Arab Heritage Month Act

An Act respecting Arab Heritage Month


David McGuinty  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Second reading (Senate), as of March 22, 2023

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-232.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment designates the month of April as “Arab Heritage Month”.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


March 8, 2023 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-232, An Act respecting Arab Heritage Month
May 18, 2022 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-232, An Act respecting Arab Heritage Month

The House resumed from March 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-232, An Act respecting Arab Heritage Month, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

May 17th, 2022 / 5:30 p.m.
See context


Sylvie Bérubé Bloc Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise today to speak to this bill introduced by the member for Ottawa South. As everyone knows, this bill would designate the month of April as Arab heritage month. The Bloc Québécois supports the principle of this bill. We are pleased to acknowledge the extraordinary contributions that the Arab community has made to Quebec society.

The majority of Canadians who report Arab origin live in Quebec. They are primarily of North African and Lebanese descent. This has to do with the colonial past of many Arab countries, which were French colonies. Many people in these countries speak French as a first or second language, in addition to Arabic.

Quebec's shared history with the Arab community started with the arrival of Ibrahim Abou Nader, the first immigrant from Mashreq to settle in Canada. Ibrahim Abou Nader was originally from Zahleh, in what is now Lebanon. After a short stay in New York, he decided to travel to Montreal after hearing that they spoke French there, because he was more familiar with French than with English. He married a French woman in 1890, and their daughter, born in 1892, was the first baby of Syrian descent born in Quebec and therefore in Canada.

I would point out that, where the text of the bill refers to Arab Canadians and Arab Canadian communities, it paints a picture of populations of Arab origin in Quebec and Canada that does not reflect reality because it suggests that the Arab diaspora makes up a uniform community all across Canada.

Indeed, many people, Westerners in particular, tend to think that all Arabs are Muslim, that all Muslims are Arab and that all Arabs speak that language. However Arabs practice different religions. Consider the Lebanese community, which is really big in Quebec and whose members are more likely to be Catholic. Consider the fact that most of the world's Muslims are not from Arab countries but from countries such as Indonesia, India and Pakistan. Consider that many people of diverse Arab backgrounds speak French, which helps explain why they choose to settle in Quebec and why this bill needs to take Quebec's uniqueness into account.

Of course, Quebec and Canada's respective national realities have had an impact on how successive waves of immigrants have been welcomed over the years. While Canadian immigration laws and policies have been applied throughout Canada and have influenced the pace of Arab immigration in what could be called the golden age of immigration, Quebec's explicit desire to strengthen its ties with Maghreb countries and to promote francophone immigration, expressed since the Quiet Revolution, has necessarily had an effect on the trajectory of Arab immigration to Quebec that sets it apart from the rest of Canada.

More importantly, the linguistic and cultural factor is enough to preclude equating the journey of Quebeckers of Arab origin with that of Canadians of Arab origin. In fact, they do not integrate into the same society. Immigrant populations that settle in Canada outside Quebec are integrating into Canadian society, in other words, into the English Canadian majority. Immigrant populations that settle in Quebec integrate into Quebec society, in other words, into the francophone majority. Accordingly, the back-and-forth movement and the important relationships between Arab migrants on both sides of the North American border explain why a certain number of pioneers pass through an American city before settling in Canada, especially in Quebec.

Given the historical factors that explain why many Arabic populations already share francophone culture, it is only natural that the integration pathway differs depending on whether it is experienced in Quebec or in Canada.

It is perfectly possible and desirable to recognize the cultural heritage of people of Arabic origin in Quebec and Canada. That is why the Bloc Québécois intends to support the principle of this bill. It is not necessary to lump in Quebeckers with Canadians as though they were part of one and the same community, the Arab Canadians, as the bill seems to wrongly suggest.

Abitibi—Témiscamingue, more specifically Val-d'Or, is another region affected by the most recent wave of immigration. It reflects the Quebec situation on immigration on a smaller scale. There are a lot of francophone nationals from different continents. As we see, newcomers of Arabic origin are more likely to settle in major centres and less so in the regions. Despite the omnipresence of francophones, Val‑D'Or has had a multitude of cultural communities from its earliest days.

