Comparative analysis of Canadian multiculturalism policy and the multiculturalism policies of other countries

Comparative analysis of Canadian multiculturalism policy and the multiculturalism policies of other countries

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2016.0101

Berry, J.W. National Research University "Higher School of Economics", Moscow, Russia


Multiculturalism is an increasingly common characteristic of contemporary societies. In culturally diverse social contexts, virtually every person experiences intercultural contact on a daily basis. It is essential to understand that there must be both cultural diversity and equity in social participation for true multiculturalism to exist in these settings. Beyond its core definition, it is clear that multiculturalism is a complex concept encompassing many dimensions and meanings. First, the term is understood to describe a demographic fact, indicating the existence of cultural diversity in a society. Second, multiculturalism refers to the policies and programs that are in place to manage intercultural relations and acculturation. Third, multiculturalism refers to psychological phenomena, including individual attitudes and ideologies that accept or reject the demographic, civic and policy features of multiculturalism. This chapter considers Canadian multiculturalism policy, examining how the multiple meanings of multiculturalism vary around the world. Within this framework, I highlight the psychological processes and outcomes of multiculturalism, particularly in connection with acculturation, adaptation and intercultural relations and consider whether these processes and outcomes differ for dominant and non-dominant groups. I suggest some ways in which to enhance the positive outcomes of intercultural contact and the resultant acculturation outcomes. Finally, this chapter sets the stage for the presentation of the other chapters in this volume. It elaborates three hypotheses derived from Canadian multiculturalism policy: the multiculturalism, integration and contact hypotheses.

Received: 16.10.2015

Accepted: 21.12.2015

Themes: Multiculturalism and intercultural relations: Comparative analysis; Psychology of ethno-cultural issues


Pages: 4-23

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2016.0101

Keywords: integration, multiculturalism, acculturation strategies, expectations, intercultural contact


What is multiculturalism?

The concept of multiculturalism has acquired many meanings over the past 40 years that vary across societies. In the 1970s, Berry, Kalin and Taylor (1977) de­fined multiculturalism as having two equally important emphases: (i) the presence of ethnocultural diversity in a society and (ii) the presence of equitable participa­tion by all cultural groups in that society. With respect to the first aspect, they made distinctions among the three different meanings of the ethnocultural diver­sity component of multiculturalism. First, multiculturalism is a demographic fact: most societies around the world are now culturally diverse. Second, multicultural­ism is an ideology: individuals and groups hold views about their acceptance or rejection of this diversity. Third, some governments articulate public policies and develop programs addressing the acceptability of diversity as well as its promo­tion. These three features are closely related. If diversity is not present, there is no need to be concerned with what people think about it and no need for govern­mental action.

Although multiculturalism is sometimes thought to only refer to the presence of cultural diversity in a society, the second core element of multiculturalism (eq­uitable participation) is equally important. A view of multiculturalism that consid­ers only the existence of cultural diversity may lead to the emergence of separate cultural groups within a diverse society. Diversity without equal participation will lead to separation or segregation; equal participation without diversity will result in assimilation or the pursuit of the melting pot. In the absence of diversity and equity, marginalization and exclusion will likely occur, but when both diversity and equity are present, integration and multiculturalism are found.

Multiculturalism as Demographic Diversity

Ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic diversity are commonplace in most coun­tries. Worldwide, Africa and Asia are home to the most diverse nations, whereas Japan and the Koreas are among the most ethnically homogenous. Parts of North and South America (e.g., Canada and Peru) are highly diverse, and there is a wide variation in the Middle East. Although diversity is increasing in the European Un­ion, most European countries are relatively homogenous (Alseina et al., 2003). To illustrate the extent of this diversity, Figure 1 presents data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. This figure is based on the probability that two randomly selected people in a society will belong to the same ethnic group; higher scores indicate greater diversity. This figure shows that Canada, Spain and Belgium are the most diverse societies, while Japan, (South) Korea and Iceland are the least.

diversity: Ethnic fractionalization in OECD countries

Figure 1. Cultural diversity: Ethnic fractionalization in OECD countries (2000)

