Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this bill to create Latin American Heritage Month.
I want to take this opportunity to highlight an organization in my riding, since we so rarely have the opportunity to do so. We try to do that during debates on bills and during members' statements, before question period.
I can explain how this ties directly to the importance of having a month to celebrate this heritage. I am specifically thinking about Solidarité Montérégie Amérique Centrale, an organization that operates primarily in my riding, and about Monique Messier, the chair of its board of directors, and her entire team. This organization has been around for years, and since I became a member of Parliament I have had the opportunity to attend their Arte y Cerveza fundraising soirees. These events allow the organization to continue operating, and provide opportunities for cultural sharing.
Cultural sharing is one of the most important things we can do in a diverse society like ours, and I would say that these events highlight most of all our values of solidarity. They focus on culture and include exhibits of all kinds of artworks, which explains the word Arte in the name. These soirees also provide an opportunity to learn about what this organization's volunteers are doing in Central America, and the money raised helps pay for the volunteers to get there.
I am very happy to say that I have been supporting this organization since becoming an MP. Bertrand St-Arnaud, the former MNA for Chambly and minister of justice, did a good thing when he allocated funding to that organization. I remember his speech when his ministry announced the funding. He said that the Quebec ministry of justice's main concern was the administration of justice and the courts, but that it also gave money to organizations that promote ideals of justice in Canada, Quebec, and abroad. That was his justification, and he was spot on, so I would like to take this opportunity to give him credit for that.
Events like that highlight the values of solidarity and sharing that are important to Quebeckers. They remind us that we can see beyond our borders, take the time to visit other countries and learn more about their cultures, and really make an important contribution.
When I think about Solidarité Montérégie Amérique Centrale, or SMAC, I remember seeing videos and photos taken during trips to help build schools or proper sanitary facilities for people in countries like Guatemala. That is highly commendable.
The sharing goes both ways though, and that is the beauty of this organization's mission. People from those countries also come visit us in Quebec and participate in activities hosted by our community organizations and our community. They come to share their art and culture. During these soirees, we get to connect with volunteers who talk about their experiences and with Guatemalans who tell us what the organization's work has done for their communities. That is extremely important, and it makes me so proud.
There are many organizations doing commendable work in our ridings. We can all agree on that. However, it is sometimes harder to convince people to go help out in other countries. We tend to help our neighbours and stay close to home, and with reason, that being said. Nevertheless, the opportunity to go help beyond our borders is extremely important. Canadians of Latin American origin, from Central America, contribute immensely to our culture. That is why it is important to have opportunities to honour their contributions.
It can be hard to see the point of a bill designating a month to celebrate the heritage of a particular cultural community. I myself have a cynical side, I admit. However, this is extremely important, because we have to duty to remember, to share, to exchange, and to celebrate. Whether it is for Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day, Canada Day, Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, or Sikh heritage month, we must always pay tribute to the efforts parliamentarians make to designate these months of recognition.
It is understandable that people view the purely symbolic value of such a month with a cynical eye, but it is important to take a few moments to stop and acknowledge that a given cultural community has made a substantial contribution and that meaningful exchanges have taken place. I myself am using the debate on this bill as an opportunity to talk about a major organization in my riding whose work would not normally be recognized in the House of Commons. That is why it is so vital to have opportunities like this.
However, before I go any further, I would like to apologize, Mr. Speaker, because I should have first paid tribute to the senator who sponsored this bill and who died tragically. We offer our condolences to his family and loved ones. This bill is part of his legacy. I also thank the member for Thornhill for introducing this bill.
The organization that I was talking about is Solidarité Montérégie Amérique Centrale or SMAC. I am pleased to continue to support that organization and I want to acknowledge its 20th anniversary in the House of Commons. I would also like to take this opportunity to apologize to its representatives for missing the anniversary celebration. I was unable to make it, because I was also the honorary chair for the Relay for Life in Chambly. Unfortunately, members cannot be in two places at once, even though we sometimes try.
I am very proud to support this organization and see it diversify its activities. SMAC started out as a cocktail-and-auction fundraiser. Today, it has grown and now it hosts a dance and an art exhibit. This year, events were held on both Friday and Saturday, and artists were invited. It is so nice to see that. I fully support these people and commend them for their efforts. As it celebrates its 20th anniversary, I wish this organization continued success.
In closing, I want to come back to what I was saying about designated months. We have to understand that we have some rather large communities. Since becoming a member of Parliament, I have been hearing my colleagues talk about certain cultural communities that represent one million Canadians, or 500,000 Canadians. It can be breathtaking to see such wonderful diversity. We must highlight diversity and encourage cultural exchanges. It is the best way to promote community spirit, love, and respect for our neighbours. Organizations that promote solidarity help in achieving that objective.
Again, I want to congratulate SMAC and the sponsor of this bill. Even when we think that a bill is purely symbolic, we must never turn our backs on the importance of celebrating an occasion and heritage with our neighbours in order to promote community spirit. These are the values of Quebeckers and Canadians, and I am proud to share those values.