Madam Speaker, the Government of Canada understands the strong feelings underlying requests for redress for incidents in our nation's past. As Canadians we all share in the responsibility to learn from the lessons of the past and to ensure that the history of our country in certain instances does not repeat itself ever.
I know firsthand the issues that are being addressed today by the hon. member opposite. My riding of Parkdale--High Park is home to a great number of Ukrainian Canadians, and this is a matter that I have spoken to members of the community about.
The Canadian Multiculturalism Act lays out principles for these adjustments. It gives specific direction to the federal government to work toward achieving equality in the economic, social, cultural and political life of the country. The multicultural program turns those principles into action. Its activities help to combat racism and discrimination, to break down barriers that prevent all Canadians from fully participating in society, to promote freedom and equal opportunity, to improve inter-group relations, and to foster social harmony and a shared sense of Canadian identity.
As Canada becomes more culturally diverse, the challenge we face is maximizing the benefits of a multicultural society, which means respecting differences and being willing to adapt to change.
Since the introduction of Canada's multiculturalism policy in 1971 and the adoption of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act in 1988, Canada's population has continued to become more diverse. This rich ethnocultural, racial and religious diversity has been fostered and supported by a strong multiculturalism policy that encourages people to maintain their culture and identity within a Canadian framework that values fundamental human rights and freedoms.
In order to keep pace with the needs of our evolving and increasingly diverse society, the multiculturalism program focuses on three overall policy goals of identity, social justice and civic participation. Within these policy goals, four priority objectives have been identified for the multicultural program: first, fostering cross-cultural understanding; second, promoting shared citizenship; third, making Canadian institutions more reflective of Canadian diversity; and fourth, combating racism and discrimination.
The government recognizes that creating and maintaining a strong and cohesive society free of racism and discrimination is critical to the continued growth and success of our country. As part of its commitment to fight racism and as part of its forward looking approach with regard to historical acts, the Government of Canada established the Canadian Race Relations Foundation in 1996. As members know, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation is an important asset in helping to build an inclusive society based on social harmony. In establishing the foundation, we have committed to building a better future for young Canadians and a better country for all of us.
The mission of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation is to build a framework for the fight against racism in Canadian society. The Foundation sheds light on the causes and manifestations of racism. It provides independent, candid national leadership and contributes to the pursuit of equity, fairness and social justice.
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is the articulation of the Government of Canada's commitment to fostering racial harmony and cross-cultural understanding. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is to a great extent at the core of what the Ukrainian community and this bill are asking for: an educational foundation.
Through the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, I am pleased to say that many groups have had grants for initiatives in specific projects against racism. Along with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, the Government of Canada has and will continue to promote initiatives to improve understanding among Canadians, such as the March 21 campaign of the Department of Canadian Heritage, which is designed to raise the awareness of Canadians against the dangers of racism and racial discrimination.
The March 21 campaign was initiated in response to the need to heighten awareness of the harmful effects of racism on a national scale and to demonstrate clearly the commitment and leadership of the federal government to foster respect, equality and diversity.
For more than 10 years, the March 21 campaign has mobilized youth across Canada to rise up and to take a stand against racism. Through their participation in the campaign, Canadian youth have spoken loudly and eloquently. There is no place for racism in their lives.
Each year on March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, many activities are held throughout Canada to raise public awareness about the problem of racism.
The national video competition “Racism: Stop it!” is one of several federal government initiatives to fight racism and encourage thousands of young people from across Canada to stand up and condemn this problem.
Why youth? Youth are the future of our nation. It is only by looking to the future that we will achieve our common goal of eradicating racism and discrimination.
We know that youth are the heart and soul of the annual March 21 campaign. They have the energy, commitment and creativity to advance the struggle against racism. They are the voice of the present and also of the future. They are among the most exposed to racism in their schools and on the streets in villages, towns and cities across Canada. The March 21 campaign engages youth to transcend the boundaries of race, ethnicity and religion, and to embrace diversity.
Historically speaking, this country represents a coming together of many peoples and traditions. It is because we were and are so different in our backgrounds and our beginnings that Canada has learned over time to place an extraordinary premium on respect, equality and mutual acceptance. This is what sets Canada apart from other countries.
The challenge is not to lose what we have gained through past experience, not to assimilate this diversity into a simple mould, but to harness it for the common good.
As we move forward in this new millennium, it is the youth of the world who stand poised to lead us out of the intolerance of the past which too often results in terrible human suffering.
The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of understanding and preserving our complete history, including those times when we have strayed from our shared commitment to human justice. Through various departments and programs, it has supported a wide range of commemorative projects that have helped the Ukrainian community tell their story in their own voice.
The bill before us today asks for commemoration of the historical events by means of the installation of memorial plaques at the site of the internment camps. I would like the hon. members of this House to know that Parks Canada has already worked cooperatively with Ukrainian Canadians to present the story of the first world war internment.
As part of an exhibit to interpret the events associated with the first world war internment in the context of human history of Banff National Park, several interpretative panels were installed as part of the permanent exhibit at the Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada, as well as at Mount Revelstoke and Yoho National Parks.
Parks Canada has also supported Ukrainian Canadians in their efforts to install a permanent plaque and statue at the site of the Castle Mountain camp in Banff and permanent plaques at the Jasper camp, Mount Revelstoke camp and Yoho camp. The Department of National Defence has also enabled the placement of a plaque on the Niagara Falls armoury.
The National Film Board of Canada has produced an internment and exile film package that includes a segment entitled, Freedom Had a Price , which describes the experience of Ukrainian immigrants during the first world war.
In addition, the Department of Canadian Heritage has provided funding for the production of a television series entitled, A Scattering of Seeds , which celebrated diversity in Canada and discusses various topics, including the internment of Ukrainian immigrants.
Yes, people of Ukrainian heritage have experienced challenges during their time in Canada. We acknowledge this chapter of our past and vow never to forget it.
The member opposite did say that nothing has been done but many things have been done. When I was parliamentary secretary to the former minister of Canadian heritage, Sheila Copps, she brought the Ukrainian community together to meet with her officials and dialogue was started. Is there much to do? Absolutely. The dialogue has been started. Let us now continue the dialogue.