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Combatting Racism: How much have we achieved?

Notes for remarks by Hon. David Kilgour, M.P., Secretary of State (Latin America and Africa)
The public forum in celebration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racism
Edmonton, March 20, 1999

It is an honour to be with you today to participate in this forum organized in celebration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Governments around the world have imposed upon themselves the duty to eliminate racism and racial discrimination. Since 1989, the Government of Canada has sponsored a campaign to eliminate racism, which culminates every year on March 21st. On this day, people of Canada will join us gathered here to renew our belief in mutual understanding, respect, equality and justice.

The strength of this campaign is built on partnerships between key sectors of society; all levels of government, education, justice, labour, businesses, media, community and volunteer groups, and individual Canadians.

Without doubt, cross-cultural understanding in Canada has improved. Racial prejudice has become much less socially acceptable, than it once was. Although blatant racism is marginal and the social distance between communities, minorities and other groups is diminishing, racism still exists.

Many observers argue, that discrimination persists in more concealed forms. Some people hide real attitudes, discriminate in a covert manner, and tolerate discriminating institutions. Immigrants in particular are vulnerable to such attitudes and forms of discrimination.

The saddest thing is what racial discrimination can do to our children and young people. Our schools need to address the challenge of adjusting to differences of race, language, tradition and backgrounds more effectively.

That is why our government’s campaign has focused extensively on the importance of youth in achieving a racism-free society. The on-going campaign is encouraging young people to participate in activities oriented on promotion of a culturally diversified society.

Vibrant ethnic communities are pivotal to the future prosperity of Canada. We must ensure that racism is not part of that future. The Vietnamese community and Edmonton Viets Association, our host today, has shown itself to be a valued component of Canada, of Alberta, and of the city of Edmonton. Today we will be taking time to reflect not on the damage caused by racism but to celebrate our success in fighting it.

Our diversity is our strength, we are made greater than the sum of our parts. It is an occasion like this at which we can all appreciate how the different communities of Canada make a positive contribution to the further development of our open and diverse society. We should be thankful for these contributions and for our society’s commitment to welcoming new ideas and new cultures.

Meetings like this educate the public and encourage the community to involve themselves in the effort against racism.

On behalf of the federal Government I extend greetings and congratulations to the Edmonton Viets Association for being a part of an organized effort to sensitize all people to the existence of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and to make people more aware of racism and its consequences.

I also express my gratitude for the strong presence of the Vietnamese-Canadian community here in Edmonton, as well as continued contribution to the Canadian society.


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