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

Arab Heritage MonthPrivate Members' Business

March 8th, 2023 / 3:40 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 23, 2022, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-232 under Private Members' Business.

The House resumed from February 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-232, An Act respecting Arab Heritage Month, be read the third time and passed.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2023 / 5:50 p.m.
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Lindsay Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, shukran. It is an honour to rise in the House today to speak about Bill C-232, which designates the month of April as Arab heritage month. I want to thank the hon. member for Ottawa South for introducing it. Arab heritage month is an important month to have because it provides the opportunity and space for Arab Canadians to showcase their culture, their talents and why they are proud to be both Arab and Canadian.

Starting in 1890 and continuing throughout the 20th century, generations of Arab immigrants have come to my home city of London, Ontario, to establish a new life for themselves. In turn, they have built a community that continues to flourish today.

In my riding of London—Fanshawe, I have a large Arab Canadian population that I am extremely proud to call my friends, neighbours and community partners. I have people from all over the Arab world: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Sudan and many more. Each Arab Canadian community has its own traditions, regalia, food, music, dance and ceremonies, which is something I cherish. I look forward to attending ceremonies every occasion I am invited to one in my riding in London.

I have learned that family is one of the most important aspects of Arab society. Family loyalty and unity are the greatest lessons taught in Arab families, and these are the values we need to build on in our country. The Arabic community in London is also so giving, generous and compassionate. We have seen the many fundraisers they held when the tragic explosion happened in Lebanon. There was a fundraiser just last weekend at the London Muslim Mosque in support of the victims of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

They give so generously internationally, but also do so much for our community at home. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge some individuals, Arabic organizations and Arabic religious groups in my riding that have contributed largely to our local community: the Canadian Arab Society of London, the Lebanese Canadian Cultural Club of London, the Canadian Cedars of Hope, the Canadian Iraqi House, the Western Arab Students' Association, the London Council of Arab Women, the Muslim Resource Centre, MAC, the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, the London Muslim Mosque, the Hyatt Mosque and the Al-Mahdi Islamic Community Centre. They all hold fundraisers, host information sessions and run community organizations, food banks and soup kitchens, just to name a few.

This past summer, I attended the Middle Eastern Community Festival at the St. John the Baptist Melkite Catholic Church, which offers liturgy services to Arabic-speaking parishioners. I enjoyed attending the festival and appreciated the great hospitality, the amazing shawarma and the za'atar pies. I even did the dabke dance, although not well.

Also in my riding is the St. Elias Maronite Catholic Church, which has a proud heritage that it has shared with me and our community so generously.

I have to mention that in London there are two Arabic newspapers, Albilad and Hona. These two newspapers deliver local and international news and information to the community in the Arabic language.

I also have to mention Philip Aziz, an influential Londoner of Lebanese Greek Orthodox Christian descent. He was recognized for his work in the art technique of egg tempera on gesso panels. The Aziz family is one of the oldest families in London.

Of course, I have to mention Nazem Kadri, a Londoner and famous NHL player, who this summer brought the Stanley Cup home and shared it with members of the London Muslim Mosque.

The holy month of Ramadan is approaching, and I am looking forward to breaking the fast with Muslim and Arab community members. They come together and share so willingly. The children run around and there is such joy in the air. It is a truly wonderful place to be.

Today, I know members can hear the joy and pride in my voice when I speak about the Arab Canadian community. However, I also speak with a lot of sadness because of the struggles they continue to face with respect to discrimination and hate. London is not immune to that, so I share my sorrow. My hope is that through this bill to designate Arab heritage month, we can move past it, educate and see an end to the discrimination and hate. I hope this bill, and the designation of Arab heritage month, will help educate us and will celebrate Arab Canadians, who are truly Canadian and a part of our community. This will break down fear and ignorance. The Arab community deserves this type of positive recognition, especially when we consider its economic, social and cultural contributions, which continue in our neighbourhoods.

I do not have time to mention all the incredible businesses in my riding that are of Arab Canadian descent and started by incredible entrepreneurs in our community. There are way too many, but I try to get to as many as I can.

