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.