Mr. Speaker, I did not anticipate your being ready so quickly.
In 1971 the Liberal government took a timely step forward in affirming the uniqueness of Canadian identity. It proclaimed the multiculturalism policy of Canada showing how we perceived ourselves and how we were viewed by nations throughout the world.
We let it be known on domestic and international stages that we placed a high value on the diverse heritage that history bestowed upon us to share. Many changes stemmed from this policy in the lives of citizens and in government activities. Part of this social evolution took place in 1988 when the world's first national multiculturalism legislation saw the light of day in the House and was unanimously passed.
Through the multiculturalism act we made an emphatic statement that ours is a life story to celebrate a legacy of traditions brought from nations far and near to link our cultural communities as one people united under one banner. The act codified in law the multicultural reality that has flourished since the First Nations settled this vast land, long before the advent of the explorers. We were indeed proud to see respect for our neighbours' origins become the law of the land.
Diversity is a Canadian reality, a reality reflected in this House, in you, in me and among all our colleagues, and among the citizens from all ethnocultural groups who have placed us here to speak on their behalf. The essence of this diversity lies in how we conduct day to day life in Canada, at home, at school, in our neighbourhoods and in the workplace.
It is with regard to where many Canadians work and provide services to the public that I tabled the fifth annual report on the operation of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act. It documents progress the federal departments and agencies made in honouring this government's commitment to reflecting Canada's cultural make up in its daily affairs. It also helps keep these administrations accountable to the people of Canada whom we have the privilege of serving.
In other words, the federal government must play a leading role in Canada's cultural development. This annual report covers the 1992-93 fiscal year. It applies to a time that preceded the return of this government by seven months.
Nevertheless, I have the duty to ensure that the document is tabled.
Some departments and agencies have made great strides in upholding diversity in the workplace and ensuring that all citizens have equal access to government services.
To cite just two examples among the many highlights of outward looking ventures, during 1992-93 CBC prepared a plan of action on equitable portrayal in programming. This led to further progress in the movement toward increasing the presence of visible minority performers and subjects on TV and radio in Canada.
A great number of programs dealt with the fight against racism and hatred as well as with the promotion of cross cultural relations. It included a Canada Day documentary in which five Canadians of diverse cultural backgrounds discovered the meaning of being a Canadian.
Agriculture Canada funded research into the diverse food buying habits of consumers and the opportunities that these trends present to Canada's agri-food industry. The results of this research were provided to producers and retailers in this fast growing sector. We shall do some ongoing nation-wide studying of these trends and help our food processors compete with foreign companies.
These innovative ideas are but a few among the many put forth by a large number of agencies and departments on the front line of diversity awareness. These employees deserve our praise. Other administrations proceeded at a somewhat less
accelerated pace. We acknowledge their efforts and encourage them on.
Finally, a minority of offices have not quite blazed a trail in advancing the benefits that diversity can bring and diversity offers. Hanging posters in the lobby is a good start but one must make the actual message on those posters come to life. Their intentions are honourable but they really could go further.
With this in mind, I have asked program staff to convene a round table of senior officials. These people will explore new ways to highlight the fact that the government demonstrates leadership in bringing about meaningful change in Canada.
Clearly one cannot look to the outside until one has had a thorough scan of the inside.
As my hon. colleagues have likely sensed, this report is a good foundation for a much more energetic plan of action for the remainder of the decade. However one cannot really call it a best seller, not at least right now. Let us wait until I table some reports in the year to come, same place, same time, but I do believe it will be a different story, a story about widespread institutional change.
The portfolio entrusted to me by the Prime Minister is an honour, as well as a challenge.
Our mandate is to articulate the idea that our approach to citizenship embraces all Canadian women and men-seniors and young people-regardless of where they or their ancestors were born. We will be busy during the 1990s and I look forward to every day of it!
At the top of our agenda is the need to enlighten, to educate, to arouse a better understanding and interest, to open the eyes, to drop the lid on the coffin and finally entomb the myths that multiculturalism is merely an immigration issue, that diversity must lead to division, and the misguided musings about quotas.
I have already heard rumblings in this House about ghettoization. It is true there are those who do move into places some people think of as comfort zones. Others might call them ghettos. I do not think that is the right nomenclature, but they move to a place called Canada first. They contribute their skills to a land built by others before them who arrived with courage, hope and dreams.
Canada is a nation where we all enjoy freedom of movement and we all have the right to move to a neighbourhood with stores, with a market and with a community centre that represents a familiar setting. It is a comfort zone. All citizens have that right too. They have every right to tell us to stop focusing on the small picture of who lives where and who does what and to look at the whole screen in panorama.
Let us recognize diversity as the most obvious characteristic of the Canadian reality, thanks to our ancestors from around the world.
Our diversity is at the heart of our identity, and you cannot rewrite history. We know of regimes in this century that tried to do so, and they failed.
I suggest that members see "Schindler's List" if they want a reminder.
Whether people know it or not, multiculturalism will not fail.
Anyone who foresees the end of our respect for neighbours' origins and for their right to become involved in our communities is not facing the fact that all Canadians have equal rights and equal responsibilities.
Embracing all our traditions is an eloquent expression of the Canadian dream. It forms the very lifeblood of our nationhood. It creates building blocks, not stumbling blocks, for one only stumbles when one lives in darkness and cannot see the path ahead.
The federal government intends to follow a path clearly laid out, long before Confederation, by our aboriginal peoples and generations of ancestors.
The finest homage we could pay them is to show that there is no such thing as us and them, mainstream versus immigrants, old guard versus newcomers.
Even the so-called mainstreamers have roots that spread all over the world. We Canadians are one big family. After all we are all made of flesh and blood.
We also have a mission on a broader scale to serve as an example to troubled nations that look to us for inspiration in times of strife when they think of freedom, human rights and shared values. We will reinforce our status as a role model through an alliance of every man, woman and child with a grasp of the responsibilities of Canadian citizenship. We shall pick the route that leads to a land where every person's talent and energy will build on what is great about Canada. We will strengthen our economy through communication with trading partners. It will help us maintain our revered status in the eyes of the world.
The task that faces us all is not an easy one. Yet I can think of little in life more debilitating than idleness, scapegoating, antipathy and apathy.
I speak from my own heart to those who ask if a land of opportunity, equality and fairness is a dream world; who question whether multiculturalism has a value or is a value, has an inclusive policy or is an inclusive policy; or who think that it can happen alone. I say when we cease to dream we cease to grow.