Hispanic Heritage Month Act

An Act respecting Hispanic Heritage Month

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of June 10, 2015
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment designates the month of October in each and every year as “Hispanic Heritage Month”.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

June 13th, 2018 / 6 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this tremendous opportunity to speak about Bill S-218, the Latin America heritage month act, brought forward by the hon. member for Thornhill. This is a wonderful opportunity to speak about the many great contributions Latin America has made to Canada. I am glad this bill is now being discussed to honour the memory of late senator Tobias Enverga, who I will talk about later in my speech.

In my hometown of Edmonton, Latin America is celebrated annually with the Edmonton Latin Festival. This event is held during the third week of August every year in Churchill Square. The energy felt during this event is contagious and a great chance for the people of Edmonton to try different foods and dances, and learn more about Latin American culture. At the festival, there is an opportunity for people to learn about different dances, including the zumba, mariachi, samba, mambo, the tango, and salsa. Latin American bands are also a huge part of the festival and the upbeat tunes always put smiles on so many faces. This Edmonton Latin Festival is growing every year and I encourage anyone visiting Edmonton in August to stop by and experience the Latin American culture.

Latin American festivals are held across the country, with annual events in Toronto, Vancouver, and right here in Ottawa. These events are an excellent way for Canadians to come together to celebrate Latin America and learn more about the cultural and ancestral heritage of many fellow Canadians. There are estimated to be about 600,000 people of Latin American descent living in Canada. Latin America is the fourth largest source of immigrants to Canada, with more and more people from Latin America arriving annually. My home province of Alberta has one of the highest concentrations of Latin Americans within it, and I am proud to be from a province that has welcomed and embraced so many Latin American immigrants and their families.

Football, or soccer, as we call it, is a national sport of Brazil and a popular game of many Latin American countries. Just today, we learned Canada will host some of the World Cup games during FIFA 2026. Some of these games will likely be in Edmonton, and I am so excited to celebrate the sport with fans from around the world during that World Cup.

Alberta has become a host to a variety of Spanish bilingual programs in both public and private school boards from Edmonton to Calgary and across the province, encouraging young Canadians from Latin American descent or those who are simply interested in the culture to pursue language studies. Sweet Grass Elementary School in my riding of Edmonton Riverbend is host to the well-known international Spanish academy program, which strives to help students develop language and literacy skills in Spanish and teaches students to use both Spanish and English to communicate. The program has had an emphasis on helping many students to learn about the cultures of Spanish-speaking countries, like those in Latin America.

As well, universities across Canada offer both Spanish and Portuguese classes, proving that it is never too late to enrich your life with a second language or increase your knowledge of the culture. These programs also offer a means for immigrants from Latin American countries to stay in touch with their heritage and to continue to express and learn about their native culture. The culture these students learn about is rich and diverse, making for an educational and exciting program.

Many students often travel to different countries in Latin America on exchange programs to get first-hand experience of the culture and lifestyle. The history of Latin America is not only important to those of Latin American descent, but to all Canadians, and all those in the western hemisphere. This part of the world contributes to the global economy and the relationship between states in America reflects the importance Latin America plays in global relations.

Canada is proud to be a member of the Organization of American States, which includes 35 independent states of America, the vast majority of which are Latin American. Groups like OAS connect all Americans through politics, the economy, and the recognition of each other's culture.

Latin America is a geographically diverse part of our hemisphere, encompassing Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. It is comprised of 20 sovereign states and approximately 20 million people who speak Spanish, Portuguese, and French. The diverse climate promises skiing, surfing, hiking, and much more for both residents and tourists, attracting many people from around the world to experience not only the culture but the land itself.

Just like the area is geographically diverse, each country is culturally diverse. The Aztec empire was built in a modern-day Mexico City and the Aztecs developed an alphabet, created ceramic dishes, and left behind beautiful art. They left their legacy on modern-day Mexico with some parts of their language and traditional food still in use.

Brazil, the largest country in Latin America, was founded in 1500 by the Kingdom of Portugal, though indigenous peoples inhabited the country before the Europeans arrived. Like Mexico, art and pottery were important parts of Brazil's development. Today, it is the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world.

I am giving my colleagues this history and geography lesson to really highlight how remarkable the area of Latin America is. There are so many countries, languages, cultures, and people living in this region of the world. I believe it is important to recognize this area of the world and its peoples through a Latin American heritage month here in Canada. Throughout this heritage month, we would be able to celebrate all that Latin America and Latin American people have to offer the world and also acknowledge and honour their history and current presence in the world.

