Social Identities and Citizenship Politics in Canada


There are several ways in which multiculturalism constructs, prescribes, and influences the implementation of government policies on citizenship. The Canadian institutions and political regimes have been accused of allowing marginalization to excel in the acquisition and roles assigned to the citizens of Canada on the basis of social identities. Many of the marginalization scenarios in exclusionary citizenship in Canada on the basis of social identities will be discussed in detail.

At the beginning of these exclusionary citizenship policies, the most affected groups were the Black Africville community, Aboriginal people, Acadians, and Quebecois immigrants (Fudge & Vosko, 2001, p. 347). At present, the minority migrant groups and Aboriginal communities are still subjected to discrimination in citizenship acquisition in Canada on the basis of their gender, ethnicity, class, and sometimes labor status. This analytical paper extends the racial contract theory, proposed by Charles Mills, to discuss how social issues such as class, race, gender, and Aboriginal issues have resulted in discriminatory exclusive citizenship among the Aboriginal community and minority immigrants in Canada.

Social Identities and the Politics of Citizenship in Canada

The racial contract theory functions on the assumption that the hypothetical state of mankind in nature is inspired by the need to make a rational decision to supersede freedom for state protection in a civilized state (Fudge & Vosko, 2001). The contract theory can be applied to citizenship because individuals have to give some of their freedoms for state protection (Cranford, Vosko, & Zukewich, 2003, p. 471).

From a historical perspective, exclusive citizenry in Canada has encouraged male authority over the female gender. For instance, the civil protection freedom in Canadian society was exclusionary on the female gender, although it should be universal in the ideal. The foundation of the Canadian citizenry identity was based on a biased approach towards the male gender as being more superior and dominating over the female gender (Fudge & Vosko, 2001, p. 347). In the new society, women were mere servants to be dominated by males as wives. This meant that the right to citizenry was controlled by the males in the society since the patriarchal position defined the status, rights, and general freedom of the women (Cranford, Vosko, & Zukewich, 2003, p. 467).

Another important aspect of understanding the social contract is the assertion by Mills that racial discrimination has become a normal aspect of the modern citizenry across the globe. In relation to Canadian society, the root of Canadian citizenship was founded on egalitarianism to different levels of equality for individuals making up a nation. This means that the blacks and other minority groups were ontologically eliminated by virtue of belonging to the minority race in the promise of the Canadian ‘liberal modernity project’ (Thobani, 2007, p. 25).

The discrimination on the basis of race has dominated the exclusive citizenship in Canada for several decades simply because the white citizens had a tyranny of numbers over the minority groups in political dispensation. The young state of Canada assumed biased approach in enforcing laws to favor the white majority, and the governance of the Canadian society was based on the principle of exclusionary ethics, which is characterized by a general assumption that the whites are viewed as having higher state value than the ‘nonwhite’ groups or sub-persons (Fudge & Vosko, 2001, p. 347).

Lastly, the foundation of political dispensation and state boundary was rationalized on the radicalized space through the differentiated moral and civic status of the inhabitants (Fudge & Vosko, 2001, p. 347). Therefore, despite the common fallacy that there is colorless contractarianism within citizenship and role in the Canadian society, the reality is that racial contract has defined the political, decision, and social aspect of the society, as belonging to the white body and any political association is dominated by the incarnated mindset of the white majority rule (McKay, 2000, p. 622).

Therefore, any citizenship policy within the Canadian society founded on the premise of white supremacy, without differencing the racial interests of all groups involved, may not auger well with aspects of gender, race, class, and the current ethnocultural domination by the whites (Cranford, Vosko, & Zukewich, 2003, p. 467). The discriminatory liberal models applied in citizenry role and position within Canada do not incorporate inclusive social contract since they are inspired by the desire to dominate on the premise of belonging to the majority race, gender, ethnicity, and class.

The legacy of Canadian colonialism was based on a skewed multicultural policy that discriminated against the Aboriginal population. The management of the government resources, citizenry, and right to access to social services has been skewed to the disadvantage of the Aboriginal community because of their unique ethnocultural identity. The main historical factor that might have catalyzed this unfortunate state of affairs was the strategic oppression and civil atrocities against the Aboriginal people in the process of territorial expansion against their will (Whitaker, 1999, p. 72).

The colonists initiated the imperialistic political authority, the forceful subjection of the Aboriginal people to their rule of law, and forceful eviction to their land. The Aboriginal people were subjected to inhuman acts, and the colonial governance even attempted to use legislative ways to force the Aboriginal people out of existence through using legal declarations such as the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which gave the colonialists exclusive right over all land in Canada (McKay, 2000, p. 622).

In the post-colonial era, government regimes have implemented regulations and laws that have forcefully erased the Aboriginal systems and sovereignty in favor of colonial governance and structures, which almost erased this community from existence in Canada. For instance, the Indian Act of the year 1876 simply usurped all the birthrights of the children and women of the Aboriginal community (Whitaker, 1999, p. 72).