I also want to send a special shout-out to the NDP lobby and Anthony Salloum on our team, who is of Arab Lebanese heritage. In my constituency office, my outreach coordinator is also of Lebanese heritage, and I am so proud to be able to offer our office services in Arabic to welcome Arab Canadians. Trying to find support in one's second or third or potentially fourth language is so challenging. I hope people know that by providing those additional supports and services, people from all different communities, including the Arab Canadian community, can feel welcome and safe in my office and that they know my door is always open and we are here to support them.

I want to thank the member for Ottawa South for bringing this legislation forward. I am proud to support this bill and this important recognition of Arab Canadians. I urge all my colleagues to support it, and hopefully next April, when we are all here, we can celebrate together Arab heritage month.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2023 / 5:45 p.m.
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Martin Champoux Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased and honoured to rise today to speak to Bill C-232, which seeks to designate April as Arab heritage month. This is also a good opportunity to recognize the outstanding contributions that Arab Quebeckers make to Quebec society and culture and to direct the focus back to the Arab community, which certainly deserves to be recognized for all that it does for our community.

I commend my colleague for introducing this bill, which seeks to make April Arab heritage month.

There are all sorts of Bloc members. Should we cue the tumbleweeds? One may be gullible or slow, while another may be educated, but all of us are open-minded, welcoming and generous. I think it is important to remind members of that because, although we may be open-minded, welcoming and generous, we also hold certain fundamental values. We have a vision for living in harmony that is different from that of the rest of Canada, and I feel the need to remind the House of that often by rising to speak.

I think that these differences are worth acknowledging. They are not better. We are not better. We are different. I like to remind members of that occasionally, and this bill gives me the perfect opportunity.

The bill refers to Arab Canadians in general, but I think a distinction should be made between Arab Canadians and Arab Quebeckers.

I will begin by saying that we hear a lot of different things about Quebec's Charter of the French Language. We hear about it these days in other contexts, but I do not want to talk about that. Let us just say that people often insinuate that it has bad intentions and harmful effects. However, it is extremely necessary to enable the French language to survive, flourish and reverberate, to keep French in Quebec alive.

Quebec's charter has also had an extremely positive impact on many francophones and francophiles around the world. Think, for example, of people who live in generally miserable conditions in certain francophone countries where democracy is often non-existent. Quebec appeared to them as a haven of peace, as a destination where they could put down roots and rebuild their lives in a more welcoming environment.

Thousands of Arabs who came to settle in Quebec did just that and made Quebec better over the years. Arab Canadians and Arab Quebeckers certainly do not have the exact same history, especially since the Quiet Revolution. As I was saying, the adoption of the Charter of the French Language and this particular tie that unites Quebeckers of all origins means we have a common history and we are enriching a common culture through the French language.

Of course, Quebec and Canada's respective national realities have had an impact on how successive waves of immigrants have been welcomed over the decades. While Canadian immigration laws and policies have been applied throughout Canada and 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, which it has been expressing 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.

The linguistic and cultural factor is enough to preclude equating the journey of Arab Quebeckers with that of Arab Canadians. In fact, they do not integrate into the same society. Immigrant populations that settle in Canada outside Quebec integrate into Canadian society, in other words, into the English Canadian majority. Much good may it do them. Immigrant populations that settle in Quebec integrate into Quebec society, which is a totally distinct society. I will not get into that. They also integrate into the Quebec nation, meaning the francophone majority.

There are historical factors that explain why many Arab 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 quite possible, and even desirable, to recognize the cultural heritage of Arabs in Quebec and Canada.

That is why the Bloc Québécois intends to proudly and happily support Bill C‑232.

Not all people of Arab origin need to assimilate, however. We would like to make a distinction between those who have settled in Quebec, in the francophone part of the country, thereby enriching the francophone culture, and those who have settled in the rest of Canada.

As I said, there is no doubt that the Bloc Québécois is eager to support this bill. We will be celebrating Arab heritage month in April.

I will repeat what I have said on previous motions and bills of a similar nature aiming to designate a certain month, week or day as a time to highlight the exceptional contribution of a particular community to Quebec and Canada. I hope this month of April will henceforth serve to highlight everything that has contributed to the enrichment of our respective cultures, both in Quebec and in Canada. What is the point of designating an Arab heritage month if we do nothing with it, if we do not use it to educate people, to promote the community, to forge links and to build bridges?