The arrival and the number of cultural communities changed with the times. We can even list different waves of immigration in Val-d'Or, which contributed to its cultural richness, so unique to Quebec. However, there are very few people of Arab origin in Abitibi‑Témiscamingue. According to 2016 statistics, there were 330 people in Abitibi‑Témiscamingue whose main mother tongue was Arabic.

Since 2010, Muslims who settled in this riding have been able to rely on the Val-d'Or Muslim cultural association. It has created an environment conducive to the practice of their faith by providing a mosque, an imam, courses on the Koran and the Fiqh, seminars and more. Another one of the association's missions is to pass on to and preserve the culture in the minds of new generations by providing an environment suitable for teaching the Muslim faith and the Arabic language. This fosters the development of youth with a Muslim identity while facilitating the process of integration into current society. The association also offers families the opportunity to meet and bond with other community members, which helps them integrate and feel a little less distant from their family and country of origin.

Finally, this association enables Muslims who have settled here to celebrate holidays and special occasions collectively in a suitable place. This strengthens their community's ties with those around them and makes it easier for them integrate into society, through cultural sharing activities organized by the association. Thanks to this association, there is a project under way to build an Islamic centre in Val-d'Or. I would like to underscore the important work being done by this association and to thank its members.

As we saw earlier, the history of Arab populations in Quebec is more than 130 years old, but it is important to note that the majority of these people have immigrated more recently. For example, North African immigration to Montreal began in the late 1950s and intensified in the 1990s. In the wake of decolonization and the rise of Arab nationalism in North Africa, and then the Quiet Revolution in Quebec, the pace of North African immigration to Quebec intensified. The Quebec government wanted to give priority to francophone immigrants as early as the 1960s. In this sense, people from North Africa were an attractive target for immigration. Language, which is key to integration, can be an excellent advantage.

I know that my colleague from Rivière-des-Mille-Îles mentioned this in his speech during the first hour of debate on this bill, but it is important to remember that Quebec reaches its own agreements on student mobility at the university level with various countries. For instance, the co-operation agreement between the Quebec government and the Algerian government in the field of education and training promotes financial support for students, exchanges between higher education institutions, the circulation of scientific and technological information, and so on.

According to the 2016 Canadian census, 368,730 people in Quebec reported being of Arab origin. In other words, a huge proportion of the people of Arab origin living in Canada, nearly half, are Quebeckers. Whether they speak Arabic or not, Arab Canadians can and do maintain ties to their cultural heritage through traditional cuisine, music, dance, news media, travel to their country of origin and correspondence with friends and family members who are still back home.

In general, first-generation immigrants are more likely to stay connected to their cultural heritage than their Canadian-born compatriots. However, even though many Canadians of Arab origin have essentially lost contact with their past, the majority of them are aware of their ethnic origin and proud of it. April will become Arab heritage month to focus on recognizing the contributions that Quebeckers and Canadians of Arab origin make to our society every day.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

May 17th, 2022 / 5:40 p.m.
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Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to speak today on Bill C-232. I thank the critic from Edmonton Griesbach for his thoughts and his previous intervention on this. I also thank the member for Ottawa South for bringing this critical legislation forward. I served with him on the Canada-US parliamentary association for a number of years.

I am speaking from Windsor, Ontario, which is approximately a 15-minute drive to the United States, and Dearborn, Michigan, has the largest Arab community outside of the Middle East. It has been part of our heritage here for hundreds of years, and it is something I am really proud about.

It is also important to note this bill would harmonize April as Arab heritage month, similar to what was been done in the United States in 2021. This bill was not be in place this year, but hopefully it will be next year. I have learned over time that sometimes the simplest and most straightforward things can see complications in Ottawa, but this one enjoys large public and parliamentary support.

It is a worthy cause because there is no doubt that the Arab population, not only in Windsor but across Canada and the world, has contributed quite significantly and continues to do so despite some recent challenges with Islamophobia and other types of sensitive issues over the years. The community deserves this type of positive recognition, especially when we consider its economic, social and cultural contributions, which continue in our neighbourhoods.

When I think about the regeneration of the auto industry taking place with electric vehicles, there have been some good announcements in Windsor West recently. We are finally at a point where we are fighting back for an industry that, at one point, we were number two in the world in assembly. That has dropped down significantly, but we are starting to get battery plants and modernization.

