House of Commons Hansard #294 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was tax.


The House resumed from May 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-48, an act respecting the regulation of vessels that transport crude oil or persistent oil to or from ports or marine installations located along British Columbia's north coast, be read the third time and passed.

Oil Tanker Moratorium ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Pursuant to order made earlier today, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the third reading stage of Bill C-48.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #665

Oil Tanker Moratorium ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

Oil Tanker Moratorium ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

It being 6:03 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Message from the SenateGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following public bill to which the concurrence of the House is desired: S-234, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Artist Laureate).

The House resumed from March 19 consideration of the motion that Bill S-218, An Act respecting Latin American Heritage Month, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Stephanie Kusie Conservative Calgary Midnapore, AB

[Member spoke in Spanish]


Mr. Speaker, I certainly have a very strong tie to Latin America, in fact many strong ties to Latin America. That is why I am here to speak in support of Latin American heritage month. I think this is something very important for Canadians, and certainly for Canadians of Latin American descent.

My ties are many. They go back, first of all, to much leisure time spent exploring Latin America with my family. We find that it has a very rich culture. We enjoy the food, the geography, the beaches, the ruins, the churches, and the climate. It is a wonderful place to go, a wonderful place to visit.

There is Mexico, for example, but in addition, other places where I have had the opportunity to serve as a diplomat for Canada. First of all was Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is just a gorgeous country, a gorgeous place. I was very fortunate to reside in a lovely community called Recoleta. It was wonderful to spend time there learning the culture and its rich history in terms of culinary experience, fashion, and the many good things it has to offer.

I also had the very good fortune to serve as the chargé d'affaires for the Government of Canada in El Salvador for two years. That was an incredible experience, an incredible opportunity. I really came to love the Salvadoran people, and pupusas as well, a delicious treat. It was a wonderful time for me and is another reason I very much love Latin America.

I had the honour and privilege to work for the sponsor of this bill, my colleague, the former minister, and still member of Parliament for Thornhill, while serving as his policy adviser when he served as the minister of state for foreign affairs. I remember very fondly our good times in Latin America. I remember going to Honduras to negotiate, after the coup, with the Organization of American States and the special times we shared together in Latin America. That is another reason I am very proud to speak to this bill and to encourage my colleagues to support this bill.

As I mentioned, I have a history of diplomacy in Latin America. Latin America is very much known for the warmth of its people. I am very pleased, every time I go to Latin American countries, to have the opportunity to meet more people from the region. I developed some very close friendships, in my time in the diplomatic corps, with many Latin Americans, relationships I continue to this day.

I actually very much appreciate the formality of diplomacy in Latin America. This is a place that honours tradition, respects roles, and respects a history of tradition and diplomacy in the region. A fond memory I have is when I received my accreditation in El Salvador as the chargé d'affaires. I remember being whisked through the streets of San Salvador in a motorcade. It was just incredible. I remember ascending the steps of the presidential palace. The president and the first lady were there to greet me with such warmth and such hospitality as the new chargé d'affaires with the ambassador at the time.

Latin America really has a special place in my heart. I always joke that part of me is Latina. I very much love and cherish this region.

Unfortunately, I will say that Latin America is not without its historic challenges, and there are many of them. We certainly know that the decades of the 20th century were filled with oppression by a number of dictators. For example, I think of Pinochet in Chile and the oppressive regime of that time. In Argentina, I cannot help but think of Videla and the oppressive regime created during that time.

There were definitely some challenges within this region. In addition to dictators, I could also mention the oligarchy, which has ruled its people through time.

In addition to these oppressive regimes, there have been the unfortunate circumstances of terrible civil war within Latin America. I think, for example, of Colombia and the FARC, and the disarray this created within that country, the drugs and murders as a result of this civil war, the instability and, the poverty that these situations brought to a nation, which is very tragic for its people.

I cannot help but mention the civil war in El Salvador that lasted for so many years with the FMLN, which, interestingly enough, went on to govern. When I was there, it was the time of ARENA, which was more right wing, so I was favourable to that. I was very proud to be there for the celebration in El Salvador of the 15-year end of the civil war. This was very monumental and it was very special for me.

If there was something good to come of these unfortunate circumstances, it was that these Latin Americans, in these hard times of oppression and civil war, looked for somewhere else to go, and one of those places was Canada. We were very proud, as a country and as Canadians, to welcome American Latinos with open arms, and we continue to do this.

