Multiculturalism Trudeau's gift to Canada
By Sharon Lem ,Toronto Sun
First posted: Saturday, December 31, 2011 07:09 PM EST | Updated: Saturday, December 31, 2011 08:04 PM EST
TORONTO - Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was a visionary about the way different cultures in Canada co-exist today,” says the CEO of the Multicultural History Society of Ontario (MHSO), Dora Nipp.
As 2011 draws to a close, so does the 40th anniversary of the commencement of Canada’s policy of Multiculturalism, spearheaded by Trudeau and adopted in 1971.
It was the first policy of its kind in the world, recognizing that while Canada had two official languages, the country hosted many other cultures.
“Trudeau was a visionary and was obviously light years ahead of everyone. He was able to see Canada’s potential and he could envision the country we would one day grow into back in 1971,” said Nipp.
“Very few people had that kind of depth of knowledge or the sentiment. Trudeau was so very well-travelled to every point of this country that he knew the people who made up Canada and could see the wealth of expertise from each culture and how we could meld our values and beliefs together to domestically co-exist,” said Nipp, who has volunteered for the MHSO since 1981.
The MHSO — which was founded in 1976 by former University of Toronto history professor Robert F. Harney — is home to a collection of 500 oral history interviews on 2,400 audio cassettes, and more than 84,000 photographs and ethnic community newspapers dating back to the turn of the century and representing 56 different ethnic cultures. The cassettes feature ordinary Canadians telling their stories of how they built their lives here and how they contributed to every facet of Canada.
The MHSO — which is run by volunteers and two paid staff — houses the oral history audio tapes and photographs at the Kelly Library at the U of T’s St. Michael’s College and the Archives of Ontario at York University.
“The oral history museum and photos are one of the best-kept secrets in Ontario. We have researchers come from around the globe to access these materials,” said Nipp.
“The life Canadians enjoy today didn’t come easily. There were many trials and tribulations, but we’ve worked through them and now other countries facing those same problems we experienced are looking to us for answers,” said Nipp, who was a graduate student under Harney’s tutelage.
The materials include powerful interviews of Ukrainians who came to Canada as displaced persons following World War II; former Polish soldiers; family-sponsored Italians who joined an earlier wave of sojourners in search of a better life in Canada; Finns, who were drawn to work in the mining and lumber towns of northern Ontario; Hungarian refugees who came to the province in the wake of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution; and American resisters and draft dodgers during the Vietnam War.
Other interviews feature Irish immigrants who came to Ontario in the 1960s; South Asians in the 1970s; and Vietnamese boat people who fled southeast Asia from 1979-80.
The photographs were collected from the individuals who were interviewed, and depict people, activities and events related to the immigration and ethnic experience.
Together the interviews and photographs tell poignant stories, capture vivid personalities and reveal the behind-the-scene decision-making that bring history to life.
“Multiculturalism embraces diversity, equity, dignity, respect. It’s about however we choose to self-identify, it’s about all of us having the same opportunities to develop our talents in the spirit of community,” said Nipp. “To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, Trudeau’s vision challenged us to be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Unfortunately, some of the tapes and documents have become very fragile and their lifespan is rapidly declining.
The MHSO has embarked on a project to preserve and have the collection digitally computerized onto an online archive augmented by contextual commentary and educational programming.
The online archive hopes to provide easier access to the materials, however, the MHSO lacks the resources to fund it.
The Ontario Trillium Foundation has donated $398,800 over three years, but it’s still not enough to complete the online transfer.
Anyone who would like to volunteer their time, language skills or help digitalize the audio tapes and photographs or make a donation, can e-mail email@example.com
or call 416-979-2973. http://www.torontosun.com/2011/12/31/mu ... -to-canada