Right now, there are many Arab Canadians who are participating in that industry, which is really interesting. I say that because, in the early 1900s, they helped build the auto industry in this community and for this country. We have seen influxes over a number of different years, and I am very proud we have a lot of young and also established people who are contributing quite significantly.

When I travel to the mosques, or other places such as churches, I hear stories from the Arab population. I hear the stories of people working in engineering, design and development, mould making and tool and die, OEMs and a whole series of exciting opportunities for young people to be involved in.

Often they have been travelling along the border between Canada and the United States, and there have been challenges of racial profiling at times, under different presidents. We have needed to deal with those issues on a regular basis in my office, but at the same time, they have helped rebuild even Detroit's industry, which is exciting.

In my community, Wyandotte Street East is being redeveloped. It has been phenomenal to see the Arab population come together. There are food shops, barber shops, fashion boutiques and other types of industries that have come in to rejuvenate and create a brand that is exciting. It shows a lot of pride.

Until recently, I shared an office with a person named Alan, who came from Iraq and rebuilt his operations here. Sadly, we had to move out of that constituency office to a new one. Alan has also moved, but we became like family in many ways.

We look at issues of representation. I have been on doorsteps, and I have heard negative things. At the same time, I reminded constituents that when they need to go to the hospital to see a doctor, or they need the police or the fire department to come, they do not ask where somebody came from, but rather how they are going to help.

The contributions by the Arab community has been highly diverse when it comes to its participation in the workforce. It has been led by pioneers who have made international contributions.

The Jamil family founded the Holiday Juice Company in Windsor, which was eventually taken over by a multinational. We are right on the border here, which as we have seen is the busiest border crossing in North America. We have had owners of a small hotel, the Blue Bell Motel, opened by Alex Abraham, who helped lead many of the developments and contributions in this area. We also have Dr. George, a pioneer in the 1930s and a family doctor who was involved as well. There was, as I mentioned earlier, my friend Alan. We also had Mr. Brissony, a local barber, who was very well known in the community and became a city councillor and warden in the early days of development here.

In our community, we have people from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan and Lebanon. I will send a special shout-out to the NDP lobby and Anthony Salloum of our team, who is of Lebanese heritage. In our community, we also have people from Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar and U.A.E. We get to know them and celebrate them.

There are not only their groups and organizations, but the people have also founded and been part of groups that represent the Catholic Orthodox, the Protestants and many Shia and Sunni mosques in my community. The groups are all connected together and interfaith. We have seen that come to light many times when there have been tragedies with individuals and families, or a number of different discrimination issues or things we have had to face that are very serious. We have also had this community come together and rally to help others.

Most recently, just before COVID, and now it is opening up a bit with a commitment from the community, I was working together with them to look at the situation with the Uighurs in China and the genocide and discrimination. It was led, again, by our local associations. There have been other times when there have been world tragedies when it is not uncommon to have the mosque or other organizations and interfaith groups come together to raise funds for earthquake victims or victims of other types of natural disasters that have taken place. This has been kind of the DNA of Windsor and Essex County, but it plays itself out to the world.

This is what is really important about this bill. It brings us together in a way that we have seen with some really good measures in the past, especially with some of the other months that have been designated, such as Black History Month and others. That is one of the things that we can build upon because there is the educational element and the necessary celebrations that bind communities together and show how much we can actually learn and understand where we came from. Some people do not understand that even though we have some great moments, there have been some challenges in the past. Therefore, we need recognize that, reconcile those and work toward celebrating what we can further accomplish.

That is why I tied in the strengths of what is taking place from the microcommunity aspect, such as Wyandotte Street, which I mentioned earlier, and the rehabilitation and great work that is happening there. Also, we have seen some exciting announcements in the auto sector. The renewal that is taking place is very diversified.

I will conclude with this: One of the things we are struggling with now is our Canada–U.S. relations for lots of different complications. Aside from the politics and the politicians, the binding of our citizens on both sides of the border, to be effective in our business, social and cultural relationships, really shines through with our Arab populations. It is families who are united. It is families who are growing together. It is about strengthening our regions together, and that is going to make us stronger economically, socially and culturally. This is very special and unique.

