Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House at this relatively late hour to debate Bill S-218.
Before I do, I want to make note of the hard-working people who allow this place to operate: the table officers, the pages, our Hansard reporters, Parliamentary Protective Service, food services, the bus drivers, and everyone who keeps this place going. They do an exceptional job, especially at this late hour. I would just point out that the Hansard officer today is a young man by the name of Sam, who is actually in the Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs, which is the same college I attended at Carleton University. He is an exceptional, hard-working young man.
I would note that I am the 35th person to debate the bill tonight. I would note as well that those who have debated so far have been Conservatives, New Democrats, and even the Green Party. Unfortunately, those who serve as members of the government have not spoken to the bill.
Bill S-218 was introduced in the other place by our dear friend, our late colleague, the hon. Senator Tobias Enverga. Certainly, on a night like this when we are debating his bill, we all wish he was here with us, that he could be sitting in the Senate gallery observing this important debate. However, we lost him all too soon at the age of 61. In fact, he was attending a meeting of the Canadian section of the ParlAmericas, travelling with the Canadian section to Colombia when he passed away so suddenly. Tonight our thoughts are with his family, his dear wife Rosemer and their three daughters. As we have heard, his daughters were truly his inspiration for a variety of different things, including his support of Canadians living with disabilities. One of his daughters lives with Down's syndrome and was always a support to him.
As members will know, before being elected, Senator Enverga was a trustee in the Toronto Catholic District School Board. In fact, when he was elected to that position, he became the first Filipino Canadian elected within the city of Toronto. When he was appointed to the other place in 2012, it was the first time a Filipino Canadian had been appointed to the other place. In the 145 years, to that point, of Confederation, Senator Enverga became the first Filipino Canadian to be appointed to the Senate.
When I rise to debate the bill, an act respecting Latin American heritage month, I think of the many Canadians of Latin American descent who came to Canada to build a better life for themselves and for their families. I think of a good friend of mine, Sebastian Ortega. His parents, Julio and Carmen Ortega came from Peru to Canada in 1993. They are now proud to be living in Canada and their family is contributing to our great society.
When the bill was introduced in the other place, Senator Enverga rose on March 8, 2016, to state:
I came to Canada as an immigrant, and I am one of many in this chamber who have been fortunate to be welcomed here to contribute to our society. 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 as our country is. 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.
I would echo those comments from the late senator. By passing Bill S-218 we are able to celebrate that great diversity. We are able to celebrate that history of multiculturalism that we see in this place, that we see across the country, and that we see in each of our ridings.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2016 there were 674,640 Canadians living in Canada who are of Latin American descent. Indeed, in my own riding of Perth—Wellington, a strong rural community, there are 1,570 Canadians who are of Latin American descent. It is important that we recognize and celebrate this contribution to our great society.
There is precedent for a bill of this nature. The House and the other place have, in the 42nd Parliament, designated a variety of months or days for symbolic cultural purposes. The month of May was designated as Canadian Jewish Heritage Month. Motion No. 124 designated the month of January as Tamil Heritage Month. Motion No. 64 dedicated the month of June as Italian Heritage Month. Motion No. 73 dedicated the month of October as German Heritage Month. Coming from a riding with a strong German presence, we certainly appreciate that recognition. Motion No. 126 dedicated the month of June as Portuguese Heritage Month. On the Order Paper, as we speak, Bill C-317 would designate the month of October as Hispanic heritage month, and Bill C-376 would designate the month of April as Sikh heritage month.
I have minor concerns about some of these bills, and they are mathematical in nature. We only have 12 months in the year, and there is some duplication and overlap in months. That is a concern for some. For example, the bill we are debating here tonight would designate October as the said month for Latin American heritage month, which would fall in the same month as Oktoberfest and German Heritage Month. There is an overlap. It is not an insurmountable overlap or a significant concern that would delay the passage of the bill, but it is something we need to recognize, and ensure that we are cognizant of these points when we are debating this issue.
For example, we have already passed in this place the designation of the month of June both as Italian Heritage Month and as Portuguese Heritage Month. We can enjoy and celebrate both those important contributions by recognizing these days.
I would note that earlier tonight, the member for Huron—Bruce provided an exceptional overview of some of the contributions Latin American players have made to the great sport of baseball. In my riding of Perth—Wellington, we are home to the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and the induction ceremony is this weekend. Madam Speaker, if you are free, we would welcome you at the induction ceremony, where they will be honouring Pedro Martinez, who was born in the Dominican Republic and will be inducted for his time with the Montreal Expos. I am looking forward to that celebration this Saturday, and I invite all members to join us on Saturday when we make that induction official.
I would like to conclude by saying how important I think it is to recognize the month of October as Latin American heritage month, and I would like to conclude with the words of Senator Enverga. He said, in the other place:
Declaring the month of October as Latin American heritage month will be a wonderful opportunity for us to contribute to our collective story, a uniquely Canadian story increasingly filled with symbols of multiculturalism, a shared history that has led us to the society we now live in where our rights and freedoms are protected under the principles of peace, order and good government.