Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this motion. I would first like to congratulate the hon. member for Don Valley North on being the first member of Parliament of a Mandarin-speaking background from mainland China to be elected to the House.
Like my riding of Richmond Centre, Don Valley North is culturally diverse and has made history on more than one occasion by electing MPs who were the first of their ethnic community. My former caucus colleague Joe Daniel was the first ever member of Malayali descent. On my part, I was the first Canadian woman of Chinese descent to be appointed to serve in cabinet. I am honoured to share in this moment to celebrate that multiculturalism is alive and strong throughout Canadian society.
I remember as a young child that every year I would always look forward to the spring festival, just as our hon. member for Vancouver East did. Although the gifts and delicious food were always a point of excitement for the children, there is much more to this holiday. It is our only opportunity to welcome the incoming year, and it represents a time of celebration and reflection on the past year. It is also a time for thanksgiving and an opportunity for family members to return home and spend time together.
Although both the hon. member for Don Valley North and I are both of Chinese descent, the spring festival is of great significance to many other ethnic communities throughout Southeast Asia as well. Along with mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, the spring festival and related lunar new year celebrations are held in other countries in the region, such as Vietnam, Korea, and Malaysia. There are many Canadians who hail from countries where the spring festival is a valued tradition, and they still observe those traditional celebrations here.
To put this in numerical perspective, as the hon. member from Edmonton has done, there are more than 1.3 million Canadian residents of Chinese descent. Half a million of those individuals have roots in Hong Kong, and I am one of them, 220,000 are of Vietnamese origin, and more than 170,000 individuals are members of the Korean community in Canada. Along with many others, they make up a huge part of our nation's cultural mosaic, in which we Canadians take great pride.
I realize that, as a multicultural mosaic, sometimes our different colours, origins, and traditions may appear to clash. Even within my riding of Richmond Centre, there is now some tension between the more established residents and the newer members of our immigrant community.
Some people may ask, if we pass this motion, where we would then draw the line. Are we to recognize every cultural tradition that is celebrated by some members of Canadian society? I would have to disagree with those individuals. There is a belief out there that somehow motions like this one may dilute our Canadian identity. To them I say that, rather than diluting what it means to be Canadian, we are keeping the finest traditions of the Canadian spirit instead.
Canada has always been a mosaic of different peoples, to which we have been continually adding new pieces, starting with our first nations and indigenous communities and moving to the arrival of European influences in the 15th century; and even now, today, people throughout the world come to Canada to find peace, acceptance, and freedom. We are a country that has always been weaving new threads into our national tapestry.
Over 85% of immigrants to Canada eventually become citizens, which is one of the highest rates in the developed world. Not only do they come to build a better life and a brighter future for themselves and their families, but they also fully join and, likewise, fully contribute to Canadian society. The motion and, more specifically, what it is celebrating are what being Canadian truly means.
Diversity is where we find much of Canada's strength. Throughout their long history in this country, Canadians of Asian heritage have contributed significantly toward making Canada what it is today. We are also pushing us forward to become the best nation we could possibly be.
The spring festival is no longer just an Asian holiday but one that is celebrated and enjoyed by Canadians of all backgrounds. I am privileged to witness this every year at the Vancouver Chinatown parade, one of the largest in North America, which brings together over 3,000 participants and 10,000 spectators annually. The groups that participate, much like Canadian society at large, are immensely diverse. Along with the traditional lion dancers and martial arts demonstrations, we also see some other groups represented, including Scottish pipe and drum bands, cadets, and members of the Royal Canadian Armed Forces. It is wonderful to see different groups taking part in the festivities and celebrating in the meaning of the spring festival.
I would like to also add the romantic part to this beautiful festival. In Chinese history, the last day of the spring festival, which is the 15th day of the first moon, is also Chinese Valentine's Day. It was during this day that young women and young men went out to the market carrying paper lanterns and solving riddles on the lanterns. The winners of those riddles did not only win prizes but they won the hearts of beautiful young ladies.
Over the past several years in my riding of Richmond Centre, there has been a countdown at the Aberdeen Centre to mark the beginning of the spring festival. It has become an important community event in Richmond. There have been prime ministers from different parties who have also taken part. I am sure that many of my colleagues in the House who have attended such events can attest to the fact that the spring festival celebrations are something to be enjoyed by all Canadians.
As the member of Parliament for Richmond Centre, I am truly delighted to have the opportunity this evening to speak to the motion and bring recognition to this important event. I am grateful that we as a House can celebrate our multiculturalism together and recognize the important role it plays in our Canadian society.
I, along with my colleagues, wholeheartedly support the motion put forward by the member for Don Valley North.