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Canadian Multiculturalism

and its challenges

Canadian Multiculturalism and its challenges as how to reach out the Ethnic Markets.

Thomas Saras President National Ethnic Press Media Council of Canada
Thomas Saras
National Ethnic Press
Media Council of Canada

By the term “multiculturalism” we refer to several different demographic groups composing the Canadian Population, made up of peoples and groups representing a plurality of ethnocultural traditions, languages and racial origins. It is a social policy and or value that accepts cultural pluralism as a positive distinctive feature of our society and the official policy of our government designed to recognize, support and manage, the racial pluralism of the Canadian society. It is a common knowledge that today’s Canada is one of the most pluralistic societies, a model of globalization. Almost 40 percent of the population of the country identifies as non-British or French heritage. Regions, like Vancouver and Toronto are remarkable examples of the urban pluralism as Vancouver for examples is showing that more than 40 percent of its population and Toronto’s more than 50 per cent of all residents are born outside Canada and they are neither British or French origin. Multiculturalism in Canada creates a sense of an equal celebration of racial, religious and cultural values. Multiculturalism as a policy was adopted by the Canadian government during the decades of 1970 and 1980.

In fact multiculturalism is the recognition that all Canadians share equal rights and responsibilities, although they come with diverse cultural backgrounds. In Canada each one of them entitled to practice his one faith freely and take pride of his heritage of origin. The opponents of the policy are criticizing multiculturalism as a system enabler to ghettoize our communities as a big part of Canadian are discouraged from integrating with the “mainstream” society of the country. Some are seeing it as a threat to “Canadian identity”. The reality is that both arguments are not valid and out of touch with today’s reality, due to the fact that this policy helps building a harmonious community from different cultural communities of various faiths, languages and races bound together by the virtues of freedom and respect to each other, as a basic element of humanity. The basic philosophy of multiculturalism is that in the Canadian society all humans share similar aspirations, fears and hopes. All the members of the diverse communities deserve equal rights, respect and protection from the government, regardless of their place of origin, cultural heritage or traditions.

It is obvious that this new cosmogony in the life of the nation affects also the business world and the markets in different ways from what we used to know them. Recent demographics are coming to assure of the significant opportunities and challenges the system is bringing to reality, as the various forces of the markets realize that they can no longer afford to neglect the combined buying power of the members of the ethnic communities. Something which makes up to almost 2.5 trillion dollars of all Canadian buying annually. It is understandably therefore that these diverse audiences are holding highly lucrative buying power, which cannot be ignored.

In fact, multicultural marketing should be no different from other marketing, and therefore we have to imply exactly the same tools and measurements, meaning must research, plan, develop and execute the promotional campaigns based on the feedback from the targeted communities. It is very important, though, to understand that whatever may be appealing to one cultural community may have the opposite effect on another. This is a very important point in order to avoid alienating customers from the various diverse communities. Another very significant point is the element of language. Language is one very basic tool of the overall communication process. In order to facilitate cultural adaptions we have in our approach to be very sensitive as to how to communicate our message to them.

It is also very important that in our campaign we are using cultural photographic faces, familiar to community, in order to increase the interest between the organization and the members of the target community, or even by adjusting colors or graphic presentation forms in order to increase the effectiveness of the campaign. One of the most important point for a successful campaign is our understanding of the cultural differences and the lifestyle of the various communities. Therefore, ethnic marketing focuses on customizing the messages and using marketing channels for each target group. This is contrary to translate a general message into different languages. Ethnic marketing, therefore, compromises all marketing efforts and instrument used to target specific ethnic group within the broader Canadian society and to satisfy their particular needs. In today’s global markets each industry seek novel ways to become profitable and build customer loyalty. Ethnic marketing, therefore, represents an opportunity to differentiate a company’s product in very competitive markets and places and also to develop new products.

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Statistical data are telling us that by 2025 the members of the various ethnic communities will present a real challenge for some markets as Brampton, Surrey, Mississauga, Markham, Toronto, Vaughan, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Montreal. Ethnic Marketing can also have a positive influence on the “mainstream” marketing techniques. Brings innovation, growth and creates new ways of positive promotions to Globalization.

Today diversity crosses lines of wealth, neighborhood, education and individual aspirations. According to a recent study among students of the U of T, more than half of them identified themselves as non-white by race; approximately 40 percent were Asian. Only about one-third came from homes where English was the spoken language. In the middle of 1990 there were in Toronto 335,000 Chinese, today they are close to one million, 330,000 South Asians, today consider to be more than seven hundreds, 275,000 African Canadians, the largest component of whom were of Caribbean background. There is also a large Jewish community, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Polish and other Slavic speaking communities, Vietnamese, Korean and a large Hispanic speaking community. Besides Toronto, other cities and regions also reflect a plurality of origins and cultural traditions, among Canadians.

The Ethnic Media as a tool:
Today publishing in Canada more than 750 publications in about 75 different languages or tongs. They are serving an audience of more than five million Canadians, new and not so new. There are also 156 radio and television producers and directors, serving, informing and entertaining the members of the various linguistic and cultural communities. They are the perfect tools for a company to reach the new Canadian markets and promote their products. Another way is the visibility, which means getting involved in the events of the communities in areas with high concentration of members of specific ethnic community. Finally, I must refer to contact with the various associations and offer financial support in the form of sponsorship to their worthy projects.

An ethnic marketing strategy is developed around the values and attitudes distinctively to every particular group and should include the use of the publications and electronic media serving the community. Promotion of culture, symbols and celebrations important to a precise target. Identification and collaboration with the community leaders and enchasing relations with the group as well focusing on the cultural uniqueness. To this extend we should get an idea of the picture by visiting some such areas of high ethnic concentration where some financial institutions are approaching their clients in their own language.

Such examples are many in Toronto’s Chinese community in Spadina or the Pacific Mall in Scarborough, as well as in Vancouver and other Canadian cities. Although our goal is the speedy integration of all diverse immigrant communities to the main stream society, we should also remember that there are billions of dollars invested for the creation of specific markets in order to attract the members of these linguistic communities by offering goods customary to their culture and traditions. This easily could be understood by a simple visit in areas of concentration of the various ethnic groups as is the Chinese markets, (Spadina and Pacific Mall), The Asian markets in Toronto East, The Little Italy, The Little Portugal, the Danforth Greek World, etc.

Thomas S. Saras, is the president and CEO of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada. Conseil national de la press et des medias ethniques du Canada. Photo By Pooyan Tabatabaei
Thomas S. Saras, is the president and CEO of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada. Conseil national de la press et des medias ethniques du Canada
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