I cannot describe the respect and love that many Latin Americans have for Canada. When I was the chargée des affaires in El Savador, I could not get my nails done without someone asking me about a visa in an effort to come to Canada. The people loved Canada so much and they wanted to visit or be part of the country. It is very special.

What a gift these people have been to Canada. My own riding of Calgary Midnapore has welcomed so many engineers, geologists, people who have contributed to our rich natural resources sector. I believe at last count in 2016, almost 500,000 people considered themselves to be of Latin American origin residing in Canada. For me, it is very special to honour these people, their heritage, and all that they bring to Canada in having searched for a better life.

It is with sadness that the effects of these oppressive dictatorships and the civil war have lasted. Throughout the time I was in my colleague's office as a policy adviser, we were still watching ALBA. We were looking for the Bolivarian influences. Since then, there was something much worse and more difficult, and that was the historic Cuban regime, the Castro regime, as well as Venezuela, which continues to be a place of struggle at this time. Not only is it enough that these regimes exist present day in Latin America, but it is with regret that the government across the aisle continues to support these regimes.

In fact, I can only describe the strong words spoken by the Prime Minister at the funeral of Fidel Castro as shameful and very disrespectful to the people who chose to come to Canada and make it their home. In addition, I would encourage the government to continue to stand up for Venezuela and Venezuelans who are suffering as conditions continue to deteriorate.

I am proud to be part of a Conservative Party that has always stood for democracy, justice, and prosperity, and under Prime Minister Harper had an appreciation for the Americas. I am proud to be part of the legacy of Jason Kenney and former foreign affairs minister John Baird. For all these reasons, supporting this bill will show support for democracy, prosperity, and justice across Latin America. It will show Canadians of Latin American origin how much we support them. That is why I ask all members of the House to support the bill to have a month of recognition for American Latinos.

[Member spoke in Spanish]

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.


Pablo Rodriguez Liberal Honoré-Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy and proud to speak today to Bill S-218, introduced by the late Senator Tobias Enverga, who left us much too soon. I also want to talk about his vision for this bill and his desire to acknowledge and highlight the historic contribution that the Latin American community has made to Canada. I am part of this community, since I was born in Argentina. I am Argentinian, Canadian, and Latin American.

I came to Canada with my family many years ago, when I had a bit less grey hair. My father was a lawyer for political prisoners, and he then ran for governor in one of the provinces. During this period, he was imprisoned and tortured many times. Shortly before his exile and our departure from Argentina, two bombs were placed in our home while my two parents, my young sisters, and I slept. We were all injured in the attack. It became very clear at that point that leaving was our only way to survive, and that is what we did.

We arrived in Canada just before the winter. We came from northern Argentina, where it was 45 to 50 degrees in the summer. We came here in late fall, and not long after, there was a snowstorm. It was the first of the year, and it was quite a shock. I did what all immigrants have done or should do: I adapted. I traded my soccer cleats for skates and a hockey stick, and I learned to speak French.

This is a roundabout way of saying that there are thousands of Latin Americans who experienced the same thing during that time and who came to live here in Canada. Those Latin Americans who came here from all over, for political or other reasons, contributed to shaping Canada as we know it. In a way, they added some spice.

How many Canadians learn Spanish today? How many people have danced to Latin music? Who does not know Shakira and Carlos Santana? Who has not danced to Despacito? I am sure that my colleague has danced to Despacito. How many Canadians ate at a Mexican, Salvadoran, or Honduran restaurant this week? That is what Latin America is about and more. When we celebrate Latin American heritage month, that is more or less what we celebrate together.

I mentioned Carlos Santana, Shakira, and Despacito, but I also could have talked about mariachi music, the tango that is danced in the street in Buenos Aires, or the rhythms of La Compagnie Créole, which we know and love back home in Montreal and throughout Quebec.

It is impossible to talk about Latin America without talking about literature. How many Canadians have read the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, or Love in the Time of Cholera? Let us not forget Mario Vargas Llosa, Jorge Luis Borges, and Pablo Neruda. How many of us have read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho? Many of us have. This is all part of Latin American culture.