Immigration enhances cultural diversity and has recently been a contentious issue in many countries (such as the United States of America, Europe and Aus­tralasia). In these countries, diversity has been linked to a range of negative social outcomes, including increased anti-immigrant sentiments, perceived threat, and hostile ethnic attitudes (Bloemraad & Wright, 2014; Dustmann, Fabbri, & Preston, 2011; Quillian, 1995; Schneider, 2008). Putnam’s (2007) controversial research in the United States concluded that immigration and ethnic diversity reduce social solidarity, reduce trust and altruism, and are associated with a decline in friend­ships; however, these claims have not been widely replicated in international re­search (e.g., Kesler & Bloemraad, 2010). In contrast, increasing diversity does not inevitably lead to conflict or reductions in social capital. For example, Kalin and Berry (1982) examined Canadian neighborhoods, showing that positive attitudes toward ethnic out-groups increased in proportion to the size of the group in the neighborhood. Similar trends have been found in New Zealand, where residents’ value of immigrants generally increases and immigrants’ perception of discrimina­tion decrease in response to the growing density of immigrant populations (Ward, Masgoret, & Vauclair, 2011). In sum, multidisciplinary research converges on the conclusion that broader demographic, social and political factors shape the impact of cultural diversity on intercultural relations at both the national and neighbor­hood levels.

At the institutional level, cultural diversity brings both benefits and challeng­es. In educational settings, diversity can have negative and positive consequences for interpersonal and intergroup relations (Vervoort, Scholte, & Overbeek, 2010). For example, diversity has detrimental effects on academic achievement for both majority- and minority-group students (van Ewijk & Sleegers, 2010). Meanwhile, diversity is known to have positive consequences for ethnic minority students who feel less vulnerable and lonely and experience greater feelings of self-worth in more diverse classrooms (Juvonen, Nishina, & Graham, 2006). Ultimately, the effects of cultural diversity on educational settings is very much affected by other aspects of the school environment, including having a broader approach to multicultural ed­ucation, the strength of student-teacher relationships and the nature of peer norms (Thijs & Verkuyten, 2014).

In organizational settings, there can also be positive and negative consequenc­es. For example, exposure to diversity can promote enhanced creativity and per­spective-taking. Alternately, it can promote greater conflict, diminished cohesion and lower productivity. Culturally diverse groups generate more creative solutions, which can lead to competitive advantages for organizations; however, individu­als frequently report greater conflict in culturally heterogeneous settings than in more homogenous ones (Stahl, Maznevski, Voigt, & Jonsen, 2010). Furthermore, research suggests that the link between diversity and job performance is unstable and ultimately depends on the context in which the work takes place (Kochan et al., 2003).

Ultimately, it is not cultural diversity per se that determines positive or negative consequences for nations, neighborhoods, schools or organizations. More impor­tant are the ways in which diversity and equitable inclusion are managed or accom­modated, which leads us to examine multiculturalism policy.

Multiculturalism as policy

In some countries, legislatures create policies to address the management and ac­commodation of diversity. Aligned to these policies are programs supporting cul­tural diversity and facilitating equitable participation for heterogeneous ethno­cultural groups. It is important to recognize, however, that the existence of policies and programs alone is not sufficient to achieve a truly multicultural society; it is imperative that the policies and programs be systematically implemented.

As in the case of demographic diversity, there is great variation in the adoption of multicultural policies and practices across countries. There is also much debate about their success and impact (e.g., Banting & Kymlicka, 2013; Colombo, 2015; Kymlicka, 2012; St. Jacques, 2014). At present, there are two important databases that describe and quantify the status of national multiculturalism policies: the Mul­ticultural Policy Index (MPI; Banting & Kymlicka, 2006-2012) and the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX, 2010). Both indices consider policies relating to diversity and equity and are based on specific indicators of the degree to which a society pursues those two features of social organization. These are described more fully in the section on Multiculturalism Policy below.

