After the events of September 11, 2001, Rodney MacDonald, then Minister of Culture, issued a press release to Nova Scotians.
He asked us to reflect on the tragedy, and to use it as an opportunity to raise our understanding, not our fences.
His words can still challenge and encourage us today.
Remarks by the Honourable Rodney MacDonald
Minister of Tourism and Culture
CBC Radio – Provincial Affairs Segment
Wednesday, September 26, 2001
The horrific terrorist attack on our American friends and neighbours on September 11th has given rise to a new level of blind, ignorant, ill-founded hate. We have seen an increase in the number of incidence of discrimination, bigotry and even violence against members of the Muslim community.
These were unwarranted actions by an unenlightened few. But if they are met by silence, they have the potential to spread like a cancer.
Our government will not be silent.
Human beings have a right to live with freedom and dignity – governments did not grant this right —- governments are bound to respect and protect it.
This morning, I want to take this opportunity to speak strongly and clearly on an issue that affects all of us. It’s an issue that asks us to remember our own roots that likely lead to ancestors who embarked on long, dangerous journeys, bringing only their hopes for the future.
First, let me say clearly – this is not a call for tolerance toward members of Nova Scotia’s Muslim community. I’m not asking for tolerance, because tolerance is a short-sighted goal. It’s not our place to “tolerate” rights and freedoms; it’s our duty to ensure that they are shared equally by all our citizens.
In a society that is striving for racial and religious harmony, we need to do more than tolerate each other … we need to understand each other. We need to see that Nova Scotia’s diversity is a strength; not a weakness.
For over two centuries, waves of immigrants have come to our shores seeking the promise of freedom, peace and equality.
Their countries of origin and their reasons for coming were many, but they all shared a common hope for the future – a safe place to raise their children; to live life free from fear … free from hunger … free from oppression … and free to worship in their own way.”
Each group has made a tremendous contribution to our society — intellectually, scientifically, artistically and culturally.
Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist – we’re all part of the same human family. And we share the same aspirations – good health for our families and the right to live and work with dignity.
Now more than ever, we have to accept and cherish the reality that – except for our Native peoples, we are a nation of immigrants.
And reflecting on the September 11th tragedy should be an opportunity to raise our understanding; not our fences.
I urge everyone to reach out to the members of Nova Scotia’s Muslim community. You will find peace-loving people, who embrace beliefs that are closer to your own than you may realize.
It is true that common threads unite us, but I believe it is our differences that truly make us interesting.
The September 11 tragedy should deepen in Nova Scotia’s culture a profound and unshakable commitment to freedom. It should deepen within each of us an unshakeable commitment to defend the rights of every Nova Scotian.