BENTLEY: Preserving culture in best interest of all Canadians

In the July 20 opinion piece by Josh Labove (Holding Tight to Fiction of a European Canada), he maligns Putting Canada First, without knowing much about our organization.

All too frequently, supporters of multiculturalism use personal, ad hominem, attacks to silence their opponents. While often effective, it is a disservice to honest debate. So I will say this once, and only once: Putting Canada First would never support or tolerate racist or hateful policy and action; instead, our goals are to empower average Canadians, who have been largely ignored by Ottawa.

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A fundamental concern for PCF is the growing segregation in many ethnic communities. Moreover, according to Salim Mansur, seventy percent of Canadians feel the same way, and want multiculturalism eliminated or repaired. Why have their wishes been ignored?

Mainstream Canadian culture is "pretty darn good," and we can proudly say it is the envy of much of the world. So why should we accept its diminution within our borders? Moreover, it's our culture, and we have every right to try to preserve it. It is a natural human desire for Canadians to want to be able to communicate in one of our official languages, and to want to feel "at home" and "welcomed" in neighbouring communities.

For most of our history, Canada accepted many populations of different ethnicity. This was not divisive, because we were held together by their desire to assimilate. Unfortunately, this desire is now much less pervasive, with many ethnic communities refusing to join mainstream culture. PCF believes Canada can better integrate new Canadians, which will help ensure a prosperous, harmonious future for everyone. Being Canadian should involve more than just having a Canadian passport and spending Canadian money.

The comment that we are invoking a "European Canada" is inaccurate. We support a "Canadian Canada," and we are not interested in creating European ethnic enclaves in Canada any more than we would support Filipino or Iranian enclaves. Nevertheless, we recognize that a key component in what has made Canada great is our heritage of European laws, enlightenment, and commerce. But Canada has moved beyond that - for a long time, we have been Canadian, not European.

When the nation of Canada was formed in 1867, it was complete with laws and institutions derived from England and France. This was built upon by the great efforts of past Canadians, who helped form the country we love today. From this understanding, the claim that PCF is Eurocentric is preposterous. We are Canadian-centric.

As PCF chair, I encourage all Canadians to be open about debating these vital issues. Free speech is a fundamental tenet of democracy, and our society must never stifle rational discourse. While adhering to Canadian laws, and maintaining a certain decorum, we recognize that opposing views are an integral part of a free society.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that preserving our language and culture is in the best interests of all Canadians, regardless of race or ethnicity. PCF hopes to bring about change in Ottawa to help protect this great nation, and ensure a promising future for all Canadians.

Paul Bentley is chairman of Putting Canada First.

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