As I conclude here I will say again that I am so close to the largest population outside of the Middle East. We like to say in Windsor that Detroit is actually a suburb of Windsor. The reality is that there are so many people in the area, but our ties are so strong and clear. They are fiercely proud as Canadians, but also fiercely proud that their families are so close together.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

May 17th, 2022 / 5:50 p.m.
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Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to rise today to speak in strong support of the Private Member's Bill moved by my colleague, the member for Ottawa South. It is Bill C-232, an act respecting Arab Heritage Month.

I want to thank the member for bringing this bill forward to the House. In the 41st Parliament, I had the opportunity to introduce my own piece of private member's business. Motion No. 155 designated June as Filipino Heritage Month across Canada, from coast to coast to coast. It was passed unanimously by the House, and I am sure Bill C-232 will receive similar widespread support.

I know how much the official creation of June as Filipino Heritage Month has meant to that community. They have taken this recognition and run with it, organizing local events, festivals and celebrations right across the country. I know that designating April as Arab Heritage Month in Canada will be equally meaningful and significant for Canada's large and proud Arab community.

As the member for Scarborough Centre, I have the privilege of representing a large and proud Arab community. They contribute to all aspects of life in our community, from the professions and the trades to small businesses and restaurants. In my community, they are a big part of the Scarborough food scene. From the shawarma at Sumac Iraqi Grill and Ibrahim Shawarma, to the burgers at Saltyz, from the ice cream and shakes at Crème et Miel to the meat at Al Ghadir Meats and Alwalaa Halal Meat, Arab-owned restaurants and grocers are a big part of my community.

I would also like to recognize the work of the Arab Community Centre of Toronto. It is an important foundation of the community in Scarborough, providing a meeting place and a focal point, and has done such important work to help newcomers feel welcome and to settle in our community.

I would also take this opportunity to recognize Al-Huda Muslim Society, which was established in 1993 to harbour the community and help preserve its cultural and Islamic atmosphere.

Today, Al-Huda strives to create one facility that offers the services of a mosque, school, youth centre, social hub, a cultural and educational centre and funeral services. The Al-Huda Scouts, school and youth programs are operating successfully at this centre. I can say that the Al-Huda Muslim Society is an important pillar of Scarborough Centre.

Many members of Canada's Arab community are former Syrian refugees who came to Canada in 2015 and beyond to flee the civil war raging in their country. Canada gave them a safe haven and a new start, and they, in turn, have given so much more to Canada.

We all know the story of Tareq Hadhad: the Syrian refugee who settled in Nova Scotia and started a chocolate business. Peace by Chocolate is one of Canada's sweetest immigrant success stories. The story is now a major motion picture I cannot wait to see on the big screen.

In Scarborough Centre, we have our very own Syrian refugee success story not with chocolate, but with kebab. Zakaria Al Mokdad was a restaurant owner in Syria before fleeing the civil war with his family and coming to Canada. He spent a year improving his English before working at Paramount Fine Foods, which is a restaurant chain founded by another successful immigrant entrepreneur named Mohamad Fakih.

In 2019, Zakaria opened Aleppo Kebab, which offers delicious Syrian food to the people of Scarborough. He is paying it forward by offering jobs to other newcomers to Canada. The customer favourite is the Aleppo kebab, with its unique blend of Syrian spices. It is one of my favourites. Last year, Zakaria obtained his Canadian citizenship, and we could not meet a prouder Canadian.

Another local Syrian refugee success story is Crown Pastries. It has quickly gained a reputation for having the best sweets in Scarborough, and I can assure members that is no easy title to earn. They have become so popular that when I went in to order some sweets the day before Eid, there was a line out the door. They told me I would have had to place my Eid order at least a week in advance.

Outside of Scarborough Centre, there are also Arab Canadians making a difference in all aspects of life in Canada. There is my friend, the Minister of Transport, who brings his lived experience to this important portfolio and his job representing the people of Mississauga Centre. Many members of the Arab community have been elected to serve in this chamber from all parties.

