For a number of years the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha has been advocating that the Ministry of Culture be renamed the Ministry of Multiculturalism with all the attendant policy changes.
On May 28, at the SDMS Indian Arrival Day dinner at the Centre of Excellence, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar announced that she heard the Maha Sabha's call and that the Ministry of Arts and Culture would be renamed the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism.
We have always advocated the culture of a country in the spontaneous expressions of the people and that the State has no business in culture except as a facilitator. The State must not decide which of the various cultures of our land should receive enhanced funding and which shouldn't. Political affiliation and support must not be the measure of state support.
The Maha Sabha's call to restructure the ministry is a result of the bias and unequal treatment which the PNM administration abused the Ministry of Culture. In fact this abuse was highlighted months before the 2010 general election when it was revealed that almost $50 million was distributed by the Ministry of Culture to its family and friends under the guise of secret scholarships. For too long culture and in particular the funding of culture by the State has been used as a political weapon against all those who did not vote for the PNM. This new ministry offers the promise of great equity in the allocation of its resources.
Coincidentally, the feature speaker at the dinner was Dr Dennison Moore, who was chief of staff to the Secretary of State for Canada; chief of staff to the Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship Canada; executive assis- tant to the Minister of Immigration Canada and the Status of Women. Also chief of staff to the Minister of Immigration. Dr Moore played a central role in the development and passage of the following pieces of legislation: The Canadian Multiculturalism Act  (the first of its kind in the world) and An Act to Establish the Department of Multiculturalism and Citizenship .
The Maha Sabha urges the new Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism and the new Attorney General to review the Canadian legislation to ascertain if we can adapt the Canadian Multiculturalism Act to our situation. Canadian multiculturalism is fundamental to the belief that all citizens are equal. Multiculturalism ensures that all citizens can keep their identities, can take pride in their ancestry and have a sense of belonging. Acceptance gives citizens a feeling of security and self-confidence, making them more open to, and accepting of, diverse cultures. The Canadian experience has shown that multiculturalism encourages racial and ethnic harmony and cross-cultural under- standing, and discourages ghettoisation, hatred, discrimination and violence. Through multiculturalism, Canada recognises the potential of all Canadians, encouraging them to integrate into their society and take an active part in its social, cultural, economic and political affairs.
Our diversity is a national asset. Recent advances in technology have made international communications more important than ever. Multiculturalism is a relationship between the State and the people. Our citizenship gives us equal rights and equal responsibilities. By taking an active part in our civic affairs, we affirm these rights and strengthen our democracy, ensuring that a multicultural, integrated and inclusive citizenship will be every citizen's inheritance.
The Canadian Multiculturalism Act states in part:
3. (1) It is hereby declared to be the policy of the Government of Canada to:
(a) recognise and promote the understanding that multiculturalism reflects the cultural and racial diversity of Canadian society and acknowledges the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance and share their cultural heritage;
(b) recognise and promote the understanding that multiculturalism is a fundamental characteristic of the Canadian heritage and identity and that it provides an invaluable resource in the shaping of Canada's future;
(c) promote the full and equitable participation of individuals and communities of all origins in the continuing evolution and shaping of all aspects of Canadian society and assist them in the elimination of any barrier to that participation;
(d) recognise the existence of communities whose members share a common origin and their historic contribution to Canadian society, and enhance their development;
(e) ensure that all individuals receive equal treatment and equal protection under the law, while respecting and valuing their diversity;
(f) encourage and assist the social, cultural, economic and political institutions of Canada to be both respectful and inclusive of Canada's multicultural character;
(g) promote the understanding and creativity that arise from the interaction between individuals and communities of different origins;
(h) foster the recognition and appreciation of the diverse cultures of Canadian society and promote the reflection and the evolving expressions of those cultures;
(i) preserve and enhance the use of languages other than English and French, while strengthening the status and use of the official languages of Canada; and
(j) advance multiculturalism throughout Canada in harmony with the national commitment to the official languages of Canada.
Satnarayan Maharaj is the
secretary general of the
Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha