, will face each other in round two on May 6, 2012. The only “sur­prise” was that the Front National, the anti-immigrant party, ended up at the third place with a record 17.9 per cent of the vote.

The Front National went from being a mar­ginal party in the 70s to being the third largest polit­i­cal force today. Con­sid­er­ing the party’s his­tory and its plat­form, that’s rather scary. For instance, some party offi­cials have occa­sion­ally pro­moted his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism, specif­i­cally related to the Sec­ond World War, and the party’s oppo­si­tion to immi­gra­tion and immi­grants has never been stronger.

Frankly, if such a party existed in Canada, I’d be really annoyed. For­tu­nately, here, the influ­ence of such fringe par­ties is very lim­ited, so lim­ited that I never hear any­thing about the Her­itage Front or the Nation­al­ist Party of Canada.

Canada is a very mul­ti­cul­tural coun­try: in fact, mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism was adopted as the offi­cial pol­icy of the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment and the 2006 Cen­sus reported more than 200 dif­fer­ent eth­nic ori­gins in the coun­try. Few politi­cians even ques­tion the need for immi­gra­tion, and the debate is usu­ally around immi­gra­tion quotas.

Oh, we do have a bunch of nuts here too. There are mostly linked to their U.S. coun­ter­parts, from reli­gious fanat­ics who want to reopen the abor­tion debate in Canada to those who would love to see cre­ation­ism taught at school.

But I don’t see Cana­di­ans are racist—that should be pretty good news for most immigrants.

Admit­tedly, I may not be the right per­son to judge whether Cana­di­ans dis­like immi­grants. After all, French is my first lan­guage and I’m not a vis­i­ble minor­ity. I blend in eas­ily and I’m much less likely to be dis­crim­i­nated against than other immi­grants from Africa or Asia.

That said, Cana­di­ans can be con­ser­v­a­tive. I lean to the left, some­time the far-left, and con­ser­vatism dri­ves me crazy. For instance, I stay away from the Sun, a con­ser­v­a­tive rag that typ­i­cally rant against Lib­er­als, high taxes, social­ism, lazy unem­ployed peo­ple, unruly chil­dren and “punks” and pro­mote the “not in my back­yard” men­tal­ity. I wouldn’t even use this “news­pa­per” to clean my win­dows. But I must admit I rarely read or hear bla­tantly racist comments.

Can Cana­di­ans even afford to be racist? Canada needs immigrants—to meet demo­graphic chal­lenges and to fill the gaps in the labour market—and the coun­try is well aware of that. Cana­di­ans don’t really ques­tion mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. At times, the reli­gion or cul­tural prac­tices of some groups are under the spot­light but such “diver­sity dilem­mas” are to be expected and they remain rel­a­tively low-key com­pared to other coun­tries (try to talk about Islam with French people…!).

I believe that what some immi­grants brand as “racism” is sim­ply the rite of pas­sage most new­com­ers have to go through, no mat­ter where they are from. The frus­tra­tion of not find­ing a job because of hav­ing for­eign cre­den­tials or the feel­ing of not being appre­ci­ated enough by locals can be over­whelm­ing for some immi­grants, but it’s rarely racism per se… more like an adap­ta­tion period. A Cana­dian who just moved from Man­i­toba can face prob­lems find­ing a job in Ontario or in Que­bec sim­ply because he doesn’t have the net­work and ref­er­ences he used to have in his home province, not to men­tion that each province has its own vibes.

Immi­grants to Canada will some­time hear stu­pid com­ments about the immi­gra­tion sys­tem, but most can be chalked up to igno­rance. For instance, I remem­ber chat­ting with a woman in the bus who assured me Canada was being invaded by sick immi­grants who just wanted to take advan­tage of the country’s great health sys­tem. Once I explained her that immi­grants who had health prob­lems were usu­ally not allowed to immi­grate in the first place, and that there was a wait­ing period to be eli­gi­ble to get health­care in Canada, she looked away. Much eas­ier that way. But hey, maybe she learned some­thing that day?

Have you ever been dis­crim­i­nated against in Canada? Else­where in the world? Would do be wor­ried if Canada has a major national far-right party, like in France


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Cana­di­ans are just too well behaved to be racists in your face, but I can’t say racism isn’t there.

    I can’t exactly say that I’ve suf­fered from it, how­ever how many time have I wit­nessed prej­u­dice in someone’s face when they hear my “strange” accent? How many times did I have to explain (apol­o­gize?) that I might have a bit of a French accent, but I’m not from Que­bec (though I’ve lived there awhile)?

    • I’m sorry you had to face that, and I com­pletely under­stand… it’s not nice. It rarely hap­pened to me, maybe because I live in a big city? Not to say peo­ple are racist in the coun­try, but it can be more conservative.

    • I’m sure a lot of peo­ple won’t agree with me but I do think Que­bec is a bit of an excep­tion, and it has a harder time to deal with mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism than the rest of the country.

      • What about Alberta? (sup­posed to be the “red­neck” coun­try: yes I’m exager­at­ing a lit­tle bit), is it as opened as Ontario and BC?)

        • For Canada, yeah, it’s a con­ser­v­a­tive province. That said, I think it changed quite a bit with the influx of migrants the last few years, dur­ing the eco­nomic boom.

  2. Racism is still, unfor­tu­nately, kick­ing around in Canada how­ever most of it nowa­days seems to be directed towards Mus­lims. There are a large per­cent­age of Mus­lims in Ottawa, so I don’t really under­stand this igno­rant atti­tude but some peo­ple just want to stay igno­rant I guess.

  3. Canada is a very mul­ti­cul­tural coun­try”.
    If you knew any­thing about France, you would know that France is more mul­ti­cul­tural than Canada, in fact, the “white” pop­u­la­tion in France stands at about the same as the USA(Around 65%), which is less than Canada.

    • Con­sid­er­ing I am also French and that I grew up there, I think I know about the coun­try, thank you very much. BTW, “white” isn’t a stat nor a race nor a cul­ture, and do you have sources?

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