The purpose of the CRRF, as provided in the Canadian Race Relations Foundation Act, is to facilitate throughout Canada the development, sharing and application of knowledge and expertise in order to contribute to the elimination of racism and all forms of racial discrimination in Canadian society.
CRRF’s work, in essence, is to encourage Canadians, irrespective of their racial background or ethnicity, to uphold and honor the human dignity of all our fellow citizens. Indeed, inherent human dignity is the very central pillar of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We all treasure our rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Canadian Constitution. Where these rights and freedoms are abridged or encroached upon, even in favor of one right over another, or where the same are subjugated or circumvented for the sake of expediency, convenience or gain, whether financial, sectoral, political or otherwise, all will be worse off in the end, if not immediately. Rights subverted become a precedent for future action, especially politically, so that a retaliatory psyche can well become ingrained into the human rights system.
As individuals and as a society, we need to recognize that human dignity, and the rights that emanate from it, are a sacrosanct principle that ought to transcend politics across the entire political spectrum and we need to ensure that the instruments related to enforcement or promotion of rights remain free of political taint.
As Canadians, we have a shared responsibility to support and respect the rights and freedoms of one another. To ensure a healthy Canadian society where diversity and inclusion truly flourishes, it behooves all of us to resist the temptation of politicizing the human rights arena for self-serving considerations.
History tells us that when government machinery is exploited or co-opted as a blunt instrument to silence dissent, to advance the rights or benefits of some at the expense of some others or someone, society suffers monumentally for generations to come. Witness the sensationalism, bogus narratives, demonization and hatemongering leading up to and surrounding the Indian Residential Schools, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Komagata Maru incidence, the St. Louis Ship travesty and the Japanese Canadian internment... The list goes on. History can repeat itself if we ignore the lessons.
Exactly because of their motivation to prevent history from repeating on anyone else in Canada, the NAJC (National Association of Japanese Canadians) negotiated for the creation of the CRRF (Canadian Race Relations Foundation). They also committed $12 million from their redress settlement, matched equally by the Government of Canada, toward an endowment for the Foundation, not for any self-indulgent purpose, which they are rightly entitled to in the circumstance, but instead for the betterment of all Canadians.
To delineate and ensure its function as an arms-length voice of reason and conscience, the NAJC negotiated for CRRF’s status as a non-agent Crown corporation, of which the Chairperson, directors, Executive Director, officers, employees and agents are not part of the federal public administration.
Human dignity and human rights can only thrive in a society where freedom and democracy is robust and healthy, where freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, etc., is defended and respected for everyone.
In a free and democratic society, no one has a monopoly on the public square. Every citizen has a right to their opinions, no matter how disagreeable, controversial, unorthodox or offensive others may think, save and except for illegal or violent acts. Demonization, character assassination and smear campaigns are a direct threat to the sanctity of civil discourse. Self-righteousness does not lessen these dangers but can increase them.
In these challenging times, citizens and government alike must take extra caution and vigilance against the dangers of faulty logic or superficial and simplistic examinations, or giving in to the effects of mass hysteria.
Just because East Asians eat rice, and many North Americans also eat rice, does not make those North Americans all East Asians. To conclude otherwise is simple fallacy. But that is exactly what many have witnessed in society today, where conflation of issues is rampant, and imputing motives or guilt by association seems to be the order of the day.
There are various views on difficult ethical and social issues and extremist and special interest groups may try to appropriate them or associate themselves with one perspective. These situations are particularly dangerous to the well-being of civil society where open and objective discussion becomes destroyed by ideologies or political movements seeking gain, turning debate into labelling and name calling. The challenge for all of us is to maintain a space where reason and compromise can still operate without politicization or unhelpful rhetoric.
As an organization dedicated to preserving NAJC’s generous legacy and the Government’s commitment to honoring the redress agreement, we invite you to join us in promoting and growing that legacy as an effective antidote to the many issues revolving around racism and racial discrimination.