Friday, February 2, 2007

Need realistic policies on racism: Kenney

Need realistic policies on racism: Kenney
By JORGE BARRERA -- Ottawa Sun
17 Jan. 2007

OTTAWA — Canadians should never be lulled into believing that this country is an inclusive utopia, says newly minted Secretary of State for Multiculturalism Jason Kenney.

Everyone should be “on guard” against the ugliness of racism, said the Calgary Conservative MP, responding to a Sun Media-Leger Marketing poll that found 47% of Canadians admit that they harbour racist sentiments. The poll also found that 92% of Canadians had witnessed bigotry in action.

“These numbers remind us that even a society as tolerant as Canada will always have challenges in this regard,” he said.

There is little that government can do to stop racism, said Kenney, adding he is reviewing federal anti-racism programs for effectiveness.

“It is a question of the heart. The federal government of Canada cannot change the heart of people who hate others because of their ethnicity,” he said.

Toronto NDP MP Olivia Chow was the victim of what many believed was a racist slur in the last federal election after a Liberal operative compared her to a Chow Chow dog. The Chinese-born wife of NDP Leader Jack Layton said economic frustration is often the source of racist feelings.

“A lot of working families feel quite stressed. They are one or two paycheques away from falling into poverty,” said Chow. “When someone feels insecure they tend to look for a scapegoat.”

Navdeep Bains, a Sikh Toronto-area Liberal MP, said he was heartened by the percentage of Canadians who admitted their racism.

“This is a reflection of introspection. People are more educated about this,” said Bains.

As the minister responsible for multiculturalism, Kenney said he will refocus the policies of past governments less on the symbolic and more on the material realities that face Canadians of every background.

“When immigrants arrive in Canada, they are not looking for grants for food festivals. They want their foreign credentials recognized, they want to be integrated into the economy, they want education for their kids,” said Kenney. “Previous governments have placed too much emphasis on the folkloric aspects of diversity.”

Kenney said his government wants to emphasize the reasons why immigrants come to Canada instead of what separates them.

“You can’t expect people to understand the responsibility of citizenship if they don’t know where we come from as a nation,” he said. “Perhaps there has been too much emphasis on the trappings of cultural diversity instead of the great things that cause people to come to this country.”