The idea for Latin American history month came from the late Senator Tobias Enverga, who was appointed to the upper house in 2012. Senator Enverga was the first senator of Filipino descent appointed to the Canadian Senate, and with his perspective as an immigrant, he saw the need for a new month to celebrate Latin America. He cited Black History Month and Asian Heritage Month as examples of educational and celebratory months that give all Canadians the opportunity to learn about different cultures and heritages. He argued a Latin American heritage month was deserving of national recognition, and I certainly agree.

Some Canadians might wonder why we have heritage months. These months are important to learn about and recognize the different cultures that have shaped Canada into what it is today. Learning about different cultures, countries, and parts of the world gives our citizens different perspectives and an appreciation for Canada. In May, Canada marked its first-ever Jewish Heritage Month, a great opportunity to reflect on the contributions of Jewish Canadians. I look forward to heritage months every year because I see them as an opportunity for learning and enrichment.

Senator Enverga introduced a bill in the last Parliament, Bill S-228, to create a Hispanic heritage month, which would complement designations already marked by the province of Ontario and the city of Toronto. However, the bill was a casualty of the 2015 election. After that, Senator Enverga altered the bill to focus on Latin America, which encapsulates not only Hispanic culture but francophone communities in Haiti and indigenous peoples in Latin America.

The impact of Latin American culture on Canada cannot be understated. Traditional Latin American food has become common on menus in tens of thousands of restaurants across the country. Spanish is one of the most common languages spoken by Canadians after English and French, and salsa dancing continues to be a popular hobby for many Canadians.

Canada was declared a multicultural nation about 50 years ago. Our multiculturalism designation recognizes the great contributions of so many immigrants who have shaped the landscape of this country. In our bigger cities like Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, a person can visit so many corners of the world through restaurants, festivals, stores, and films. Our nation is admired by so many people across the world for our openness, acceptance, and ability to live among one another peacefully.

In the coming years, with birth rates predicted to continue decreasing, immigration will become even more important for workforce and population maintenance. I am proud to be from a country where immigration is not only happily accepted, but widely encouraged and embraced. I admire immigrants for their courage to leave their country and start a new life in Canada, which often includes learning English or French. Immigrants from Latin America have a great impact on the Canadian workforce, our culture, and our heritage. We are proud to accept Latin Americans from a diverse range of countries into Canada.

I think it is a great idea to formally recognize the month of October as Latin American heritage month, and I wholeheartedly support the hon. member for Thornhill's private member's bill for this declaration. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to speak about the bill today, and thankful for the contributions and hard work of so many people of Latin American descent who now call Canada home. I hope to be able to join my colleagues in celebrating Latin American heritage month this coming October.

Latin American Heritage Month Act

June 6th, 2018 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

[Member spoke in Spanish]

[English]

Madam Speaker, this is yet another opportunity to talk about Latin American heritage month and Bill S-218. Let me acknowledge again the support this bill has received from all sides of the House since it arrived here from the Senate.

This legislation essentially recognizes the many significant contributions to Canada's social, economic, cultural, and political fabric made by Canada's dynamic Latin American community. As I have done on every occasion I have spoken to the bill, I would like to again remind colleagues and those watching on CPAC tonight that this legislation, carefully fashioned by our late colleague, the hon. Senator Tobias Enverga, will I am sure stand as a notable element of his political legacy.

In a moment I will speak of my admiration and unrestrained support for the bill, but first I would like to read just a couple of paragraphs from a speech delivered by Senator Enverga when he spoke at second reading in the other place.

He reminded his colleague that he came to Canada from the Philippines and that he was one of many people now in the Senate who were fortunate enough to be welcomed to Parliament, and to be able to contribute to society. Senator Tobias Enverga pointed out that, “Few countries in the world are as open and accepting to people who come from other countries to settle and make a new life for themselves.” He said, “The Canadian policy of multiculturalism is a great success when it comes to allowing for, and celebrating, the various cultural backgrounds and languages we have”, and share.

The Senator referenced other heritage months that moved him to propose one for Canadians of Latin American descent. He talked about the importance of Black History Month, proclaimed in 1995, and about Asian Heritage Month. He anticipated Italian Heritage Month and Portuguese Heritage Month, both passed into law just last year, and this year we celebrated Jewish Heritage Month.