Multiculturalism as ideology

Individuals’ evaluations of diversity and equity have been referred to as multicultur­al ideologies. Multicultural ideology is defined by Berry (1977) as an apprecia­tion for cultural diversity and a need for mutual accommodation that promotes eq­uitable participation. In some societies, however, there is a common misconception that multiculturalism refers only to cultural diversity (i.e., the presence of many independent cultural communities). As noted above, cultural diversity without in­tercultural interaction and equitable participation in the larger society can become separation and segregation. Furthermore, as also noted above, in the absence of equity, diversity is typically seen as being socially divisive.

The view of multiculturalism as mere cultural diversity seems to have formed the basis of recent assertions that “multiculturalism has failed” in some European societies (e.g., in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom). For exam­ple, the British Prime Minister (Number 10, 2011) argued that state multicultural­ism in “Britain had encouraged different cultures to live separate lives”… and that “the UK needed a stronger national identity to prevent people turning to all kinds of extremism.” We argue that multiculturalism has not failed because it was never fully attempted in these societies. If multiculturalism is viewed as only tolerating the presence of different cultures in a society without the simultaneous promo­tion of inclusion through programs to reduce barriers to equitable participation, then such policies, practices and ideologies are more accurately described as be­ing a form of segregation. Cameron seems to have recognized this view. However, the proposed solution to the problem of segregation has been more homogeneity rather than the pursuit of the double engagement option articulated in our vision of multiculturalism.

Multicultural ideology in various countries

Figure 2. Multicultural ideology in various countries (Ward and Masgoret, 2008, p. 234).

Multicultural ideologies vary markedly across countries. For example, Ward and Masgoret (2008) assembled scores on multicultural ideology for a number of countries (see Figure 2).

In this data set, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden were most accepting of this ideology, while Greece, Austria and Germany were the least accepting. Al­though not shown in this figure, 85% of Canadians support this statement. In a sec­ond study from a (Eurobarometer, 2007) public opinion poll given in 27 European countries, results indicated that agreement with the general premise that ethnic diversity enriches national culture (the diversity element) varies from 32% in Malta to 86% in Sweden. Simultaneously, the proposition that there should be more ethnic minority Members of Parliament (the intercultural element) receives a lower level of endorsement, ranging from 17% in Bulgaria and Cyprus to 66% in Sweden and France. This attitudinal pattern is in keeping with the “principle-implementation gap,” which suggests that individuals are more likely to support abstract principles than concrete policies that are designed to achieve goals. Similarly, there is strong evidence that multiculturalism receives greater support as an abstract principle, while more concrete constructions of multiculturalism are viewed as threatening to members of the dominant group (Yogeeswaran & Dasgupta, 2014).

Multiculturalism policies in culturally diverse societies

Multiculturalism policies internationally

As noted above, there are two important databases that describe and quantify na­tional multiculturalism policies: the Multicultural Policy Index (MPI; Banting & Kymlicka, 2006–2012) and the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX, 2010). The MPI (see Figure 3) is “a scholarly research project that monitors the evolution of multiculturalism policies across Western democracies. The project is designed to provide information about multiculturalism policies in a standardized format that aids comparative research and contributes to the understanding of state-minority relations. There are three separate indices covering three types of minorities: one index relating to immigrant groups, one relating to historic national minorities, and one relating to indigenous peoples.” The index includes a set of nine criteria for assessing the promotion of multiculturalism (by policy and practice) in pluralistic societies. These include: government policies promoting multiculturalism, main­taining a multicultural ministry or secretariat, adopting multiculturalism in school curricula, representing ethnicities in the media, exempting cultural groups from codes that are rooted in the dominant society (e.g., Sunday closing), permitting dual citizenship, funding for cultural organizations, and funding for bilingual or heritage language instruction.

