Conference of the European Ministers of Culture - 20 - 22 October 2003 - Opatija, Croatie 

(To be checked against delivered speech)

Intervention by Jean-Pierre Blais, Assistant Deputy Minister for International and Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of Canadian Heritage

Working Session 3
Interaction Between Public Sector, Private Sector and Civil Society: Examples of Good Practice

I would like to thank the Council of Europe, and the Culture Department, for their continued efforts in ensuring that intercultural dialogue remains a priority of the international agenda.

The Government of Canada, through its policies and programs to advance intercultural dialogue and cooperation, focuses on:

- Assisting in the development of strategies that facilitate full and active participation of ethnic, religious, and cultural communities in Canadian society;

- Increasing public awareness, understanding and informed public dialogue about multiculturalism, racism and cultural diversity in Canada;

- Facilitating collective community initiatives and responses to ethnic, racial, religious, and cultural conflict and hate-motivated activities;

- Improving the ability of public institutions to respond to ethnic, religious and cultural diversity by assisting in the identification and removal of barriers to equitable access and by supporting the involvement of these communities in public decision-making processes.

The Government of Canada has recognized the need to develop strong and lasting partnerships with community groups. Inter-sectoral cooperation is crucial to ensuring that Canada is able to respond and adapt to its constantly evolving cultural mosaic.

I would like to share with you three recent initiatives of inter-sectoral cooperation.

National Policing Forum

In February of this year, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Status of Women, the Honourable Jean Augustine, hosted a National Forum on Policing in a Multicultural Society.

The Forum's purpose was to strengthen partnerships between police and communities; it brought together members of key federal departments, provincial and municipal police services, non-governmental organizations and academics.

Three main themes were discussed:

- recognizing and embracing diversity;

- policing with a national security agenda at the forefront;
and civilian oversight.

Ideas put forward included training and education at all levels as an important step in broadening the understanding of Canada's diversity.

Diversity Forum

Another initiative which sought to broaden this understanding was the Forum on Diversity and Culture hosted by Minister Sheila Copps last April.

This Forum brought culturally diverse communities and cultural decision-makers together to find ways to better reflect Canadian diversity.

Artists and creators, producers and presenters, distributors, educators, private and not-for-profit sectors, and government decision-makers in the field of culture from across the country were invited to participate.

During the months leading up to the Forum, Minister Copps held a series of pre-forum meetings across the country, to invite active participation in planning the Forum. Pre-forum meetings took place in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax and Toronto.

The Forum adopted a participatory approach, drawing on the experiences of the participants, as well as those of cultural decision-makers.

The Forum sought, among other things, to:
- Increase knowledge among cultural decision-makers of the needs and capacity of culturally diverse communities;

- Increase knowledge among culturally diverse communities of the availability of national cultural programs and activities;

- Build on the experiences and expertise of communities and cultural institutions
- Facilitate networking among participants and strengthen relationships.

Roundtable on Promoting and Maintaining Intercultural Understanding

Finally, also in April of this year, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and Status of Women hosted a “Round Table on Promoting and Maintaining Intercultural Understanding.”

This round table was an opportunity for religious leaders to engage in open dialogue on intercultural and inter-religious issues.

The event allowed religious leaders of various faiths to discuss their role in contributing to a more inclusive Canada and fostering mutual respect and understanding.

Conclusion

These initiatives are examples of how effective an approach based on the active participation of various communities can be. While recognizing that the articulation of public policy is ultimately a governmental responsibility, the involvement of civil society helps ensure an integrated and coherent process.

A healthy and active civil society has a crucial role to play in fostering mutual respect and understanding, and ensuring a more inclusive society. Civil society must be a strong voice, one that is heard by governments and other public institutions.

The Government of Canada is committed to engaging civil society, and to sharing the responsibility for making Canada a better place.

I thank you for your attention and am available to answer questions on these themes.