Fostering Commitment to Canada
Today, when many parts of the world are shaken by the attacks and threats of terrorism, which is an ultimate and ugliest form of hate crimes, people in Canada live a relatively peaceful and safe life. One reason for this is that everyone is welcome in Canada and is made to feel so. In Canada, differences and diversity are not only tolerated but celebrated. But to appreciate this, it is important that we know how diversity is protected and promoted in Canada, something that we have achieved through tireless work of many social thinkers and activists, political philosophers and leaders, humanists and constitutional experts over past several decades. Three major Canadian Acts have been largely instrumental in achieving the present status of diversity and inclusion in Canada and have given Canada its unique status.
In 1971, Canada became the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as official policy; subsequently, in 1988, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act was adopted. A decade after adopting multiculturalism as official policy, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was enshrined as the first part of the Constitution Act, 1982, to ensure life, liberty and security of person as well as equality and legal rights for everyone. It also ensured the freedoms of conscience, thought, belief and expressions for all Canadians. There are some basic rights that come along with being born as a human being. These rights cannot be given to anyone, but they can be taken away. The Canadian Human Rights Act came into force in 1977 to ensure that rights to dignity, respect, and freedom from discrimination cannot be taken away from anyone in Canada. Although there are other criminal, civil, and labour laws, such as hate speech laws, employment equity and equal pay for women, that prohibit exclusion, these three enshrine the quintessential approach to diversity and inclusion in Canada.
Hate crimes originate in biases. In Canada, sustained efforts are made to prevent discrimination and hate crimes involving justice, police, human rights, and many other institutions. However, if we can remove these biases, we may be able to prevent/reduce discrimination or hate crimes to a large extent. Such acts lower the self-esteem, feeling of safety and national pride of the ethnic, faith or other groups that the victim belongs to. Inter-racial harmony is extremely important in a society where hundreds of different cultures must co-exist peacefully and work toward a better society. We need to remind ourselves that such biases, discrimination, and hate toward each other do not have any place in the Canadian society. It is against the spirit and values of Canada.
All Canadians, including those born in a foreign land, need to understand Canada’s total commitment to diversity and inclusion as it informs its policies, principles, and practices. It is time for all of us, as we celebrate Canada’s 150 anniversary, to be reminded of our part in contributing to and strengthening this commitment. It is time to share a forum and envision together a future that is as free of biases and discrimination as is possible and find strategies to work toward a progressively more inclusive society for our children.