Mr. Speaker, I am making this statement today on behalf of the minister of multiculturalism who has the direct responsibility. However she is so active at the moment throughout the country on this very important day that she has asked me to present this ministerial statement on her behalf and I take great pleasure in doing so.
As Canadians we have a great deal to be thankful for on this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
In the 130 years we have grown together as a nation, we have been building a society which respects the diversity of its citizens. We have gained for ourselves a reputation around the world as a caring and compassionate country, a nation that can show the world how diverse people can live together in peace and respect.
The way we tolerate one another's differences is an example to all nations. It shows that we can find a solution that meets everyone's needs.
Thirty-six years ago today dozens of innocent men and women protesting apartheid in South Africa were gunned down. The Sharpeville massacre showed the world that racism and hatred are challenges for the global family. If part of that family is victimized, violated or held back from reaching its full potential then we all suffer.
Fortunately, much has changed in the decades since that terrible and horrible event. South Africa is now free from apartheid because of the enormous efforts made by countries around the world. And Canada played a very significant role in the fight against apartheid.
The civil rights movement which has swept the United States has brought about a number of changes for the black population in that country.
The iron curtain was lifted and new democratic rights have been established in a number of eastern European areas.
Increasingly, Canadians try to embrace the reality of our diversity to provide protection and opportunities. I can say, for example, that one important initiative which was taken by this government was the Employment Equity Act which ensured that in the area of employment, racial discrimination could be eliminated and there would no longer be a barrier to people obtaining gainful employment.
The General Assembly of the United Nations chose this day to recognize the importance of the ongoing struggle against racism and prejudice around the world.
Canada has been at the fore in the global efforts to eradicate racism, prejudice and hatred. We have dedicated ourselves to peace and to building bridges between the different peoples of the world. We are engaged in active and positive reconstruction in Haiti, which had enormous discrimination built into it over the years by authoritarian dictatorships. Now we are helping to rebuild that country.
We are helping countries around the world to develop new judicial systems and new human rights commissions which will give them the institutional basis on which they can build a more open society.
On this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, I urge all Canadians to reach out to their colleagues.
I urge Canadians everywhere to recognize that it is only when each and every one of us, no matter what our race, our religion, language or ethnicity, is able to participate fully that we will be a mature nation. We must hold ourselves up to the highest standards of respect and understanding if we are to continue to show the world what we can accomplish together.
Canada has been called the prototype of the 21st century.
We have shown people how we can live together in peace and respect, how we can find non-violent ways of resolving differences and conflicts and how we can respect individual rights while maintaining justice for co-activities.
We must always strive for that balance which creates a united nation while respecting the sum of its many parts.
On this day, we must redouble our efforts. We must remain vigilant in fighting injustice and racial intolerance, both within our borders and around the world.
This is an important day and I welcome the opportunity on behalf of the Government of Canada and my colleagues to present this statement. I look forward to the expressions of celebration and dedication that I am sure other members of the House would like to express.