A reflection of Canada's pluralism
by Stephen LeDrew
Thursday, August 14, 2003
Four Canadians recently wrote a letter to the National Post complaining that, in essence, Liberal party organizers and activists have been enlisting new members from various ethnic groups in disproportionate numbers to the actual representation of these groups in general society. What a lamentable vision: Four people wringing their hands because they are of the view that the recruitment of people who have recently become Canadian is “anti-democratic”!
I am glad to have the opportunity to state emphatically and without reservation that the Liberal Party of Canada is indeed a reflection of Canadian society. It is a party of immigrants — open, inclusive, and a haven for those who have been disenfranchised in other societies through hierarchical stigma. The Liberal party is a vehicle for newcomers to Canada to join with those whose families have been in this country for generations, to exchange ideas and forge policies through debate and discussion. It helps create a pluralistic society that is striving to be not only economically rewarding, but respectful of views that are tested through the crucible of popular deliberation.
At the moment, perhaps, there are more Liberals of Sikh and Chinese origin than certain other ethnic groups in British Columbia. But so what? Isn't this the same criticism trotted out in the 1960s when lots of Italians, new to Canada, joined the party?
Is it a fault that the Liberal party now has more Members of Parliament of Italian descent than all the other parties combined? Of course not. And just as visionary Canadians defended the political recruitment in the '60s that led to such successful participation today, Canadians will no doubt reject the odious views reflected in yesterday's letter, knowing that they have no defensible foundation in our pluralistic democracy.
Politics is not only about making decisions and choices. It is also about fostering a society that is accessible and that works for all who want to be citizens, and about broadening our social institutions to include everyone. The Liberal party has done this more successfully than any other political party in Canada, and will continue to do so as long it eschews the views of these four critics.
It is inevitable that, on occasion, tensions will flare between different factions, and that these tensions will sometimes be reflected in public debate. But it is through this debate that people with differing world views or cultural backgrounds learn a common understanding, respect, and identity. By maintaining an isolationist point of view behind the walls of functionary considerations, Canadian society could not continue to be the openly mobile community that it is.
Yes, the Liberal party can sometimes be rambunctious, and it is certainly not always the safest place for the faint of heart. But there is no question that it is vital, and it is on the move. This fall's leadership convention will showcase a party that is rejuvenated not only by new leadership, but by new ideas proferred by the very people this gang of four is complaining about. Thankfully, it is hardly the sort of party for bureaucrats who would impose ethnic membership quotas in proportion to some sort of figures derived from Statistics Canada!
To these four who espouse a policy with which I strongly disagree, I can only offer a blanket invitation to join the Liberal party. There, you will have the right to constantly express your views — and others will have the right to confront them head-on, and try to convince you to open your arms.
Stephen LeDrew is president of the Liberal Party of Canada