Multiculturalism Policy Index

Figure 3. Multiculturalism Policy Index Source. Banting, K., & Kymlicka, W. (2006–2012). The multicultural policy index. (

Related to the MPI Index are the reports of Bloemraad (2011; Wright & Bloem­raad, 2012). Bloemraad (2011) examined multiculturalism policies and practices in various countries and tracked changes over the years from 1980 to 2010 using the MPI. This index places Canada and Australia in first place, followed by Sweden, New Zealand, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. Toward the middle are Spain, Portugal and the USA. Lowest placed are France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Denmark. Of particular interest is the Netherlands, which was ranked rather high in 2000, but dropped to a low score in 2010. This earlier high position was the result of longstanding “pillarization” policies (Fleras, 2009), while the drop may reflect recent assertions that multiculturalism has failed in the Netherlands (Vertovec & Wessendorf, 2010).

A second index, the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX), is based on indicators of migrant integration in a number of policy domains: labor mobili­ty, family reunion, education, political participation, long-term residence, access to nationality and anti-discrimination laws. Scores are currently provided for 37 countries, which can be seen in Table 1 (MIPEX, 2010).

Table 1. Migrant Integration Policy Index 2010 (


Overall Score





















South Korea






United Kingdom












Czech Republic




































Curiously, the rather low ranking of European societies (except for Sweden and Portugal) flies in the face of an EU (2005) directive promoting core elements of multiculturalism policy, the “Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration Policy in the EU.” Among the 11 principles, one article asserts the right to cultural maintenance: “The practice of diverse cultures and religions is guaranteed under the Charter of Fundamental Rights and must be safeguarded, unless practices con­flict with other inviolable European rights or with national law.” Another promotes participation: “Frequent interaction be­tween immigrants and Member States citizens is a fundamental mechanism for integration. Shared forums, inter­cultural dialogue, education about im­migrants and immigrant cultures, and stimulating living conditions in urban environments enhance the interac­tions between immigrants and Member State citizens.” Further: “Access for immigrants to institutions, as well as to private goods and services, on a basis equal to national citizens and in a non­discriminatory way is a critical founda­tion for better integration.” And a third notes the importance of learning the national language: “Basic knowledge of the host society’s language, history, and institutions is indispensable to integra­tion; enabling immigrants to acquire this basic knowledge is essential to sucessful integration.” With respect to the process, the directive identifies the integration of migrants and their cultural communities as “… a dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immigrants and residents of Member States. Integration is a dynam­ic, long-term, and continuous two-way process of mutual accommodation… It demands the participation not only of immigrants and their descendants but of every resident” (p. 1).

What are the effects of multicul­tural policies? There is ample evidence that multiculturalism produces positive outcomes for non-dominant groups, although the precise effects vary by context and policy type. Anti-discrimi­nation policies improve economic out­comes for immigrants (Aleksynska & Algan, 2010), and wage gaps between immigrants and residents are lower in countries with more favorable immi­gration policies, as defined by the Mi­grant Integration Policy Index (Nieto,

Matano, & Ramos, 2013). Immigrants who experience greater belonging in terms of citizenship acquisition, have higher levels of trust and report lower levels of dis­crimination in countries with more multicultural policies (Koopmans, Statham Giugni, & Passy, 2005; Wright & Bloemraad, 2012). More generally, Bloemraad and Wright (2014, p. 292) have concluded “that multicultural policies appear to have some modest positive effects on socio-political integration for first-generation immigrants and likely little direct effect, positive or negative, on those in the sec­ond generation.” These favorable outcomes are mirrored in organizational settings where “identity conscious” as opposed to “identity blind” policies result in higher employment status for people of color (Konrad & Linnehan, 1995). Multiculturalism policies can also benefit dominant groups. Kesler and Bloem­raad’s (2010) 19-country study showed that multicultural policies increase a sense of belonging, defined in terms of civic participation. However, despite these posi­tive outcomes, multicultural policies have often been misunderstood as exclusion­ary and perceived as threatening by members of the dominant ethno-cultural group (Plaut, Garnett, Buffardi, & Sanchez-Burks, 2011). Current debates in the United States focus on the merits of multicultural versus color-blind ideologies and poli­cies. In contrast to the tenets of multiculturalism, which reflect a positive recogni­tion and accommodation of diversity, color-blind ideologies and policies ignore or minimize group differences, consistent with the “melting pot” metaphor for man­aging diversity. Although the color-blind strategy is often portrayed by members of the dominant group as a mechanism for decreasing inequality, it instead functions as a justification for existing inequality. This strategy is associated with a stronger racial bias, bringing with it negative consequences in educational and organiza­tional settings (Apfelbaum, Norton, & Sommers, 2012). In contrast, multicultural models of diversity are associated with greater inclusiveness, reduced racial bias, and more engagement from non-dominant groups (Plaut et al., 2011; Plaut, Thom­as, & Goren, 2009). Overall, multicultural approaches have been shown to promote “positive psychological, educational and organizational outcomes for minorities and organizations” (Plaut et al., 2011, p. 2).

