That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the contributions that German-Canadians have made to Canadian society, the richness of the German language and culture, and the importance of educating and reflecting upon German heritage for future generations, and that the Waterloo Region is host to the largest Oktoberfest outside of Germany, by declaring October, every year, German Heritage Month, and the nine days commencing the Friday before Thanksgiving, every year, Oktoberfest.
Mr. Speaker, today I have the privilege of presenting a motion which I hope this House will support. The motion I present today has been jointly seconded by the members of all recognized political parties in this House. I thank the members for Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, Kitchener—Conestoga, Saskatoon—Grasswood, Saskatoon—University, and Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, as well as my own caucus colleagues, the members for Cambridge, Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, Kitchener Centre, London North Centre, Mississauga—Lakeshore, and St. Catharines for having jointly seconded my motion.
I want to talk briefly about migration and the main reasons that individuals and families decide to leave their communities and countries of origin. The reasons for migration can be classified into four categories.
The first is economic migration, where individuals and families, like most of our ancestors, migrate for better economic opportunities and to find better employment and career prospects. Better employment helps families elevate themselves and achieve greater potential.
The second reason is political migration. People leave a country where political conflict and instability have hindered the lives of its citizens who then choose to flee to areas with a stable political system. Many have immigrated to Canada in fear of their lives and have sought shelter in our communities, and we, as Canadians, have welcomed them with open arms.
The third reason is social migration, where people move to a country where quality of life is substantially better than in a person's country of origin, such as access to social services, health care, education, and so on.
The fourth reason is the environment, where natural disasters have displaced millions of people and devastated communities.
Furthermore, immigrants weigh particular factors before making a final decision to leave their country of origin. Push factors include high crime rates, lack of services and lack of safety in their country of origin, or the country may be impoverished or war torn. Pull factors include better employment opportunities, better services, safer communities, less crime, and political stability. All in all, like so many immigrant families, they immigrate to pursue improved prospects and to build better futures for themselves and their family.
In Canada, we value diversity as one of our country's strengths. We accept that members of ethnic groups can integrate into our shared national economic, cultural, and political systems while simultaneously maintaining their ethnic cultures, languages, and traditions. In fact, reverse osmosis also occurs, in which the shared culture absorbs facets of its constituent ethnic cultures. We celebrate our similarities and our differences.
It may be a trite example, but the online version of The Canadian Encyclopedia has an article entitled “Everybody's Irish on St. Patrick's Day”. Canadians know what that means. Montreal's St. Patrick's Day parade is the oldest in North America, approaching its 195th year. The millions of Canadians of Irish heritage are as Canadian as Canadians can be, but have a sense of kinship, of shared heritage. We all celebrate with them the significance of the Irish presence and contribution to Canadian culture and history.
Individuals and groups in society thrive and flourish when they are acknowledged, respected, and given the recognition they deserve. The motion I present today proposes to recognize and celebrate the contributions, culture, language, and history of one of the largest constituent ethnic groups in Canada, well over three million Canadians of German ethnic origin, approximately 10% of the Canadian population.
I have the good fortune to represent the riding of Kitchener South—Hespeler, where I grew up from the age of four, and where I live to the present day. The birthplace of the Waterloo region is located in my riding. In 1800, in what is now south Kitchener, which is part of my riding, Mennonite pioneers, the Schoerg and Betzner families, established the first permanent settlement in inland Upper Canada and started farming.
In 1801, the Schoerg family welcomed the first non-native child to be born in what would be Waterloo township. Following soon after, were the Schneiders, and other families whose names can still be found in local names, the Bechtels, the Ebys, the Erbs, the Webers, the Cressmans, and the Brubachers. In 1857, the Hespeler part of my riding was named after Jacob Hespeler, a native of Württemberg, Germany. He was an immigrant entrepreneur who established successful industries in Hespeler and performed exemplary public services.
There are 20% of the residents of my riding, one out of every five people, who are of German ethnic origin. German-Canadian entrepreneurship, industry, skills, and business acumen, have played and continue to play a significant role in the economic success of Waterloo region.
German social clubs, associations, and organizations have a long history as part of the social and institutional infrastructure of Waterloo region, 23% of whose population is of German ethnic origin. The German-Canadian Congress, Ontario branch; the German-Canadian Remembrance Society of Waterloo region; the Kitchener Christkindll market committee; and the presidents of the German-Canadian clubs of Waterloo region, which comprise the Cooperative Council of German Canadian Clubs of the Waterloo Region, have expressed their support for this motion.
Canadians of German ethnic origin are one of the largest constituent ethnic groups in Canada, numbering well over three million, nearly one out of every 10 Canadians. There is 28% of Saskatchewan's population, 19% of Alberta's and the Yukon's populations, nearly a quarter million people in Toronto, 200,000 in Vancouver, over 100,000 residents of each of Winnipeg and Waterloo region, and nearly 100,000 in Montreal, who are of German ethnic origin.
Woven deep into Canadian history, Germans started immigrating to Nova Scotia in about 1751. The German Society of Montreal is still active 181 years after its founding by immigrants and Canadians of German descent in April of 1835.
Following the American Revolution, groups of Germans leaving the United States settled southwest of Montreal and south of Quebec City, but the largest group, Mennonites from Pennsylvania, settled around Berlin, Ontario, which is now known as Kitchener-Waterloo. That settlement attracted new immigrants from Germany, drawing some 50,000 to our region over the following decades, and continuing until well after 1850.
Beginning in 1896, Canada's west drew further large numbers of German immigrants, mostly from eastern Europe and Russia, and later, the U.S., to the new prairie farming community. In the years since 1945, there have been about 400,000 German-speaking immigrants to Canada. An annual declaration of October as German heritage month will provide opportunities to remember, celebrate, and educate future generations about the inspirational role that Canadians of German ethnic origin have played and continue to play in communities across Canada.
In the U.S., German-American heritage has been celebrated ever since the first proclamation by former president Reagan in 1983. October is German-American Heritage Month.
There are two parts or “asks” in my motion. The first asks the government to recognize the contributions that German Canadians have made to Canadian society by declaring October, every year, as German heritage month.
The second part of the motion asks that the government declare the nine days commencing the Friday before Thanksgiving every year as Oktoberfest. This second part of the motion does not conflate German heritage and culture with the annual Bavarian harvest festival. It is separate, though connected.
The Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest, now in its 48th year, is the largest Oktoberfest celebration outside of Germany, running nine days starting the Friday before Thanksgiving. The festival celebrates German heritage, food, music, and festivities, and is supported by more than 40 not-for-profit organizations. The festival is operated by eight year-round full-time staff, over 500 volunteers, and 1,300 community and service club volunteers. They stage the nine-day festival each October, promoting a unique German cultural experience.
In addition to the economic boost the festival gives the local economy during the international festival, over $1.5 million is raised each year by the not-for-profit organization associated with the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest, one of the top three most recognized event brands in Canada.
This motion has the support of Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest Inc., its officers, board members, staff, volunteers, partner clubs and fest-halls, sponsors, and associated businesses. I ask my colleagues on all sides of the House to support this motion.
There are no financial costs involved and the benefits are clear. By demonstrating respect for a very large group of Canadians, and a large group of constituents, we make their country and community a better place to live. Motion No. 73 does that. It meets that test. There is no good reason why this motion should not be passed unanimously when it comes to vote in the House.