Canada’s Changing Face
Tory MP Rahim Jaffer says previous governments failed to engage diaspora communities, but new Canadians worry the renewed interest in pluralism is based on the war on terror.
Pluralism Centre Announcement Today
The government is expected to announce today the creation of a new $60-million Global Centre for Pluralism in a joint venture with the Aga Khan Foundation.
“I think [the centre] will start pulling many of these groups together,” Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer told conference participants last Friday. The centre will work to “come up with creative solutions on how to deal, in a practical way, with the pluralism success that we have in Canada by engaging those groups…in a more meaningful way then we’ve seen.”
Mr. Jaffer, who has become increasingly involved in the diaspora file since the Conservative’s took power in February, told Embassy federal governments have failed to connect with diaspora groups.
“I think there is now a natural link and push to get plugged into these things and I think we have missed out maybe in the past on engaging them sooner,” he said. “Now that we know we have a wide range of this experience, we are not doing justice if we do not start engaging.”
While many have pointed to perceived security concerns both in Canada and abroad as the reason for the new desire to create a government-diaspora dialogue, Mr. Jaffer said many communities are becoming more involved in politics, while many newer immigrants and refugees are facing new challenges that previous groups didn’t have to deal with.
“Outside some of the security initiatives we are pursuing, we have a real commitment to look at diaspora issues in a real long term way, not just in a security-based,” he said. “I think there’s definitely more of an understanding and sensitivity from the government’s perspective, given some of the challenges the communities have faced.
“It’s not just the Islamic communities. If you look at some of the challenges in bigger centres like Toronto, why is it that some communities are not able to integrate and be meaningful participants in society?”
Several studies were conducted for the University of Peace conference, including one conducted by the Young Diplomats organization that asked 157 Toronto youth who were either born in Ethiopia or children of Ethiopian parents whether they considered themselves Canadian or Ethiopian.
Almost a two-thirds identified themselves as being Ethiopian, while another six per cent chose both options.