Below you will find my speech for the unveiling of the Immigrant's Memorial Bench in Peace Park today:
In March of 2009, the Pelham Town Council approved a resolution that the Town of Pelham honour “all immigrants who find themselves caught between cultures and are challenged to conform to both.”
The resolution carried on that “we honour these immigrants by installing a bench and planting a tree as a memorial in Peace Park.”
That is why we are here today.
As you may know, Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as an official policy. By so doing, Canada affirmed the value and dignity of all Canadian citizens regardless of their racial or ethnic origins, their language, or their religious affiliation.
Canadian multiculturalism is fundamental to our belief that all citizens are equal. Multiculturalism ensures that all citizens can keep their identities, can take pride in their ancestry and have a sense of belonging. The Canadian experience has shown that multiculturalism encourages racial and ethnic harmony and cross-cultural understanding.
Through multiculturalism, we recognize the potential of all Canadians, encouraging them to integrate into their society and take an active part in Canada’s social, cultural, economic and political affairs.
All Canadians are guaranteed equality before the law and equality of opportunity regardless of their origins. Canada’s laws and policies recognize Canada’s diversity by race, cultural heritage, ethnicity, religion, ancestry and place of origin and guarantee to all men and women complete freedom of conscience, of thought, belief, opinion expression, association and peaceful assembly.
At the same time, Canadians are free to choose for themselves, without penalty, whether they want to identify with their specific group or not. Their individual rights are fully protected and they need not fear group pressures.
Our diversity is a national asset. And, our citizenship gives us equal rights and equal responsibilities.
We affirm these rights today to help ensure that a multicultural, integrated and inclusive citizenship will be every Canadian’s inheritance.