John Chrétien: To be a liberal in Canada is to be a multiculturalist

From the Commonwealth Lecture given by the former Prime Minister of Canada

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I am and have always been a Canadian Liberal. But what exactly does that mean? For the term can seem quite fluid. In Europe, often liberals are considered conservative. They are seen as people who believe in markets as the solution to most social challenges.

I am and have always been a Canadian Liberal. But what exactly does that mean? For the term can seem quite fluid. In Europe, often liberals are considered conservative. They are seen as people who believe in markets as the solution to most social challenges.

In the United States, a liberal is portrayed by talk shows almost as a communist. A radical left-winger. Someone who sees the state as offering the best solution to all problems. In Canada I think you are a liberal when the left wingers accuse you of being a right-wing conservative. And the right-wingers call you a soft-headed lefty. I was always happiest when my opponents criticised me this way.

Protection of minority rights and fostering a tolerant, peaceful society have been important parts of liberalism for me. Our approach to newcomers to Canada has built upon this platform of rights and tolerance.

But our method has been unique. Thirty years ago, we became the first country in the world to promote multiculturalism as a national policy. To complement our policies on immigration. Our goal has been to bring people to Canada to help us build. And to welcome and celebrate their cultural traditions. We say to them, "You can be Canadian, and be yourself. Proud of your heritage."

We see immigrants as assets. Bringing new vitality. For they are consumers right away, expanding our domestic market. I would sometimes say to European leaders having problems with immigration, "Yes, I too have a problem - I need more of them to come to Canada!"

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