This led to serious disruption of matrilineal descents, kinship systems, and marital residence patterns, among others. Besides, it subjected the women and children to the authority of the male adults in the community (McKay, 2000, p. 622). After independence and until present times, the state has applied a series of discriminatory regulations to silently undermine the Aboriginal community to forcefully undermine their social bonds in the name of public interest and schooling. The use of soft tactics by the post-colonial government regimes in Canada has come with a detrimental impact on citizenship among the Aboriginal community members (Fudge & Vosko, 2001, p. 349).

Although the government has shifted from using violence to undermine the existence of the Aboriginal community in Canada, the soft forms of discrimination have been consistently applied by different political regimes to promote exclusive citizenship in the form of ‘legal displacements’ of this community without their consent on the basis of ‘public interests’ (Fudge & Vosko, 2001, p. 349).

Despite the eventual acknowledgment of the Aboriginal community as ‘insiders,’ government regimes in Canada have subjected this community to rational-bureaucratic interaction that is strategically designed to purge any perceived signs of divergence via integration. Although the government of Canada has received praises for its progressive stance in appreciating diversity, little has been done to facilitate proper integration of the Aboriginal community into the mainstream Canadian citizenry (Fudge & Vosko, 2001, p. 346). At present, due to continued exclusive citizenry in Canada, the highest recorded infant mortality, poverty rate, and the suicide rate is reported among the Aboriginal community.

The constitution Act of the year 1791 was critical in cementing the Canadian identity as consisting of two racial groups, that is the upper region dominated by British culture and the lower region dominated by the French culture. This separation into two races was internalized as part of the dominating political discourse. This pact consisting of two races have continued to dominate the political, social, and labor related aspects of Canadian citizenry.

Unfortunately, the dualist approach to racial segregation failed to accommodate other races such as the blacks, indigenous groups, and immigrants from minority races across the globe. During this era, being white did not necessarily mean that one would be treated as belonging to the ‘Canadianness culture’. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the state was proactive in managing the hierarchy in races, even among the white people who are still dominating the current Canadian society (Cranford, Vosko, & Zukewich, 2003, p. 467).

The policies that were used include selective immigration. In order to be confirmed as being an insider, one had to conform to the Anglo-Canadian Model (Tanovich, 2006, p. 26). For instance, the 1885 Chinese Immigration Act put a head tax on every Chinese immigrating or living in Canada. This was expanded to the Japanese race in the year 1902. After completing the Canadian Specific Railway in the year 1923, the government enacted another Chinese Immigration Act to ruthlessly restrict any further Chinese immigration into Canada. The alliance during the Second World War placed Canadians of Japanese origin on the wrong side of the political system.

They were marked as enemy aliens and disloyal individuals to the Canadian image. As a result, more than 22,000 Canadians of Japanese origin were subjected to incarceration, dispossession of private property by the state, deportation, and forceful displacement (Abu-Laban, 2000, p. 286).

The stage for further citizenship exclusivity was reaffirmed in the 1950s and 1960s through the new Department of Citizenship and Immigration and the Royal Commission of Bilingualism and Biculturalism. These commissions cemented the notion that Canadian federalism is formed by asymmetrical partnership between Canadian French and Canadian British races, excluding many other races such as the Aboriginal community, Canadians of African American, Japanese, Chinese, German and Ukraine origins among others (Domhoff, 2007, p. 103).

The declaration of Canadian identity as consisting of a bicultural race cemented the notion of some races being more Canadians than others. Although series of efforts had been carried out by governments after the 1960s bicultural declaration, such as the multicultural policy implementation, the previous two-race model continued to dominate the aspects of insider-outsider perspective in viewing the true identity of a Canadian (Stanley, 2006, p. 46).

With the advent of the 21st century and need to promote an ideal economic identify among the Canadians, the immigration laws have become discriminative along the racial line, especially among the immigrants (Thobani, 2007, p. 25). For instance, individuals considered by the state as being highly skilled, self-adequate, and well-educated may easily get the citizenship status than immigrant individuals who have low human capital. This policy only promote exclusivity in ‘Canadianness’ identify that have been effective in reinforcing and reproducing unequal and poorly skewed racial, gender, class, and ethnic relations in the present Canadian citizenship (Pateman, 2006, p. 148).


From the above analysis, it is apparent that Canadian policies on multiculturalism and colonial mentality have continued to define the citizenship. During the colonial era, exclusionary citizenry strategies were executed to determine Canadian identity on the basis of their gender, class, ethnicity, and race. Besides, the natives, such as the Aboriginal community, were made to feel as being lesser Canadians through forceful eviction, elimination, and later soft forms of discriminatory policies. Despite the general feeling of inclusivity in the Canadian identity, the whiteness ideology, Aboriginal issues, race, gender, and ethnicity still determine the degree of Canadian citizenship.

For instance, the political, policy, and social welfare institutions are dominated by the two races that make policies and decisions on behalf of everyone. Although efforts have been made by government regimes to reverse this trend, little has been achieved since the supremacy dominance has been internalized by better economic, social, and political association within the two dominating races. Despite having been original natives of the Canadian society, the Aboriginal community has been worst affected by these exclusivity approaches to citizenship in persuing their Canadian identity.


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