Time never stays still. It keeps moving adding, subtracting and introducing new personalities born to change humanity. As you already know that in June 1957 Sir Diefenbaker, the architect of the Canadian Bill of Rights appeared on the political horizon of Canada and then, within a year of my arrival in Canada in 1971, Hon. Pierre Elliott Trudeau adopted a Multiculturalism Act to assure the Canadians citizen of an environment of a fearless integration.
Then, ten years later in 1982, as Jesus Christ, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and many more like them believed that commitments to expanding the dimensions to serve humanity must never cease, Pierre Trudeau took yet another bold step and introduced the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to further fine tune Canada’s progressive democracy.
The value of our democratic principles shines brighter, when we apply them to benefit other individuals, living beyond our socio-political boundaries. Beginning 1982, Canada started opposing openly and fearlessly countries that practiced racial discrimination. It was PM Brian Mulroney, who battled with the US President Regan and UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to seek the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and won.
However, despite Canada’s concerted efforts to ‘multi-culturalise’ the country, remnants of Exclusion Laws continued to linger like a infectious disease in medically challenged countries. Jacques Parizeau, the Premier of Quebec did not foster respect for multiculturalism or he would not have spewed racial venom against the ethnic citizens, which he did after losing a “Yes” vote for a separation of Quebec in 1995. He said, “….money and the ethnic vote” (were responsible) for the defeat of the sovereignty referendum … and hell with those ethnics who voted “No.”
Eighteen years later, on June 2013, Premier Pauline Marois came out fighting in defence of the Quebec Soccer Federation’s refusal to let turban-wearing kids play the sport?
Only a few months later, in September 2013, Hon. Bernard Drainville, Minister of the Quebec Charter boldly declared that if the charter were adopted, the wearing of kippas, turbans, hijabs, burqas and large crosses would be banned for civil servants while they are on the job. The Charter of Quebec would ban religious symbols for public workers.
As a Cabinet Minister Drainville must have known that if Quebec adopted such a discriminatory charter his province would suffer a head on collision against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It seemed he did not give it a hoot. He was willing to commit a political suicide to promote racism.
I recall suffering a few instances of racial indignities. I cannot say I was the only one who has endured being spit upon or being called, “A f…ing Hindu” or ordered to vacate a certain spot in a public park, or was expected to respond to, “Why don’t I go back to where I come from?”
You would recall how Sir Richard McBride and Hon. William Lyon Mackenzie King operated openly against coloured people; Jacques Parizeau, Pauline Marois and Bernard Drainville spewed anti-ethnic venom, and how south of the boarder, Donald Trump campaigned as racism incarnate. We have to be ultra careful of who we elect to serve us in the Parliament and Legislative assemblies. We too have a few of those incarnates hidden amongst us.
I admit the majority of my personal experiences have been positive to date. Statistically speaking, I would say about 80% of them were positive. And that is a pretty good score. The rest 20%, I would say were street-pot-holes but with a potential to become sinkholes. I was lucky that they did not. The credit goes to my well intentioned co-workers and friends, who challenged them.
One of the most admirable virtue Canadians have is that they are very helpful people. Proof? Recently the Canadian Red Cross revealed that people across the country donated more than $300 million to date to help Fort McMurray fire victims.
According to June 30, 2016 study done by Angelina Theodorau of the Pew Research Center, the levels of religious restrictions and hostilities among the world’s 25 most populous countries — where more than 5 billion of the globe’s roughly 7.5 billion people live, vary tremendously from some of the lowest in the world (Japan) to among the very highest (Egypt). In addition to Egypt, Indonesia, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey had some of the highest levels of religious restrictions.
But Canada is not among those world’s 25 most populous countries. In Canada we live our rights and freedoms every day. Canada does not restrict the use or display of any religious symbol, even burqa. Here we have a street called, “Highway-To-Heaven.” It has a cluster of temples — Hindu (2), Buddhist (2), Sikh Gurudwara (1), Jewish Synagogues (2), Christian Churches (3) and a Muslim Mosque (2) — all within a radius of a couple of miles on No. 5 Road in Richmond (BC), where I live with my family.
Another proof of Canada being kind and compassionate is that before the end of 2015, we happily and willingly accepted 25,000 Syrian refugees to live with us. We welcome diversity. For us it is wealth not burden.
That said I whole heartedly accept and aspire to be that man, who is not content with the patterns of the past, as past is only to learn from not to hang on to.
By Dr. Suresh Kurl. He is a former university professor; a retired Registrar of the BC Benefits Appeal Board, a former Member of the National Parole Board, a writer and a Public Speaker.