I would like to point out that the first Arab immigrant to Canada arrived in Montreal in 1882. His name was Ibrahim Bounadère and he was Lebanese. Why did he choose to settle in Montreal?

Actually, he first went to New York and, when he got there, he heard that people in Montreal spoke French. In those days, people spoke French in Montreal. He was delighted about that and decided that that was where he would settle. The rest is history.

I will close by congratulating my colleague for introducing this bill.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2023 / 5:35 p.m.
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Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise once again to offer my support for Bill C-232, an act respecting Arab heritage month.

I am one of more than a million Canadians of Arab descent. As so many have, I came to this country as an immigrant, escaping the dangers of war and economic upheaval. Here I have made my home, raised a family, and I am proud now to be able to give back by serving all Canadians in the House.

I am proud of my heritage, my Arab background, but I am prouder to be Canadian, which means that I will be pleased to celebrate April as Arab heritage month. I will celebrate the contributions of Arab culture and Arab people to Canadian society. However, I will not allow myself to be defined by the hyphen that people use when they call me an Arab-Canadian. When I became a Canadian citizen, I did not make a partial commitment. I went all in. I love the land of my birth, and who I am has been shaped by my heritage, but my identity is now found here.

As the late John Diefenbaker, the 13th prime minister of Canada, reminded us upon the passage of the Bill of Rights in 1960, he said that:

I am Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.

When a person is a Canadian, no hyphen is needed. There are no second-class citizens in Canada. It does not matter what a person's race or religious beliefs are. A person's background does not define them, their character does.

Do we as individuals and a nation always live up to our ideals? Unfortunately not. However, as Canadians, when we fail, we say “sorry” and then we try again, always striving to do better. We learn from our mistakes.

I think that wanting to do better is one of the values that makes the Arab people want to come to Canada to be part of this great country. We come from a region where old rivalries, sometimes going back thousands of years, are all too often an impediment for progress. “Sorry” is a word rarely heard.

Canada offers an opportunity for a fresh start, and Canadian values are also Arab values. Looking at the Bill of Rights, upon which the later Charter of Rights and Freedoms is based, I see the values that founded Canadian society that resonated with me as a new Canadian.

We read that the Parliament of Canada believes the Canadian nation to be founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity and worth of a human person and the position of the family in a society of free people and free institutions. Also, that humans and institutions remain free only when freedom is founded upon respect for moral and spiritual values and the rule of law.

As the bill recognizes, in Canada there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, national origin, colour, religion or sex, the following human rights and fundamental freedoms, namely:

(a) the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law; (b) the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law; (c) freedom of religion; (d) freedom of speech; (e) freedom of assembly and association; (f) freedom of the press.

Sadly, in many places in the world, including Arab countries, some of those rights are not available to the citizens. In some places none of them are. No wonder Canada has become the destination of choice for Arabs seeking a better life.

The lack of freedoms in some places in the Arab world is perhaps one of the reasons why we need an Arab heritage month. Canadians need to be reminded that there is so much more to the history and culture of the Arab people than the negative portrayals found all too often in the news. The current political activities in the region do not always reflect the values of the Arab people, just as the actions of the Government of Canada do not always reflect the values of Canadians.

Arab heritage month would be an opportunity for those of us of with Arab roots to share the richness of our culture in a more deliberate way than is the case now. We have introduced many Canadians to shawarma and baklava already, but there is more than that to be shared and celebrated with Canadians.

There is a rich cinematic tradition that is almost completely unknown here that can now be viewed online. Naturally I feel the Arabic language films are best heard in the original, as Arabic is one of the most beautiful languages in the world. I would encourage all hon. members to learn my mother tongue, but watching with subtitles can still convey the cultural richness of the Arab world.

It is not just in film that there is a long-standing tradition, but in music also. Just last month I watched Christa Maria Abou Akl, who was born, as I was, in Lebanon, appear on the French language television show La Voix, which airs on the TVA network, singing in Arabic and French. Just 20 years old, Christa Maria is already a musical force to be reckoned with. It was my privilege to get to know the family four years ago when they first arrived in Montreal. It was a pleasure to see Christa's success in becoming part of our music future and history in this country.

