Madam Speaker, the hearings on Bill C-53 by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage during the past weeks have given many Canadians from all sectors of our society the opportunity to present their views on the responsibilities encompassed in the proposed legislation.
Every kind of opinion has been heard about this bill, including the name of the department, the portfolio and its holdings, and suggestions on how to amend various acts under its jurisdiction. This expression of a wide range of views about the Department of Canadian Heritage is consistent with the objective of our parliamentary system of fairness and openness in government. It is consistent with the government's ideal about giving all citizens the right, the access and the opportunity to become involved in all aspects of Canadian life.
The Department of Canadian Heritage would encourage the possibility of greater participation by our fellow citizens in the social, political, cultural and economic life of their country.
In a few moments, my colleague, the member for Mississauga East, will speak about the many advantages of having one integrated department.
Indeed, the department's responsibilities, which range from natural reserves and historic sites and figures to sports and include the arts and cultural industries, really cover all aspects of life in Canada.
My intention therefore is to concentrate on the multicultural aspects of Canadian life and why there is a need for a program that focuses on building understanding and respect and on fighting racism, bigotry and prejudice.
For my government this program is more than building a monument. It is far more lasting in terms of daily living for Canadians, whatever their language, culture, milieu, newly arrived or long time resident. Multiculturalism is about the very fabric of our society.
Canada has been built by wave after wave of immigrants. All Canadians other than the First Nations have their roots reaching to the four corners of the earth. They have kept coming and they have come at different stages.
I was at a very moving and beautiful ceremony yesterday held at Rideau Hall with the Governor General of Canada. At that ceremony Dr. Dmytroa Cipywnyk, a very distinguished Canadian of Ukrainian descent and who is president of the Canadian Ethnocultural Council, received in the name of the 37 groups that represent ethnocultural communities across Canada a coat of arms.
It was a very moving day as I saw Ukrainians, Germans, Italians, Greeks, Jewish people, East Indians, people from the Czech Republic, Poland, Argentina, people of Irish descent and people from countries all around the world who all belong to this Canadian Ethnocultural Council. They had decided that they wanted to have a heraldic emblem that would represent who they are and what it means to be part of Canada.
I was very touched and moved by the words of the Governor General. Mr. Hnatyshyn made a comment on the choice of the heraldry, the red and white crest with the winged seeds. He said maple trees are different. Maple seeds have a design that allows them to spiral to the ground far from the trees. They take root in new places, adapt to new conditions and thrive. That is the kind of spirit that has drawn millions of people to this land for hundreds of years. It is that spirit that draws people here today.
I thought that was very demonstrative of the role and the place that Canadians have played from all parts of this world, from the Irish who came here fleeing hunger and famine to the Chinese who came to help build the railways, to the blacks who came through the underground railway. All kinds of people have come to this shore and each wave has brought prosperity, growth and development. Each wave has had to live difficult experiences and each wave has been enabled by the concepts that are founded in our democratic process to grow and to prosper, but not without difficulty.
We have addressed those difficulties at many different times in different ways because we have been a growing and emerging democracy.
In that spirit that moved thousands upon thousands of volunteers to respond, to reach out and to work for social harmony and social peace as their communities arrived here, it was the small groups that lent a hand to the business people, to the families in need, the Baron de Hirsch, for food, for coal, for heat; it was the organizations that came together to give food and lodging, shoes and clothing for the cold weather. Whether it was my community or the Christian community or the other communities, they gave a helping hand and enabled us to feel a sense of comfort and welcome and then we made the choice to stay, to move on, to integrate, to associate, to make our way of life here in Canada.
That spirit, that generosity is found in the charitable social and cultural organizations of today. They all need respect, understanding and they need and come for some form of support as they work to face a very changed dynamic in society. Society is a great big global village whose people have still not learned how to live respectfully in many of the lands from which they come.
We have an important job that is different than before because technology has changed. The world we now see is in conflict and those conflicts are now coming here and we must stop those conflicts. It is a different kind of situation.
It is important that these volunteer organizations help us work toward social peace and social harmony. If we reach out our hand in friendship and we welcome the newly arrived as the host society, we will have received them at our table with grace and dignity and we will help others integrate into our society under the value system that we have built into our society.
It is fairly new. When we talk about what we have put in here it is the spirit of multiculturalism that moved much of the change that we saw as we brought in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as we brought in the Canadian Constitution, as we signed international documents to eliminate all forms of discrimination, all forms of racism, as we put into place acts of employment equity.
I have said it before and I will say it again. It is time for us to get up to date, to understand and to explain to constituents just what multiculturalism means for Canada, just how important it is to the fabric of life here.
