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Published: April 1990 - in its first issue

Itís more then a word and often misunderstood! That is the conclusion after some time has passed, since Canada went officially multicultural. Dr. Shiu Loon Kong, president of the Advisory Council for Multiculturalism and Citizenship, re-evaluates the situation.

Only a hand full of ethnic journalists was invited to a dinner by Dr. Kong, where he took the opportunity to voice his views on the true and important purpose of Multiculturalism. The concept is uniquely Canadian. It is nowhere else in the world constitutionally guarantied. But it is not a new idea in Canada either. From the moment that the English, French and the Native people coexisted in this part of the northern hemisphere, multiculturalism runs like a golden rule in the bloodstream of Canadian history. Now, that we are pursuing active policy on this subject, we seem to fall short of its potential. The general media push the idea that Canada is in the throws of major controversies that will divide the country, when it would be better to use the existing outlines and to project them into the future.

Starting in the 1960s under Prime Minister Pearson a Royal Commission studied for 8 years the diversity of Canada that filled many volumes. It took till 1988 to have a final version of the Multicultural Act formulated and officially introduced.

What Canadaís identity is can no longer be a question. Our cultural diversity IS our mainstream culture and therefore gives us our identity. We are no longer just talking about tolerance towards other ethnic groups in this country. Tolerance has the tendency to keep everything at arms length. Compassion, understanding and involvement are now the key words.

The recent developments on this planet speak clearly. Freedom has become the cause for just about everything. But one has to ask the question: Freedom of and from what? Recent history proves again that no individual or government can hold a monopoly on anything indefinitely. The human spirit will not be denied. The preservation of dignity and identity against pressures of other influences is thrived for the world over. In Canada we have the unique opportunity to create the ideal society, if we all understand the concept of multiculturalism properly and act accordingly.

In other words: The world issues are our issues. The problems in this country are intimately interwoven with the rest of the world. We are part of the global village. Whether we like it or not, we have to find harmony with our environment, the people of this planet and, to start with of course with all of our own people in this country. As a microcosm of the earth, we can no longer afford to decide just for ourselves what is right. Everything we do will affect the rest of this planet. The advancements in technologies such as communication speed up decisions, but can also create problems, if not used with responsibility. We are not the only country with different languages, yet we make more of the problem than is good for us. The mainstream media is furthering this with aggravating reports, when solutions should be thought of and widely publicized.

Canada has a 400 billion dollar debt, growing at the rate of 50 billion every year. Currently we are mortgaging the future. But nobody is telling the people. Urban areas are loosing all their young people and if nothing is done, ghost towns will be the norm in the future. A national plan between large and small towns and cities is necessary to avoid further damage. The euphoria about technology in our disposable society destroys our history, our heritage, while we should be using our knowledge to form our future. We are a multilingual, multiracial society, have always been one. That is what the message should be. Our collective debt and our collective link to the world is and should be to do the job and not let politicians negate our future, that try to confuse the important issues with local strife. We need individuals with a vision for the future and a worldview.

In the 17 years that the Advisory Council exists, 60 people with an exemplary, voluntary service record have been appointed to hammer out the legislature, policies and programs. But is a strange thing about advice: It gets delivered, but not necessarily taken. The government often fails to understand, doesnít plan in advance enough and then takes emergency measures.

Every citizen should understand what Canada is really all about, what is impinging on our survival. In an optimum situation with our potential, we can be a big and moral force in the world.

All the race relations in the world are ultimately nothing but addressing trivia.

To achieve harmony we first must know ourselves and understand others. Then we can address our common problems, for instance drug abuse. It is mainly a phenomenon of boredom and occurs when people are not given enough responsibility. To sell out Canada (free trade), to introduce new taxes like the GST, are really not the solutions. We must demand of our leaders to make decisions with a look into the future, because they will affect everyone everywhere. By the year 2012 there will be no more children in elementary schools, statistics show, since our birthrate is only 1.6%, when it should be 2.2%. We are loosing the best of people in all sorts of professions, our cream, to the south of our border, because they donít want to pay 60 cent out of every dollar earned in taxes. It is time to build a caring and enriching society and we have to do it now.

Ideas like these and others were offered by Dr. Kong as food for thought, in the hope that the media, particularly the ethnic media, would pick up the ball and take more responsibility in reporting what really concerns all in Canada living people. He thinks that we should transcendent the unimportant trivia and instead start thinking in long-term futures. While there is some backlog that needs addressing, we could start by setting a good example and realizing that we are all in the same boat regardless of background. We can and should make an effort to understand these differences and then together build our future. Most of us will agree that this is the only way for a lasting and harmonious relationship between the global village and ourselves.

Sybille Forster-Rentmeister