When It Comes To Diversity, Canada's Prime Minister Gets It

"The range of experiences become the mainstream in Canada, and for me, that happens within our public schools."

If you want to talk diversity with Justin Trudeau, be prepared to talk about public education.

Because according to the Canadian Prime Minister, a successful multicultural society rests upon public schools. Trudeau eloquently made his case in a conversation at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week, arguing that a truly inclusive school environment sets up success elsewhere in society.

"Instead of looking at multiculturalism as a whole bunch of a mainstream culture going to a school gym on a given day, and going to different booths, and sampling samosas here, and then going over to see a Berber dance over here,” he opened, using a school event as a metaphor, "we have instead an entire school celebrating Diwali, the festival of lights, or looking up their Chinese horoscopes, or talking about how to support your friends going through Ramadan.”

“The range of experiences become the mainstream in Canada, and for me, that happens within our public schools. It happens within our education, and that is the answer when people are saying, ‘Oh, these folks aren’t integrating into our value systems quick enough.’”

Trudeau thinks education sets up a system where people from multiple different cultures interact, opening the door for a truly integrated society moving forward -- not just separate pockets coexisting independently.

"[We have to ensure] that education gives people the tools to understand that you don’t have to choose between the identity that your parents have and being a full citizen of Canada," he added. "Yes, there are behaviors and attitudes that are different … growing up a second-generation Muslim girl in Canada means you may have to have a difficult conversation with your parents about lipstick or about that Indian boy you're dating.”

These shifts may not happen immediately, he said, but it will ultimately build a much stronger, more resilient Canadian society.

“But these are things that do not weaken the fabric of who you are and the society you belong to. And it’s not easy, that’s why you can’t do it overnight. But that’s where a diverse and open and inclusive education system, and open circle of friends is what we have to work towards in our communities."

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