By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on August 4, 2017.
Citizens from different cultures are united in being Canadian
“Where there is unity, there is victory” – Publilius Syrus
Having celebrated 150 years since Canadian Confederation on July 1, and with Heritage Day on Monday, I’ve been giving a great deal of thought to what makes Canada a great country.
We are a diverse nation with many people groups, many histories, many tragedies and even more successes. How then have we formed such a free and prosperous dominion? I believe the linchpin to our success as a country is our commitment to unity.
As Canadians, we take great pride in being a multicultural country. We value the foundation laid by the First Nations people, the settlement efforts undertaken by the Europeans, and all those who have contributed to the wellbeing of Canada since.
Our diversity is viewed as strength because, as people from different backgrounds, beliefs and ways of life, we all contribute to that one thing that unites us – being Canadian.
Unity has always been our strong suite.
On July 1, 1867 the British Colonies of Canada (Ontario and Quebec), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were united as one entity called the Dominion of Canada. In the years that followed, six more provinces and three territories entered into Confederation, thus resulting in the 10 provinces and three territories that make up Canada today.
This isn’t to say that all of Canada’s history or even the state of our country today is purely characterized by unifying actions. On the contrary, I could recall numerous examples of significant discord between different cultural groups, geographical regions or those with ideological differences. But somehow unity always wins. As Canadians, we have chosen to stay together and work toward a greater tomorrow.
As we celebrate Heritage Day and what unites us as Canadians, it’s natural for me to recall the excellent work done by my former colleague, Jason Kenney, who served as Canada’s Minister of Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity for nearly 10 years.
He believed, as I do, that people must always come first, that diversity is to be celebrated, and that injustices must never be tolerated; he understood that giving one group of people special treatment over another only spurs division and fails to protect unity. Kenney was able to demonstrate that Conservative values of liberty, social responsibility and respect were the same values that all cultural and religious communities share.
I’m proud to be a member of Canada’s founding party and home to Prime Minister Diefenbaker who appointed the first female cabinet minister, Ellen Fairclough. In her role as Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, she radically reformed Canada’s immigration practices to do away with the country’s “white Canada” policy. This, of course, led to the Canada we know today.
To be united as a multicultural country means that we don’t just stand up for those within our borders (though the security of Canadian citizens should be given priority), but we also stand with our allies in order to protect human rights and basic liberties, including democracy.
I am very proud of the way Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended democracy and stood up for the vulnerable and oppressed on the world stage. Under his leadership, Canada stood shoulder to shoulder with our democratic ally, the Jewish state of Israel, and supported them as they defended themselves against terrorists. When vulnerable populations in Iraq required protection from the Islamic State, Canada was eager to provide refuge to them and lend a helping hand to the coalition. When Canada was asked to take in more Bhutanese refugees, we said yes. And no world leader stood up for Ukraine more than Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who told Vladimir Putin face-to-face to get out of Ukraine and to return Crimea to the Ukrainian people.
I’m proud to call Canada home. I’m proud of our commitment to unity and our celebration of diversity.
Whether newcomers to Lethbridge are Bhutanese, Ethiopian, Chinese, Filipino, Polish, Ukrainian, Caribbean or Syrian, we celebrate who they are, the aspirations they hold, and their commitment to contribute and be part of the Canadian family.
As we enjoy this long weekend and celebrate Heritage Day, I encourage you to celebrate not only the many diverse origins of the people of Lethbridge, but also the common values and beliefs we share as Canadians. “Where there is unity, there is victory.”
Rachael Harder is the Conservative MP for Lethbridge. Her column appears monthly.
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