We have never been a static society. Canadian federalism is a growing and evolving modern society. It is governance that looks at and adapts to change. It is not frozen in any particular mode or model. It has guiding principles today that form the very core of this nation and it moves based on fundamental principles. It means that Canada has been and is now and will continue to be a host country and a home country for people from around the world, from a multitude of other cultures that all share the same goal of making a good life for themselves and their families within the framework of our laws and our prin-
ciples of justice and fairness, of peace, order and good government at all levels of our society.
It is obvious that people see the structures we have in place and that is why they want to come here. As citizens we have adapted it, have adopted it and have allowed it to evolve because we do not all have in our hearts and our minds the goodwill we need to have to help ensure that the fundamentals are there and that we move forward with them.
It is very healthy that we have dialogue around the goals of multiculturalism. It is very healthy that we look at and analyse our society and recognize the ugly face of racism, recognize that those groups, Heritage Front, the Ku Klux Klan, are here, are out there, are spreading their poison and it has to stop. This is not a place where we allow them one seed from the maple tree to settle in the earth of this land.
Community groups, social, cultural and educational groups contribute their skill, knowledge, expertise and creativity to Canadian life. It is the responsibility of all Canadians in the public as well as the private sector to encourage the conditions that allow all of us, regardless of our origins, to expect these principles of fairness and justice flourish and grow and that we support those initiatives.
The government's multiculturalism programs are in place to assist us in reaching this goal. It is not an unreasonable goal and it is not an unattainable goal to expect that all Canadians be integrated into our society and become contributors to the country's progress.
I did not say assimilate. I did not say that one should lose one's identity, but one should learn to live in co-operation with respect and understanding in our neighbourhoods. Those are the choices we have in this society. This is nothing more than good common sense. It allows for peace. It allows for civil society. The multicultural programs are there because unfortunately there are still barriers that prevent some individuals and groups from realizing their full potential.
Canada was founded on a tradition of democracy, decency and civility, values of fairness and justice associated with this system that have guided and shaped our social structures, laws and institutions.
We have strayed. We have erred, but we have also grown and learned to cherish the fragile form of rule that we have in place here which calls for constant vigilance. It is in civility and respect, it is in an appreciation of our diversity that we live. Pluralism, diversity, multicultural and multiracial backgrounds are our reality. Together we shall weave a tapestry that forms the fundamentals that is Canada, as we look in the House and see how different we are, how different are the geographic regions, the backgrounds, the lands and the languages.
There is no one in the House who can look back more than two or three generations, maybe four. There are some here who tell me they have been here for six generations, but that is not the lifetime of this nation. We are all different and learning to live together, respecting each other. We do not have to love each other, but we have to respect each other for our differences and yet for our Canadian appreciation of the values of life.
To live with this reality, to ensure social peace and cohesion will not happen by wishing. That only happens by working for it.
Multiculturalism is not incompatible with Canadian values. On the contrary, it is based on the principles of the rights and responsibilities set forth in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Human Rights Act, the Official Languages Act, the Citizenship Act and I might even add the Employment Equity Act.
Canada's multiculturalism policy makes it possible to overcome obstacles more easily and to promote institutional change.
It recognizes the richness found in cultural diversity. It is modeled on the values which guide us, are essential to our way of life and underlie what we aspire to as Canadians.
When I visited numerous cultural communities across the country, I had the opportunity and the privilege to meet many men, women and young people who were all representative of today's Canadian society. Some are proud that their ancestors were among the first ones to step on Canadian soil. Others take pride in their dual citizenship, or in their newly acquired citizenship.
I met members of organizations and associations involved in many sectors, including business, health care, education, law enforcement, as well as municipal and provincial administrations, to name but a few.
The message is always the same. The Government of Canada must help Canadians of all backgrounds to build a society where we can live in our neighbourhood in peaceful respect, united in the common purpose of securing the well-being of our families. That is what they told me. They recognize prejudice, they recognize bigotry, and they recognize the need to ensure that we stamp it out.
I believe that the government's multiculturalism policy and the programs it supported can help to achieve this goal but only in participation with the private sector and community based groups that speak for all Canadians. Those multicultural councils are vital to our well-being.
To do this successfully we are going to have to meet a number of challenges. First, we must recognize that pluralism does not contradict our assured sense of national identity, nor does it prevent social cohesion. We must not confuse national values with cultural pluralism because values cut across religious, cultural and ethnic and racial lines.
Second, we are going to have to work on ways to facilitate the long term integration of first generation Canadians. We must give new citizens the tools to be effective, responsible, and informed so that they can contribute to Canada's development and become full and active participants in building a stronger country.
Long term integration starts with learning about Canada, starts with civics. So many of the countries from which people are coming and have come do not understand democracy as it is lived here in Canada today. They do not and have not lived in democratic states. They have fear of speech. They have fear of police. They have fear of neighbours. They have fear of difference. It is our job if we want to live together in peaceful harmony to enable them to understand they are welcome, as I said earlier, at our table as part of the family.
