Navdeep Bains

On April 17, 1985, Sec­tion 15 of Canada’s Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms came into ef­fect, en­sur­ing that in this coun­try, in­di­vid­u­als can­not be dis­crim­i­nated against on the ba­sis of race, na­tional or eth­nic ori­gin, colour, re­li­gion, sex, age or men­tal or

Policy - - In This Issue - Navdeep Bains

Na­tion-Build­ing Through Di­ver­sity and In­clu­sion

Iam a Cana­dian Sikh born and raised in Toronto. My mother worked the night shift at a cookie fac­tory, but she was al­ways home ev­ery morn­ing to tie my tur­ban. I have had many good tur­ban days be­cause of her.

I am also a child of the Char­ter. I be­long to the gen­er­a­tion of Cana­di­ans who came of age un­der the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms—a foun­da­tional ac­com­plish­ment in our na­tion-build­ing. Our coun­try’s di­ver­sity and the val­ues of open­ness and in­clu­sion made the Char-

ter pos­si­ble. In re­turn, the Char­ter re­in­forces those val­ues, which make our coun­try even stronger.

I was a teenager when the Char­ter first be­came real to me. It was 1989 and Bal­tej Singh Dhillon be­came the first Sikh Cana­dian to be ac­cepted into the RCMP—on the con­di­tion that he choose be­tween his duty and re­li­gion. Duty to the RCMP re­quired a clean-shaven face and wear­ing the stan­dard head­gear. But as a Sikh, Dhillon had a beard and wore a tur­ban.

When Dhillon chose to de­fend his re­li­gious rights, it was the first time I saw some­one who looked like me speak so pub­licly about my faith. I was moved by his courage and con­vic­tion.

Dhillon’s ap­peals to the RCMP Com­mis­sioner trig­gered months of heated de­bate and protest across the coun­try. In March 1990, the Com­mis­sioner, cit­ing the Char­ter, fi­nally agreed to al­low beards and tur­bans to be part of the force’s dress code. And Bal­tej Singh Dhillon for­ever changed the face of the iconic Cana­dian Moun­tie.

As a young Cana­dian fol­low­ing Dhillon’s story, I was filled with pride that the Char­ter had pre­vailed. But it also opened my eyes to the chal­lenges of liv­ing in a plu­ral­is­tic so­ci­ety. I learned that ac­cep­tance of dif­fer­ence is a con­stant con­ver­sa­tion, an on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tion. In­clu­sion needs to be nur­tured and open­ness de­fended.

This year marks our na­tion’s 150th birth­day and the 35th an­niver­sary of the Char­ter— mile­stones that serve as re­minders that we stand on the shoul­ders of those who came be­fore us. Ev­ery­day he­roes such as Bal­tej Singh Dhillon paved the way for the free­doms that we some­times take for granted. That in­cludes the free­dom to prac­tise re­li­gion with­out hav­ing to choose be­tween faith and ca­reer.

Years af­ter his vic­tory, Dhillon said: “We still have a lot of work to do in the build­ing of this coun­try. Be­ing of strong char­ac­ter, hav­ing con­fi­dence in your abil­i­ties and an­chor­ing them in the legacy of your lin­eage are pre­req­ui­sites for those who want to con­trib­ute.”

I am in pub­lic life to­day in part be­cause I was in­spired by Dhillon. I want to do my part to de­fend Char­ter rights and pro­mote equal­ity of op­por­tu­nity for ev­ery­one. That’s why in 2005, I voted in favour of same-sex mar­riage leg­is­la­tion in the House, de­spite op­po­si­tion from faith com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing my own. That’s why in 2011, I took a stand to de­fend the kir­pan when Que­bec leg­is­la­tors pushed for a ban in the provin­cial leg­is­la­ture. That’s why in 2015, when the gov­ern­ment of the day took steps to ban women from wear­ing a niqab while tak­ing the cit­i­zen­ship oath, I op­posed the move. And that’s why ear­lier this year, I sup­ported our gov­ern­ment’s Mo­tion 103, which called on all par­lia­men­tar­i­ans to con­demn Is­lam­o­pho­bia.

