Madam Speaker, I appreciated the comments. In fact, I appreciated the comments from all members this evening in regard to a very important piece of legislation.
I thank the member for Ottawa South for taking the time to work with the different communities in order to develop what is, for a wide variety of reasons, an important piece of legislation. I would like to pick up on a couple of those points.
From a personal perspective, I really did not have a full understanding of the Arab community for the vast majority of my life. In fact, it was not until I had the opportunity to travel to Israel, when I also had the opportunity to visit Jordan, that I started to get a perspective of the time span in terms of the place and the Arab people, and it really goes back many hundreds of years before Christ.
As I tried to get a better understanding of the Arab people here in our community, I quickly found out that, at the end of the day, Canada is a very diverse nation. We talk about our communities and what we might do to contribute to the debate. Looking at the world today, there are countries all over the world that have descendants from the Middle East, from countries like Syria, Jordan and so forth. That is whether we are talking about Canada, the U.S.A, Brazil, Australia, the U.K., Germany, etc. Here in Canada, it is estimated that there are somewhere in the neighbourhood of 750,000 Arab people.
When I think in terms of my home city of Winnipeg and the area that I represent, the Arab community is not that large, but it tends to go into the south end of Winnipeg, and I am sure my colleague for Winnipeg South would be able to tell us far more about that particular community than I would. However, I do know that it is a community that is made up of so many individuals who have contributed to every sector of our society, whether it is in the health care field to entrepreneurs to individuals who have built our community.
The mosque in South Winnipeg contributes immensely to the spiritual well-being of the city of Winnipeg, because it goes far beyond people of Muslim faith in terms of reaching out. It is important to recognize that, at the end of the day, we can travel virtually to any part of the city of Winnipeg and we will find someone from the Arab community who is an owner or businessperson behind a particular restaurant or other store. Whether it is professionals, entrepreneurs or workers in general, we will see that the community is in fact very much a part of our Canadian heritage.
We have had other pieces of legislation and motions that have been debated inside the chamber, and I have always felt that one of the ways in which we can continue to grow as a society in terms of our diversity is to recognize things such as heritage months, days or weeks, or whatever it might be, because it provides communities the opportunity to get engaged and to educate people. For example, we have seen, in recent years, a heritage month being designated for the Filipino community, and we have seen it in regard to Sikh Heritage Month. I get involved in both of those months.
Bill C-232 would designate the month of April as Arab heritage month, and I feel very confident that what will happen as a direct result of the passage of this legislation is that we will see organizations that will organize educational opportunities throughout the country regarding our Arab community, hopefully with a focus on faith.
My understanding is that over 90% of people of Arab ancestry are of Muslim faith. I have gotten to know that faith personally over the last number of years. In fact, I was always impressed with my campaign manager, who has the entire Quran memorized, which is no easy feat. He is not alone. It shows the sense of commitment that many members of the community have when it comes to the Muslim faith.
At the end of the day, when I look at these resolutions and bills that we pass, I truly believe that through that, we see more educational opportunities. I can only cite personal examples, in terms of Winnipeg North, where we have a heritage week in recognition of Filipino heritage. There are a number of different organizations that come together and highlight the Filipino heritage community in Winnipeg. In fact, I will start with something on June 1.
As we do with the Filipino heritage community, which I love and care deeply about, as I do all communities that make up our country of great diversity, I suspect we will see things of that nature occurring in our Arab communities. We will have dozens of organizations that have been there to serve the community that will put on special events.
Through those special events, they will invite members of the community and members outside of the community to partake in that. By doing that, I believe that we will have more people engaged and becoming better acquainted with the many different customs and the different heritage of our community. By doing that, I think we will have a better society.
During the 1990s, I always talked about the issue of racism. We had the Manitoba Intercultural Council, which came out saying that the best way to combat racism and intolerance was through education. I believe we are affording public schools and other organizations the opportunity to put some emphasis on the Muslim faith or any other issue they can identify by having the month of April recognized, through the House of Commons, as Arab heritage month. They can use that as a focal point in order to be able to have a special event in a public school, where we can get young children engaged. It affords them that opportunity.
I have seen first-hand that things that have taken place on the floor of the House of Commons have been adopted in our communities and taken advantage of to the degree that because of them, events take place. That is where we see the real benefit of legislation of this nature.
On that note, I would encourage members, as they have done in the past in recognizing heritage resolutions and legislation, to support Bill C-232. I applaud the member for Ottawa South for taking this initiative. I know is very important to him personally that we recognize just how important it is that this particular community, like other communities, be acknowledged by having a heritage month designation, which will no doubt allow for a lot more activities across Canada that will highlight just how important this community is to our Canadian makeup. With those few words, I look forward to the bill's passage.