Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to join this discussion in the House today and to speak to Bill C-53, the Department of Canadian Heritage Act. The bill is designed to give legal status to the amalgamation of five predecessor organizations, the Secretary of State, the Department of Multiculturalism and Citizenship, the Department of Fitness and Amateur Sport, the parks departments of Canada, a component of Environment Canada, and the cultural broadcasting and heritage components of the Department of Communications.
This profound reorganization reflects the government's commitment toward more efficient and effective government. Under the new arrangement one department is responsible for delivering a critical mandate. The Department of Canadian Heritage brings together many elements that define us as Canadians, as who we really are, a multifaceted, dynamic and diverse nation with a very rich cultural and natural heritage. Our geography and our culture are as diversified as one could possibly find. We should not be asking the question of who is a real Canadian. That is answered as a matter of citizenship. We must ask ourselves what are our Canadian values and how do we appreciate and communicate their importance to all Canadians.
I would say that those I have just been listening to have been communicating a tremendous degree of misinformation. I hope my remarks will put proper information in the hands of all Canadians.
The fact is that we have always been a multicultural, multilingual nation, from the many native communities and native peoples that existed here before the founding of our two nations, that is the British and the French who came here and later joined the aboriginal people and the Inuit. We were later joined by people from around the world to build a bilingual and multicultural Canada and that is our reality. This new department is responsible, and I will quote from the legislation, for "the promotion of a greater understanding of human rights, fundamental freedoms, and related values as well as multiculturalism".
Canada's multicultural nature is something we have already entrenched in section 27 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is one of which all Canadians can be proud. No one has been asked to remove their roots. Everyone has been told they are welcome here in Canada and please bring their culture with them, not their ancient angry patterns.
We have codified our commitment to respect the diversity of this nation by unanimously passing the world's first multiculturalism act. By placing this policy, this program, this name, whatever we wish to call it, by placing multiculturalism within the context of the Department of Canadian Heritage we are ensuring that this is a policy that addresses the needs of all Canadians.
Everyone in the House, regardless of colour, race, language, creed or religion is a Canadian by right of birth or by right of choice if they hold a Canadian citizenship passport.
My vision of today's multiculturalism relates as a word to its policy, to its program, how it describes our reality. It is one that encompasses the full diversity of our people. It includes those whose families arrived from Europe many centuries ago as well as those who recently arrived from the four corners of the globe. Canada reflects the world for the world is here in the nature of our people and the citizenship that they hold.
The mandated program is to provide and promote a greater sense of intercultural and interracial understanding and that is not laissez-faireism. That is active understanding of who we are, how we came to be, and an appreciation of the uniqueness of this Canadian mosaic. That is what I would have liked to have heard from across the floor. It is most unfortunate that was not the language of the discourse.
We must all recognize that in order to achieve this goal of social cohesion, social understanding and acceptance, the government is only spending $1 per year per Canadian. It is barely enough I believe to ensure social cohesion, social harmony and the great country that we are.
It is a broad but essential mandate, if we want to consolidate the elements needed to foster a sense of Canadian identity. The place of multiculturalism in this context shows the paramount importance of this policy in strengthening our national identity.
A great deal has been said about the situations that caused deep disagreements within our society. The so-called break-up of the family, the greater visibility of our multicultural population, the prolonged recession from which we are only now emerging have all led us to ponder who we are and what we represent, even though the United Nations still rates our country as the best in the world.
The Department of Canadian Heritage was created to promote understanding of our diversity, active involvement in Canadian society and knowledge of our cultural and natural wealth. It carries out this mandate by implementing policies and programs designed to help resolve disagreements, clear up misunderstandings and make us proud of our personal and national identity.
The increasing diversity of our population is only one of the dramatic changes that we are facing. Efforts to deal with these demographic changes are occurring in the face of a number of destabilizing and worrisome dilemmas: world recession, structural changes in the economy, poverty, job losses and other global moves, youth alienation and the difficulty of achieving political consensus on major issues.
Our response to these challenges demands adjustment by and for our people, both as individuals and in their national institutions. Achieving progress can be a daunting task but a worthy challenge.
For example, since taking on the responsibility of Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and travelling across this land and speaking with the people, I have become aware as never before that nation building in a culturally diverse society is a formidable but necessary challenge. The importance of this task must not be underestimated because it involves reconciling cultural diversity with national goals, with national identity. It involves ensuring respect, understanding and appreciation for differences. It involves ensuring that the tapestry which we have woven together with its multicultural colours and its uneven surface is one to be appreciated and one to be admired, with the overwhelming need to ensure that national unity is understood as a common value of which we can be very proud, talking about a national unity, talking about a sense of pride.
I listened earlier to some of the remarks and I do not feel there is a sense of betrayal. I certainly do not feel like a fractionated or hyphenated or disembowelled individual who has to cut off my roots and sense of belonging in order to have a sense of pride and belonging in order to be seen as a Canadian with all the attributes I bring in that personality and in that persona.
I am just not a hyphenated Canadian. I am a Canadian who is proud of her cultural heritage. In Quebec I am a Montrealer. In Canada I am a Quebecer and around the world I am a Canadian. If anyone asks me it is with pride that I say I am a Canadian almost anywhere in this world including in my own city or province.