Multiculturalism policy in Canada

As just discussed, many culturally diverse societies have sought to understand di­versity and manage it through policy. The first multiculturalism policy was adopted in Canada in 1971. The basic goal of the policy was articulated as follows:

“A policy of multiculturalism within a bilingual framework… (is) the most suitable means of assuring the cultural freedom of all Canadians. Such a policy should help to break down discriminatory attitudes and cultural jealousies. National unity, if it is to mean anything in the deeply personal sense, must be founded on the confidence on one’s individual identity; out of this can grow respect for that of others, and a willing­ness to share ideas, attitudes and assumptions…. The Government will support and encourage the various cultural and ethnic groups that give structure and vitality to our society. They will be encouraged to share their cultural expression and values with other Canadians and so contribute to a richer life for all”. Government of Canada, (1971).

An examination of this policy reveals three main components. The first is the goal, which is “to break down discriminatory attitudes and cultural jealousies.” This goal seeks to enhance mutual acceptance among all cultural groups. It is approached by two main program components. One is the cultural component, which is to be achieved by providing support and encouragement for cultural maintenance and development among all cultural groups. The other is the social or intercultural component, which promotes the sharing of cultural expressions by providing op­portunities for intergroup contact and the removal of barriers to full and equitable participation in the daily life of the larger society. A third component acknowledges the importance of learning a common language(s) to permit intercultural partici­pation among all groups.

Over the years, I have been involved in conceptual and empirical examina­tions of Canadian multiculturalism policy from a psychological perspective (Berry, 2013, 2014). I first evaluated the Canadian policy and its implementation after ten years (Berry, 1984) and again after twenty (Berry & Laponce, 1994). In this work, I examined its core elements (and linkages among elements). I proposed that these elements formed a coherent set of psychological concepts and principles and that they could serve as the basis for developing testable hypotheses.

Canadian multiculturalism policy

Figure 4. Goal, components and linkages in Canadian multiculturalism policy (revised from Berry, 1984)

Figure 4 demonstrates some of these core elements and linkages (from Berry, 1984). The fundamental goal of the policy is to enhance mutual acceptance among all ethnocultural groups (upper right). This goal is pursued by three program com­ponents. On the upper left is the cultural component, which is to be achieved by providing support for cultural maintenance and development among all ethnocul­tural groups. The second is the social (or intercultural) component (lower left), which seeks the sharing of cultural expressions by providing opportunities for in­tergroup contact and by removing barriers to full and equitable participation in the daily life of the larger society. The last feature is the intercultural communication component, shown in the lower right corner of Figure 4. This represents the bilin­gual reality of Canadian society, promoting the acquisition of one or both official languages (English and French) as a means for all ethnocultural groups to interact with each other and to participate in national life.

It is essential to note that the Canadian concept of multiculturalism, and of multiculturalism policy, has two main and equally important emphases: the main­tenance of heritage cultures and identities (the cultural component) and the full and equitable participation of all ethnocultural groups in the life of the larger soci­ety (the social or intercultural component).