Before I get to the bill he created, the process and legislation before us today, I will provide a little background on this great Canadian.

Tobias “Jun” Enverga was respected by all for his kindness, warm sense of humour, and his unparalleled work ethic. He was a family man, self-described as surrounded by four lovely women, his daughters Reeza, Rocel, and Rystle, and his wife Rosemer. He was a tireless advocate for people with disabilities. Tobias served as a Catholic School Board trustee in Toronto for years and became known in the Toronto region for launching the Philippine Canadian Charitable Foundation and its fantastic annual Pinoy festival and trade show, which, by the way, is next Saturday at the Toronto Convention Centre. Senator Enverga was also co-chair of the Canada-Philippines Interparliamentary Group, and inaugurated the annual Filipino independence day flag raising on Parliament Hill, which I am sure many members of the House will attend on Monday morning.

During his years at the Senate, Senator Enverga was a member of several standing committees. He participated in a variety of important studies on issues ranging from first nations northern housing to maritime search and rescue operations. Also, and this is very important to remember, Senator Enverga was an executive member of the ParlAmericas group. He invested his energy in forging closer ties with parliamentarians from across Latin America, helping them to strengthen democracy and governance in their countries through political dialogue and parliamentary co-operation. It was his work with ParlAmericas that moved him to propose the bill before us today.

As we know all too well, Senator Enverga passed away Thursday, November 16, while on parliamentary business in Colombia. Despite his tragic and untimely passing, Senator Enverga's Latin American heritage month bill lives on. It was passed in the other place a couple of weeks later and sent to us in the House.

Some of my colleagues in the House may remember that Senator Enverga introduced a bill in the 41st Parliament, Bill S-228, to create a Hispanic heritage month, matching such designations by the Province of Ontario and the City of Toronto. However, that bill was lost on the Order Paper in the election of 2015.

Senator Enverga, after further consultation with members of the public, reconsidered the reintroduction of that legislation and decided instead to change the focus in this bill to “Latin American”, as a geographic and linguistic community, which adds not only the Lusophone and Francophone communities, but also those of the indigenous peoples of the Latin American region. This was not a snap decision. Senator Enverga pondered long and deeply the issues of self-identification of the diverse Latin American community in Canada. He became convinced that a Latin American heritage month would better enhance our understanding of the complexities involved and believed this act would better respect the spirit of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988.

Latin America is of our hemisphere. The region is generally understood to consist of the entire continent of South America, all of Central America, Mexico, and the islands of the Caribbean whose peoples speak a Romance language or have a Romance language among their various official languages.

For the purposes of this bill, Senator Enverga envisioned the widest possible interpretation so Bill S-218 would cover those who identified as Spanish and Portuguese speakers from South America and Central America, as well as those whose heritage was of the Francophone and Hispanic Caribbean Islands.

Using that broad and inclusive measure, we can see that Canadians of Latin American origin can be found far and wide across our great country from coast to coast to coast. In the absence of absolute census numbers covering that broad, and I think members would agree somewhat imprecise measure, we might estimate a possible demographic well above half a million men, women and children.

What we do know is that the Latin American community is one of the fastest-growing cultural groups in Canada today. Statistics Canada reports that between 1996 and 2001, for example, the number of individuals reporting Latin American origins rose by 32%, at a time when the overall Canadian population grew by only 4%.

With respect to actual numbers, the demographers can only estimate that between 600,000 and 1.2 million Latin Americans, again from the broadest possible measure, live among us. These numbers are particularly interesting, given there was only a small Latin American population in Canada before the 1960s. It was in the sixties and seventies that we recorded the first significant migration of Latin Americans to Canada. Unfortunately, in too many cases, their motivation was to escape social and economic turmoil, dictatorships, conflict, and most recently another wave, fleeing Venezuela's corrupt and repressive regimes under, first, Hugo Chavez, and now the brutal Nicolas Maduro. These Latin Americans represented significant loss to the countries they left, but they have been a boon to Canada.

I could speak to the virtues of supporting Bill S-218, a bill to bring Latin American Heritage Month to Canada, but I must stop there. I move:

That, when the order for consideration of Bill S-218, an Act respecting Latin American Heritage Month is next called, the time provided for the consideration of any remaining stage of the bill be extended, pursuant to Standing Order 98(3), by a period not exceeding five consecutive hours.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

moved that Bill S-218, an act respecting Latin American heritage month, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in support of Bill S-218. However, as much as I am honoured to sponsor this proposed legislation, which recognizes the many significant contributions to Canada's social, economic, and political fabric by Canada's Latin American community, I do so with a measure of sadness, because this legislation was conceived and lovingly fashioned by our late colleague, the hon. Senator Tobias Enverga. Before I address the specifics of the legislation and the overwhelming logic behind it, I would like to speak to Senator Enverga's memory.