Let me make it quite clear that none of those identities is incompatible with the strong sense of national identity and pride. It is very much what I am. It is very much that which I am first and foremost, a proud daughter with Jewish roots. I am a mother. I am a grandmother. I share my care, my love and concern and can spread it equally, evenly and as need be. For me that is no conflict. For Canadians, I have spoken to all origins. Whether Italian, Greek, Hungarian, Romanian, from Sri Lanka, Indo-Canadians, whether they are Chinese or Chilean, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim or Jewish, this is not the issue.
The issue is that there is a social contract in Canada that says we share together, learn together, appreciate what we have here and protect it. It is like a very tender young flower. It is a democracy that is messy sometimes but it is the finest thing in the world. We have every reason to be proud of our families, our roots, our heritage. It is through the family and through volunteerism and with participation with the state and the institutions and structures of the state that we can accomplish the kind of country we have all inherited, are inspired by and have a responsibility to protect.
That is why we work closely and in partnership with other levels of government and with key stakeholders in the community. By bringing together various institutions we work to assist them in becoming more responsive to the access needs of our people, to the sense of belonging, to the need for employment and housing, and respect in our health institutions and all aspects of our daily living tasks. By working as mainstream Canadians with newly emerging Canadians as well as others we help to build a Canada that is inclusive of all people.
Our partnership with organizations such as the Canadian Ethnocultural Council, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Federation of Mayors and Municipalities, the Conference Board of Canada, Multicultural Canada, the Canadian Advertising Foundation, the Asia-Pacific Foundation, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and as well with the mayors of major cities we work and give our funds to these organiza-
tions in shared partnership as leverage so that we can promote a better understanding and destroy myths and stereotypes such as have been promoted from across this floor this morning.
We work with these partners to break down prejudice, misinformation, disinformation and to ensure fairness and equality for all people, to build understanding and create that sense of belonging.
Fortunately, Canada's experience in the last 20 years generally offers a positive viewpoint on multiculturalism issues, on bringing cultural communities together. What is needed to bridge the gap between new arrivals and the Canadian community receiving them is to build a society based on a consensus about what constitutes the common good for people with diverse interests, backgrounds, origins and beliefs; give everyone a role to play in the big issues; and identify peaceful solutions to potentially explosive problems.
In short, social peace is behind all the efforts we make through multiculturalism goals and strategies.
I have travelled across the country. I have listened sometimes to the misunderstanding but I have listened to the people and have heard what they have said about our diversity. I have heard about the economic advantage of a diverse population, advantages when we have such increases in foreign trade. We have also learned that when business is responsive to and reflective of its diversity it can be profitable as well.
The advertising council's colour your money study showed that by producing representative advertising companies such as the Bay, Zellers and McDonald's increased their revenues because people felt welcome. They felt they could be received behind the counter and were perceived as clients when the advertising was put out; they belonged as Canadians and would be served by Canadians.
This and other experiences have convinced me that the programs and policies under my responsibility are a great help in dealing with the problems facing us as a country with a very diverse population comprised of many different groups and peoples.
As you know, at least 46 different countries and ethnic communities are represented in my riding of Mount Royal, while Canada has over 100 ethnic communities.
Frank Rutter, a foreign affairs writer for the Vancouver Sun , has described multiculturalism as sweeping the world and as trying to balance a multicultural heritage with a national soul.
The implications of not achieving that balance are very worrisome, if not horrific. We only have to look at what is happening in the world around us to see the results of not trying to reconcile different realities of diversity and ensuring a sense of unity, a sense of belonging and a sense of pride.
I stated the obvious because Canada must clearly approach the issue of cultural diversity with rigour, sensitivity and broad-mindedness or be willing to suffer the consequences. The approach adopted by our country in dealing with multiculturalism is an asset that has allowed us to avoid the ethnic tensions plaguing other countries.
Let us realize the real picture of whom we are today. Forty-two per cent of all Canadians have origins other than British and French. With respect to our people of colour, those statistics are often referred to in Statistics Canada reports as visible minorities in Canada. Nationally these were 6 per cent in 1986, 10 per cent by the year 2000. In our major cities, 17 per cent in 1986 and 30 per cent by the year 2000. However in Toronto alone there will be approximately 50 per cent non-English and non-French backgrounds with 30 per cent visible minorities. Other major Canadian cities are undergoing similar changes.
Therefore the increasing diversity of Canada has broad ranging implications. Given an increasingly multicultural reality, Canadian governments and institutions face a number of practical challenges.
Let me close this part of my remarks by saying that fostering a national sense of belonging does not mean asking people to cut off their roots. It does not mean asking mainstream Canadians to forget their origins. It means telling, asking, expecting, teaching, training and educating so that we have an appreciation of where we started, with aboriginal, multicultural, multilingual peoples, whom we added and how we have lived together in peace and understanding.
I would hope that as I continue talking about the Canadian mosaic people will learn and appreciate the role that we play for a dollar a year for each Canadian.
We have to talk about how we ensure and promote growth and understanding of our diversity while recognizing our common values. I believe we have to find and implement effective ways to eliminate discrimination, prejudice, racism and bigotry based on the colour of our skin, our religious beliefs or our cultural differences. We have to learn how to encourage individuals and institutions to make a commitment to work toward eliminating and erasing racism.
These are all programs and projects which we undertake jointly with community groups to ensure that people can get together to understand and know each other in a much more neighbourly way.
How to involve people in welcoming and facilitating the integration-