An anniversary — and a time to reflect

(Canscene ) — This year marks the 35th anniversary of the late Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s declaration of the official government policy of multiculturalism.

Speaking to a conference of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress in Winnipeg on October of 1971, Trudeau outlined his concept of multiculturalism. His speech is excerpted in The Essential Trudeau, published by McClelland and Stewart and from that excerpt I offer these two paragraphs (italics mine).

“Every single person in Canada is now a member of a minority group. Linguistically our origins are one-third English, one-third French and one-third neither. We have no alternative but to be tolerant of one another’s differences. Beyond the threshold of tolerance, however, we have countless opportunities to benefit from the richness and variety of a Canadian life which is the rest of this broad mix The fabric of Canadian society is as resilient as it is colorful. It is a multicultural society; it offers to every Canadian the opportunity to fulfill his or her own cultural instincts and to share those from other sources. This mosaic pattern and the moderation which it includes and encourages, makes Canada a very special place.

“Compassion, love and understanding

“Uniformity is neither desirable nor possible in a country the size of Canada. We should not even be able to agree upon the kind of Canada we choose as a model, let alone persuade most people to emulate it. There are surely few policies potentially more disastrous for Canada than to tell all Canadians they must be alike. There is no such thing as a model or ideal Canadian . What could be more absurd than the model of an “all Canadian” boy or girl? A society which emphasizes uniformity is one which breeds mediocrity. What the world should be seeing and what Canada must continue to cherish, are not concepts of uniformity but human values, compassion, love and understanding.”

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