Senator Tobias Enverga, known to his friends as “Jun”, was the first Canadian of Filipino descent to be appointed to the Senate. Born in the Philippines, he represented Ontario in the upper house after his appointment in 2012. His was a proud and very positive voice not only for the Filipino community, but also for a host of others in the greater Toronto area and across the country.

Senator Enverga was a passionate champion of multiculturalism. He believed that Canada's wonderful, ever-developing diversity to be our country's greatest strength. He was respected by Senate and House colleagues alike for his kindness, his warm sense of humour, and his unparalleled work ethic. He was a tireless advocate for people with disabilities. He served as a Catholic School Board trustee in Toronto and became known in the Toronto region for launching the Philippine Canadian Charitable Foundation. He was co-chair of the Canada-Philippines Interparliamentary Group and inaugurated the annual Filipino Independence Day flag raising on Parliament Hill.

During his years in the Senate, Tobias was a member of several standing committees and participated in a variety of important studies on issues ranging from first nations northern housing to maritime search and rescue operations. As well, he was an executive member of the ParlAmericas group and invested his energy in forging closer ties with parliamentarians throughout Latin America, helping them to strengthen democracy and governance through political dialogue and parliamentary co-operation. It was Senator Enverga's work with ParlAmericas that moved him to propose the bill that is before the House today.

Senator Enverga died Thursday, November 16, while on parliamentary business in Colombia. Despite his tragic and untimely passing, Senator Enverga's Latin American heritage month bill does live on. It was passed in the other place a couple of weeks later, and it was sent to us in this House.

When Senator Enverga first spoke to Bill S-218, he reminded colleagues that he came to Canada as an immigrant, one of many in the upper chamber fortunate to have been welcomed to Canada. He referred to the spectrum of celebrations held across Canada by communities of various national, ethnic, and linguistic origins. He highlighted the two decades-plus annual celebration of Black History Month, recognized by the House in 1995 and by the Senate 13 years later. He explained that the designation of Black History Month has done much to educate and to familiarize Canadians with the stories and the history of an important demographic too often absent in school curricula previously. He mentioned as well Asian Heritage Month, passed and proclaimed in 2002 and marked annually ever since, when non-Asian Canadians learn of and experience the sounds, entertainment, and tastes of Asia, and the contribution that Asian Canadians have brought to Canadian society. Senator Enverga argued that those are just two wonderful examples of designated heritage months to which he believed a Latin American heritage month should be added.

Some of my colleagues in the House may remember that Senator Enverga introduced a bill in the 41st Parliament, Bill S-228, to create a Hispanic heritage month, matching such designation by the Province of Ontario and by the City of Toronto. That bill died in the election of 2015. Senator Enverga, after consultation with the members of the public, reconsidered the reintroduction of that legislation and decided to change the focus in the bill to Latin America as a geographic and linguistic community which would add not only the lusophone and francophone communities but also those of indigenous peoples of the Latin American region.

This was not a snap decision. Senator Enverga pondered long and deeply the issues of self-identification of the diverse Latin American community in Canada. He became convinced that a Latin American heritage month would better enhance our understanding of the complexities involved. He also believed it would respect the spirit of the Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988.

Latin America is of our hemisphere. The region is generally understood to consist of the entire continent of South America, all of Central America, Mexico, and the islands of the Caribbean, whose people speak a Romance language or have a Romance language among their various national official languages. For the purposes of this bill, Senator Enverga envisaged the widest possible interpretation so that Bill S-218 would cover those who identify as Spanish and Portuguese speakers from South America and Central America, as well as those whose heritage is of the francophone and Hispanic Caribbean Islands.

Using that broad and very inclusive measure, we can see that Canadians of Latin American origin can be found far and wide across our great country from coast to coast to coast. In the absence of absolute census numbers covering that broad and somewhat imprecise measure, we might estimate a probable demographic well above half a million men, women, and children.

