Buon compleanno multiculturalismo!

L'8 ottobre 1971, il primo ministro canadese Pierre Trudeau ha annunciato alla Camera dei Comuni l’adozione del multiculturalismo. Da quel momento il Canada ha di fatto legittimato un nuovo concetto di cittadinanza basato sull’appartenenza alle comunità che costituiscono lo stato inteso come spazio pubblico, riconoscendo uguale dignità ad ognuna di esse, e ha introdotto un sistema legale, politico e culturale che stimola la comunicazione tra le comunità e che viene periodicamente monitorato da appositi organismi governativi che controllano lo ‘stato di salute’ del sistema ed eventualmente agiscono per modificarne alcuni aspetti.

8 October 1971 - Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau announced in a speech at the House of Commons the adoption of Multiculturalism, creating de facto and de jure a new concept of citizenship based on the recognition of equal dignity to all individuals and communities that compose the state, seen as a public space. He introduced a new political, legal and cultural system.

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Right Hon. P.E. Trudeau (Prime Minister): Mr. Speaker, I am happy this morning to be able to reveal to the House that the government has accepted all those recommendations of the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism which are contained in Volume IV of its reports directed to federal departments and agencies. Hon. members will recall that the subject of this volume is "the contribution by other ethnic groups to the cultural enrichment of Canada and the measures that should be taken to safeguard that contribution".

Volume IV examined this whole question of cultural and ethnic pluralism in this country and the status of our various cultures and languages, an area of study given all too little attention in the past by scholars.

It was the view of the royal commission, shared by the government and, I am sure, by all Canadians, that there cannot be one cultural policy for Canadians of British and French origin, another for the original peoples and yet a third for all others. For although there are two official languages, there is no official culture, nor does any ethnic group take precedence over any other. No citizen or group of citizens is other than Canadian, and all should be treated fairly.

The royal commission was guided by the belief that adherence to one's ethnic group is influenced not so much by one's origin or mother tongue as by one's sense of belonging to the group, and by what the commission calls the group's "collective will to exist". The government shares this belief.

The individual's freedom would be hampered if he were locked for life within a particular cultural compartment by the accident of birth or language. It is vital, therefore, that every Canadian, whatever his ethnic origin, be given a chance to learn at least one of the two languages in which his country conducts its official business and its politics.

A policy of multiculturalism within a bilingual framework commends itself to the government as the most suitable means of assuring the cultural freedom of
Canadians. Such a policy should help to break down discriminatory attitudes and cultural jealousies. National unity if it is to mean anything in the deeply personal sense, must be founded on confidence in one's own individual identity; out of this can grow respect for that of others and a willingness to share ideas, attitudes and assumptions. A vigorous policy of multiculturalism will help create this initial confidence. It can form the base of a society which is based on fair play for all.

The government will support and encourage the various cultures and ethnic groups that give structure and vitiality to our c

. . . In implementing [this] policy, the government will provide support in four ways.

First, resources permitting, the government will seek to assist all Canadian cultural groups that have demonstrated a desire and effort to continue to develop a capacity to grow and contribute to Canada, and a clear need for assistance, the small and weak groups no less than the strong and highly organized.

Second, the government will assist members of all cultural groups to overcome cultural barriers to full participation in Canadian society.

Third, the government will promote creative encounters and interchange among all Canadian cultural groups in the interest of national unity.

Fourth, the government will continue to assist immigrants to acquire at least one of Canada's official languages in order to become full participants in Canadian society.

Mr. Speaker, I stated at the outset that the government has accepted in principle all recommendations addressed to federal departments and agencies. We are also ready and willing to work cooperatively with the provincial governments towards implementing those recommendations that concern matters under provincial or shared
responsibility . . .

In conclusion, I wish to emphasize the view of the government that a policy of multiculturalism within a bilingual framework is basically the conscious support of individual freedom of choice. We are free to be ourselves. But this cannot be left to chance. It must be fostered and pursued actively. If freedom of choice is in danger for some ethnic groups, it is in danger for all. It is the policy of this government to eliminate any such danger and to "safeguard" this freedom . . .

Hon. Robert L. Stanfield (Leader of the Opposition): Mr. Speaker, these are excellent words in the Prime Minister's statement. I am sure this declaration by the government of the principle of preserving and enhancing the many cultural traditions which exist within our country will be most welcome. I think it is about time this government finally admitted that the cultural identity of Canada is a pretty complex thing.

I wish to state immediately, Mr. Speaker, that the emphasis we have given to multiculturalism in no way constitutes an attack on the basic duality of our country. What we want is justice for all Canadians, and recognition of the cultural diversity of this country . . .

... I am pleased the government has seen the light. But I must also say that, although this is all to the good, I regret that this statement was not made much more promptly.

