Magazine article Canadian Speeches

Race Relations Foundation Pursues a Multicultural Vision

Magazine article Canadian Speeches

Race Relations Foundation Pursues a Multicultural Vision

Article excerpt

Chair, Canadian Race Relations Foundation

The first national foundation established to fight racism throughout Canada has a vision for the new millennium. It is a vision of Canada as a model of nation-building for other countries; a dynamic, multicultural society based on true equality of opportunity, justice, and harmony; a nation that celebrates its unity while taking advantage of its diversity. Address to the official opening of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, North York, Ontario, November 13, 1997.

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is now in business. Those of you involved in the creation of this Foundation know that this day has been a long time in coming.

Its origins dated back to 1988 when the Government of Canada signed an agreement with the National Association of Japanese Canadians. The government acknowledged the unjust treatment of Japanese Canadians during and after World War II, and it provided a compensation package. Twelve million dollars were earmarked as the basis for our Foundation's endowment. The federal government has matched this grant.

On behalf of our board of directors, and all those involved in the fight against racism, I want to thank the National Association of Japanese Canadians and the federal government for making the Canadian Race Relations Foundation possible.

Although we operate at arm's length from the federal government, our mandate was clearly defined in October 1996 when Bill C-63 was proclaimed. We are "to work at the forefront of efforts to combat racism and all forms of racial discrimination in Canada."

Following the proclamation of the Foundation, no efforts have been spared to ensure a solid base on which to build. Our enthusiastic board of directors has met twice already to develop a common vision for the Foundation and a strategic plan has been drafted. Over the next few days, we will meet again to discuss or finalize future programs for the Foundation.

In the meantime, our chief executive officer has been hard at work building the infrastructure of our organization. Personal contacts have been established with numerous stakeholders across the country, and core components of various programs have been put into place. Ms. Tam also had to move the Foundation from a temporary to a more permanent location -- leaving me with at least three different phone numbers for the office!

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is now open for business, with a clear direction and course of action. And my message this afternoon is a straightforward one: we are now ready to work with our many partners to actively and effectively address the issues of race relations in our communities.

Racism in Canada

The challenges posed by racism in Canada are all too familiar. I know that for many of you there is no need for a detailed recounting to demonstrate the seriousness of this matter.

Racism exists in this country. It is a personal reality for too many Canadians. And sadly, it remains entrenched in many institutions.

We can still witness fights and name-calling in our streets and schoolyards. Hate slogans are sprayed-painted on our buildings. They are also disseminated through the Internet. We hear jokes filled with prejudice and bigotry exchanged at coffee breaks.

In too many instances the rancor of racial prejudice distorts practices in areas such as employment, education, community services, law enforcement, and housing. I am not denying that progress has been made. I have long been impressed by the work of many of the organizations represented here today. But much more needs to be done.

Our Broad Agenda

That brings me to our agenda. I want to speak about it first in the broadest terms. And then I will look more specifically at the steps the Canadian Race Relations Foundation is taking.

In the broadest terms, our goal is to knock down the barriers of fear and misunderstanding that keep Canadians from walking on the same path together. …

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