Of course, it is impossible to talk about Latin America without mentioning its contribution to sport and to soccer, which we call fútbol. I am thinking of Brazil's five world cups, Uruguay's two, and Argentina's two. I am thinking of great players such as Pelé, Messi, and Maradona. I am thinking of how creatively Chile and Colombia play the game. Here at home, we have Ignacio Piatti, an Argentinian who plays for the Montreal Impact in the city I am honoured to represent.

I could go on and on about so many other things, such as Latin America's influence in the fields of medicine and science. I could talk about the Maya, who grew cacao hundreds of years before it was exported by European conquistadors, or about corn, which was cultivated all across the Americas and, like cacao, is now eaten, enjoyed, and prized around the world.

Latin America is also home to indigenous peoples. I am sure members will agree. Indigenous peoples flourished all across the continent. They created many languages and dialects and built major civilizations. The most famous ones are the Inca people in Peru and the Maya and Aztec peoples in central America and Mexico. Theirs were major civilizations that made significant contributions to the world over the centuries.

I could go on, but I want to spend some time talking about the Latin American community here in Canada. First off, I would say that it is a very varied and diverse community. Its members come from every corner of Latin America. It is also a young community, since 50% of its members are under the age of 25. Furthermore, it is a thriving community. Factoring in both immigrants and the children of immigrants, I would say that about 1 million people are here today because of immigration from Latin America. These people are from all over, and they can be found everywhere. They are artists, doctors, restaurant owners, musicians, teachers, managers, athletes, and sometimes even politicians. There are not many of those, but there are a few. These are the people that this bill honours.

Bill S-218 “recognizes that members of the Latin American community in Canada have made significant contributions to the social, economic and political fabric of the nation”. The objective of the bill is to designate the month of October as Latin American heritage month. Why October? As my colleagues stated, October is an important month for us and for the Latin American community. Many Latin American countries celebrate their independence day in October. It is also a month when Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Venezuela celebrate many religious or other holidays.

I salute the member for Davenport, who has helped me organize Hispanic Day on the Hill for the past two years. The tradition will continue next year with Senator Rosa Galvez, who is of Peruvian descent and is joining the team in order to organize an even bigger event. All my colleagues in the House are invited, of course.

There are many other things happening. I am thinking of ParlAmericas, which plays an important role in the dialogue between parliamentarians for the Americas. I am also thinking of different parliamentary friendship groups, such as the Canada-Costa Rica, Canada-Argentina, Canada-Mexico, and Canada-Cuba friendship groups.

Bill S-218 highlights all of this. This bill recognizes the contribution of our fellow Canadians of Latin American origin, and now we must promote this contribution.

In closing, I would like to again acknowledge the late Senator Enverga's initiative. May the passage of this bill honour his memory and ensure that his dream becomes a reality. I would also like to thank the member for Thornhill for agreeing to sponsor the bill, thus ensuring that Senator Enverga's dream will become a reality.

I will close by saying long live Latin America and long live Canada.

[The member spoke in Spanish.]

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to stand here today and salute the contribution of Latin Americans, people from Latin American countries, and their presence in Quebec, particularly in my riding of Longueuil—Saint-Hubert.

I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to thank the authors of the bill and my colleagues here in the House who are responsible for bringing this bill forward for our consideration today.

The bill before us today invites Parliament to recognize that members of the Latin American community in Canada have made an invaluable contribution to Canada's social, economic, and political fabric. It also suggests that designating a Latin American heritage month will allow Canadians to learn more about this contribution, and ensure that it is never forgotten. We know that Latin American communities from across the country would take advantage of Latin American heritage month to celebrate and share their unique culture and traditions with all Canadians. We also know that October is an especially important month for Latin American communities the world over.

The bill therefore proposes that October be designated Latin American heritage month throughout the country.

The bill mentions the diversity of Latin American communities in Quebec and Canada, since Latin Americans come from various countries and states. It also mentions the important contributions they have made to the broader communities around them, to community spirit, to the economy of our cities and towns, and to the social fabric of our country. The presence of communities with which Quebeckers share a certain affinity, similar values and culture, and where there is mutual recognition, contributes a great deal to our communities, and that is what I want to acknowledge about this bill.

Quebec's intercultural project is based on this ability to live together and work together to build a community. This involves recognizing our shared values and the contributions of every individual, which are shaped by his or her personal experience and cultural background.