What we do know is that the Latin American community is one of the fastest-growing cultural groups in Canada today. Statistics Canada reports that between 1996 and 2001, the number of individuals reporting Latin American origins rose by 32%, at a time when the overall Canadian population grew by only 4%. Again, in terms of actual numbers, demographers can only estimate that between 600,000 and perhaps 1.2 million Latin Americans, again from the broadest possible measure, live among us.

These numbers are particularly interesting given that there was only a very small Latin American population in Canada before the 1960s. It was in the 1960s and 1970s that Canada recorded the first significant migration of Latin Americans. Their motivation sadly in too many cases was to escape social and economic turmoil, dictatorships, and conflict. Most recently, another wave is fleeing Venezuela's corrupt and repressive regimes under first, Hugo Chavez, and now, the brutal Nicolas Maduro. These Latin Americans represented significant loss to the countries that they left, but they have been a boon to Canada. Their education, their skills, and their adaptability have been of great benefit to Canada's labour market, to our economy, and to our culture.

The top three South American countries with the highest populations living in Canada, according to census statistics, are Mexico, Colombia, and El Salvador. The three countries from South America with the smallest populations now living in Canada are Puerto Rico, Panama, and Costa Rica. Most Canadians of Latin American origin live in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, or Alberta, with almost half making their homes in Ontario.

Canada's Latin American population is young. Statistics Canada tells us that almost 50% of those with Latin American origins living in Canada are under the age of 25. Seniors make up less than 5% of those reporting Latin American origins, compared with 12% of all other Canadians.

Virtually all Canadians of Latin American origin are functional in one of Canada's two official languages. They are slightly more likely than the rest of our population to have university degrees. Also, Statistics Canada tells us that working-age adults of Latin American origins are somewhat more likely to be employed than the rest of Canada's adult population, fully 64% of adults of Latin American origin.

Latin America as a region is considered the fourth-largest source of immigration to Canada. However, in sharp contrast to the United States, the demographic is not measured or appreciated nearly as much as are their counterparts in the U.S.

That is where Senator Enverga's bill, Bill S-218, stands not only to deepen our appreciation and celebration of our Latin American community, but to more precisely measure the actual numbers and its regional contributions to our economy and culture.

Canada's Latin American population is a vibrant and multicultural community, composed of a range of subgroupings. First-generation artists, musicians, writers, and athletes, as well as leaders in the science, health, and business sectors, have led second and third generations that are adding their talents and skills to the mix.

I know that hon. members enjoy a party. There are any number of events across the country that celebrate the multi-dimensional Latin American community. One perfect example is Toronto's annual Salsa on St. Clair. Last year's party, on a closed-off midtown street, drew hundreds of thousands of people, attracting more musicians, dancers, families, and Latino aficionados than ever before to enjoy the sounds, sights, tastes, dances, and all the colour of the Americas.

Senator Enverga's bill, Bill S-218, would designate the month of October each and every year as Latin American heritage month. Let me explain the logic of this designation. October is a very significant month across Latin America. It is the month that marks the end of the annual season of independence celebrations from Mexico to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.

October 12 marks Dia de las Culturas, the day of the cultures, in Costa Rica; Dia de la Resistencia lndigena, the day of indigenous resistance, in Venezuela; Dia del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural, the day of respect for cultural diversity, in Argentina; Dia de las Américas, the day of the Americas, in Uruguay; and the feast day of Our Lady of Aparecida, the appearance, and Dia das Crianças, children's day, in Brazil.

Puerto Rico and Chile also wrap up their independence celebrations coming up to October, and many other countries, including Mexico, end October with the three-day celebration of Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead, a celebration of ancestors.

Of course, we cannot forget the Hispanic influences in Senator Enverga's own country of origin. Canada's large and vibrant Filipino community, although fiercely proud of the independence won from Spain, which we celebrate every year in my riding of Thornhill, still observes All Saints' Day, the Day of the Dead, and many other cultural legacies of colonial days maintained among their newer national traditions.

When Senator Enverga originally approached me to ask that I sponsor his bill in the House, he explained that, as a former minister of state for the Americas, I understood the wonderful mix and complexity of Canada's communities composed of those among us who originated from Latin America, and I would be able to put voice to the message that led to the passage of Bill S-218 in the other place.

I hope that I have communicated the senator's worthy dream. I believe that declaring the month of October to be Latin American heritage month would fulfill a wonderful opportunity to celebrate another dimension of our uniquely Canadian multicultural society. I urge members of all parties in the House to support Bill S-218.