Mr. Howard McCurdy (Windsor-Walkerville):
Mr. Speaker, once again I rise on behalf of the NDP to add my voice to that of the Secretary of State (Mr. Crombie) and the Official Opposition spokesman in recognition of the thirty-ninth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This day marks the culmination of the recognition of a new ideal among nations in a world where, only a century before, slavery and the attitude that supported it were pervasive.
It is because of this new ideal that we have a better world, but not a perfect world. Even now, in the glow of glasnost, Jews plead for Russian refuseniks and Afghans for their land. In Haiti the people struggle for a blood-free vote. In southern Africa, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala human rights lay victim to local tyranny and foreign conflicts. In Iran, Pakistan and elsewhere we see that religious intolerance is still a powerful force for suppression.
We in Canada, as the Minister says, can look with pride upon a nation striving to become a new model for understanding among an increasing diversity of people. As we increasingly reflect the many peoples of the world in our own citizenship, we are asked to become an increasingly powerful voice on the world stage for equality, justice and freedom. Whether it be in southern Africa, Central America or elsewhere, we must be sure that our voice will be heard above the cacophony of national or big power interests which tempt compromise. In our own land the recognition in legislation of the multiculturalism of our land is not enough unless equality is absolutely assured.
On this thirty-ninth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us not forget that, as we celebrate Meech Lake, we still have not dealt with the limits on equality presented in our Charter of Rights by the override clause. Those of us who have supported Meech Lake and those of us who look upon Canada as a multicultural nation insist that the first priority, as the provinces and the federal Government deliberate about the next constitutional change, be the elimination of the that clause which says to too many of us
December 10, 1987
who are not of English or French descent that we are not quite equal if there is a need for compromise for some purpose.
Let us also recognize that increasingly those of us who looked with hope upon the Human Rights Commissions of the federal Government and the provinces see now that they have virtually deserted us. When it takes not days, not weeks, but years all too often for complaints of discrimination to be processed by provincial human rights commissions or the federal Human Rights Commission, it suggests to many that we are willing to move too slowly on something which should have been completed long ago and for which there was so much hope not too long ago.
We join in celebration. We are proud of the contribution that Canada has made. We are pleased by the changes which make this country more representative of the world's population, but we cannot sit down on this day satisfied that we have achieved perfection domestically or internationally. We have done well, but we have much more to do.
Subtopic: HUMAN RIGHTS