It is also the reason why this bill proposes that Quebeckers and Canadians learn more about the contributions of Latin American Canadians in order to provide an opportunity to remember and recognize them. That is what designating a Latin American heritage month would do: allow us to learn about the achievements of Latin American Canadians in communities throughout Quebec, particularly in our own neighbourhoods. I do not want to appear biased, but of course everything is better in Longueuil and Saint-Hubert. The same holds true in communities across Canada that have been enriched by the contributions of people from many different backgrounds.

There is a reason why October has been proposed for Latin American heritage month. As mentioned in the bill, October is an important month for Latin Americans. Fall is a time when many Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Chile, celebrate their independence.

Many of these countries were among the first former colonies to declare independence in the 19th century, and some became models of republican harmony. They projected the idea that racial segregation could be consigned to the dustbin of history, along with colonial institutions and economic exploitation. For that, they deserve to be honoured.

There are other reasons why this bill proposes making October a month for celebrating Latin American communities. October was chosen because of certain traditions and customs. We know that it is a significant month in Latin America and South America, since it is the month when Costa Rica celebrates the Day of Cultures, Venezuela observes the Day of Indigenous Resistance, Argentina marks the Day of Respect for Cultural Diversity, Brazil has its Children's Day, and various Latin American cultures celebrate the Day of the Dead.

We feel that dedicating the 10th month of the year to our Latin American communities would give members of those communities an opportunity to share these cultural traditions with their neighbours, in a spirit of harmony. The bill also notes that this event would bring people together and give them a chance to share and celebrate this rich cultural heritage.

A little while ago, L'Actualité published a profile of Quebec's Latin American community that highlighted the strong kinship between Quebeckers and the tens of thousands of members of that community, who refer to themselves as Latino-Quebeckers. According to the article, 90% of Latino immigrants choose to learn French when they arrive in Quebec. The community has a political presence in Quebec too, with people like former minister Joseph Facal and the member for Honoré-Mercier, who is originally from Argentina.

Our cities bear witness to the political history of these peoples. The statue of Simón Bolívar located five minutes from here, just off Rideau Street, was a gift to Canada from Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

We also have Salvador Allende Street in Laval, a tribute to the former Chilean president who was assassinated in a coup d'état. Let us not forget Quebec City's Parc de l'Amérique-Latine, which was established at the mouth of the Saint-Charles river to pay tribute to great figures in Latin American history, such as poet, writer, and Cuban national independence hero José Martí, Haitian independence hero Toussaint Louverture, and military leader Bernardo O'Higgins, a hero who fought for Chilean independence. They are legion, but those who have left the most indelible mark on Quebec are the men and women who made a life here. Thousands of people from various Latin and South American countries now live in Quebec City, Gatineau, Sherbrooke, and the area I am from, Longueuil and Saint-Hubert.

At the Nouvelle Vie church in Longueuil, there are Venezuelan, Peruvian, Cuban, and Quebec musicians. The Sacré-Cœur-de-Jésus church on Brodeur Street, right above our community centre, Entraide chez nous, hosts colourful, welcoming celebrations. Since I was elected in 2011, one of the encounters that has stood out for me was with Marco, who has been dedicated to the Table Itinérance Rive-Sud for many years and who, to me, is one of the greatest symbols of community involvement. Although Marco does a lot of work in the community, and everyone back home in Longueuil agrees, I am sure that if you asked him what he is most proud of, he would say his children, whom he teaches about his heritage every day, since the most beautiful language of all is the one spoken by our children.

It is in our best interests to actively create stronger relationships with Latin American countries, to build cultural bridges, and to share our ambitions with trade blocs like Mercosur. The Latin American communities established here, in Quebec and Canada, can help facilitate these joint projects. These communities and their heritage also make unique contributions to our culture and to the spirit of community in Quebec. I am very proud to highlight these contributions today and to support this proposal to designate a Latin American heritage month.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Gracias, señor presidente. Buenas tardes.

Mr. Speaker, it is pleasure for me to rise in the House to speak to Bill S-218, an act to designate October as Latin American heritage month.

I want to thank the late Senator Tobias Enverga Jr., who left us way too soon late last year, for his leadership and for sponsoring the bill.

I also want to thank my colleague, the member for Thornhill, who is the sponsor of the bill in this venerable House.

