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Chana, Tejwant K. “Intercultural Discourse Among White and Non-White Youth in Multi-Racial and Multi-Cultural Canada.” M. Ed. Thesis, University of Alberta, 2002.


This research study investigates the contemporary perceptions, knowledge, and experience of grade 12 students regarding “racial” and cultural diversity within Canadian society upon the immediate completion of public high school. The purpose of conducting this research was to gain a grounded understanding, through the youths’ voices, of their views of Canadian society, the realities surrounding “racial” and cultural identities as experienced by young people in a pluralistic school environment, and lastly the role of education in preparing multicultural citizens.

Data collection occurred over three phases: first, a survey questionnaire was administered to a total of forty-one grade 12 students (thirty-four were white and seven were non-white); second, a series of school and classroom observations were conducted; and third, in-depth interviews were conducted with a total of ten students. The participants all attended a local public high school in Edmonton, Alberta, and were intentionally chosen as part of the study’s objective to investigate the knowledge, perceptions and experiences of students regarding “race” relations upon the immediate completion of high school. Ten students were then selected for the interviews from the larger group solely on the basis of race; five were white and five non-white.

Based on the students’ responses from the survey questionnaire and in-depth interviews, the author concluded that students, white and non-white, who are publicly educated in Alberta are not equipped with an adequate conceptual framework around the areas of “race,” culture, and ethnicity; nor are they equipped for peaceful participation in a multi-racial and multi-cultural infrastructure. Students identified their present views as stemming primarily from their understanding of Canadian history as it was taught to them in school. All of the students deemed Canada and Canadians to be synonymous with “white;” non-whites were perceived as immigrants with fixed cultural traits irrespective of the number of years in Canada or if they were born in or raised in Canada. Non-white students found the curriculum to be alienating as the content taught did not reflect their ethnocultural backgrounds and histories both within Canada and abroad, as it did with their white peers.

Discussion topics include: the theoretical origins of racism; the historical roots of international colonialism; modern Canada’s historical roots of racism; how the Canadian educational system is “managing” the increased “racial” and cultural diversity in Canada; Canada’s present post-colonial social context; the definitions of “race,” ethnicity and culture; Canadian history and perceptions of Canada’s present societal context; the presence of “others(s)” in Canadian History; “Canadian” identity; and the relationship between curriculum and cultural representations.

When asked if students would like to learn about other cultures, a significant majority of the students (white and non-white) answered “yes.” Because the students themselves juxtaposed history with their present understanding of Canada, the study presents recommendations for revisions to the Alberta Curriculum to provide an inclusive framework of Canada’s history and development. Also, the study recommends the creation of a course or unit focusing on cultural diversity to help provide students with both the conceptual and practical tools to address and engage in issues related to racism and inequity. Further research is suggested to address questions such as how female students cope with racism, especially as it relates to findings concerning the relationship between racism and violence in males; and how perceptions of “race,” gender and culture intersect with one another.

Mary Chaktsiris