Home Semasa #Semasa: The power of multiculturalism, in shaping nations

#Semasa: The power of multiculturalism, in shaping nations

by Air Times Correspondent

KUALA LUMPUR, 9 JUL –  Inclusive societies that take full advantage of their diversity are more innovative, dynamic, resilient and prosperous.

Canadian High Commissioner Wayne Robson stressed that this was one of the many things that Malaysia had in common with his country.

“We recognise that Malaysia also embraces the power of diversity and multiculturalism.

“Malaysia is a country known for its rich tapestry of cultures, languages, and traditions.

“Just like Canada, Malaysia understands the importance of fostering inclusivity, respect, and understanding among its diverse communities,” Robson said at the ‘Canadian Multiculturalism Day’ reception at Shiso MiCasa All-Suite Hotel in Taman U-Thant, Jalan Tun Razak.

Present were Canadian High Commission political counsellor Robert Bisset and its advocacy officer Dayalan S. Rajoo, civil society partners, the media and government representatives.

In his speech read by Bisset, Robson said that the Malaysian society stood as a testament to the strength and unity, that arose from embracing multiculturalism.

“It is through the recognition and celebration of our differences that we forge a stronger bond, promoting social harmony and a shared sense of belonging.

Canadian High Commission political counsellor Robert Bisset delivering the speech of High Commissioner Wayne Robson at the ‘Canadian Multiculturalism Day’ reception at Shiso MiCasa All-Suite Hotel in Taman U-Thant, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur. Photo: Courtesy of the Canadian High Commission

“The values of multiculturalism are deeply ingrained in both Canada and Malaysia, serving as a cornerstone for a vibrant and inclusive society,” said Robson.

However, he added, that the world could be a divisive and sometimes even a dark place.

People, he said, were divided along cultural, ethnic and religious lines, resulting in wars – such as that sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The rights of girls and women are, too, often denied through discrimination, sexual violence and child marriage.

“And in many places, sexual minorities are beaten, jailed or even killed just for being who they are, and loving who they love,” said Robson.

Canada’s foreign policy was a reflection of its core values at home, and of its belief that peaceful pluralism and diversity could triumph over radicalism, intolerance and hate.

“It seeks to advance gender equality, women’s empowerment, democracy, the rule of law and human rights for all, and to ensure that no one is left behind by international development efforts.

“One of the most impactful ways that Canada works toward this is by supporting local partners tackling these important issues with the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI),” Robson said.

Canadian High Commission political counsellor Robert Bisset (third from left) and its advocacy officer Dayalan S. Rajoo (right) with the high commission staff, at the ‘Canadian Multiculturalism Day’ reception at Shiso MiCasa All-Suite Hotel in Taman U-Thant, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur.

The CFLI was a unique fund that supported projects designed and implemented by local civil society organisations.

“You understand local needs and priorities and are often best placed to respond to them.

“For the last 50 years, around the world, the CFLI has been supporting local projects that aim to ensure everyone has the opportunity to live with dignity, peace, rights, and wellbeing now and for generations to come,” he said.

Over the past 10 years, the Canadian High Commission in Malaysia had supported about 60 projects which amounted to over 1.2 million Canadian dollars in funding.

“We share many values with Malaysia, and I will like to acknowledge our friendship with all our local partners and the various ways we work together to achieve our mutual goals.

“Canada enjoys a global reputation as a country that has made its diversity a source of strength,” Robson said.

In 1971, Canada became one of the first countries to adopt an official multiculturalism policy.

A fundamental principle of that policy was that all citizens were equal and had the freedom to maintain and share their identity, and cultural heritage with others.

In September 2020, Global Affairs Canada launched the Anti-Racism Secretariat, which was a crucial step toward making it a more equitable and inclusive organisation, at home and abroad, that reflected Canada’s culturally diverse society.

Robson revealed that earlier this year, Canada appointed a special representative on combatting islamophobia.

“He serves as a champion, advisor, expert and representative to the Canadian government, for the purpose of enhancing efforts to combat islamophobia and promote awareness of the diverse and intersectional identities of muslims in Canada,” he said.

Today, he added, Canada had embraced diversity as a characteristic of its national identity, aboriginal rights, official languages and multiculturalism – which were enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Public opinion research also showed that overall support for diversity and for welcoming immigration and refugee policies had grown steadily since the 1970s.

“The Canadian government is also continuing to walk the path of truth and reconciliation with indigenous people.

“We continue to grapple with the hard truths of the past and work to address long-standing inequalities.

“The government is moving toward the recognition and full realisation of rights as the basis for Canada’s relationship with indigenous people, including advancing the vital work of reconciliation.

“Real progress has been made to improve the quality of life in indigenous communities. But there is more work to do,” Robson said.

While challenges did remain, Robson acknowledged that Canada had a positive story to tell about multiculturalism, peaceful inclusion, diversity, prosperity, and human rights.

 As Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, “Diversity is not a challenge to be overcome or a difficulty to be tolerated. Rather, it is a tremendous source of strength.”

A poster of the ‘Canadian Multiculturalism Day’ reception.

Canada, Robson said, had become a successful country not in spite of their differences, but because of them.

“Someone wise once said that diversity is a fact, and inclusion a choice.

“Canada has made the choice to embrace its multicultural diversity not only as an expression of our values, but because it is in our own national best interest to do so,” said Robson.

At the reception, local performers enthralled the audience with their multicultural performances, highlighting the shared values of both nations.

They included the classical Indian Bharatanatyam dancers from Trishula Arts, caklempong performer Anas Rahbeni (traditional Minangkabau musical instrument), Guzheng performer Jamie Tan (traditional Chinese plucked zither), Sunway University Ensemble, and a special guest performance by Rozita Rohaizad (niece of legendary Malaysian movie stars Tan Sri P. Ramlee and Puan Sri Saloma).

There was also a video screening of “Re Lekuah” by Alena Murang, the first Kelabit-language music video that was directed by Canadian director Ashley Duong. – airtimes.my

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