In addition to these four components, there are linkages among them. The first (top of Figure 4), termed the multiculturalism hypothesis, is expressed in the policy statement as the belief that confidence in one’s identity will lead to sharing, respect for others, and the reduction of discriminatory attitudes. Berry, et. al. (1977) identi­fied this belief as an assumption with psychological roots that is amenable to em­pirical evaluation. A second link in Figure 4 (left side) is the hypothesis that when individuals and groups are “doubly engaged,” (that is, valuing and participating in both their heritage cultures and in the larger society) they will be more successful in their lives. This success will be evidenced by a higher level of wellbeing in both psychological and social domains. This is the integration hypothesis, in which in­volvement with, competence in and confidence in both cultural communities pro­vides the social capital to succeed in intercultural living.

A third link portrayed in Figure 4 (diagonal) is the contact hypothesis, by which contact and sharing are believed to promote mutual acceptance under certain con­ditions, especially those of status equality and voluntary intercultural contact.

By balancing these components, it should be possible to achieve the core goal of the policy: the improvement of intercultural relations in Canada, where all groups and individuals have a place, within both their own heritage cultural environments and the larger society. In this sense, multiculturalism is for everyone, not only for non-dominant groups. This aspect emphasizes that all groups and individuals are engaged in a process of cultural and psychological change.

Other countries have advanced multiculturalism policies. The MPI and MIPEX analyses described above (Section 1.2) provide evidence of large varia­tions in how societies address the issues of diversity and equity. Perhaps closest to the situation in Russia is a proposal by the European Union, which adopted a set of “Common Basic Principles for Immigrant Integration” in 2005. The first of these principles is:

“Integration is a dynamic, two-way process of mutual accommodation by all immi­grants and residents of Member States. Integration is a dynamic, long-term, and con­tinuous two-way process of mutual accommodation, not a static outcome. It demands the participation not only of immigrants and their descendants but of every resident. The integration process involves adaptation by immigrants, both men and women, who all have rights and responsibilities in relation to their new country of residence. It also involves the receiving society, which should create the opportunities for the immigrants’ full economic, social, cultural, and political participation. Accordingly, Member States are encouraged to consider and involve both immigrants and nation­al citizens in integration policy, and to communicate clearly their mutual rights and responsibilities.”

In this EU statement, we find the three cornerstones of multiculturalism: the right of all peoples to maintain their cultures, the right to participate fully in the life of the larger society, and the obligation for all groups (both dominant and non-dominant) to engage in a process of mutual change. Research on the acceptance of this policy in Europe has only just begun.

However, there is some indication (e.g., van de Vijver, Breugelmans & Schalk-Soekar, 2008) that Europeans make a clear distinction between the right of immi­grants to maintain their cultures in private (i.e., in their families and communities) and the right to expect changes to the public culture of the society of settlement. Much of this research found that it is considered to be acceptable to express one’s heritage culture in the family and in the community, but that it should not be ex­pressed in public domains, such as educational or work settings. This view is op­posed to the basic principles outlined by the European Union, which identify the process as one of mutual accommodation.

There is also a common misunderstanding that multiculturalism means only the presence of many non-dominant cultural communities (“minorities”) in a soci­ety (i.e., acknowledging the cultural maintenance component), without their equi­table participation and incorporation into the larger society (i.e., not accepting the intercultural component). Because of this, many see multiculturalism as leading to social division and separation. It is this incomplete view that has led some in Eu­rope to declare that “multiculturalism has failed.” However, in my view, it has not failed because it has never been tried; those societies have given little regard to the intercultural component.

Adaptation to living in culturally diverse societies

The integration hypothesis proposes that adaptation will be more successful in cul­turally diverse societies when individuals engage with both their heritage culture and the larger society. There are three types of adaptation: psychological, sociocul­tural, and intercultural. The first two were identified by Ward (1996), who distin­guished between psychological adaptation and sociocultural adaptation. The first refers to adaptations that are primarily internal or psychological (e.g., a sense of well-being or self-esteem, sometimes called “feeling well”). The second adaptation (sociocultural) is sometimes called “doing well.” This form of adaptation manifests as competence in carrying out the activities of daily intercultural living. A third form of adaptation has recently been introduced: intercultural adaptation (Berry, 2015). This concept refers to how well individuals relate to each other in a culturally diverse society. It includes both affect (liking or disliking) and behaviors (acting on these preferences) and is assessed using constructs such as ethnic attitudes, toler­ance, discrimination and prejudice.