I am proud of my heritage and am happy to see the establishment of Arab heritage month. I am prouder still to be a Canadian. It is a great honour to have been chosen by my fellow Canadians, from all different backgrounds, to represent them in this House.

Recognizing my heritage, they have asked me to serve all Canadians, to affirm, as the Bill of Rights says:

That the Canadian Nation is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God, the dignity and worth of the human person and the position of the family in a society of free men and free institutions.

This April, and every April thereafter, let us celebrate Arab heritage month and the contributions of Canadians of Arab descent to this great country. Since the 1880s, Canadians of Arab descent have been enriching our nation, adding their ideas, energy and values to making this the best country in the world.

As I have said before, Canada is an example of what a society can be when the people celebrate their heritage without forgetting what unites them in common purpose. Let us celebrate Arab heritage month, whoever we are and wherever we came from.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

February 16th, 2023 / 5:15 p.m.
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David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, good evening to you and to colleagues in the House, and to those who may be watching these proceedings. I am delighted to speak at third reading on my private member's bill, Bill C-232, which would designate every April as Arab heritage month. I would like to thank members from all sides of the House for their support thus far. I would like to note that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage reported the bill back with no amendments.

Bill C-232 recognizes and celebrates the historic mark that Arab Canadians have made and continue to make in building our great Canadian society. I have had the privilege to spend the past three days in senior briefings at the United Nations in New York on water, sustainability, refugees and other global security issues. While there, it struck me that I felt, as a Canadian, very much at home. I felt at home because I think one leaves the United Nations with an understanding that we are very much all in this together, and the miracle of the planet that we live on needs us to come together. My bill addresses some of that, as I think listeners will conclude in just a few moments.

In the past, I have had the privilege of serving as a deputy minister executive in the Privy Council Office for 10 years. I would like to take a moment to give those watching tonight a bit of a snapshot of what goes on in the work of an MP and the nature of the variety of work that is undertaken in my constituency, and why that has led me to bring this bill forward.

I have the honour of representing Ottawa South, where we have the second-largest Arabic-speaking population of the 338 electoral districts in Canada. In fact, we have residents from over 100 countries of origin who speak over 80 languages. That is not only an opportunity, but it is in fact a special responsibility to show the world that we can all live together, work together and learn from each other, a theme I will return to in a moment.

There are 43 schools in my district. Before the pandemic, I made it a point to visit them and, where possible, have the students visit me here on Parliament Hill. I would tell the kids that they were rich. When they would look at each other in bewilderment and fumble through their pockets looking for change and for coins and cash, I would explain that I did not mean rich in terms of money, but in terms of culture, language, religion, dance, dress and food types, trying to instill in them at an early age an appreciation of the fullness of their world.

Every week, Canada receives representatives from other countries and they ask all of us in this House how we do it in Canada. They ask how we are managing to build a society that is inclusive, where there is room for all. Of course, it is a perfectly imperfect society and a work in progress, but they ask us each and every day when they visit.

I tell them that I am out of patience with the word “tolerance”. I am convinced we have moved on. I do not think it is about tolerating someone anymore; it is about celebrating everyone. It is not only the right thing to do; it is the inclusive thing to do. It is not only the inclusive thing to do; it turns out it is the economic thing to do. Only a foolish country would not avail itself of all the talent within its borders. Only a foolish country would not deploy all of that talent. We need to find and nurture as much talent as we can. This is Canada's privileged opportunity. This is Canada's undeniable responsibility, along with our special responsibility to show the rest of the world that we are a diverse and inclusive place and that we are all in this together, building a society that is the envy of the world.

My mother raised 10 children, and along the way she worked as a nurse for 50 years. She also helped to build two businesses. She was an extraordinary role model. She was an extraordinary person. She used to tell her 10 children that we had a choice to make: If we pulled apart, we would feel like we were five, but if we pulled together, we would feel like we were 20. To pull together, she would say, means leaving no one behind; it means ensuring opportunity for all. Finding and nurturing the talent in everyone around us and deploying it to the benefit of a country and to the benefit of each other is, in fact, in our enlightened self-interest.

Let me draw from some recent professional experience to share some insights on questions of diversity and inclusion, which also underpin my bill. It is illustrative. I have the honour of being the founding chair of Canada's National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. In March 2020, we released a groundbreaking report that helps to illustrate how seeking out all the talent around us and deploying it is absolutely essential, and that was an analysis of diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community.

