OTTAWA; TORONTO—Ethnic groups in Canada who have been targeted by racism throughout the country’s history are already lining up for $25-million announced in yesterday’s federal budget for awareness programs.
The government is setting aside the money, to be spent over three years by community groups, not individuals, for commemorative programs to ensure Canadians never forget shameful episodes like the head tax on Chinese immigrants and the internment of Ukrainians during the world wars.
“The announcement is very welcome news,” said Professor Lubomyr Luciuk, director of research for the Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “We believe that a settlement involving acknowledgment, the restitution of the internees’ confiscated wealth, and its application to various commemorative and educational projects will be of benefit to all Canadians.”
The association is looking for historical markers to remember those who died while imprisoned in the internment camps. It also wants to establish a museum at the site of the Cave and Basin camp at Banff National Park. The Canadian Jewish Congress, meanwhile, wants a historical marker in Halifax harbour to commemorate the country’s refusal to allow the landing of the St. Louis in 1939. The ship carried more than 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany. “We will work with the department of Canadian Heritage to include memorialization of the St. Louis in this new program as a tool for education and sensitization for future generations,” said CJC president Ed Morgan.
More details of the program will be known in the coming weeks.
Remembering Canada’s past and celebrating its heritage was a big item in yesterday’s budget, with Ottawa pumping $1.6-billion over the next five years into culture, diversity and sport. Money will be put toward multiculturalism programs, preserving heritage sites and commemoration of war veterans.
“It is important that Canadians learn more about the ever-increasing diversity that characterizes Canadian society,” the budget documents said.
A part of the money—$45-million in the 2005-06 fiscal year—will be used toward “celebrating Canada’s history.” The federal government will help fund centennial year celebrations, such as those held this year in Alberta and Saskatchewan. About $6-million a year will also support commemoration activities for war veterans.
The government announced yesterday that it will renew a series of funds that were scheduled to expire this year.
A large chunk of the new money will extend the Tomorrow Starts Today program, a federal government initiative that supports Canadian arts and culture. The program was recently extended another year, and yesterday’s budget keeps it around for four more with an injection of $688-million.
“This multiyear investment will help create stability within the arts and culture community by providing predictable levels of funding in the years to come,” the budget documents stated.
Rookie Heritage Minister Liza Frulla said she was “ecstatic” over yesterday’s budget and what it portends for artists and culture groups.
However, Canada’s largest arts lobby group, the Canadian Conference of the Arts, cautioned the five-year extension should just be “the foundation on which increased funding for culture can be built.” Topping up funding by $172-million each fiscal year through 2010 “will not adequately address growing financial needs,” it said.
Yesterday’s budget granted CBC a continuation of the additional $60-million it has been receiving since 2001. The one-year allocation “will allow us to continue what we’ve been doing,” a CBC spokesman said from Ottawa. But it won’t contribute to the ambitious refinancing of local and regional programming for which the CBC says it needs an additional $83-million.
The spokesman said CBC is “disappointed’ “ that the finance minister did not blend the $60-million into the Crown corporation’s base funding, as the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage had recommended earlier.
Tom Godfrey, Toronto Sun, Feb. 24
TORONTO-AREA immigrant groups say yesterday’s budget gave them their first cash influx in five years. Of the $398 million in new money given to the immigration department by Finance Minister Ralph Goodale, some $298 million will be dished out to immigrant groups and $100 million to streamline and speed up the processing system.
“We haven’t had an increase of funding in five years,” Immigration Minister Joe Volpe said yesterday.
“This is a significant investment for immigration.”
He said a “Going to Canada” website is being created on which potential immigrants worldwide can find out if they’re qualified to come here, fill out an application online and then track the processing times.
Volpe said his goal is to have potential immigrants find out within six months if they can come to Canada.
The funding was welcomed by dozens of cash-strapped groups who work with newcomers in the Toronto-area. More than 60% of all immigrants to Canada settle here.
Mario Calla, head of COSTI Immigrant Services, said agencies have been starved for cash for years.
“This is a good and badly needed investment,” Calla said.
He said a lack of funding forced some newcomers to live in poverty. Resettlement groups are paid by Ottawa to provide language, training and other skills for newcomers.
Volpe also said Canada has joined the U.S., Australia and Norway in accepting 2,000 Vietnamese boat people who are stranded and deemed stateless in the Philippines. He said relatives in Canada will be given a chance to sponsor some of the boat people, who will be given special status here.
The exodus of “boat people” started 30 years ago when communist forces took over South Vietnam. Canada resettled more than 100,000 refugees in the late 1970s.