Honourable senators, I rise because of some recent disturbing events in British Columbia and Ontario, events that have the potential to jeopardize our values of equality and freedom.
As a result, the member of Parliament for the riding of Vancouver South, Ujjal Dosanjh, has called for a national debate on multiculturalism and its role in our Canadian identity. I remind honourable senators that when I made my maiden speech over a year ago, I did the same and went one step further to call for a thorough examination of the benefits of citizenship.
Canadians create a reinforcing power when they invest themselves in their country. They not only put themselves in a better position to reap all the benefits that come with being Canadian, but they also help our country realize its true promise. We must always search for ways to strengthen the force that draws us together as a people — our collective identity, the identity that we widely acknowledge and accept as our own, the identity by which we are known internationally.
Canadian governments at all levels, as well as public and private organizations, play a vital role in fostering and advancing that collective identity. Immigrants and refugees to this country choose — yes, choose — Canada in times of atrocious political upheaval, deep economic distress or catastrophic environmental consequences. However, we must always remember that they are not just running away from something. They are running to something, and the reason they choose Canada is precisely because of our values, our identity.
Many new Canadians have been raised and educated in systems that created the ideologies they are trying to escape. They or their families come to Canada hoping to connect to their new community. Sadly, lack of a guiding hand has left some Canadians struggling to find their proper place and realize their true promise as citizens. If we continue to do nothing, new Canadians will slowly begin to recreate the very organizations, institutions and communities they left behind, and any hope of a strong and lasting connectivity will be lost.
Do honourable senators want to be framed in an image of the values of another country by default? I commend the individuals and small groups who have recently tried to level sharp attention on our shared identity and values, but alone they are not strong enough. Now is the time and this is the place to lead that effort. No institution is more ideally suited to give Canadians the fullest possible opportunity to consider, analyze and act than the Senate of Canada. No people are more ideally suited to give these questions the thoughtful, balanced treatment they demand than the women and men of this institution. Honourable senators, we must be the guiding hand that defines our great country.