Latin American Heritage Month Act

An Act respecting Latin American Heritage Month

Status

Second reading (House), as of March 19, 2018

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill S-218.

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 “Latin American 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

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

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2018 / 11:15 a.m.
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Whitby Ontario

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to recognize and pay respect to Senator Tobias Enverga for introducing this bill, and I would like to thank the member for sponsoring it. It is incredibly important.

In his speech, Senator Enverga recognized the importance of Asian Heritage Month and Black History Month, looking at the rich colour, vibrancy, and culture of those groups, and now he has introduced Latin American heritage month, which includes the Caribbean, where I am from. As mentioned, I came here in the 1970s, so I can attest to a lot of the things my hon. colleague talked about.

As it is the fastest growing group in Canada, I am wondering if my hon. colleague could speak to how important it is for Canadians across the country to learn about and understand multiculturalism, and the intersectionality, heritage, and history of this group in our Canadian context.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2018 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for telling us about her fond remembrance of Senator Enverga.

The heritage months that have been recognized by the Parliament of Canada, by the upper house and this House, have at their heart, I believe, the unspoken intent of intercultural recognition, acceptance, and the celebration of Canada's wonderful diversity. They provide an occasion, on an annual basis, for subsequent generations to maintain that memory when there may be a tendency, in this case for those of Latin American heritage, to lose some contact with their language and culture.

We passed a bill just recently for Jewish Heritage Month. Canadians of Latin American origin, like those of black origin or Asian origin, do celebrate and maintain all of the best of their individual cultures and languages, as well as share them to enable all Canadians to join in the celebrations, in this case celebrations that would take place during the month of October.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Latin American community has contributed greatly to Canada, not just as immigrants, but also as temporary foreign workers. Many temporary foreign workers, particularly those who are seasonal workers, do not qualify for benefits they pay into, for example employment insurance.

To really honour the community and its contributions to Canada, would the member agree that we should align our government policies to ensure that those who pay into those programs qualify for the benefits and, more to the point, that if they are good enough to work, they are good enough to stay?

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for a question that regularly comes to the surface at a time when temporary foreign workers from Central America and South America come north to Canada to assist in the harvesting of crops or to work in the meat-packing industry in western Canada. Too often, they are discriminated against by the uninformed in the communities where they are temporarily employed. Sometimes they live in less than appropriate or comfortable housing conditions.

On any number of occasions in the last 15 years, the House of Commons has considered granting broader rights and benefits to those who, as my colleague just said, are good enough to come to Canada to work but, in too many cases, have not received the subsequent benefits they should have received or the opportunity to perhaps make their residency in Canada permanent, which Latin American students, for example, can now accomplish much more easily than in the past.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2018 / 11:20 a.m.
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Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism)

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today in the House to speak to Bill S-218, an act respecting Latin American heritage month, which would recognize the contributions of Latin American communities to Canada and establish October of each year as Latin American heritage month.

As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage with responsibility for multiculturalism, I am pleased to inform the House that the government supports the bill. In so doing, let me start by paying tribute to the late Senator Tobias Enverga, the author of this bill, a strong senator, a great Filipino Canadian, and a champion of multiculturalism.

Canadians of Latin American origin have been part of the Canadian mosaic for decades. This bill recognizes the richness of these Latin American communities and their significant contributions to the social, economic, and political fabric of Canada.

Given the strong and growing presence of individuals of Latin American ancestry, this bill is a meaningful way to remember those contributions, educate the public, and encourage all Canadians to celebrate Latin American culture and traditions.

Formal recognition of Latin American heritage month is significant because it aligns with what all of us know, that in Canada our diversity is indeed our strength, and that as a country we are strengthened in many ways by our shared experiences, by the diversity that inspires both Canada and the world, and by the way in which we treat one another.

Official recognition is also consistent with other similar commemorations that reinforce the importance of cultural communities to Canada's identity. A few examples have already been mentioned today. We previously supported the establishment of February as Black History Month, and May as Asian Heritage Month. A new Latin American heritage month in October would complement these other celebrations and recognize the contributions of this important group in Canada.

In 1971, Pierre Trudeau declared multiculturalism as an official policy in this country, the first of its kind anywhere in the world. In 1982, upon the patriation of our Constitution and the enactment of the charter, section 27 was enacted, which includes references to “the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians” and the important role this plays in protecting the rights of every citizen.

