The cultural diaspora that is Canada brings - with it - a collection of economic benefits for Canadians and immigrants alike. Canada is a beautiful cultural mosaic that prides itself on the diversity it houses. With such an assortment of cultures comes the unique opportunity for a flourishing cultural economy, centralized on the trade of culturally specific goods, services and media.
Culture, What is it Exactly?
Before we can get into the intricacies of the Canadian cultural economy, we have to first define what a culture is with respect to the circulation of sparse resources. According to Oxford Languages, culture is defined as “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group” (Oxford Languages). Culture has a huge impact, whether consciously or unconsciously, on our individual identities, interactions, relationships and the way we make decisions. From this definition, the relationship between culture and economy is conspicuous. Culture has a direct influence on our purchasing patterns.
Consequently, we can see the implications of cultural elements nearly everywhere we look. For example, in places with a higher concentration of people from one specific group, the infrastructure around them often adapts to appeal to and accommodate that specific group.
Illustrating this phenomenon, we observe large corporations like Walmart strategically stocking culturally specific food items in neighbourhoods with a predominantly People of Color (POC) population. Another example is when fast-food restaurants tailor their menus to align with the cultural preferences of the regions they venture into during international expansion. Just look at the difference between McDonald's Canada vs. McDonald’s India. These companies have noticed cultural differences that may make their products unappealing to a different target audience, so they conduct relevant research to understand and properly serve the new demographic.
Another great example is the diversity of Canadian literature. There is not one uniform Canadian experience, everyone is allowed to mould their experience to accommodate their individuality. Literature, for instance, has been profoundly influenced by all the diverse voices that call Canada home. Authors of various backgrounds have contributed to Canadian literature, creating a body of work that embodies the cultural melting point we call home. Prominent authors like Rohinton Mistry, Yann Martel, and Joy Kogawa have brought international acclaim to Canadian literature by infusing it with diverse perspectives.
Now that we’ve finally established what culture is and how it affects buying and selling behaviour, we are going to take a few steps back to look at the bigger picture. In a country as diverse as Canada, the cultural economy will definitely differ from that of a more homogeneous society, but the question is, how is it different?
Maple Scented Money - Exploring Cultural Economics
In 2020, Canada's cultural economy witnessed a significant impact as imports of cultural products reached a substantial figure of $21.99 billion, as reported by Statistics Canada (Stat Can, 2020). This statistic underscores the remarkable economic relevance of cultural industries within the nation. With the projected intake of immigrants projected at 500 thousand annually, as of 2021 over a quarter of the Canadian population are immigrants (Statistics Canada, 2023)!
With so many immigrants and multicultural identities housing within Canadian borders, there is often a demand for culturally specific products. To embrace this, the Canadian government has encouraged the access and consumption of cultural products.
“The government uses policy tools, such as regulation and support, to maintain a place for Canadian cultural products in the Canadian market, and to give Canadians ready access to their culture.” (Global Affairs Canada, 2015)
The term "cultural products" encompasses various creative outputs, including literature, music, film, visual arts, and performing arts, among others (UNESCO UIS, 2009). These products reflect the diversity of Canadian culture, capturing narratives from various communities and regions.
The demand for cultural products not only stimulates domestic creativity but also fosters international trade relationships, showcasing Canada's cultural richness on the global stage. This substantial economic activity further emphasizes the importance of supporting and nurturing the cultural economy as a driver of growth and a symbol of Canada's dynamic creative landscape. The continued expansion and promotion of cultural industries hold the potential for continued economic success and the strengthening of Canada's identity as a cultural powerhouse on the world map.
Canada's thriving cultural economy, fueled by the influx of immigrants and multicultural identities, sparks a growing demand for culturally specific products. The government actively promotes access to these products, which invites people from all over the world to explore literature, music, film, visual and performing arts and more. This attraction promotes exploration, another key pillar of the cultural economy.
How Culture Promotes Exploration
Canada's cultural diversity is a valuable asset with a far-reaching impact on the nation's economy. This diversity, stemming from inclusive immigration policies, has created a diverse cultural economy that attracts many people from around the world every year. Toronto, one of Canada’s tourist destinations and the most diverse city in the world, received a whopping over 27 million visitors in 2019 alone (CBC, 2020) which contributed over 10 billion dollars to the Torontonian economy (CBC,2019).
Consequently, cultural diversity significantly influences Canada's global trade and exports. The nation's rich tapestry of cultures finds expression in various art forms, such as literature, music, films, and art. These cultural products, originating from diverse communities, are exported worldwide. Beyond artistic expression, these exports bring substantial economic benefits, contributing to Canada's global trade balance and bolstering the national economy. Cultural exchange through these products also fosters international collaboration and understanding, serving as a soft power tool to build diplomatic and trade relationships.
Cultural diversity plays a pivotal role in Canada's tourism sector. Cultural festivals celebrating the traditions of various communities attract tourists from around the world. This influx of visitors leads to increased demand for accommodations, dining, and retail, benefiting local businesses and the tourism industry. Canada capitalizes off of this unique opportunity by positioning itself as the place to experience it all, with unique pockets of culture that can be explored from coast to coast. Canada's cultural diversity paints a picture of a dynamic and inclusive society, making it an attractive destination for travellers seeking unique cultural experiences. This tourism drives economic activity in various sectors, contributing to job creation and local economic development.
From what we can see, the cultural economy of Canada is quite successful and is constantly expanding to meet the ever-changing needs of the current population. With it comes the unique opportunity to explore cultural ventures—investigating the influence of cultural products such as art, theatre, literature, music, food and cultural activities on the development of economies at the local, national, and global levels (Saxena et al., 2021).
Harnessing Cultural Opportunity
Cultural diversity in Canada is much more than just shaping a colourful and broad marketplace. People's buying habits are intrinsically tied to their cultural backgrounds, influencing choices in clothing, dietary preferences, and even household products. Entrepreneurs and companies that keenly recognize and embrace these distinctions gain a competitive edge by providing culturally relevant products.
Moreover, the relationship between culture and consumer behaviour doesn't stop there; it also extends to brand loyalty and trust. Consumers often find themselves drawn to brands and products that resonate with their cultural values and identities. Companies that exhibit a deep understanding and respect for these cultural nuances connect on a deeper level with their customers and forge brand loyalty. In essence, Canada's cultural diversity isn't merely a characteristic; it's a catalyst for innovation, specialization, and choice, creating a marketplace and unique opportunities as diverse as the nation itself.
A unique strategy employed by many countries in the wake of globalization and bolstering their cultural economies has been through methods of cultural diplomacy, like gastrodiplomacy. The term, coined by The Economist in 2002, describes governments’ deliberate promotion of their culinary traditions to establish diplomatic ties and foster positive public relations for that nation (Dictionary.com, n.d). Gastrodiplomacy recognizes that the path to one's heart often begins through the stomach. As countries share their culinary treasures, they invite the world to experience a slice of their culture, thus humanizing their nation on the global stage.
In conclusion, culture is a foundational element of our world and how it operates. Each and every one of us is unique, and our identities are tied to a myriad of different groups, traditions and beliefs, contributing to our perception of the world. Now, whenever you discover a unique pocket of culture or a flourishing tradition, reflect on how identities mesh and form the unique cultural tapestry that is our society. These factors make up our rich cultural economy and keep life just that much more flavourful.
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