Hon. Paddy Torsney (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation, Lib.)
Madam Speaker, as a country, Canada represents a coming together of many peoples. As such, we have learned over time to respect and mutually accept each other. It is this fact that separates us from others and puts Canada on the world stage.
We have established a legal foundation, enshrined in our Constitution, that is aimed at ensuring Canadians are protected from racism and discrimination. We will continue, as a government, to work on these issues so that all Canadians have the opportunity to participate to their fullest potential. In fact, that is what this House has been debating all week.
At the same time, we are working to strengthen the bonds of shared citizenship to ensure the continuance of the strong and cohesive Canadian society that we have today.
The Government of Canada recognizes there have been dark moments in the history of this country. We have recognized that presenting a complete history is important in understanding who we are as Canadians, even if the history we have to tell includes times when we have strayed from our shared commitment to human justice.
The internment of Ukrainian Canadians and other Europeans during the first world war is one of those chapters in Canadian history that we as a people, as Canadians, are not proud of, even though the actions of the government of that day were legal at that time.
Our commitment as a government is to strengthen the fabric of Canada's multicultural society. We are committed to learning from the past. We are committed to acknowledging and commemorating the significant contributions to Canada made by our rich and various ethnoracial and ethnocultural groups, including of course Ukrainians.
The Department of Canadian Heritage and the cultural agencies in the Canadian Heritage portfolio have made considerable efforts to ensure that the story of Ukrainians in Canada is known to all Canadians.
For example, Parks Canada, as one of the members opposite mentioned, while working under the heritage portfolio, worked closely with national and local Ukrainian Canadian groups to develop interpretive exhibits at Banff National Park, an exhibit I have seen, and at Yoho National Park and Mount Revelstoke National Park. The exhibits help visitors and all Canadians understand the experiences, hardships and contributions of Ukrainian internees.
The Department of Canadian Heritage is providing funding to Ukrainian Canadian organizations to assist in documenting the experiences of Ukrainian internees and to underline the contribution of the Ukrainian community to our country.
Since the 1890s, when waves of Ukrainians helped to settle this vast land, Ukrainians have played an important role in Canada. An incredible number of Canadians of Ukrainian heritage have made extraordinary contributions to Canada, contributions of which all Canadians are very proud.
Wayne Gretzky, of course, is a star and international sports hero. Ed Werenich is a world champion in curling.
In the cultural sphere, all of us have adored artist William Kurelek's paintings and the work of violinist Steven Staryk.
In public life, Ramon Hnatyshyn and Roy Romanow have made us all proud.
Canada's first woman in space is Roberta Bondar. I was saying to one of my colleagues that I did not know she was of Ukrainian heritage.
To think of Ukrainian Canadians is also to recall Canada's war hero, Peter Dmytruk, who died for all of us on the battlefields of France in World War II.
As Canadians, we are proud to live in a country that recognizes the importance of diversity.
In the October 2004 Speech from the Throne, the government pledged to pursue its objectives, “in a manner that recognizes Canada's diversity as a source of strength and innovation”. We pledged “to be a steadfast advocate of inclusion” and “to demand equality of opportunity so that prosperity can be shared by all Canadians”.
In line with these commitments, the government is now advancing a number of multicultural and anti-racism initiatives designed to cultivate an even more equitable and inclusive society. Bills like Bill C-38.
In our recent budget, we provided $5 million per year to the multiculturalism program to enhance its contributions to equality for all.
A comprehensive and effective multiculturalism program is important in our increasingly diverse country where by the year 2016 the proportion of visible minorities is expected to reach 20%.
In the October 2004 Speech from the Throne, the government said that it would “strengthen Canada's ability to combat racism, hate speech and hate crimes”.
We will achieve that plan by investing $56 million over the next fives years to implement Canada's action plan against racism. Canada's action plan, which the government announced on March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, a day that all of us celebrated, will reinforce the government's ongoing commitment to eliminating racist behaviours and attitudes. It will strengthen partnerships between the Government of Canada and community organizations to combat racism and will advance our international and domestic objectives.
A society looking to its future cannot do so without acknowledging troubling events from Canada's past. Budget 2005 provided $25 million over the next three years for commemorative and educational initiatives to highlight the contributions that Ukrainians and other ethnocultural groups have made to our Canadian society and to help build a better understanding among all Canadians of the strength of Canadian diversity.
With this funding the government is responding to demands from the community in a way that respects both the concerns of the communities and the government's 1994 policy on this issue.
Bill C-331 looks to the past for a solution. As a government we are looking to the future for all Canadians.
Topic: Private Members' Business
Subtopic: Ukrainian Canadian Restitution Act