Recognizing the past and current contributions of Latin Americans who immigrated to Canada and have contributed to this country is in keeping with our country's commitment to an inclusive, multicultural society.

Let me reinforce the fact that our multicultural heritage is a reflection of our commitment to equality and the fundamental freedoms that are grounded in human rights. In 1988, Canada became the first nation to proclaim a Multiculturalism Act. We are celebrating the 30th anniversary of that legislation this year.

This law requires that we promote the multicultural heritage of Canadians. It also requires that we work to ensure that all Canadians are equal in our economic, social, cultural, and political life. However, our government has taken this approach one step further. Formal recognition of Latin American heritage month would directly support Canada's approach to multiculturalism, an approach that seeks to recognize and promote the cultural and racial diversity of Canada, one that acknowledges the freedom of all members of Canadian society to preserve, enhance, and share their cultural heritage.

In going one step further, we have addressed this issue in budget 2018. In the most recent budget, we announced nearly $50 million in new funding to support programming that empowers communities to combat racism and discrimination: $23 million has been dedicated to multiculturalism; in addition, $19 million has been dedicated to the black community, and $6 million to the collection and dissemination of data on racialized persons. These funds will allow us to craft a new national anti-racism approach and give meaning to the official language contained in the Multiculturalism Act.

Let me return to Bill S-218, the Latin American heritage month bill before us today. The question that immediately comes to mind is, why October? Each year, during the month of October, peoples of Hispanic origin around the world pay tribute to their shared culture through celebrations such as Hispanic day, the day of the cultures, the day of indigenous resistance, and the commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month in North America. The latter celebrates the presence of Hispanics in North America, starting with the arrival of Christopher Columbus on October 12, 1492.

October is also recognized as Hispanic Heritage Month in the city of Toronto, the province of Ontario, and in the United States. Bill S-218 underscores the importance of this community to our entire country and builds awareness at the national level.

I would like to say a few words about Latin Americans and who they are exactly. They are my constituents in Parkdale—High Park, who hail from all parts of the Americas in which Spanish or Portuguese is the main language. They are the folks in Toronto who run Salsa on St. Clair, the Argentinian community at Folklorama in Winnipeg, and the Peruvian community at Folkfest in Saskatoon. “Hispanic” is a narrower term, which is defined as “of or connected with Spain or Spanish-speaking countries”.

When Senator Enverga introduced this bill in the Senate, he explained that he had consulted members of the community and the public and had considered more inclusive and neutral wording. As a result, the bill refers to the geographic linguistic community of Latin America, which includes Portuguese- and French-speaking communities, as well as the indigenous peoples of the region, as opposed to the common but narrower reference to people of Hispanic heritage alone.

Bill S-218 defines Latin America broadly as a group of nations that includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela, as well as Puerto Rico, the French West Indies, and other islands.

As pointed out by Senator Enverga, many if not all Latin American countries also have a shared colonial history, stemming from the time when Spain and Portugal were world powers.

The first wave of Latin American immigration to Canada occurred between 1970 and 1973 with the arrival of approximately 68,000 immigrants. Today, Canadians of Latin American origin represent one of the largest non-European ethnic groups in Canada. As referenced earlier in today's debate, they are a constantly growing population, who represent more than 544,000 Canadian individuals and counting.

The majority of Latin Americans in Canada are Catholics, representing more than 60% of the Latin American community. Latin Americans are a diverse group within a diverse nation that we now all call home.

As a government, we are proud to support Bill S-218, which promotes and upholds our diversity and strengthens our multicultural and pluralistic society. At our root, we firmly believe we will only succeed as a nation when we move from simply tolerating differences to truly celebrating differences. Bill S-218 is an important step in allowing us to do just that. I urge my fellow parliamentarians to honour the memory of the late Senator Enverga and support this bill.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2018 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House today to speak in favour of Bill S-218, an act respecting Latin American heritage month. This bill would enshrine October of every year as Latin American heritage month, in recognition of social, economic, and political contributions that the Latin American community has made to Canada.

Before I speak further to this bill, I would like to recognize that this bill is before us today due to the tireless work of Senator Enverga, whom we were all saddened to lose in November of last year. Senator Enverga was the first Filipino Canadian appointed to the Senate, and he was deeply respected for his advocacy work for persons with disabilities and Canada's multiculturalism. The bill before us today is an example of his dedication to honouring a diverse Canada, and it is a pleasure to continue that work in this House.