We know a diverse workforce is made up of individuals with an array of identities, abilities, perspectives and experience. We know an inclusive workforce is fair, equitable, supportive, welcoming and respectful. Why did the committee decide to review these issues in the security and intelligence community in the first place?

First, there are persistent challenges to increasing diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community, even after decades of legislation, multiple reports and repeated calls for change.

Second, the committee believes that organizations responsible for defending Canada and protecting Canadians must leverage the broad range of skills, talent, experience and perspectives that this magnificent country has to offer.

Third, as shown conclusively in numerous international reports and studies on security and intelligence organizations worldwide, a diverse and inclusive workforce is critical to operational success and performance. In other words, the more diverse and inclusive a workforce is, it turns out the higher-performing it is. That is a good thing. That is an inclusive thing. That is a fair thing, and that is an economic thing.

Our committee saw evidence that the leaders of our national security agencies are all committed to improving diversity and inclusion in their respective workforce, but we have a long way to go. As detailed in our report, that needs sustained leadership, a broad commitment and increased accountability right across the community, if those organizations are going to fully reflect and include Canada's diversity.

Inspired by those ideas, I am honoured to speak again to my private member's bill to establish the month of April in Canada as Arab heritage month.

On a more personal note, in my own family, I was privileged to have a Syrian Canadian godfather, one of the original founding Syrian Canadian families in my hometown of Ottawa, a man of great intelligence, kindness and integrity. His origins were humble. In fact, they were steeped in poverty, and his values instilled in me a deep appreciation for hard work, giving back and public service. He was the ultimate Canadian. He had no access to formal education, and he loved this country far less critically than, I might say, I do.

I have always believed that Canada's diversity is its single greatest source of strength. It is a conclusion I have arrived at having had the privilege of living on four continents and working and travelling in over 80 countries before ever entering elected public service. The belief that Canada's diversity is its single greatest source of strength informs this bill. It is a belief I have reaffirmed over and over again during my almost 19 years in this House.

It is a belief I have reaffirmed over and over again during my almost 19 years in the House, and nowhere has this been more evident and obvious than in our Arab-Canadian community. Arab Canadians, from all walks of life, continue to make extremely important contributions to social, economic and political life in Canada, as well as to Canada's cultural fabric, including through literature, music, food, fashion, science, research, academia, public service, professions and businesses.

Arab heritage month in Canada would be a terrific opportunity for Arab Canadians to be recognized, finally, for their contributions to this amazing country. It would give us the opportunity to recognize and pay tribute to the countless Arab entrepreneurs and small business owners right across Canada, who do so much to support their communities.

From the diversity of my riding to my own godfather, to my many friends in the national capital region Arab community and beyond, perhaps it is more clear to those watching tonight as to why I introduced this bill and why I am working so hard, with all of my colleagues, to make sure it is passed.

The enactment of Arab heritage month in Canada would ensure that the contributions of Arab Canadians are recognized, shared, and celebrated across this great country, not just every April, but every day. It is long past time that we take up that mantle and celebrate that incredible contribution.

We are always stronger when we pull together.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-232, An Act respecting Arab Heritage Month, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Calgary Arab FestivalStatements by Members

June 16th, 2022 / 2:05 p.m.
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George Chahal Liberal Calgary Skyview, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge a very special event that I had the honour of attending in Calgary. The seventh Calgary Arab Festival was an extraordinary event showcasing live performances, folk shows, cultural tents and delicious foods from across the globe. The celebration was especially meaningful this year because of the recent recognition of Arab Heritage Month. I thank my hon. colleagues for supporting Bill C-232 and providing over a million Arab Canadians with another opportunity to showcase their cultures.

I would like to say a special thanks to Mirna Khaled, Mohamad Awada, Alaa Hamadan, Mohammed Hamden, Bridges for Newcomers and all the volunteers who put this festival together.

Arab Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

May 18th, 2022 / 4:10 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, November 25, 2021, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-232 under Private Members' Business.

The House resumed from May 17 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 / 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 p.m.
See context


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 / 5:50 p.m.
See context


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 / 5:40 p.m.
See context


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.

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.