Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on the motion.
In listening to the member raise this issue in such a manner, one of the things that came to mind is that this issue, unfortunately, is not new. I was first elected back in 1988, and one of the first reports I recall reviewing was presented by the Manitoba Intercultural Council. At that time, it was an important report for me personally. I have always represented the north end of Winnipeg where there is a great diverse community, and that report was all about the issue of racism, and there were a number of recommendations that came out of the report. The one that was most compelling for me personally was that if we are going to fight racism, we need to incorporate cross-cultural discussions and educational programs that would enlighten people about the benefits of diversity. That may not be the exact wording of the recommendation; it was 30 years ago. However, I think it demonstrates two things very clearly. One is that this is the type of issue that has been with us very for many years. A second is that there are some potential things that government can do to try to minimize the amount of racism, bigotry and violence out there.
I suspect that all 330-plus members who make up the House of Commons would recognize where we, as a society, can take action, and that we should take action to combat this violence, bigotry and racism. However, I would suggest that it is not just Ottawa that should act, and I will provide some thoughts about what Ottawa has done in a very tangible way, but also that we should get different levels of government and society as a whole more engaged on this particular file.
If we want to be effective in fighting bigotry and racism, we need to look at our classrooms and school divisions and the role that provincial and national governments can play. From my perspective, the national government can demonstrate very sound, solid leadership on this file. Provincial and other levels of government can look to Ottawa and see that it is in fact taking action, and they need to do likewise. However, it goes beyond just government institutions. I would suggest that it also includes non-profit organizations, business communities, the private sector, unions, all of which have recognized in the past that they do have a role to play. Indeed, we need to have that strong, more united approach. This is one of the reasons we have, for example, an international day against racism. It goes beyond Canadian borders. We will find many schools, parliamentarians at different levels and private sector companies who recognize that day.
I believe that the vast, overwhelming majority of the people we represent understand and appreciate the value of what makes Canada as great as it, namely our diversity, and we need to treasure and protect it. When we see things that take place here in Canadian society or abroad that go against the value of diversity, we need to speak out, as we have all seen inside and outside the House. Some of us have have experienced it firsthand.
I think of the hon. member for Mississauga—Erin Mills and the fine work she did. When the issue came before us, dealing with racism in the worst way, she stood in her place and took a strong stand. By taking that stand, she subjected herself to a considerable amount of hatred, directed to her personally. I am so proud of my colleague who stood firm. Other caucus members and members from other sides of the House joined her to provide support.
Since I was elected in 1998, I have visited gudwaras all over Canada and in other places of the world. I visited gudwaras, synagogues, churches and mosques. I understand, appreciate and value the places where we practise our faith, the value they add to our society as a whole.
I wish others were given the same opportunities I have had as an elected official to go into these communities and experience first-hand the love and caring attitude toward not only individuals such as me, but facilities, churches, mosques, synagogues or temples all across our land.
I admire the Sikh society gurdwara. I am proud to say that a female is now running the gudwara in her role of president. One of the teachings of Sikhism, which I really appreciate, is that when people enter a gudwara, they take off their shoes and squat to listen to the service. Everyone is an equal and that has stuck with me over the years. Whether it is in Winnipeg, Abbotsford, Toronto or the Punjab, where I visited many gudwaras, including the golden temple, everyone is treated as an equal.
I believe that same principle will be found in all our religious communities where that sort of respect is offered. That is why I will go back to the Manitoba Intercultural Council. It came up with a report many decades ago. It said that if we wanted to combat bigotry and racism, we needed to ensure a better sense of cross-cultural awareness. I believe it recommended that MLAs take a course on cross-cultural awareness. The report was right on. Members of Parliament could become more sensitive to cross-cultural awareness.
The Prime Minister is one of the strongest advocates in our country in talking about the benefits and strength of Canada being our diversity. The Prime Minister is right in his assertion. If we want to get a sense of it, we need to look at the different regions of our country. Will get a far better appreciation of what is meant when say our diversity is our greatest strength.
I would encourage not only members here, but all parliamentarians to take the challenge recommended not only by the Manitoba Intercultural Council, but by many other organizations.
Let us appreciate what we have. Let us become more educated.