Close to 40,000 people in the Lower Mainland have Latin American heritage. The community is vibrant and diverse, and every year there are plenty of wonderful events and activities highlighting and celebrating their culture. This year, from June 27 to July 8, Vancouver will celebrate Latin American Week. Carnaval del Sol, a free family-friendly festival, is always one of the biggest attractions. This year will be the 10th annual Carnaval del Sol, and will feature close to 400 performers showcasing singers, dancers, bands, and incredible food. Latin American Week will give people the opportunity to attend cooking classes, dancing classes, a fashion show, and plenty of arts and crafts displays highlighting the diversity of Vancouver's Latin American community. From August 23 to September 2, Vancouver will have its 16th annual Latin American Film Festival showcasing contemporary Latin American and Latin Canadian filmmaking. I encourage all Canadians to check similar events in their communities or in communities nearby, as festivals and events like these happen across Canada each year. If there is not one in their community, I invite people to come to Vancouver and check out ours.

I and my New Democratic Party colleagues are proud supporters of Canada's multiculturalism and have long supported celebrating the unique heritage of Canada and Canadians. Our great diversity has allowed Canada to be built through the contributions of many different ethnic and religious groups, and those with Latin American heritage are most certainly among them. Canada's rich cultural mosaic is one of the things that makes Canada what it is today. It is a huge strength that we should all celebrate and be proud of. Events like Vancouver's Latin American Week and Latin American Film Festival put on display for all of us the richness of our society. The opportunity to speak to this and to attend events like those mentioned is one of the many reasons I have been honoured to be the NDP critic for multiculturalism.

The other hat that I wear for the New Democratic Party is that of critic for immigration, refugees, and citizenship. I feel it is important to examine bills like this from that lens as well, because actions speak louder than words. Recognizing Canada's diverse cultures and heritage is important, but it is even more important to recognize how we treat the people of that culture and heritage. According to the 2016 census, over 1.4 million Canadians identified as having Caribbean origin, or Latin, Central, or South American origins.

However, this number does not truly reflect how many individuals with Latin American heritage are in Canada and contributing immensely to Canada's society and economy. While none of Canada's top-10 source countries for new permanent residents are in Latin America, seven of the top-20 countries for temporary foreign workers annually are. Mexico and Jamaica are the top countries of origin for temporary foreign workers in Canada. Additionally, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Brazil, held top spots in 2017. These countries alone accounted for almost 37,000 temporary foreign workers in Canada, on positive labour market impact assessments from January to September.

The seasonal agricultural worker program sees an additional 30,000 labourers coming to Canada each year, primarily from Mexico, Jamaica, and other Caribbean countries. People from this program provide vital contributions to Canada, working long hard hours in Canada's agriculture industry to ensure our crops are harvested and sent to market.

I do not believe we can truly recognize the contributions of Latin Americans to Canada without recognizing the immense contributions of Latin Americans who, due to how our immigration system functions, come here every year to provide vital services while lacking a pathway to making Canada their home. While these programs are structured to fill temporary needs, some research has shown that many agricultural workers have been coming to Canada for 10 years or more. Neither the seasonal agricultural worker program nor the agricultural workers stream of the temporary foreign worker program offer a pathway to permanence for these people, and force them to leave their families back home while in Canada.

While doing this incredibly important work in Canada, these workers often find themselves excluded from workplace protections that Canadians take for granted, even if they are paying for them. Workers in the seasonal agricultural worker program are not eligible for employment insurance despite it being deducted from their paycheques, and they are excluded from most aspects of employment standards acts, to name just two issues.

If we are to celebrate Latin American heritage in Canada and designate October to be Latin American heritage month, we need to match these words with actions. Let us not just recognize the importance of diversity and the joy of attending beautiful festivals and celebrations, but examine how our policies prevent the people whose heritage we say we appreciate from staying in Canada and calling it their home. Let us use this opportunity to realign our policies to recognize how much we rely on Latin American people in Canada by ensuring that we provide them with the ability to become a Canadian citizen. I have always said that if they are good enough to work here, they are good enough to stay. That approach should be the foundational principle for Canada's immigration policies.