Apart from what members of our party, among others, have been saying, it is a fact that the fourth volume of the B and B report has been available since early 1970, and I say in all sincerity that the failure of the government to endorse these principles earlier has created some suspicion, some doubts, in the minds of the members of these other cultural groups about the importance the government of Canada has attached to them. I must say that if the effectiveness of the government's action in encouraging the cultural self-fulfilment of the native peoples of Canada can be taken as any kind of an indication of what the practice will be in this broader field, apart from the statement of principles, then there is not a great deal of hope for the various non-French and non-British ethnic groups within Canada. With regard to the native peoples, there have been many statements about high principles but very little in the way of results and there is some doubt, to mention one example, concerning whether the government is doing enough in northeastern Alberta to help the native people study their own language.

It is fine to announce a principle, but perhaps the most important thing is what the government is going to do to implement this principle. When the Prime Minister uses a phrase such as "within available funds" we must keep in mind the importance of a balance here. There is no indication whatsoever in the Prime Minister's statement this morning that there will be any substantial implementation. I fully agree that a good deal of money must be expended for the encouragement of the development of bilingualism in this country, but I do not think that members of the other cultural groups with other cultural traditions are at all happy with the relatively pitiful amounts that have been allocated to this other aspect of the diversity about which the Prime Minister spoke this morning, multiculturalism.

The Prime Minister has announced the principles. We expect the Prime Minister and his colleagues to give those principles life and meaning, and we will look forward most anxiously to the implementation of these principles.

Mr. David Lewis (York South): I must say, Mr. Speaker, that it is a pleasure to be able to comment on an important aspect of Canadian life that does not have to do with the economy or with unemployment, and it is equally a pleasure to be able to agree with the statement that the Prime Minister made this morning.

As members of this House know, I have not hesitated to criticize government policy, and no doubt a great deal can be said about tardiness and other aspects of the problem which the Prime Minister has put before us. But I propose this morning merely to express our support and our hopes in order to indicate to the people of Canada that this Parliament is united in its belated determination to recognize the value of the many cultures in our country.

Mr. Speaker, it is with a deep appreciation of both aspects of our Canadian cultural life, official bilingualism and multiculturalism, that my party warmly supports the principles set forth this morning by the Prime Minister.

I have often said that one of the most striking wealth of our country is the fact that it has been founded by two distinctive groups having two distinctive languages well known throughout the world. However, another wealth is also important, since we find in Canada some representatives of almost all the cultures in the world. To all Canadians, whatever their ethnic origin, I say that they must be proud of those two enriching aspects of our country.

Every society has its own cultural treasures which it cherishes with pride. It is a fact of man's history that his preoccupations have been too frequently centred on material development and that his spirit has too often been embittered by conflict and by prejudice. The result has been throughout the world-and this is true of Canadians as well- a failure to appreciate the values of diversity, a tendency to resent rather than to welcome enriching differences. For Canada this attitude is particularly destructive. The diversity of cultures across the land is a source of our greatness as a people . . .

. . . I suggest that the important point that faces us is that in every society a minority has a problem, the problem of survival, the problem of keeping alive its history, its language, its tradition, its songs, its legends, its identity. When the majority in a society is as cruel as majorities have often been, not only are minorities crushed but the spirit of that society, the soul of that society, is destroyed. It is in that spirit, therefore, that on behalf of my party I welcome the Prime Minister's statement without any reservations.

Mr. Réal Caouette (Témiscamingue): Mr. Speaker, even if I do not always agree with the Prime Minister on various points, I fully agree with the statement he made this morning. Indeed, I have been repeating for 30 years, to those who will hear me, and those who won't, that we have one Canadian nation, and not two, three or ten, that we have two official languages, English and French, and that we have a multiplicity of cultures which are the wealth of our country.

Mr. Speaker, my colleagues and myself are happy the Prime Minister made that statement. However, I find this statement somewhat confusing. The Prime Minister has stated and I quote:
For although there are two official languages, there is no official culture, nor does any ethnic group take precedence over any other. No citizen or group of citizens is other than Canadian . . .
Mr. Speaker, if there is no official culture in Canada, I do not see how we could succeed in really becoming a nation while we would be endowed with only a few cultures unable to get on among themselves or at war with one another. I am positive that we have in Canada a culture peculiar to us. We French Canadians have one that is not at all that of France, just as English-speaking Canadians have a culture which is different from that of Englishmen from England. We have our own Canadian culture. We have our history. Our traditions and customs may differ from one area or ethnic group to another. However, if we cannot change an Englishman into a Frenchman or vice versa, we can nonetheless make good Canadians out of members of all ethnic groups in Canada.

Ukrainians, Italians and Germans must be able to attain self-fulfillment in Canada . . .

What I said in French was that we do not want to have in Canada a little France, a little England, a little Italy or a little Russia. We want in Canada a great country for all the people of Canada, for all the ethnic groups in our country. Through that channel we will achieve unity and we will reinforce our position in the whole world.

Source: Heritage Community Foundation

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