Mr. Speaker, millions of Canadians are living proof of this nation's commitment to offer opportunity to all of our citizens. It is the role of multiculturalism to ensure that all Canadians can participate fully and actively in the economic, social and political life of this country.
It is therefore a pleasant responsibility to place before Parliament the annual report of the operation of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act.
1996 was a milestone for multiculturalism in three ways. First, we commemorated the 25th anniversary of Canada becoming the first country in the world to embrace the concept of multiculturalism as a national policy.
That policy is an affirmation of Canadian values and vision, and is a guide for pragmatic vision. It is a guide for reaping the social and economic benefits offered by our cultural diversity.
It is the ability for one people to be formed out of diversity.
It is the ability to live together, sharing common and fundamental values that are inherently Canadian, yet at the same time it is also the ability to respect individuals and communities which have chosen to maintain their uniqueness that is also Canadian.
Second, 1996 was the year in which Canada revamped and renewed its multiculturalism program to make it more contemporary, more focused, more accountable and more open to partnership with all Canadians. The renewed program is targeted squarely at the objectives of advancing social justice, fostering Canadian identity and enhancing civic participation.
Without leadership and direction over the past 25 years and into the future, we would not have been able to build and maintain this open and welcoming society that is a model to the world. We will secure these goals by working in partnership across the federal government and in harmony with other levels of government, the private sector, community groups and Canadians from all walks of life.
Third, during this year the Government of Canada followed through on the Prime Minister's pledge to establish the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. Under the leadership of the Hon. Lincoln Alexander and a board of distinguished Canadians, the foundation will be a linchpin for the sharing of information and know-how in promoting even better race relations in Canada.
These milestones are markers of a country dedicated to fairness, They are also markers of a country determined to use the full range of its cultural diversity to tap new markets, build new trade, create new jobs, promote new tourism and marshal our competitive advantage.
Team Canada works in part because we have citizens with knowledge of the different languages, cultures and marketplace of trading partners. It works in part because we are widely viewed as a society that strives to tap the talents of all Canadians regardless of their origins. In the eyes of the world Canada has become a model. As we have strived to live together with respect for differences, we have honed the skills of accommodation that has made us learn how to find a peaceful resolution to conflict.
The success of the new direction set for multiculturalism in 1996 can and will be open for review by Parliament in the years ahead. I welcome, and in fact encourage, the ongoing advice of all members of Parliament as we continue the work of ensuring that a noble Canadian idea provides opportunity for all Canadians and tangible benefits for our nation.