In recognition of the contribution of the Latin American community, let us begin that work. Let us make sure that for all those who come to contribute to Canada in a permanent fashion, in a temporary fashion, and particularly for the temporary foreign workers, that we honour them by ensuring that if they are good enough to work here, they are good enough to stay.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to able to speak to this important bill recognizing Latin American heritage month here in Canada. As other colleagues have, I want to start by recognizing the incredible work on this particular initiative, and in general, by the late Senator Tobias Enverga. Many good comments have been made about his work. I personally remember him as a person of contagious joy, and that is my enduring impression of him. Yes, there is the important work he did on initiatives like this, but I will remember him as being someone who was so full of goodwill and had an evident rich love for his family. He was always proud to have his family with him at different events. I want to associate myself with the words of my colleagues about Senator Enverga.

I also thank my colleague from Thornhill for the excellent work he has done in this place on this bill. I know issues in Latin America are close to his heart. He has done a great deal of work around human rights issues in Venezuela. Coming out of his work as minister with a particular focus on the Americas, it is very appropriate he has picked up this particular initiative. It is one I know is close to his heart as well.

I have a few comments about heritage months in general. The questions I sometimes get from constituents are “What's this heritage month thing all about?”, “Why do we have them?” and “Why are they even necessary?” I want to defend the idea of having heritage months for a number of different reasons.

First of all, these are important points of recognition and appreciation, of acknowledgement of the contributions different cultural communities bring to Canada. Second, just so people understand, there is no associated cost or government spending. It is not a month off work or anything like that. These heritage months are simply a point in time at which we recognize and appreciate contributions.

Also, these heritage months provide a particular opportunity for cultural sharing. Arguably, people from the community named are going to be aware of their own culture and heritage at all times of the year regardless. However, when we have a designated heritage month, that is a point in time for everybody else to pay particular attention to or recognize, or maybe be reminded that this is an opportunity to learn about and from the particular aspects of a culture and become more aware of it. It is not as practical to say that we should just be aware of all cultures at all times, although in a lot of ways we should. Having these specific points of noting and reminding ourselves is worthwhile as part of that process of ongoing cultural sharing and education.

These heritage months also provide us with an opportunity to note and listen to the experiences of Canadians from diverse backgrounds. In particular, we know Canadians from visible minority backgrounds may experience prejudice others do not, and using these times as an opportunity to reflect on that, be sensitive to that, and learn about the experiences of others is very valuable.

It is not enough to say that one is simply blind to difference. It is important to affirm equal dignity, but it is also important to notice and understand the particular challenges people may face, as well as to work to improve the situation of people in the context of their particular experiences. It requires us to listen to recognize that other people's experiences may not be the same as ours, and may not even be something we observe, because their experiences are their experiences. These heritage months and other such points of acknowledgement are important moments for us to notice those experiences and be very sensitive about listening to what the experiences of others may be that are different from our own.

In particular, Bill S-218 is a bill that calls on us to recognize the contributions of people in Canada from Central and South American backgrounds. Obviously, this is a very diverse region in and of itself. For the most part, we are talking about people who come from a Spanish-speaking background, but also people from a wide variety of different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

I was reading an article recently in The Economist that spoke about Italian speakers in Brazil. This was something I did not know, but certain small linguistic dialects exist in Brazil that may have a close relationship to forms of Italian, German, and of course, many different indigenous languages and backgrounds. That diversity is certainly reflected in the Canadian experience as well. We are enriched by the contributions of the wide diversity of peoples who come here from different backgrounds.

Other colleagues have mentioned the importance of October in terms of a number of different holidays, which were mentioned, and various feasts and celebrations that have their roots in different cultural backgrounds from that part of the world.

Members may know that I am a Catholic. Probably the most recognizable Latin American person in the world today would be Pope Francis who comes from Argentina. I think it is worth reflecting on his work as he is someone whose experience particularly reflects coming from Argentina, seeing the poverty that exists in parts of South America, and being very convicted in bringing our attention to the need to fight for justice and do all we can to help the poor and the marginalized. I think many people, Catholic and non-Catholic, have been greatly inspired by his work and his challenge to all of us to be more sensitive in response to the experiences of those who are struggling and to do all we can to be attentive to the needs of the poor.

Another figure I would like to mention, and someone Pope Francis has highlighted, is the late Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero. Again, he is an example of a leading Catholic figure who spoke out against injustice. He is someone who is moving forward through the process of beatification. Oscar Romero was assassinated in the midst of celebrating mass. He was in the middle of serving a mass for people who were in the church when someone came in and killed him. There was never a conviction for that crime. He was one of those people who was fearless in speaking out on the importance of justice and universal human dignity. He did so in the context of an environment of great political conflict, tension, and oppression of those who are vulnerable. These are figures I want to highlight as people who have been an inspiration to me and who come from this part of the world.