If someone has enjoyed classic pop hits like Put Your Head on My Shoulder, Diana or Puppy Love, they have been singing along to the classics of a proud Arab Canadian and one of Ottawa's favourite sons: Paul Anka. There are academics such as Hoda ElMaraghy, the first woman to serve as the dean of engineering at a Canadian university, and Mamdouh Shoukri, the former president of York University.

In the world of sports, many Maple Leafs fans may be disappointed that they do not still have the services of Nazem Kadri after their game seven exit from the playoffs this weekend.

There are so many Arab Canadians making a difference in the medical profession in Toronto and across Canada. Dr. Basem Naser at Toronto's SickKids hospital and Dr. Tarek Khalefih are doing great work with children, and Dr. Salah Ali and Dr. Nihad Abu Setteh are family doctors who are greatly respected by their patients.

I want to especially highlight a Canadian of Arab heritage who is not only a successful businessman and entrepreneur, but also a philanthropist and outspoken educator and worker for building a better Canada. I speak, of course, of Mohamad Fakih, president and CEO of Paramount Fine Foods. He has built the chain into a success with locations not only across Canada, but also in Pakistan, Lebanon and the U.K. He has helped to introduce Middle Eastern and Arab cuisine to too many people across Canada who never had the chance to try it before.

No matter which Paramount I visit, the food is consistently delicious, even if I do wish the chicken could be a little more spicy, but calling Mohamad Fakih a restaurant owner would only be scratching the surface. His commitment and generosity to this country are unparalleled. After the Quebec City mosque shootings, he paid funeral expenses for the victims and helped fund repairs to the mosque. He travelled to the front lines in Syria to better understand the refugee crisis and hired 150 refugees in his restaurants. His Canada Strong campaign raised nearly $3.3 million for the victims of the Ukraine International Airlines flight shot down by the Iranian military, and during the pandemic he has donated and delivered tens of thousands of meals to frontline workers, the homeless, food banks and others.

He is a man of conviction who uses his platform to stand up to hatred and bigotry, as we saw when he refused to back down in the face of public harassment and online videos attacking his religion and his character. In his work ethic, his generosity and his principles, Mohamad Fakih would probably tell us he is like any other Arab Canadian, and indeed like any other Canadian, and this is true. The Arab Canadians I know are warm, generous, hard-working and committed to their families and their communities. They are an important part of our Canadian family and help to contribute to the diversity that makes Canada strong.

I am proud to support this bill and this important recognition for Arab Canadians. I urge all my colleagues to support it, and next April let us celebrate Arab Heritage Month together.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

May 17th, 2022 / 6 p.m.
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Brad Redekopp Conservative Saskatoon West, SK

Madam Speaker, I am very proud to be here today to speak on Bill C-232 this evening, which would proclaim April as Arab heritage month in Canada. I appreciated listening to the speech of my colleague for Scarborough Centre and to hear all of the people she named, all of the distinguished people of Arab descent. It is quite significant in our country. As many Canadians know, we have a long tradition in the House of Commons of recognizing certain months or days to honour individuals or groups or, indeed, entire peoples that make up this Canadian fabric. We do this much more than just the 12 months or the 365 days that make up the calendar.

April, for example, is already officially recognized as African American Women's Fitness Month, Alcohol Awareness Month, Black Women's History Month, Celebrate Diversity Month, Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Financial Literacy Month, Foot Health Awareness Month, International Guitar Month, Mathematics Awareness Month, Month of the Military Child, Pets are Wonderful Month, Scottish-American Heritage Month, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Sexually Transmitted Infections Awareness Month and Sikh Heritage Month. This is just the tip of the April iceberg.

Why do we need an Arab heritage month? The answer is that, like the worthy causes I just listed, we need to formally recognize the contributions that Arabs make to Canadian society.

Let me tell everyone about my riding of Saskatoon West and the contributions that Arabs make to my community. As many people know, I knocked on many doors over the past three years and on many occasions I got the usual politician-at-your-door treatment, which was, “Why are you here? Get off my lawn. I am voting for the other guy,” and that type of thing. When I would go into apartment buildings that had primarily Arab tenants or even people from other Islamic backgrounds, I received a different treatment. People said, “Yes, yes, please come in. Have some tea and biscuits. Sit down. Please discuss what you are here for.” I would spend 10 or 20 minutes there, then knock on the next door and it would be the same thing all over again.