The Char­ter is not a buf­fet. We can­not pick and choose which rights and free­doms to sup­port, or which groups are wor­thy of pro­tec­tion un­der the Char­ter. I am proud to serve a gov­ern­ment that be­lieves in up­hold­ing the con­sti­tu­tional rights of all Cana­di­ans.

I be­long to the gen­er­a­tion of Cana­di­ans who came of age un­der the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms—a foun­da­tional ac­com­plish­ment in our na­tion-build­ing. Our coun­try’s di­ver­sity and the val­ues of open­ness and in­clu­sion made the Char­ter pos­si­ble. In re­turn, the Char­ter re­in­forces those val­ues, which make our coun­try even stronger.

The Char­ter is not a buf­fet. We can­not pick and choose which rights and free­doms to sup­port, or which groups are wor­thy of pro­tec­tion un­der the Char­ter. I am proud to serve a gov­ern­ment that be­lieves in up­hold­ing the con­sti­tu­tional rights of all Cana­di­ans.

I am also proud to put the val­ues of open­ness, di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion into ac­tion. My first act as a cab­i­net min­is­ter was to re­in­state the manda­tory long-form cen­sus, which was elim­i­nated un­der the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment. This im­por­tant sur­vey of our pop­u­la­tion en­ables us to mea­sure our na­tion’s progress in re­flect­ing the di­ver­sity of our com­mu­ni­ties. With­out the cen­sus, we are blind to the gaps that fuel in­equal­ity in all as­pects of our daily lives.

I have also in­tro­duced leg­is­la­tion that pro­motes more women, cul­tural mi­nori­ties and other un­der­rep­re­sented groups to the high­est lev­els of lead­er­ship in cor­po­rate Canada. The com­ply-or-ex­plain pro­vi­sions of Bill C-25 would put pres­sure on the coun­try’s pub­licly traded com­pa­nies to bet­ter re­flect the di­ver­sity of their share­hold­ers, cus­tomers and com­mu­ni­ties in which these com­pa­nies do busi­ness.

I firmly be­lieve it is Canada’s mo­ral duty to pro­mote di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion. These val­ues also make good busi­ness sense. As other parts of the

world turn in­ward, I’m proud that Canada re­mains open to peo­ple from all back­grounds, whether they are refugees from war-torn coun­tries or highly skilled pro­fes­sion­als in high­growth in­dus­tries. Our open so­ci­ety has at­tracted gen­er­a­tions of in­no­va­tors and en­trepreneurs who have found in Canada a place to ful­fill their po­ten­tial.

Our coun­try ben­e­fits from the tal­ent and hard work of new­com­ers, who con­trib­ute by cre­at­ing jobs, op­por­tu­nity and pros­per­ity for Cana­di­ans. We are a stronger coun­try as a re­sult. In­deed, our di­ver­sity gives Cana­di­ans a com­pet­i­tive edge in a global econ­omy that de­pends on peo­ple’s abil­ity to nav­i­gate through dif­fer­ent cul­tures and lan­guages.

Our coun­try ben­e­fits from the tal­ent and hard work of new­com­ers, who con­trib­ute by cre­at­ing jobs, op­por­tu­nity and pros­per­ity for Cana­di­ans. We are a stronger coun­try as a re­sult. In­deed, our di­ver­sity gives Cana­di­ans a com­pet­i­tive edge in a global econ­omy that de­pends on peo­ple’s abil­ity to nav­i­gate through dif­fer­ent cul­tures and lan­guages.

Di­ver­sity also drives in­no­va­tion, which de­pends on good ideas that come from the largest tal­ent pool pos­si­ble—a global pool. That’s why I have cham­pi­oned our gov­ern­ment’s Global Skills Strat­egy, which en­ables Cana­dian com­pa­nies to more quickly and eas­ily re­cruit highly skilled, in-de­mand tal­ent from around the world.

For Canada to suc­ceed over the next 150 years, we must con­tinue to en­gage in na­tion build­ing based on the strength of our di­ver­sity and the val­ues of open­ness and in­clu­sion. Our fu­ture pros­per­ity de­pends on them.

Adam Scotti photo

In­no­va­tion Min­is­ter Navdeep Bains with Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau at a Kitch­ener in­no­va­tion event in 2016. Trudeau pointed out that he had more Sikhs in his cab­i­net (four), than in the cab­i­net of In­dia (two).

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