Cultural Reconciliation in Canada
by / on behalf of Universal House of Justicepublished in Baha'i Canada, 13:2, pages 24-25
We have been asked to raise for your Assembly’s consideration the appropriateness of a trend that appears to have developed recently in the public information work in Canada.
As is the case with most countries of the world Canada is affected by various social divisions and it is highly desirable that the Bahá'í community should be in the forefront of efforts to promote unity and reconciliation. In Canada’s case, such issues tend to be cultural in nature, particularly those separating peoples of Native and European origin or those between Canadian of French- and English-speaking backgrounds. The rapid changes that are occurring as a result of the long overdue settlement of legitimate Native claims and the emergence of French Canadians into full partnership in the Confederation would seem to represent encouraging evidences of the steady fulfillment of the Master’s moving assurance that, as a result of His visit, "day by day civilization and freedom will increase."
The Universal House of Justice questions, therefore, whether the emphasis that appears to be developing the reports and plans published in "Bahá'í Canada" on the subject of "race unity" is an initiative best suited to the needs of your country. The House of Justice notes, for example, that a "Race Unity Award" has been created, presumably with the approval of your Assembly, and that the American public holiday "Martin Luther King Day" is regularly listed in the calendar of events in "Bahá'í Canada", as is "Black History Month".
Racial discrimination is an almost universal affliction, and obviously Canadians can neither ignore any of the forms it takes nor fail to enrich the life of the Cause by attracting into it representative elements of your country’s rich ethnic diversity. In Canada, however, there are long-standing conflicts that weaken the country’s basic social fabric.. The Canadian Bahá'í community is blessed in having available to it explicit guidance from both the Master and the Guardian on the vital importance of integrating Native Canadians as a creative segment of the population and of overcoming the barrier between English- and French-speaking Canadians, a barrier which the Master himself rejected so emphatically rejected in His historic decision to visit Montreal. It would be unfortunate if this emphasis were to become, however unintentionally, diluted by imposing on the situation in Canada elements from another country that do not precisely fit it.
This question is really a matter of emphasis and priority rather than one of exclusivity. The imagination that your National Assembly – and indeed the Canadian community generally – has shown in the area of public information is gratifying indeed. These are thrilling times for your country, and the House of Justice will pray ardently in the Holy Shrines that your Assembly will be confirmed in your ever-broadening efforts to provide the spiritual illumination that these great changes require.