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Conversation about race, identity must come out into the open, Adrienne Clarkson says

Article originally appeared on CBC‘s The Early Edition.

Adrienne Clarkson says the rise of right-wing nationalism around the world has been the impetus for starting a country-wide dialogue about nationalism and identity.

The former governor general is hosting a speaker series and forum in Vancouver at Simon Fraser University Monday.

“We’re very worried about the future which is why we’ve initiated the series,” she said.

“We want the conversation to be open. We want people to discuss things. We want them to be out in the open. We don’t want questions of identity, questions of belonging, questions of who should belong to come into the forum and to be answered by ignorance.”

She said Canada has the capacity for resilience in light of recent anti-immigrant movements that have affected places like Europe and the United States because she believes immigrants can feel like they belong in Canada.

“Except for the native peoples, the Indigenous peoples, we’ve all come here from somewhere else,” she said.

Audio recording of interview:

“[But] everybody does feel in some way or other that they have a share in this country or are getting a share.  That is the nature of becoming a person that becomes a Canadian that says I belong here.”

Clarkson, who was the 26th Governor General of Canada and arrived in Canada as a refugee, says her own story is a “marvelous” example of Canada’s relationship to immigrants and refugees and how Canada can evolve.

“When I came to this country, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923 was still on the books which said that anyone who was Chinese who comes here had to pay [a] $100 head tax,” she said.

“What we’ve been able to do in Canada is to change.”