As a westerner in a country like Canada, I am not used to Middle Eastern hospitality. Arab people are earnest and honest about treating outsiders with kindness, respect and dignity. This is a value that is ingrained in their culture. The result of those visits was that those polls that I visited, where I sat down and took tea and biscuits, ended up voting for me. If we look at the electoral map, this is the first time ever that some of those polls voted Conservative. It is because I took the time to make a one-on-one connection with the people there, which is the way they are. More importantly, they got to know me and to know more than just the politician. That is the amazing thing about the Arab and Muslim people. They love their children and care deeply about their families. They care for their neighbours, they love this country of Canada and want to make it a better place. They work hard, often working at multiple jobs or working at a job while running a family business at the same time.

As old-stock Canadians, we just need sometimes to move beyond our preconceived ideas that have formed in our minds from popular culture and past events and get to know our Muslim brothers and sisters. Just two blocks away from my constituency office live Ahlan, her husband Osoma and their six children. They are Arab Muslims from Jordan and want to visit Osoma’s ailing father, who is in a hospital in Jordan. The family has personal objections to the COVID vaccine and now that the world is reopening, they would like to go to Jordan to visit the children’s grandparent, whom they have not seen in eight years. The only thing stopping them from this trip is the NDP-Liberals' unscientific vaccine mandates, which prohibit them from boarding the airplane. I want this family to know that I am doing everything I can to fight these useless mandates put forward by the current government.

I want to tackle head-on some of the perceptions that Canadians have of Muslims and Arabs, in particular, due to past events and popular culture, and I am not going to sugar-coat this. When I was growing up, I and many people of my generation saw constant conflict in the Middle East between various nation-states, and the growth of terrorism scared many people. We saw the despots in control of Arab countries such as Syria, Iraq and Egypt and the puppet regimes in other countries such as Lebanon. The Persian neighbour of Iran saw the Ayatollah come to power, seize the U.S. embassy and declare us in North America to be the great Satan. Who could forget 9/11 and then war and even more war?

Canada went to war in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years with our American and European allies, only to let Kabul end up in the hands of the Taliban. Hollywood, the mainstream news media and now social media have added an extra layer to these actual historical world events. Hollywood takes everything and embellishes it. In the early and mid-2000s, we could not turn on the TV without hitting another American TV show with Arabs as the bad guys against the American good guys.

NCIS is still the number one show on TV, and for 19 years, in almost every episode, Gibbs is chasing down some fictional Arab terrorist.

Social media has taken all of that anti-Arab, anti-Muslim mixed bag of historical fact and popular culture and created the new global crisis of out-of-control conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories have always been a part of a free society, but now every hateful, spiteful thing that is said is twisted and amplified by the Internet.

Why am I bringing this up? It is because, as parliamentarians, we need to shine a light on the dark spaces and on the garbage dumps of our society in order to clean them up.

Unfortunately, but truly, Islamophobia and anti-Arab sentiment are real in Canada. If this bill, Bill C-232, which would create Arab heritage month, and the few hours of debate that we will have on it allow us to address this issue, then so much the better, because as members of Parliament, we owe it to all of the Arab folks to get this right.

Let me tell you, Hollywood has it wrong. Yes, bad historical events happened, but they happened because of bad individuals, not because of the religion or the area of the world. Putin is nominally a Christian, and he is engaging in a war of aggression. Mussolini was the first to call himself a fascist, and he was a Roman Catholic from Italy. Hitler was Austrian. These were individual men causing great harm, and they did not reflect European Christians at the time. Just like Saddam Hussein was one man and Gaddafi was one man, they did not reflect all Arab Muslims.

What we need to do is move beyond these individual men and these bad events and celebrate Arab people as a group. We need to better understand the Muslim religion in its entirety. That is what Bill C-232 strives to do.

The Tigris River is the birthplace of modern civilization. The Bronze Age, where man moved from stone tools to metalwork, took place in the delta of the Persian Gulf. From that moment on, civilization has been marked by the advances in the Arab world. Did you know that the concept of the number zero was invented by Arabs?

It actually goes back to the Quran, which calls upon Muslim people to count the phases of the moon in order to track days. As we know, there are 28 days in a month, with the new moon at the beginning of each cycle, so they needed a way to numerically write that and came up with a number to represent nothingness, the number zero.

