Online Guide for Newcomers to Prince Edward Island - Canada
Multiculturalism in Canada
Canada is a multicultural country. Canadians come from a vast range of nations, races, religions and heritage. This multicultural diversity comes from centuries of immigration. As a result, a diverse population is now one of the distinctive features of Canadian society.
Some examples of Canada's official support of multiculturalism and diversity:
- the government of Canada funds programs and projects which promote multiculturalism
- police and military officers may wear a turban as part of their uniform if their religion requires them to wear one
- Michaëlle Jean, who was born in Haiti and immigrated to Canada with her family as a refugee when she was a child, served as a governor general of Canada
The government of Canada values the population diversity and tries to protect the cultural heritage of its citizens. Through the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, the government encourages Canadians to take pride in their language, religion and heritage, and to keep their customs and traditions, as long as they do not break any Canadian laws.
Multiculturalism in PEI
Right up to the end of the twentieth century PEI's population was predominantly of English, Scottish, Irish and French descent, with a small percentage belonging to First Nations. There were immigrants from other backgrounds, but in very small numbers.
With the steep increase in immigration in the first decade of twenty-first century, Islanders are becoming more and more diverse. There are people from all over the world living in the province. Over the past decade the PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada served new immigrants from over 100 countries.
This rise in immigration is reflected in increasingly diverse social, cultural and economic scenes on the Island.
Despite Canada's multicultural heritage and policies, it can be difficult for you as a new immigrant in Canada to adjust to new customs, ways of daily living and social systems that may be very different from your country of origin. The integration process into PEI society and the Island ways of life can be difficult and may require some effort on your part.
When you find yourself in a new culture which is quite different from your own, you may experience culture shock. Culture shock may manifest as anxiety, surprise, uncertainty, confusion and similar feelings you may have while you are adjusting to your new environment. It may cause you to have difficulty in knowing what is appropriate and what is not. It is sometimes combined with a dislike for or disapproval of certain aspects of the new or different culture.
You do not need to see culture shock as something negative that should be avoided. Look at it as an important step in adjusting to your new life. You will soon learn to see the good and the bad of both the customs in your home country and in Canada. Then you should take the best from each and integrate them into your life.
If you are experiencing difficulty in adjusting to your new life in PEI, ask for help. There are many organizations, groups and businesses that can help you overcome culture shock and the difficulties of living in a non-familiar environment. [See Related Resources]
In an effort to make it easier for established Islanders to understand and accept new immigrants from different backgrounds, the PEI ANC runs the Multicultural Education Program (MEP). The program's goal is to ease the cultural transition of newcomers by fostering a welcoming community. The MEP team provides workshops, presentations and training materials to schools, organizations and community at large, and focuses on the areas of diversity education, cultural competency training, and recognizing and eliminating prejudice and discrimination.
Other Association's core programs join this effort in their respective areas - settlement, support for children and youth, and employment. The ANC has also formed a Community Outreach Team. The members of the team organize a wide range of events and activities that promote multiculturalism and diversity, and help newcomers integrate into local society.