CBC 75th birthday- Multiculturalism

CBC Host Garvia Bailey - CBC Still Photo Collection

CBC Host Garvia Bailey - CBC Still Photo Collection


Rewind celebrates the 75th birthday of CBC with a look at immigration and multiculturalism. CBC host Garvia Bailey, of Big City, Small World, joins Michael Enright as they talk about the Underground Railroad, a Chinese hockey team from the late 1940s, Africville, the Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, Vietnamese boat people and much much more.

In 1971, Canada became the first country in the world to declare multiculturalism as our official state policy. But the roots of multiculturalism can be seen in the country's earliest beginnings, as three founding cultures- aboriginal, British and French- were joined by many more from around the globe.

Clip 1: Our first clip talks about the Underground Railroad. Daniel Hill, featured here, was a historian and sociologist who championed human rights. He explains what the Underground Railroad was.

Clip 2: Canada has always been a nation of immigrants, and in 1941, the CBC made a series of true-life stories of new Canadians. It was called New Homes for Old.

Clip 3:The Second World War brought Canada's immigration policies into sharp focus. We Canadians might like to think of ourselves as a sanctuary for the oppressed, but for European Jews looking for a way out of Nazi tyranny, Canada's doors were firmly shut. Irving Abella, who wrote the book None is Too Many, called Canada's record "hideous, shameful and disgraceful."

Clip 4: At the close of the Second World War, Canadian immigration officials sought to block former Nazis from entering Canada. But science was a key commodity to be bartered, and the quest for scientific superiority was paramount. Two Canadian companies applied to recruit German scientists. The clip we played was from 1947.

Clip 5: In 1949 an all-Chinese hockey team was considered quite unusual. The piece we chose was an interview with one of its members.

Clip 6: By 1972 CBC Radio programs like Identities and Between Ourselves were exploring the issues facing Canada's various cultures. We played a bit from Between Ourselves that looked at Vancouver's Chinatown.

Clip 7: Of course the principles of who, how many and where to settle have always been important. We featured a bit of Citizen's Forum from 1951.

Clip 8: By the early 1960s, many Francophones felt that they were losing their language and saw separatism as their only recourse. The federal government wondered whether a policy of bilingualism could keep Canada together. So in 1963, the "Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism," known commonly as B & B, began touring the country, asking Canadians if they felt it was important to speak both French and English. But as the commission listened to submissions, one aboriginal woman reminded them that not everyone in Canada is French or English.

Clip 9: The program Identities debuted in 1971, and it told listeners what multiculturalism might mean for the country. Every week it examined how immigrants have shaped Canada, from wine-making to cooking, festivals to language, music to clothing. We had a taste of their very first show.

Clip 10: After Canada became officially bilingual, many Canadians still felt left out- feeling they didn't want to be limited as either French or English. Pierre Trudeau's Liberals came up with a new policy in 1971 called multiculturalism.

Clip 11:  In 1976 Canada amended the immigration act- and one of the things it did was to formally distinguish between refugees and immigrants. A couple of years later it established a program where Canadians- as individuals or as a group- could sponsor refugees. The policy was significant in the aftermath of the Vietnam War as hundreds of thousands of people fled Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos when the Communists took over. Many boarded tiny overcrowded ships and set off in the ocean in an effort to escape. They were called "boat people" and those who survived made their way to refugee camps, desperately searching for a country that would take them in.   Some languished for years in refugee camps. The luckier ones were taken in by countries like Canada. Our clip was from 1979.

Clip 12: Canada continues to accept refugees. We aired part of an interview from the program Sounds Like Canada in 2008 where Shelagh Rogers talked to men who were Iraqi refugees. 

Clip 13: With the influx of refugees and immigrants over the years there has been backlash, growing pains and a seeking out of redress for past injustice. During the Second World War, roughly 22,000 Japanese Canadians were forcibly evacuated from the west coast and resettled in other parts of the country. Their struggle continued after the war as they fought for apology and redress. On the program Between Ourselves in 1972, one man justified the reasons for the internment.

Clip 14: We move now to the mid 1960s and the destruction of Africville. Africville was a small settlement close to Halifax established by former American slaves after the War of 1812. By the 1960s, years of neglect and racism had made the mostly black neighbourhood one of the worst slums in the country. And when dump trucks roared in to ship Africville residents out, it seemed like a good idea to many. But the relocation of Africville also meant the end of a vibrant community. We aired some of a documentary that aired in 1973. 

Clip 15:  When Baltej Singh Dhillon wanted to work for the RCMP, he faced a dilemma- the force did not allow Sikhs to wear turbans. He chose to fight for his religious rights- with the support of the Commissioner of the RCMP, Norman Inkster. The request caused controversy as some Canadians feared changes to what they saw as a national institution. In 1990 the government changed the legislation allowing for RCMP officers to wear turbans. Rewind aired some of a report that aired on the day the change was announced.

Clip 16: In the last few years there have been other hot button issues that have sparked debate across Canada.  In March 2010, the Quebec government tabled a bill that would bar Muslim women from receiving or delivering public services while wearing a niqab- the veil worn by a small number of Muslim women that allows only their eyes to be visible. We had a clip from the World at Six.

Clip 17: In October 2010, Calgary elected the first Muslim mayor of a Canadian city. His name is Naheed Nenshi.