It seems a simple concept to us but it was not the Greeks, nor the Romans, nor the Indians, nor the Chinese who could grasp this concept until the Arab world taught it to them.

What about language and learning? The Great Library at Alexandria, in Egypt, was the first place of learning. Long before Oxford and Cambridge were established in England as the first modern universities, the first university had already been established in Damascus in the eighth century. To the chagrin of many school-aged children, who invented algebra? It was an Arab, in the territory of Spain.

The first hospital was also established in the Arab world and, prior to that, there was no central place for physicians and patients to gather in one place. The first modern surgical procedure was also undertaken by Arabs.

How about inventions in the Arab world? Graph paper, the first planetary globe and the first mechanical clock. Yes, it was the Arabs, not the Swiss, who invented the clock.

In Canada, the first mosque built was the Al Rashid Mosque, in Edmonton, in the 1800s. My colleague from Edmonton West would argue that the Rahma Mosque in Edmonton West was the first, but I do not think he is right.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

May 17th, 2022 / 6:05 p.m.
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Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

No, it is the best.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

May 17th, 2022 / 6:05 p.m.
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Brad Redekopp Conservative Saskatoon West, SK

Oh, it is the best, Madam Speaker. I will not pass judgment on that, but I do know it is the first.

I must emphasize how proud I am to support this legislation. Canadians need to understand the positive accomplishments that the Arab people have brought to our planet and our country. It is not just the bad stuff they see on the TV and the Internet. There is much more to it. In Canada, the contributions of Arab Canadians are immeasurably positive.

There are, of course, many friends and neighbours who have come from countries throughout the Arab region. Some of us have family members who are Arab or Muslim. We know them as shopkeepers, business people, restaurateurs, school teachers, oil rig workers, bus drivers, pilots, doctors, nurses, members of Parliament and every vocation possible. They are Canadians and, according to our census, 2,300 people of Arab descent live in my riding. They may be from the Middle East and have a different religion, but they are the same as everyone else.

If there is one message that I want my constituents to hear, and I want all Canadians to hear, it is that we must move past historical events and what Hollywood has shown us and focus on the positive.

Let us work together and vote to support this legislation.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

May 17th, 2022 / 6:10 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

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.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

May 17th, 2022 / 6:20 p.m.
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Frank Caputo Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Madam Speaker, as always, it is a pleasure to rise in the House of Commons for the people of Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, especially on an issue such as this.

Make no mistake. Heritage is very important to me. When people ask me where I am from, I may say that I grew up in north Kamloops, British Columbia, but my heritage comes from so much farther than that.

Both of my parents came from southern Italy. I recently did an ancestry DNA test that found I was 89% Calabrian, so I am from very far south in Italy. As some in the House may know with regard to the Speaker who ordinarily occupies the chair during question period, my mother's family came from the same small town as his family, so our grandfathers may well have known each other. My grandfather may well have known his father too. They may have become acquainted in that small town of about 1,800 people.

I am proud to participate in my heritage, and two things in which my pride most abounds are my connection to my Italian culture and how I channel that through my Italian cultural centre in Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo. We should all be proud of our heritage. One thing that I really loved about growing up in north Kamloops was the confluence of all the different heritages. I came to realize that this is what really defined Canada.

Part of being proud of our heritage is also being proud of other people's heritage. That is why it is with a source of pride that I stand in this chamber, the people's chamber, in support of this bill. I thank the member for Ottawa South for bringing it forward.

In preparing this speech, I came to learn that our neighbours to the south designated April of last year, 2021, as Arab heritage month. One of the things that I have come to realize in volunteering at my cultural centre is that often people of different heritages come through. I have learned about and seen the pride. As I return back to this point, one thing I really love to emphasize about Canada is the different heritages we have here.

I was at an event not long ago that was put on in my riding by people of African heritage. I was asked to give a few words when I was there. What I reflected on when I was thinking about it was this. What I saw in that room, what I see here in the House of Commons and what I see in Canada is diversity, and it made me very proud, when I was at that African heritage night, to be part of that diversity. I absolutely love it. It is what makes Canada Canada. I was very proud that the neighbourhood I grew up in was very multi-faceted. There were people who spoke different languages, but it did not matter: We all came to appreciate and love one another.