Evidence supporting the integration hypothesis is widespread. Berry (1997) re­viewed a number of studies and concluded that this relationship formed a general pattern. More recent research supported his contention with respect not only to psychological and sociocultural adaptation (e.g., Ward & Rana Deuba, 1999; Berry et al. 2006) but also in domain-specific areas of adaptation, such as better cognitive performance in academic settings (van de Vijver, Helms-Lorenz, & Felzer, 1999) and fewer instances of health-risk behaviors (Chédebois et al., 2009). More recently, the meta-analysis by Nguyen and Benet-Martínez (2013) concluded that integra­tion is associated with better adaptation. Specifically, they found that integration (“biculturalism” in their term) has a significant and positive relationship not only with psychological and sociocultural adaptation but also with domain-specific out­comes, such as academic achievement and career success. A possible explanation for the relationship between integration and these positive outcomes is that those who are “doubly engaged” with both cultures receive support and resources from both and are competent in dealing with both as well. The social capital afforded by these multiple social and cultural engagements may well offer the route to success in pluralistic societies.

It is important to note that Berry (2005) has argued that integration can only be achieved in multicultural societies characterized by mutual accommodation, positive perceptions of diversity and the adoption of policies to support cultural maintenance and equitable participation. His comparative research demonstrated that the link between integration and adaptation is weaker in France, where there is more perceived discrimination and fewer multicultural policies, than in Canada (Berry & Sabatier, 2010). Indeed, Verkuyten (2007) has argued that in contrast to settler societies, most European countries have a long history of established ma­jority groups, and as immigration has not played a significant role in the national self-image, it is more difficult for immigrants to be included and find a sense of belonging.

Improving intercultural relations in culturally diverse societies

As noted throughout this paper, the multicultural vision is defined as meeting two requirements: maintaining diverse heritage cultures and promoting equitable par­ticipation for all ethno-cultural groups. Some multiculturalism policies advance these features and legislate for these outcomes; however, others only promote di­versity without equitable inclusion. The multicultural vision asserts that diversity should be valued as a public good, that it should be accommodated and that it should have positive consequences for individuals and groups. However, how can we ensure positive outcomes from sustained intercultural contact?

First, multicultural policy and practice must focus not only on diversity but must also place equal emphasis on inclusive participation. It is the absence of this equity component that has led the people and leaders of some countries to assert that “multiculturalism has failed.” However, as argued above, it has not failed be­cause it has not been attempted. The most important element in this lack of eq­uitable inclusion is discrimination, which takes place at three levels: systemic (in the society), group (excluding groups of people because of their membership), and personal (diminishing an individual’s opportunity to participate as a member of a cultural community). In much of the research reviewed in this paper, discrimina­tion was found to be the single most important contributor to mutual hostility (that is, reciprocal negative affect) as well as to poor psychological and sociocul­tural adaptation. Public legislation promoting inclusion and limiting expressions of exclusion (both in words and in action) are required to minimize such negative outcomes.

Second, public education regarding the dual nature of multiculturalism (cultur­al diversity and equitable inclusion) needs to be prioritized, enabling all members of the society to understand and appreciate this complex vision. The advantages of diversity and equity (as outlined in this chapter; see also Berry, 1998) need to be exemplified in all domains of life: education, health, justice, media and political life. The costs can also be identified, but then challenged by studies showing, for example, that immigration and diversity may have initial economic costs but make significant economic and cultural contributions in the longer term. For instance, public advertising in Canada, based on the slogan “Multiculturalism Works,” pro­motes the idea that a society in which members know many languages, sets of cus­toms and values enjoys advantages when engaging the world in trade and diplo­macy. Additionally, having cultural activities, such as cinema, theatres, music and literature, from diverse parts of the world is widely acknowledged to enrich people’s lives.

