Canada/ 4.2 Specific policy issues and recent debates  

4.2.7 Intercultural dialogue: actors, strategies, programmes

Intercultural dialogue (ICD) is central to the evolving mandate of the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Heritage portfolio. ICD effectively joins up the traditional ideas of culture as creativity and of citizenship as democracy and is increasingly perceived as potentially an effective tool to facilitate the effective development and operation of cultural and civic policies and programmes. ICD also helps to foster the education and transmission of values that serve as the foundation for making things work and making them work equitably and transparently.

The scope of ICD is as complex and vast as are the roles of the Department. The development of ICD calls for a more systematic merger of interests and cross-sectoral communications and partnerships, upgraded linkages between cultural diplomacy and trade, international cultural promotion and cooperation, multiculturalism and cultural policies, and fundamental values and best practices. ICD is an important and necessary step in the cultural and civic continuum from creator to consumer and conserver and also a process that complements existing outreach activities that reach marginalised minorities often subject to chronic disparities. As with cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue will be reflected, over time, in policy and programme development and evaluation, the identification and analysis of horizontal and transnational issues such as identity and belonging, social and economic impacts, and the "cross-overs" between cultural and civic participation and networking. In its broadest context, intercultural dialogue refers to purposeful connections among populations in Canada to foster an ongoing exchange of views and perceptions and a common exposure of the population to the complex diversity of cultural and civic input represented by the public agenda. In its more restricted sense, ICD is exemplified by events or activities that bring cultures together in respect and tolerance.

For example, cultural and intercultural festivals provide opportunities for such dialogue, which, include inclusive cultural repertoires audiences. An example of inter-cultural festivals in Canada is ICA FolkFest, Victoria, BC's inter-cultural arts festival, which was founded in 1971 to showcase the skills, talents and contributions of immigrants and minority communities. It has evolved into a unique urban arts festival: amateur performers and emerging artists share the stage with award-winning musicians and dancers from around the world, and Vancouver Island's culinary arts scene is highlighted alongside music, dance, theatre, film and circus arts.

Opportunities for enhanced dialogue also exist in relation to the written and Internet-based press, broadcasting and cable television, feature films, music and sound recordings, community and inter-community interaction, e.g. cultural tourism, twinned cities and youth exchanges. Canadian Heritage also supports the view that international amateur sporting events provide opportunities to promote intercultural dialogue and understanding, through major multi-sport events like the Commonwealth, Francophonie Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games and related programmes like the Cultural Olympiad. Some examples of activities involving enhanced intercultural dialogue include the promotion of both cultural and intercultural understanding, community development and capacity-building, and community cultural and civic participation. This dialogue in Canada includes the promotion of linguistic duality involving the official languages, which has resulted in an increase in the proportion of bilingual (French and English) Canadians from 12% in 1971 to 18% in 2001. The proportion of young Canadians aged 15 to 19 who self-declare as being bilingual in Canada's two official languages rose from 16.4% in 1971 to 24% in 2001. Almost two-thirds of Canadians living in a majority situation consider Canada's linguistic duality to be a source of cultural enrichment in 2006. Intercultural dialogue is also growing in respect to non-official languages used by recent immigrants (see  chapter 4.2.5).

Examples of good practices in the promotion of intercultural understanding which is basic to intercultural dialogue are drawn from initiatives and components of the Official Languages Programme (see  chapter 4.2.5) and the Canadian Multiculturalism Programme (see  chapter 4.2.4). In regard to the former, dialogue and understanding are enhanced by second-language learning agreements between the federal and provincial governments through the Enhancement of Official Languages Programme. The current objective is to double the proportion of Canadian youth between 15 and 19 years old who have a working knowledge of both official languages.

The Multiculturalism Programme places particular emphasis on the removal of barriers that prevent full participation of all Canadians in Canadian society. For the purposes of this chapter, it is important to note the connection between multiculturalism and cultural development and between civic and cultural participation. The link between intercultural understanding and the concomitant removal or reduction of impediments to the enjoyment of cultural and civic participation is intercultural dialogue which is, in turn, the key to advancing social cohesion (see  chapter 4.2.8 below).

Additional Resources:

Database of Good Practice on Intercultural Dialogue

Key Resources


Chapter published: 19-01-2011


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