Canada’s Cultural Mosaic

Canada is, without a doubt, a country of immigrants. The first groups of people, in the 1800’s, were citizens of France and England hoping to create a better life in the New World. Not much has changed, other than now we have citizens who originated from all over Europe, Asia, the Americas, Australia, and Africa. They, though, did not just originate there; they brought a piece of their home to their new country.

Immigrants moving to Canada often keep their religion- attending neighbourhood churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples. When religious customs may interfere with typical Canadian rules or traditions, we vote for religious freedoms.

Canada is officially a bilingual country. English and French are both taught in school and on most signs and on all of our packaging. But, the language diversity does not stop there. One can go to any park on a sunny day, or ride a bus, or walk through a crowded food court and hear families speaking multiple languages. My favourite was listening to two teenage girls switch back and forth between English and their first language- sometimes mid-sentence, sometimes just for a word. Or listening to the radio in the North- where I might hear three different aboriginal languages mixed in with the word “Whitehorse”. I always expect to hear different languages, and I never assume my English will be perfectly understood.

Canada is not a mixing pot, blending everyone into a single, conformed identity. Canada is a mosaic. Our picture is created by pieces of all of the cultures present. We would not be Canada if we looked down the street and everyone looked the same. I look down the street and I see jeans and t-shirts mixed with saris, I see people who will go to church on Sunday mixed with those who never will, I hear English mixed with Cantonese mixed with Spanish, I see signs advertising in Cantonese, Korean, or French.

It is hard to answer the questions “what is it like?”, because it just is the way it is. Everybody being different just seems normal. We are, though, not without racism or people asking “where are you from?” when they see an unusual last name or see your skin colour; but us second or third generation citizens proudly state “Here. We’re from here in Canada”.

Read more:
Winter driving in Canada
Canadian pride and the Vancouver olympics
International cuisine: sushi in Vancouver

About the author

Kelly Pohorelic
Kelly is a BC girl through and through, but never lasts at home very long before her feet start itching. She has travelled repeatedly to Australia, Europe, and Mexico (and the US, but that doesn't really count). The goal is every continent, but in every place she goes, there is only more to see. She currently fills the days working too many hours with children, writing, and learning Spanish. Though, friends will always find her in a kitchen filled with new recipes from the countries she has visited.
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  • I have very fond memories of Canada. It was so interesting to see everything you write about in person.

  • I’m glad you liked it here :) Maybe I can encourage you or others to come for a visit.

  • My husband always wanted to go to Canada :-)
    It seems to be a safe country and with beautiful forests :-)

  • I’d love to experience this for myself. The mix of different cultures is one of the things I miss from the UK, but from what I hear Canada is much more multicultural.

  • Yes. I have to say I think it is. Coming from Vancouver to England, there is a noticeable difference. There are moments were you look around and think, weird… everyone I see is caucasian…

    I went to a Japanese restaurant in Bournemouth. I remember not seeing a single face of Asian descent, let alone Japanese. Sure, Manchester has its Curry Mile, but to me, what makes a place truly multicultural is the mingling of each culture. More of a co-exist than a segregation to different areas. I walk down the street looking for a place to eat and I’ll pass sushi, a Korean BBQ, and a burger joint, before settling on the Vietnamese restaurant.

    Also, you really cannot go out into public and not hear another language being spoken. In my job working with kids, I meet grandparents who cannot speak more than a couple words in English. This is just normal.