Third, the contact hypothesis has been repeatedly assessed and found to be largely valid (Tropp & Pettigrew, 2011). Under most conditions (especially that of equal status contact), more contact is associated with more positive intercultural encounters and outcomes. Intercultural contact, of course, is a prerequisite for the inclusion component of multiculturalism, and positive intercultural attitudes and practices are usually prerequisites for equitable inclusion. Policies and programs that encourage intercultural encounters and dialogue, such as shared endeavors in arts, sport, and politics, may yield positive relations.

Fourth, implicit in the multicultural vision at the country-level is the notion that national identity can and should incorporate diversity. We have seen that in some societies (“settler societies”), holding both a positive ethnic identity and a positive national identity are compatible ways to think of oneself. However, in some other societies (those new to the experience of immigration and diversity), these two identities are negatively correlated. We have also seen that this “double” way of living (using the integration/multicultural strategy) is usually associated with greater levels of personal wellbeing. One way to achieve these positive outcomes is to promote a common in-group identity (Dovidio, Gaertner, & Kafati, 2000), a is a superordinate inclusive identity that accommodates both national and ethnic attachments (see Kunst, Thomsen, & Sam, 2014). For example, research has shown that the values of diversity and inclusion lie at the core of Canadian pride, which underpins Canadian national identity (Cameron & Berry, 2011).

Finally, there is evidence that support for multiculturalism depends on the meaning attributed to the concept and associated policy. The distinction between multiculturalism in principle and multiculturalism in practice has been examined by Yogeeswaran and Dasgupta (2014), who found that construing multiculturalism in abstract terms and in relation to broad goals reduced the extent to which diver­sity was viewed as threatening by members of dominant groups; conversely, high­lighting the concrete ways in which multiculturalism can be achieved increased perceptions of threat. Similarly, in Berry et al.’s (1977) Canadian national survey, support for the ideology of multiculturalism was high, but diminished when it was made more concrete by referring to the practical consequences and was even lower when the costs (e.g., possible tax implications) were identified. This presents challenges for the accommodation of diversity and places a greater onus on gov­ernments to balance the benefits of multiculturalism with its costs. Despite these challenges, we believe that the multiculturalism policy and programs rooted in the research reviewed in this chapter will provide a solid basis for the improvement of the experience of acculturation and for making intercultural relations more posi­tive for all.


In this paper, I have noted that multiculturalism is a widespread and increasingly important characteristic of all contemporary societies. These culturally diverse settings provide a social context for intercultural contact, in which accultura­tion becomes a daily experience for almost everyone. We have emphasized that in these settings, multiculturalism requires the presence of both cultural diversity and equity in social participation. It is clear that the concept of multiculturalism is complex, with many dimensions and meanings. I commenced the examina­tion of this complexity by distinguishing some of the core elements of multicul­turalism. First, the term is understood as referring to the demographic fact of cultural diversity in a society. Second, multiculturalism refers to the policies and programs that are in place to manage intercultural relations and acculturation. Third, multiculturalism refers to psychological phenomena, including individual attitudes and ideologies that accept or reject these demographic, civic and policy features of multiculturalism. I have elaborated how these multiple meanings of multiculturalism vary around the world and discussed their positive and nega­tive consequences. Specifically, I have considered the effects of multiculturalism for national societies at one end of the spectrum and for individuals at the other end, with an intermediate level of analysis considering institutions, organizations, neighborhoods, communities and other groups. Within this framework, I have highlighted the psychological processes and outcomes of multiculturalism, par­ticularly in connection with acculturation, adaptation and intercultural relations, and have considered whether these processes and outcomes are the same or differ­ent for dominant and non-dominant groups. Finally, I have suggested some ways in which to enhance positive outcomes of intercultural contact and the resultant acculturation outcomes.


This work was supported by the Russian Science Foundation (Project No. 15-18­00029).


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To cite this article: Berry J. (2016). Comparative analysis of Canadian multiculturalism policy and the multiculturalism policies of other countries. Psychology in Russia: State of the Art, 9(1), 4-23.

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