I rise today to celebrate the cultural diversity within this great country of ours. Canada is internationally renowned and lauded for its cultural mosaic. It is a model nation with active and engaged citizens from all corners of the world.
Nowhere in Canada is the vibrancy of multiculturalism as alive as in my home province of British Columbia. Historically, BC has a deep and rich legacy of multiculturalism. With its prime location along the Pacific Rim it welcomes 40,000 new immigrants to its shores each year and is home to over 180 cultures. In my East Vancouver neighborhood, I am a visible majority with the current demographics that have shifted over the decades to what is now 85% Asian - Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino, South Asian, Korean, and more. The result is a wonderful hybrid for businesses and tourism. Dim sum, sushi, kimchi, pho, souvlaki, gelato and fushion restaurants line the streets; cultural festivals fill the yearly calendar; and there is a continuing upward trend of bi-racial families. In fact, the most recent census indicated that “mixed-race” or “happa" kids is now the largest growing demographic of children. All of these markers highlight that the residents on the west coast view multiculturalism not as an anomaly but as the way of life.
The government of BC formally recognized the significance of this diversity during Multiculturalism Week, November 14-19. The Honourable Harry Bloy, Minister of State for Multuralism, has been a leader in this initiative. Knowing that food is a universal bridge to cultural understanding, he hosted a Korean BBQ night at the start of the week for his colleagues.
The week culminated with the Nesika Awards at the Museum of Vancouver on a picture perfect west coast day. Nesika, which means "we, us, our" is an award created with the belief that community building and bridging is fundamental to society. This year’s recipients, Farhid Rohani as an individual, Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of British Columbia (AMSSA) as an Organization, and Afro News as a Business were recognized for their exemplary work in promoting cultural understanding.
On November 19, BC residents cast their ballots during the municipal elections. It was fitting for Multiculturalism Week to come to a close with this event as it was in 1947 wherein Asian-Canadians were first given the right to vote.
I am thankful for the Canadians of Chinese descent who courageously fought both on the battle fields as well as within Canadian society for the rights of Citizenship and the right to vote. I am inspired by incredible Canadians such as Douglas Jung who in 1957, a mere 10 years following the right to vote, was elected as the 1st Asian-Canadian Conservative MP for Vancouver Centre.
So I exercised this very right to vote which others had so valiantly fought for, by casting my vote on November 19's civic elections in BC. I wish to acknowledge all municipal candidates who answered the call to serve in the local communities on Municipal Councils, School Boards and Park Boards. Congratulations to all the elected members, including incumbents Al Raine of Sun Peaks and Gregor Robertson of my city of Vancouver. A very special thanks to the tireless volunteers in every township, district and city in BC who are essential to the campaign and electoral processes. They are the unsung heroes.
Honourable senators, multiculturalism goes beyond mere tokenism and text and instead lies within the core of Canadian identity. Canadians from coast to coast to coast understand that the very fabric of this nation is woven with the threads of individual cultures to make for a more vibrant and stronger whole. As a Canadian, I am proud to live in a country which holds this belief.