Many people who come to Canada, regardless of where they came from, certainly not all but many, come to escape conditions that were less than ideal where they were, whether that was poverty or some form of political persecution or oppression. We welcome and benefit from the contributions of those who come out of those situations. At the same time, many of those who come will inspire and challenge us to play a greater role as individuals and as a country in our pursuit of justice around the world. I am so glad that many members of Parliament, and certainly our caucus, have been very active on issues of human rights and human dignity in Central and South America. I know that a great deal of that is inspired by people who come here who have connections in some ways to that persecution. They share their stories and talk about what has happened in those contexts. They call on all of us as politicians, whether we come from that background or not, to commit ourselves and be part of that fight against oppression, that fight for justice and human rights.

In conclusion, I want to thank Senator Enverga, as well as the bill's sponsor in this place, for bringing this important bill to our attention. These heritage months are an opportunity for us to recognize the contributions of Canadians from diverse backgrounds, to see these moments of cultural sharing as opportunities for greater cultural understanding, to meditate on the examples of leading figures from these communities, to seek to be taught by their wisdom and by the their experiences, and to enjoy the benefits that come from our cultural diversity.

I commend this bill to the consideration of members of the House. I hope all members will vote for the bill.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2018 / 11:45 a.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed listening to my colleagues across the way and on this side of the House talk about what Canada, really and truly, is all about. Our Prime Minister often talks about Canada's greatest strength being our diversity. I have heard that said on many occasions within the House, and I think we would find unanimous support that diversity is one of the things that makes us who we are as Canadians.

We have before us a bill that has come from the other place. The sponsor of the legislation talked about Senator Enverga and made reference to the fact that the late senator was co-chair of the Canada-Philippines parliamentary friendship group. I am the other co-chair and had the opportunity to work with Senator Enverga for a number of years. When he was first appointed to the Senate he took a very keen interest in the Canada-Philippines friendship group. Therefore, I am not surprised that the late senator brought forward this piece of legislation. I believe he understood the importance of Canada's diversity and how important it is that we recognize and celebrate it.

I had the opportunity, with the senator, to talk a great deal about the Philippines and that special relationship between two countries that we want to see further advanced. We heard comments about issues such as working visas. I would argue there is so much more to relationships between countries than just immigration. We try to expand on that through trade, and there have been a great deal of trade agreements and discussions that have taken place in Latin America.

There are many Latin American countries. I was just trying to make a quick note of some of the countries I am aware of. There is Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, El Salvador, Panama, and Cuba. These are just some of the countries that make up the Latin American region. That is why the senator captured the essence of the celebration we need to recognize. It goes beyond any one country. In fact, it is a region. It is a region in the world that has ultimately led to so much benefit for Canada as a society.

I have often had the opportunity to talk about what I believe is one of the greatest shows on Earth. It is all about multiculturalism. It takes place two weeks every summer in the city of Winnipeg. We call it Folkorama. The Latin American countries are well represented. I think of the Brazilian pavilion as an example. It is a pavilion of high demand. People want to go and experience Latin American culture and heritage. There is a great display of entertainment in the form of music, dance, the heritage costumes that are showcased, as well as the types of food and alcohol that are consumed. One gets a good sense of how much Latin American culture and heritage is truly appreciated and valued.

I am a big fan of recognizing heritage months and heritage weeks. We in the House have the opportunity to highlight different ethnic or cultural regions around the world in a very positive way. What I have found in my years here, but also in the provincial legislature, is that there is a great deal of goodwill from members on all sides of the House when it comes time to recognize those wonderful, positive attributes of what makes Canada the great country it is, that being our diversity.

The legislation before us would recognize the month of October as the month to give extra attention to a heritage community that has contributed so much to the development of our country. In fact, if we look at the base population, well over a half a billion people call Latin America their home. Over hundreds of years there has been a development of that heritage. Canada took a shortcut. We are a relatively young country, and thousands of individuals have made the decision to come to Canada and call it their home.

I am often afforded the opportunity to speak to people in a number of different cultural settings. One of the things I highlight, especially last year when we celebrated Canada's 150th birthday, is our multicultural attitude, and that makes me proud to be Canadian. We are not that melting pot. Rather, we recognize and value that diversity.