We teach that Canada is a democratic country. That is what we do in multiculturalism. We teach that we welcome the expression of opinion. We teach that we welcome difference while ensuring that racism and bigotry find no home here. Otherwise it is pointless and it would be a pointless lesson if we do not practise what we preach.
Democracy requires that all citizens feel they are valued in this society. They must know that the opportunities to participate are available to everyone and should be available equally. We have to stop creaming those societies of their top intellectuals, bringing them here and not recognizing their academic qualifications.
We must recognize that we must teach one of the official languages of this country. If we do not do that you cannot participate in a democratic society. You cannot shop in knowledge. You cannot look after your children and apply medications and buy medications. You cannot understand political parties. You cannot make rational decisions if you cannot read and speak one of the official languages of this country, depending on where you live and in what region you live and from where you came and what seems to adapt best to you. One of the official languages must be a part of the background of training.
There must really be no barriers to participation based on race, religion, ethnic background or language.
All Canadians must be able to express their views so as to be understood by others. This is why, as I just said, we have made education in both official languages a priority. This is important, because Canadians must have a decent standard of living, and they must participate in the daily activities of our society. Otherwise, people feel isolated; they can be manipulated and they may not lead the life they should be able to, here in Canada.
The multiculturalism program is therefore organized around four key objectives. First is to facilitate community participation and integration into the fabric of Canadian society.
Second is to help those who render services in our hospitals and health institutions and those who receive the services; the police, the municipalities and the schools as well, to ensure that their policies and programs adjust to the reality of our diversity.
Third is to strengthen social cohesion by promoting harmonious cross-cultural, intercultural and interracial group relations.
Fourth is to promote public awareness of the economic and social benefits of pluralism.
We know already that we have the support of many major Canadian organizations and institutions that understand the value of a respectful, open and participating society. One example I would give is that peaceful harmony means good business. Therefore, removing racism and acts of racial prejudice undertaking is valuable.
We thank the Canadian Association of Broadcasters which has produced $10 million worth of air time which has been devoted to the fight against racism. In our schools across this land, parents and teachers associations have helped us fight prejudice and misunderstanding in the schools and have distributed very valuable materials that are lessons in civicism and civility.
Other partners, the Conference Board of Canada and the Asia Pacific Foundation, have made it clear that diversity has an economic benefit and that pluralism gives us a natural competitive advantage in a global economy that is in itself multicultural and multilingual.
The Canadian Advertising Association has done some excellent research and has put out a document called "The Colour of Your Money" that enable us to understand how important it is to be able to deal with the customers who live on our street and in our district.
Our broad range of partners also includes the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Multicultural Help Association, the Canadian Advertising Council, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Canadian Association of School Board Trustees, the Canadian Teachers' Federation, and the Canadian Conference on the Arts.
These are not song, dance and festivals. Although I would love to be able to finance them, we do not do that. They are partners that help us ensure an open, respectful and understanding society where we all have choices to live, choices to choose where and how we want to live within the laws of respect in this land so that we live in an integrated milieu that makes Canada the best place for all its citizens.
These are the partnerships along with the volunteer sector that open more lines of communication to provide all Canadians, men and women and our youth, with a greater knowledge of the richness and benefits of our diverse population.
We are working to change government from the inside as well as to ensure interracial understanding. The same way we work with shop foremen to prepare that floor as the host community to the new arrivals, so we are doing within our own house. For example, we worked and are working with the Departments of National Defence, Customs and Excise, and the RCMP to help ensure they are sensitive in their response to Canada's reality.
Our programs related to interracial relations and cultural comprehension, and also to the integration of first generation Canadians, help all Canadians, through community support, to work together to build an economically sound and socially just country.
Multiculturalism is not based on compartmentalization, nor on division.
It is not based on being a hyphenated Canadian.
It seeks to build an integrated society where everyone has an equal chance to succeed, as well as an opportunity to understand and apply the principles governing citizenship.
It is also not as I said before about funding song and dance, and unicultural festivals, as important as they are.
When we see the tragedies which occur every day in the world, we have no choice but to cherish human life, and that includes all men and women-Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, be they black, yellow, brown, red or white-who adhere to the democratic values of the Canadian society.
With an investment of less than $1 per year per Canadian, the federal government helps to promote a fairer society.
In a society with a government that spends less than $1 per year but depends on additions to that dollar through the voluntary sector and through voluntary effort, the federal government helps to promote a fairer society in which all Canadians have a chance and a choice to participate equally and with respect.
This is an investment we cannot afford to ignore. The value of our multiculturalism programs to Canadian society must be confirmed by ensuring that they can work effectively within the Department of Canadian Heritage. All of us, whether in this House or not, must be ever vigilant in our defence of the values of a democratic, free and open society.