Members may not know this but my mother is Mexican. She was born in a small town called El Recodo in Mexico. It is internationally-known for its band music, and for a band called Banda el Recodo. Later in life she moved to Mazatlán, which is a beautiful seaside beach resort town, where she met my father. They then moved to Canada. That is why I was born here. Her name is Maria Amparo Lizarraga Zatarain. Although my last name does not reflect it, I am a very proud Mexican Canadian and a very proud Hispanic Canadian.

I am so pleased that in my downtown west riding of Davenport I have a growing Hispanic community that is very diverse. We have a number of people from North America, Central American, and South America. I have Mexicans, Ecuadorians, Chileans, Salvadoreans, Guyanese, Colombians, Peruvians, and so many others from this amazing part of the world.

We also have many celebrations of the Latin American culture in Davenport, including the very popular Salsa on St. Clair. This is a very popular festival that tends to take place the first weekend in July. Thousands of people from right across the city come out to sing in Spanish, to celebrate their different cultures, the different parts of Latin American and Central American cultures, and also to learn how to salsa. We turn St. Clair into a big dance floor, and it is a wonderful celebration.

In my riding of Davenport we also have a number of programs for the Hispanic community, including a very popular seniors program, which is at the Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre. I would like to give a shout-out to Mariela and Lumy for all their work in keeping our Hispanic seniors healthy, active, and engaged. I hope at some point to bring all of them up to the Hispanic Day on the Hill, which my colleague from Honoré-Mercier and I organize with Senator Rosa Galvez.

Bill S-218 is super important. It sets aside a specific time of the year to celebrate and educate fellow Canadians about the unbelievably talented Hispanic and Latin American communities in Canada. Should the bill pass, October will be the month that is dedicated as the time to honour the contributions of Hispanic Canadians in Canada.

I do not know if members know this, but an annual award is given to the 10 most influential Hispanic Canadians. These awards have been happening for 11 years. They are given out to an amazing pool of Hispanic and Latin American leaders. They are leaders in business, science, art, academics, law, media, and in so many other areas. I want to mention a few of them. I happened to have a chance to meet with them last week.

I want to mention Amanda Martinez, who is a world-renowned musician and artist, a Juno-winning artist, as well as winning international awards. We have Ana Dominguez, who is the president of Campbell Company of Canada. We have Mercedes Rowinsky-Geurts, who is a former dean and professor at Wilfred Laurier University. We have Dr. Alejandro Adem, who is the CEO of Mitacs Inc. As members can hear, there are lots of amazing, talented Hispanic and Latin American Canadians here in Canada. They serve as an inspiration to not only the Hispanic community but all Canadians.

We are doing a number of things in Ottawa to promote the Hispanic and Latin American culture. Earlier, my colleague from Honoré-Mercier mentioned that both he and I organized Hispanic Day on the Hill. We started it two and a half years ago when we first came to office. We recognized that there was no opportunity for us to elevate, at the national level, an event that celebrated the amazing talents and diversity of the culture, as well as the contributions of all of the amazing Hispanic community to Canada.

Last week I had a wonderful opportunity to host a number of leaders. There were 20 top-10 Hispanic leaders of Canada here. They came and met with the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities on issues of great importance to the community. Some of the issues we talked about were how to invigorate Canada's thriving start-up culture, how to create more awareness for Hispanics and Canada's creative class, and how to provide more support for migrant workers. The list goes on, but we had a wonderful discussion with a number of ministers. It was very successful, and I was delighted to be able to host them on the Hill.

Canada has recognized the magic and opportunity of Latin American countries. Indeed, we have engaged quite a bit in trade agreements with our Latin American counterparts. The first one that included a number of Latin American countries is the CPTPP. It includes 11 countries, a lot of which are in Asia, but Mexico and two from South America, Peru and Chile, are also included. We are looking forward to expanding our trade relations through that agreement.

About two months ago, we launched negotiations for Mercosur, which is the South American trading bloc composed of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay, with a combined population of 260 million people and a GDP of over $3 trillion. I am delighted we have one agreement in place. We also have a Canada-Chile trade agreement in place. We are working hard on Mercosur. This will absolutely further cement a deepening trade relationship between Canada and Latin and Central American countries, but it will also deepen our cultural and personal ties with each of these countries.