It is within that vein that I recognize the need to support Arab heritage month in the House of Commons. Just as Canada was welcoming to the people of my heritage, I want to be proud of all heritages in this country. Some 42% of Canadians of Arab heritage are under 24 years of age. What a bright future they have.

I was thinking back to my own history, and I can say to those in the House, many of whom do not know me, that I was not political whatsoever. This is essentially my first elected position, and I know there is a very bright future for people of Arab heritage. I am sure they will make all the people in their communities proud. I thank the member for bringing this bill forward.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

May 17th, 2022 / 6:25 p.m.
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David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Madam Speaker, good evening to you, colleagues and the viewers who are tuning in to this important debate.

After almost 18 years in the House, I know that sometimes there are moments when the House truly comes together. Sometimes there are moments when Parliament can showcase its ability to come together, overcome partisanship and pursue something that I believe all of us here find to be good, fine, worthy of pursuing and timely.

I am very proud of the fact that I was lucky enough to obtain an early opportunity in a random draw to help bring us together in this Parliament through this bill. At a time when there are powerful forces in the House and in Canadian society seeking to pull us apart, and we all know there are many, I hope this bill can serve as a force that pulls us together, because as sure as day follows night, we need that in Canada today.

I would like to thank my Bloc Québécois colleague who gave an excellent overview—in the context of both Quebec and Canada—of the history of North African immigration, student mobility and other elements in Quebec society.

I would like to thank my colleague from the NDP, the member for Windsor West, who talked about how we were hopefully harmonizing our April Arab heritage month here in Canada with the one that was decreed by President Biden in the United States. He went on to explain the involvement of the Arab Canadian population in the auto sector on both sides of the border. He recounted the geographical diaspora and the religious diversity of Arab Canadians, all of which, of course, is true.

I would like to thank the member for Scarborough Centre, who represents a large and proud Arab community. She spoke about trades, professions, restaurants, butchers and grocers, and highlighted the contributions of Syrian refugees, who are so incredibly proud to have reached our shores and become Canadians.

I would like to thank my colleague, the MP for Saskatoon West, who spoke honestly and earnestly about the personalities and warmth of Arab Canadians in his own constituency and his province. Most importantly, he debunked misperceptions about Arab Canadians, saying the bill can “shine a light on the dark spaces”. That is an important quote because the Arab Canadian community is dealing with racism and anti-Arab sentiments and we will have to wrestle this to the ground together. He spoke about the historical truths, the learning, the hospitals and the inventions, like the clock, all of which were devised by Arab human beings.

I would like to thank my colleague, the deputy House leader, for highlighting the breadth of contributions in every sector in Winnipeg and Manitoba. He talked about more educational opportunities to break down barriers and foster understanding at a time when we really need it in this country. We need to come together because, as my mother used to say to her 10 children, this country is wealthy beyond belief. My mother, who grew up in abject poverty, was never talking about money. She was talking about culture, dance types, food, language, music, literature, dress, traditions, depth and richness. All of this is reflected in the bill.

We are trying to recognize this wealth in the Arab Canadian community, celebrate all of it in the Arab Canadian community, nurture the talent and passion of Arab Canadians and, finally, deploy Arab Canadians on behalf of this country and the rest of the world as we help to continue to build the finest, most inclusive, most accepting and most celebrating culture and country in the world. It is high time to move beyond the notion of tolerating anyone. It is now entirely a question of celebrating each other, and that is what the bill is trying to do.

I am very proud to have the support of 35 Canadian community groups and organizations. I am very hopeful that with the support of all members of the House, we will be able to achieve this on behalf of our Arab Canadian neighbours.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

May 17th, 2022 / 6:30 p.m.
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The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

It being 6:31 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired.

The question is on the motion.

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes to request a recorded division or that the motion be adopted on division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

The hon. member for Barrie—Innisfil.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

May 17th, 2022 / 6:30 p.m.
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John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, I request a recorded division.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

May 17th, 2022 / 6:30 p.m.
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The Assistant Deputy Speaker (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, November 25, 2021, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 18, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.