On February 19, I met with the participants of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights’ École des droits de la personne (Human Rights School). Twenty-four participants, twelve from Canada, twelve from France, spent a week together to discuss human rights issues. Below is the speech I gave at the launch of the school.
If you would like to know more about this great partnership between Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the International Institute for Human Rights and Peace and Université de Saint-Boniface, click here.
Hello participants, Mr. Bruno Burnichon, Honorary Consul of France in Winnipeg, and Angela Cassie of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
Welcome to Winnipeg!
I am very happy and very grateful to be here this afternoon with you for the launch of the School for Human Rights. I want to thank the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and the International Institute for Human Rights and Peace for coming up with and organizing this excellent partnership between our two countries.
This year, Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary, and it’s a great time to inspire Canadians. During our celebrations, we want to highlight our common history. The vision of our celebrations is unifying and inclusive. That’s why diversity and inclusion was chosen as one of the themes for our 150th.
I see this week that you’ll be discussing the principle of equality, the origin of inequality, the impact of inequality, and how to promote equality and inclusion.
Our famous Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the first part of our Constitution Act, has enshrined the spirit of freedom, inclusion and equality for 35 years.
In place since 1982, the Canadian Constitution states that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and that everyone has the freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief, opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, and association and guarantees those rights and freedoms equally to males and female persons.
Moreover, in July 1988 we passed our Canadian Multiculturalism Act. It reflects our typically Canadian desire to recognize that our society is based on integrity and diversity.
You see, then, that in Canada this foundation of tolerance and inclusion is there.
As our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau often tells us: “We are strong not in spite of our differences, but because of them … We need to focus on what brings us together, not what divides us.”
Canada’s social fabric is enriched by our multicultural diversity. While diversity is one of our strengths, it must not be taken for granted. Recent debates show that our countries are not immune to intolerance.
This week in the House of Commons, a debate surrounding a motion condemning Islamophobia has caused controversy. But it’s not the speeches in the House that I want to discuss today.
What concerns me are the intolerant, racist and, in some cases, virulent remarks directed at the Member who proposed the motion. That’s not Canada.
So, what to do? Of course, we have to condemn these racist remarks. But condemning isn’t enough; we must act. We must show and keep showing tolerance and inclusion.
These days, there’s a quote going around that is very relevant to our discussion today. It’s a quote from Martin Luther King, that famous peaceful civil rights activist in the United States. He said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
We must join together to achieve equality. We must listen and learn from one another.
This week: I give you the following advice: Don’t argue the issues; discuss. Take the opportunity to talk about each other’s experiences, since your experience is different than that of the person beside you.
Share your opinion and seek to understand others’. By asking questions and initiating a dialogue with others, you will be able to truly understand the inequalities that exist.
A recent study by the Department of Canadian Heritage illustrates this difference that can exist between cultures. Asked about the status of French in Canada, three quarters of French speakers said that French was threatened, while only one third of English speakers thought so.
In this museum, you have an opportunity to discover incredible resources on the struggles of the past and those that continue today. How can history help guide our future?
This school will help facilitate an intercultural dialogue that is necessary to understand the many chapters of our history. I hope your discussions will be respectful and productive.
It’s often said that the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow. However, I’m here this afternoon to tell you that you are already leaders. You have the skills and the knowledge to promote the values we all hold dear. It’s up to you build a better today, a better future.
Bring happiness to those around you. Defend the rights of others. Condemn inequality and injustice. Work to build bridges between people, between cultures, between societies. Do it for you, do it for humanity.
I hope you have an excellent week with enriching discussions and a great time in Winnipeg.