I want to also mention we have a number of youth mobility agreements, particularly with Chile and Mexico. These agreements allow youth from our respective countries to travel to each other's countries to work or study so we can learn more about each other. Ultimately, this helps strengthen the relationships between our respective countries, and I think it bodes well for our future.

As a final mention, I have been working on a number of very important issues within the Latin American community as a commitment from our government. We have been working a lot in terms of making sure agricultural workers' rights are supported in Canada. Many of these workers come from Mexico, do a wonderful job, and are temporary foreign workers. We have put money in budget 2018 to ensure that their rights are protected and they are treated well here. We have also put some money aside to ensure non-profit groups have the ability to help support these agricultural temporary workers here in Canada. They ensure that they know their rights, and if they have any issues, they can communicate with them in their own language on how to address them.

We are putting money into promoting multiculturalism. We have also given some teeth to an ombudsperson, who is able to ensure Canadian companies in the mining industry in different sectors around the world—in particular Mexico, Latin America, and South America—adhere to human and environmental rights. We are doing a lot in terms of taking advantage of the opportunities before us in Latin and Central America, and we are looking forward to building stronger relations.

I know that my time is up. I want to end by saying I am thankful for the opportunity to speak on this very important bill. I encourage all my colleagues in the House to support it. As our Prime Minister always says, Canada is stronger because of our diversity. Indeed, the Hispanic community has enriched our culture, our community, and our lives, and Canada is a better country for it.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate, I invite the hon. member for Thornhill for his right of reply. The hon. member has up to five minutes.

The hon. member for Thornhill.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.


Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

[Member spoke in Spanish as follows:]

Gracias, señor presidente, y en adelante.


Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the enthusiastic support for Bill S-218, an act respecting Latin American heritage month, that we have heard again today from all sides of this House.

This legislation recognizes the many significant contributions to Canada's social, economic, and political fabric by Canada's Latin American community. This legislation, conceived and carefully fashioned by our late colleague and former senator, the Honourable Tobias Enverga, will stand, I am sure, as a major element of his political legacy.

As I noted when I tabled Bill S-218 on his behalf here in the House, Senator Enverga Tobias, known to his friends as “Jun”, was the first Canadian of Filipino descent to be appointed to the Senate of Canada. Born in the Philippines, he represented Ontario in the Senate since his appointment in 2012.

When Senator Enverga first spoke to Bill S-218 in the other place, he reminded colleagues that he came to Canada as an immigrant, one of many in the upper chamber today, who was fortunate to be welcomed to Canada. He referred to the spectrum of celebrations held across Canada by communities of various national, ethnic and linguistic origins.

He highlighted the two decades-plus annual celebration, for example, of Black History Month, which was recognized by this House in 1995 and by the Senate 13 years later. He explained that the designation of Black History Month has done much to educate and familiarize Canadians with the stories and important history that is too often absent in school curricula.

He mentioned as well Asian Heritage Month, which was proclaimed in 2002, and marked annually ever since when non-Asian Canadians learn and experience the sounds, entertainment, and tastes of Asia, and celebrate the contributions Asian Canadians have brought to Canadian society. Those, Senator Enverga argued, are just two wonderful examples of designated heritage months to which, he believed, a Latin American heritage month should be added.

As colleagues have noted many times throughout this debate, Latin America is of our hemisphere. For the purposes of this bill, Senator Enverga envisioned the widest possible interpretation so that Bill S-218 would cover those who identify as Spanish and Portuguese speakers from South and Central America, as well as those whose heritage is of the francophone and Hispanic Caribbean Islands. Using that broad and inclusive measure, members can see that Canadians of Latin American origin can be found far and wide across our great country from coast to coast to coast. In the absence of specific census numbers, we might estimate a possible demographic well above half a million men, women, and children, perhaps as many as 1.2 million Latin Americans living among us.

When Senator Enverga originally approached me to ask that I sponsor his bill in the House, he explained that because I was a former minister of state for the Americas, he thought that I understood and greatly appreciated the wonderful mix and complexity of Canada's communities composed of those among us who originated from Latin America and that I would be able to put a voice to the message that led to the passage of Bill S-218 in this place. I hope that I have communicated the senator's worthy dream.

