ARCHIVED – Speaking notes for the Honourable Jason Kenney, P.C., M.P. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism at an event marking Asian Heritage Month

Ottawa, Ontario, May 24, 2011

As delivered

Good evening.  Thank you very much to all of the volunteers and everyone responsible for organizing tonight’s special celebration of both Asian culture in Canada and our common belief in human freedom, in particular the Vietnamese Canadian Federation and the Vietnamese Canadian Centre for their collaborative effort, together with the Ottawa Asian Heritage Month Society and Library and Archives Canada together with the officials from Citizenship and Immigration.  Thank you for your collaboration in bringing forward tonight’s remarkable program.

This is Asian Heritage Month.  Unfortunately, because of recent events, we were unable to hold our traditional celebration reception on Parliament Hill.  But it’s something that we have been so delighted to co-host with the Ottawa Asian Heritage Month Society now for several years, a chance for us all as Canadians to reflect on the amazing and diverse contribution to this country made by over a century by well over a million Canadians of Asian origin.

And tonight you will focus on two expressions of culture that each of which tell important and moving stories about the human spirit and about human freedom.  Of course you will hear a reading from Kim Thuy and her magnificent novel, Ru, which has become an international best seller, and we are so proud of her who arrived as a young girl in a family of Vietnamese refugees to Canada, and who has demonstrated that this is a country of opportunity, and with her story she has become celebrated throughout the world. So we are happy that Kim has become a gift of Canada to the world.  Congratulations.

Her story is particular of course to herself and her family but it’s a story lived in many ways by so many other Canadians and Canada can always be proud of having been a refuge and a place of protection for over 50,000 Canadian Vietnamese refugees in the period of 1979, 1980.  And their story continues to this day as we welcome more refugees than any other developed country on a per capita basis.  We must continue to be moved by stories like Kim’s and that of her family to remember this country’s special vocation that dates all the way back to the underground railway as a place of refuge for those in need of it.

We’ll also hear the – see, rather, through the movie the story of Li Cunxin who was also a refugee, to the United States, a refugee who was unable to pursue his dreams in his country of origin, particularly during the cultural revolution in China.

And together these stories remind us of how we must always defend and safeguard our freedom and hope and work for it for those all around the world including the citizens of Vietnam who deserve respect for the same universal rights of freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, political liberties and true democracy that we enjoy in Canada and all of us, regardless of our political views in Canada, will continue to strive together for freedom and democracy for the people of Vietnam.

And so let me thank again all of the organizers for bringing us together tonight, all of us Canadians from different backgrounds to enjoy and celebrate these two magnificent cultural expressions.

Thank you.

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