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A Film Project Is Checking Canada’s Multicultural Progress After 50 Years

Fifty years ago, former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal government formally adopted multiculturalism policies. But, how much progress has really been made since then?

Inspired by the recent Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice movements, the Ryerson University researchers launched a groundbreaking project exploring the multiculturalism legacy in Canada.

Individual Short Films

I am… project” was spearheaded by Anna Triandafyllidou, the Canada Excellence Research Chair in Immigration and Integration, along with Cyrus Sundar Singh, a Gemini Award-winning filmmaker.

In 2020, an open call was made to gather graduate students from across Canada for an individual short film that answers the following questions:

  • How do you see yourself?
  • How do you wish to be seen?
  • How do others see you?

The film participants attended online workshops for 6 months, which industry experts mentored for them to create original works that depict their struggle to achieve belongingness. Twenty-eight short films were premiered through a virtual screening in 2021.

Some of the short films include:

I Am Fragrance

I Am Fragrance was made by Arij Elmi. She is a student at the University of Toronto studying social justice education. Before giving the opportunity to create this short film, Elmi was already considering diving into the film industry.

She was initially hesitant about learning that multiculturalism and inclusion were the focus of the short films mainly because they were always done in a celebratory way. But, she pushed through, knowing that it would not be that case for this project.

Sad Boy

Sad Boy is a short film made by Donovan Hayden. He is a student at York University studying theater and performance. He said that he created the film in order to express his sadness in a culture that predominantly thinks that black men need to be strong and happy.

Hayden is a biracial man who grew up between Toronto and Pittsburgh and said that finding a place where he belongs was one of the most difficult challenges in his life. The process of creating this film was able to give him a better understanding of his inner self, and he hopes that other “sad boys” who see the film will feel the same.

Starting Out

Starting Out is about Bruno Voomean. He first came to Canada in 1999 from Brazil for asylum. Later, his parents followed him to Canada, but they eventually left Toronto after their claim as refugees was refused. But, in 2007, they came back, immigrating to Canada as permanent residents.

His short film mainly focuses on his experience with Canadian immigration. According to him, the pursuit of identity and belongingness is an ongoing lived experience.

How Do You See Me?

Lee, a student at Lakehead University studying Kinesiology, says that looking at the part is very important in the pursuit of fitting in. This is why she decided to show how it was like growing up as a First Nation Indigenous woman, but not fitting its societal definition because of how she looks.

At the beginning of her film, Lee opened it by asking the question, “Who do you see when you think of a First Nation Indigenous Person?” She then proceeds to say that the answer to this question is limitless for her.  

Final Words

Canadian immigration has made Canada one of the world’s most diverse countries.

Over 400,000 people immigrate to Canada each year through different Canadian visa programs.

Approximately 22% of the people living in Canada are foreign-born and the majority of the country’s residents hold positive attitudes toward immigrants.

Thus, most people living in Canada have friends or family who are foreign-born or know someone who is an immigrant.

According to Singh, multiculturalism is indeed a great ideology and continues to be so. However, Canadians need to be more active and diverse in all things they choose moving forward.

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