Blog post: Cultural Diversity: Walk the Talk

May 24, 2024

Written by Ugoeze Uchegbu-Okoroh,  ESPC Volunteer.

Culture is simply the way of life of a group of people. Now more than ever, celebrating the world day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development has become crucial. It not only recognizes the diverse cultures that exist and their role in development, but more importantly, it highlights how practical and relatable discussions on this subject are to our lives and daily interactions. It is often said that variety is the spice of life. Culture is vast and dynamic. It is intricately woven into various components of society, from trade, to politics, spirituality and even technology, amongst others.

In 2002, the United Nations General Assembly declared May 21 as the day to commemorate, and in 2015, they unanimously adopted the resolution on Culture and Sustainable Development, emphasizing cultural diversity across the world and its role in development. (1) This is hinged on the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2) that is summarized into the following:

  1. Cultural diversity thrives within a sustainable and stable democratic
  2. The acknowledgment of cultural diversity is paramount to protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
  3. Upholding traditional knowledge, linguistic diversity, cultural expressions, and ideas especially among minority groups and indigenous people contribute to the overall success of globalization.

In the 21st century, the chain of interconnectedness that exists in the world is now being further strengthened by a rapidly growing rate of immigration. According to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, immigration makes up for nearly all of Canada’s workforce growth. 75% of the population’s growth comes from immigration and by 2036, immigrants will represent up to 30% of Canada’s population, which is an increase compared to 20.7% in 2011. (3) This projection means that there will be a growing diverse population, which can be advantageous for any society but could also be disadvantageous. Adequate plans and preparations such as fostering an environment for inclusivity through policy making and investing in settlement and integration programs for newcomers would have to properly support this. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act which was passed in 1988 promotes multiculturalism as a fundamental characteristic of the Canadian Heritage, including encouraging the use of languages other than English and French, acknowledging existing diverse communities as well as, advocating for equal treatment of everyone. (4)

Annually, Canada sets aside June 27 to celebrate Multiculturalism Day, which signifies the diverse population and its role in economic growth for the nation. In Alberta, the multiculturalism and Immigration Ministry’s mandate includes promoting multiculturalism geared towards supporting investments and economic growth in the province. During the month of September every year, Alberta celebrates the diverse culture and heritage of its population. At the core of these days and months of recognition is the acknowledgment and respect of the Indigenous communities and traditions are the hub on which the province’s multicultural pride is anchored. As a result of Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine, Alberta’s Premier, Danielle Smith says that Alberta has welcomed over 57,000 Ukrainians refugees and is willing to welcome even more. (5) This relationship has historical roots as Canada’s first Ukrainian bloc settlement was founded in Edmonton in 1894. The Edmonton Catholic School Division offers the Ukrainian Bilingual Program in select schools, allowing students to thrive in an environment conducive for academic growth within the framework of Ukrainian culture and language. Other laudable initiatives the province has taken include the recent launch of an online calendar by the Alberta Government to promote cultural holidays and celebrations, reflecting the province’s diverse population. In support of the economic empowerment of multicultural communities, the Multicultural Grant Program is designed to support initiatives that promote cultural heritage and diverse worldviews. Also, the Alberta Black Advisory Council is tasked with leading dialogues and providing advice on ways to support the inclusion of Black communities and promote Black heritage and culture.

Despite the efforts being made, there is still a clear misalignment of intentions and actions. In April 2024, it was reported that Cindy Woodhouse Nepinak, who is the National Chief of the Assembly of the First Nations, was on an Air Canada flight when staff tried to place her ceremonial headdress in cargo storage due to lack of space in the cabin. (6) Even though the carrier has since apologized to the Chief, this act generated public outcry which is clearly rooted in the lack of policies that cater to Canada’s diverse population, including having regard for passengers’ belongings that are of cultural significance. When non-inclusive policies are acted on, it shows.

To further UNESCO’s goal to promote cultural diversity and economic advancement in the world, the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage which Canada ratified in 1976 recognizes, protects, and promotes cultural and natural heritage that are of remarkable interest. Alberta houses six of UNESCO’s world heritage sites, which is more than any other province in Canada. Amongst two of these sites are of Indigenous significance with the latest recognition being Writing-on-Stone / Áísínai´pi designated by UNESCO in 2019 as a world heritage site. It’s significance in Indigenous cultures and tales cannot be overlooked, as it protects the largest collection of rock arts on North American plains. (7) Ultimately, these heritage sites are a great attraction and boosts tourism to the province, thereby driving economic growth and development.

A good starting point in making sure we are not entangled in mere performative actions is ensuring that there is adequate representation and diversity across the workforce in different sectors. This can begin with developing culturally sensitive and inclusive policies. This is important in positioning cultural diversity as the starter for relevant conversations and the springboard for development. Again, prioritizing the collection of race-based data in areas including health, provision of public services, and education is crucial for obtaining accurate information to ensure equitable outcomes. As we celebrate this day on May 21, this serves as a call to channel more energy and focus into real and substantive work to drive change in all facets. Every effort counts.


  1. United Nations. World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.
  2. UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions promotion-diversity-cultural-expressions
  3. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. (2023, January). Government of Canada.
  4.  Canadian Multiculturalism Act, RSC 1985, c 24 (4th Supp), <> retrieved on 2024-05-16
  5. Bill, (2024, March). Federal immigration limits undercutting Alberta’s economy, premier says in letter to Trudeau immigration-ukrainian-refugees-1.7157572
  6. Chang, A. (2024, April). Air Canada apologizes to national chief after flight crew tried to take her headdress away. CBC News
  7. Writing-on-Stone Provincial Travel Alberta.
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