Madam Speaker, I note that this bill mentions the diversity of Latin American communities in Quebec and Canada, since Latin Americans come from various countries and states, and the important contributions they have made to the broader communities around them, to community spirit, to the economy of our cities and towns, and to the social fabric of our country. The presence of communities with which Quebeckers share a certain affinity, similar values and culture, and where there is mutual recognition, contributes a great deal to our communities, and that is what I want to acknowledge about this bill.
Quebec's intercultural project is based on this ability to live together and work together to build a community. This involves recognizing our shared values and the contributions of every individual, which are shaped by his or her personal experience and cultural background.
It is also the reason why this bill proposes that Quebeckers and Canadians learn more about the contributions of Latin American Canadians, to provide an opportunity to remember and recognize them. That is what designating a Latin American heritage month would do. It would allow us to learn about the achievements of Latin American Canadians in communities throughout Quebec, particularly in our own neighbourhoods, like Longueuil and Saint-Hubert, where I live. The same holds true in communities across Canada that have been enriched by the contributions of people from many different backgrounds.
There is a reason why October has been proposed for Latin American heritage month. As mentioned in the bill, October is an important month for Latin Americans. Fall is a time when many Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Chile, celebrate their independence.
Many of these countries were among the first former colonies to declare independence in the 19th century, and some became models of republican harmony. They projected the idea that racial segregation could be consigned to the dustbin of history, along with colonial institutions and economic exploitation.
There are other reasons why this bill proposes making October a month for celebrating Latin American communities. October was chosen because of certain traditions and customs. We know that it is a significant month in Latin America and South America, since it is the month when Costa Rica celebrates the Day of Cultures, Venezuela observes the Day of Indigenous Resistance, Argentina marks the Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity, Brazil has its Children's Day, and various Latin American cultures celebrate the Day of the Dead.
We feel that dedicating the 10th month of the year to our Latin American communities would give members of those communities an opportunity to share these cultural traditions with their neighbours. The bill also notes that this event would bring people together and give them a chance to share and celebrate this rich cultural heritage.
A little while ago, L'Actualité published a profile of Quebec's Latin American community that highlighted the strong kinship between Quebeckers and the tens of thousands of members of that community, who often refer to themselves as Latino-Quebeckers. According to the article, 90% of Latino immigrants choose to learn French when they settle in Quebec. The community has a political presence in Quebec too, with people like former minister Joseph Facal and the member for Honoré-Mercier, who is originally from Argentina.
Our cities bear witness to the political history of these peoples. The statue of Simón Bolívar located five minutes from here, just off Rideau Street, was a gift to Canada from Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. We also have Salvador Allende Street in Laval, a tribute to the former Chilean president who was assassinated in a coup d'état. Let us not forget Quebec City's Parc de l'Amérique-Latine at the mouth of the Saint-Charles River, which pays tribute to great figures in Latin American History, such as poet, writer, and Cuban national independence hero José Martí, Haitian independence hero Toussaint Louverture, and military leader Bernardo O'Higgins, a hero who fought for Chilean independence.
However, those who have left the most indelible mark on Quebec are the men and women who made a life here. Thousands of people from various Latin and South American countries now live in Quebec City, Gatineau, Sherbrooke, and the area I am from, Longueuil and Saint-Hubert.
At the Nouvelle Vie church in Longueuil, there are Venezuelan, Peruvian, Cuban, and Quebec musicians. The Sacré-Coeur-de-Jésus church on Brodeur Street hosts colourful family celebrations.
Since I was elected in 2011, one of the encounters that stood out for me was the one with Marco Carpinteyro, who has worked with the Table Itinérance Rive-Sud for many years and who, to me, is one of the greatest examples of community involvement. Although Marco does a lot of work in the community, and everyone back home in Longueuil agrees, I am sure that if you asked him what he is most proud of, he would say his children. He teaches them about his heritage every day, since the most beautiful language of all is the one spoken by our children.
It is in our best interests to actively create stronger relationships with Latin American countries, to build cultural bridges, and to share our ambitions with trade blocs like Mercosur. The Latin American communities established here, in Quebec and Canada, can help facilitate these joint projects. These communities and their heritage also make unique contributions to our culture and to the spirit of community in Quebec.
I am very proud to highlight these contributions today and to support this proposal to designate a Latin American heritage month that we can celebrate in all of our communities every year.