I often say to individuals, whether they are from Brazil, the Philippines, India, or anywhere else in the world, that because they have chosen to adopt Canada as their home does not mean they have to forget about their birth country or the country from where their ancestors came. In fact, I encourage those individuals to appreciate and share that heritage with the broader community in Canada.

Folklorama is all about that. It recognizes that individuals who participate in Folklorama share their heritage with a broader community. Over a quarter of a million people participate in those two weeks of activities. More important, what we see, and I will use the Brazilian pavilion as an example, is young people getting involved in showing and expressing their heritage, and sharing that. It does not just occur during those two weeks.

Often those volunteers, the thousands of volunteers who make up Folklorama, concentrate their efforts during those weeks, but it is year long. Activities are held and practices conducted. In fact, individuals are invited to participate in celebrations of multiculturalism around the world. Many of our performers in Folklorama, in the many different pavilions, are invited to participate.

By designating a month, it provides those individuals of that rich and vibrant community to continue to share their heritage with others. That is important to this community. By doing that, I believe we will see an enhancement of activities by Latin American countries during that month. That is a healthy thing.

In Winnipeg, for example, we see that community highlighted through things like Folklorama. By the House of Commons working with the Senate to recognize and to dedicate the month of October for the Latin American community, I believe we will see additional events in celebration of that heritage, showing how Canada has benefited from the community.

I want to share the introducer's comments with regard to Senator Enverga, a great Philippino Canadian who understood the importance of celebrating Canada's diversity.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

March 19th, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.
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Whitby Ontario

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, I, too, am really proud to stand to speak to this legislation. I would like to recognize my colleague opposite for sponsoring the bill. I would also like to recognize the late Senator Enverga for the legislation, which is critically important.

As mentioned, Latin American month is critically important to recognize the rich colourfulness, experience, and culture of a particular community like we have done with others such as Black History Month and Asian Heritage Month. We recognized the Jewish community not too long ago. This is not just to recognize the experience and culture of those various groups, but also, and I do not want to put words in the late senator's mouth, to recognize the challenges those groups also face. We cannot be blind in understanding that these various groups face challenges when they come to the country. Therefore, it has to be a holistic and a comprehensive understanding and learning during these months. We could do it throughout the year. The month gives us a catalyst, but throughout the rest of the year, after October, it gives us an opportunity to understand more understand more about each other and to celebrate with each other.

I am really proud to speak to the legislation. As our Prime Minister has said, diversity is our strength but with that strength comes understanding and a willingness to not just be there for part of the celebration but also an understanding of the challenges that are faced as well.

As mentioned, this group is one of the largest growing. In the sixties and seventies, I was part of a group from the Caribbean, coming to Canada in 1975. My parents came to Canada to ensure we had better economic and social standing, especially for us, their children. Also, as an immigrant, it allows me to ensure my children have a better opportunity. Canada has afforded us those great opportunities and we are very thankful for that. The opportunity to celebrate is one that we should not take for granted.

As we talk about these groups within our country and understand the great sense of responsibility they have here, it is also important for us to recognize that as we celebrate these months, it brings us together as communities. It allows us to learn more about each other. Bill S-218 supports our commitment to diversity and inclusion.

As we have seen in budget 2018, it not only looks at things from a gendered lens, it also makes investments in multiculturalism, ensuring we have an anti-racism strategy, investments in the black community, investments in ensuring we have desegrated data. This will ensure that the limited resources we have are able to contribute to looking at the barriers that some of these communities face.

While we are celebrating, we also have to be very cognitive of the fact that we have to make policies and investments to ensure our communities that are facing challenges have the resources they need to overcome those challenges.

I thank the hon. member across the way and the late senator for introducing this very important legislation.

Latin American Heritage Month ActRoutine Proceedings

December 12th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

moved that Bill S-218, An Act respecting Latin American Heritage Month, be read a first time.

Mr. Speaker, I am truly honoured to table and sponsor Bill S-218, an act respecting Latin American heritage month. I am particularly honoured because the legislation, which recognizes the significant contributions to Canada's social, economic, and political fabric by our Latin American community, was created and lovingly fashioned by our late colleague, the hon. Senator Tobias Enverga.

Senator Enverga, a champion of multiculturalism, believed that diversity was Canada's greatest strength. It was Tobias's firm belief, before his untimely passing just last month, that Latin American heritage month would be a meaningful way to remember, celebrate, and educate fellow Canadians about a unique and important element of our country's significant diversity.

I urge all members on both sides of the House to support Bill S-218.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)