Thank you very much.
Unaccustomed as I am to speaking for less than 10 minutes, I'll do my best.
It's good to be here with all of you. I'm actually not representing any organization. I'm really not representing myself, either, just sharing with you the experiences I've had over the years. I'm delighted to be here at a table that really, without exaggerating, is almost like a hall of fame of human rights and activism in the spheres of making Canada into a more inclusive and better country.
Let me begin with the obvious, which is to thank you, Madam Chair, and the committee for these efforts that you're doing. We applaud them, and I will share with you—probably going into this from left field rather than going straight—a unique experience that I had somewhere around 12 years ago.
At that point in time, one of the major issues confronting the school system here in Ottawa was the question of school bullying. It came back again a bit later on, but this is an ongoing situation. To a certain extent, bullying in schools is almost like a microcosm of the bigger issue, which is taking advantage of the vulnerable, and the reality of exclusion as opposed to the embrace of inclusion.
At that point in time, we founded something called Kindness Week in Ottawa, which was going at this not from the approach of, let's say, attacking the bad stuff, but rather trying to promote the good stuff. Instead of this idea of saying you shouldn't bully, which we know is true, we wanted to go at it from a positive approach and to emphasize the things we should be doing and promoting.
This actually caught on. It's still going on now. We're coming up to the 13th year of Kindness Week in Ottawa.
A number of years ago, because of the fact that this program worked so well, we started an organization called Kind Canada Généreux, which is emphasizing on a national level the things we need to do to make Canada into a kinder place.
One of the things we're doing right now is working on a school curriculum going from kindergarten to grade 12 in all English, French, and first nation schools. It will still be a year or two or three before we'll be able to implement it, but the idea behind it is to create a climate of kindness, consideration, and embrace.
I have a bit of a problem with the word “tolerance”. I'm not sure that you've been using this word, but over the course of time, the word “tolerance” keeps on coming up. They want us to be a tolerant country. I know, and I think everybody would agree, that one of the worst things is to have a country that is intolerant, but right next to intolerance is a country that is tolerant, because tolerance is actually not much before intolerance. It's a demeaning and condescending word.
I'm much more in favour of the positive, the harmonious, the respect, the embrace, and the inclusion, not avoiding the negative—which then becomes a negative in itself— but rather to say we have to build a culture in which we appreciate everyone with their differences. The kindness approach that we're advocating in the curriculum is emphasizing the positive and giving people something to grasp on to in terms of the way they should be interacting with others.
We're all here today because we recognize the importance of this idea and we realize that there is a bully pulpit. I've used the pulpit all the time, but not as a bully; it wouldn't be kind to be a bully. However, there is a bully pulpit in terms of encouraging in all spheres all across Canada the idea of inclusivity, the idea of the harmony that comes from the embrace of everyone, and the idea of things like encouraging schools to have this type of a program and encouraging workplaces to have programs that really emphasize and build on the idea that we are who we are because everyone is able to be part of this great country. This is the idea that we're approaching at Kind Canada, and this is the idea that I would strongly suggest.
My colleagues will do a lot better than I could in terms of the legislation and the nitty-gritty of it. I am coming at it from another angle in terms of what we can do on a positive level to eliminate these problems—not by attacking them per se, but by emphasizing the greatness inherent in all of us to make Canada an even better country.
Whatever minutes I have left, I gladly cede to my colleagues.