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Contemporary Social Issues in Canada

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  • 0:00 Oh, Canada
  • 0:33 Canadian Social Issues
  • 1:01 Discrimination
  • 2:45 Government
  • 4:11 Healthcare
  • 5:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

The northern nation of Canada has an international reputation for national unity, but is not without its own issues. In this lesson, we'll explore the topics that most concern Canadian citizens and see what that means for the nation today.

Oh, Canada

The North American nation of Canada is one of the world's largest in terms of landmass, containing one of the world's most educated populations and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the world record for the most gold medals won in a Winter Olympics. To Americans, Canada is often seen as a land of snow, maple syrup, and few problems of any sort, but Canadian society is full of its own debates. Let's take a look at the hot topics of this cold, northern country.

Canadian Social Issues

Canadians today are facing many social issues, or those which impact their daily lives and culture. For the last few generations, the nation has developed a very progressive attitude, proudly claiming a spot as a global leader in human rights and similar issues. For many Canadians, this has become a definitive part of their national identity, something they believe distinguishes them from the other nations of North America (and, in particular, their southern neighbor).

Discrimination

One major social issue within Canadian society today is that of discrimination. Canada is proud of its culture of tolerance, supporting this policy with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Acts, which prohibit discrimination on a broad scale.

First, let's look at homosexual discrimination. On the list of people that Canadians have extended fair treatment to is the nation's homosexual population. Canadian anti-homosexuality laws first began to be repealed back in 1969, culminating in the 2005 legalization of same-sex marriage. While this has created tension with Canada's conservative party, everybody seems to have accepted that the law is here to stay.

Additionally, Canada has a large First Nation population, and Canadians have long prided themselves in maintaining a stronger relationship with this group than Americans have with theirs. While issues of tribal and cultural sovereignty are still debated, they are done so in the national spotlight, not in private conversations. Achieving a healthy and respectful relationship between First Nations peoples and other Canadians is a national priority.

Now let's look at Canadian immigrants. While Canada may come across as a land of never-ending welcoming, recent global events have threatened to change that. Terrorist attacks around the world have made many Canadians more wary of outsiders, and the Islamophobia is making its way into Canada. While some worry that this could change Canada's national culture, others insist that national security is a greater concern. Current topics being debated in Canadian society and politics include the rights of Muslim women to wear traditional face coverings in Canada.

Government

Canada's government is run by a prime minister and a parliament, similar to that of England. While this government is generally trusted, Canada's constitution and political structure do not guarantee citizens all the rights and liberties expected in nations like the United States. There are two areas in particular where this is currently a major source of debate.

The first is freedom of speech. Canadian citizens do have a constitutional freedom of speech, but it is not absolute. The government maintains a list of banned books, and has adopted several laws prohibiting hate speech. This is a very controversial topic. While Canadians generally want to keep hate out of their national vocabulary, legally prohibiting it does constitute a restriction on free speech. This is especially concerning since hate speech is hard to strictly define, theoretically giving the government power to limit any free speech by labeling it as hateful.

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