Continuing Tensions

In traditional Asian culture, the direction a house faces and the placement of the furniture, doorways and windows are crucial to having good "feng shui." Asian homes often stand out in traditional Canadian suburbs like this one in Vancouver, and are sometimes referred to as "Monster Homes" because they tend to be large (courtesy "The Province," Vancouver).

Canada's liberalized immigration policies began to change the face of its larger cities. Newcomers, from the globe over, typically educated, highly skilled and often professionals, headed mainly for Vancouver, Toronto and Montréal. Of the influx of Asians, those from Hong Kong would be the dominant group well into the 1990s.


In 1971, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau announced a national policy of multiculturalism. His policies sent a strong signal internationally that Canada was a diverse, fair and tolerant society. Canada's was the citizenship of choice for emigrants. What set Canada apart was its "inclusiveness." Enshrined in 1977, Canada's immigration policy treats citizens who are born here and who immigrate here as equals. In contrast, many countries in Europe and Asia give preferential treatment to those of the home country's racial origins and accord immigrant or "guest worker" status to others, even if second or third generation. They also often deny non-citizens access to social programs and government jobs.

Racially based tensions are inevitable as immigrants join the wider society. Acculturation (adaptation to another culture) is always an issue. In the mid-1980s, many well-off immigrants from Hong Kong who entered Canada under an "investor" class raised the ire of Vancouverites, who saw them as sacrificing trees and yards to build "monster houses." Public indignation is sometimes roused by headlines about perceived abuses of "jumping the queue" to enter Canada, or about racially related crime, such as gang warfare. Indeed, ethnic, religious, political or other rivalries from abroad can play out in Canada. One high profile case tried in Canada was the 1985 bombing of an Air India flight that originated in Vancouver, a crime perpetrated because of divisive tensions in India between Sikhs and the ruling Hindus.