I, too, believe that declaring the month of October to be Latin American heritage month would offer to all Canadians an opportunity to celebrate yet another dimension of our uniquely Canadian multicultural society. I urge all members of all parties to support Bill S-218.

[Member spoke in Spanish as follows:]

Muchas gracias a todos.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Some hon. members


Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Consular AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

May 8th, 2018 / 6:45 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, over the last several months, I have been inspired by the Iranian community. Many Iranian Canadians fled here to escape the despotic authoritarian regime. They and those who are still in Iran fight regularly to oppose and resist the brutality of the government. In Iran, they risk life and limb every time they stand up to oppose the regime. Here, they bring a passion for freedom and democracy that is deeply inspiring to all of us.

Very often, when we speak of the Iranian government, we talk about the important regional and global security issues and how the government is supporting violent militias that are destabilizing the region, provoking humanitarian crises, threatening our allies, particularly Israel, and supporting terrorism further afield. Iran's regime is a present and growing danger to global security.

As we reflect on the Iranian situation, though, it is also critical that we consider the connection between the regime's aggression abroad and its repression at home. The Iranian people are the first victims of this regime, and they are its most vocal opponents. We can see how any regime that is a menace to its own people is also a menace to international peace and security, and vice versa.

The people of Iran have taken to the streets in recent months to seek the overthrow of a government that is not on their side. Certainly economics is part of it. Money being spent promoting terrorism abroad could be spent supporting economic development and addressing poverty issues at home. However, the economic problems are tied to more fundamental political problems. The government of Iran is focused on a revolutionary yet reactionary project, the imposition of its own authoritarian brand of religion on everyone, in defiance of basic norms of human rights.

I salute the Iranian people for their passion and their courage. Because of them, one day, hopefully very soon, a free Iran will be a beacon of hope in the region, a friend to Israel, a friend to Canada, and a champion of the global common good.

While these protests were going on, the Liberal MP for Richmond Hill called the Iranian regime “elected”. He tweeted:

it is my sincere hope that the brave nation of #Iran have the opportunity to air their legitimate financial, social and political concerns with the support of their elected government

While the Iranian people were dying in the streets, that Canadian MP was acting as the regime's stooge and providing ideological cover by calling the Ayatollahs elected. That member remains in the Liberal caucus, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs has yet to repudiate his remarks. He remains on two important committees, the committee for operations and the committee for industry. Despite his deplorable stated views on the Iranian regime, the member seems to continue to enjoy the esteem of his government and his Prime Minister.

In the midst of all this, the Iranian regime has murdered another Canadian, academic Kavous Seyed-Emami. The regime claims that this was suicide, which is frankly beyond implausible. It is striking how totalitarian regimes lie without even making a basic effort to be believable.

Incredibly, the government responded to questions about this issue by calling for the Iranian government to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation themselves. On what basis can a political system without any concept of independent rule of law conduct an investigation into its own crimes?

Why the reluctance on the part of this government to clearly confront the Iranian regime about the lives of Canadians, especially given continuing escalation now, with Mr. Seyed-Emami's widow being denied the opportunity to leave the country? Why is this happening, from a Canadian perspective?

Aside from the attitude of the member for Richmond Hill, we know that the government is vigorously pursuing business opportunities in Iran for Bombardier. The government is financing, subsidizing, by $100 million Canadian taxpayers' dollars, this aerospace deal, and the Iranian government will not even have to pay the carbon tax when these planes take off. This is a great deal for the regime and for shareholders of Bombardier, but it is a terrible deal for taxpayers, for human rights, and for the people of Iran.

When will the government finally listen, stand up for the Iranian people, and start challenging this regime?

Consular AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Mississauga Centre Ontario


Omar Alghabra LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (Consular Affairs)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his passion. I agree with him on one thing. We are all inspired by the determination of the Iranian people and their effort to seek a democratic, freedom-loving state and government. He will understand why I take exception to many of the characterizations in his speech.

I enjoy his passion for the promotion of human rights. I respect his desire to see justice and equality all over the world, but I also remind myself of the partisan jabs that he takes, which sometimes undermine his credibility and his argument.

Let me reiterate. Our government has been extremely clear about our position toward the Iranian regime. Our government continues to lead an annual UN resolution on the situation in Iran and calls for the Iranian government to uphold its obligations, domestically and internationally. This is an annual resolution at the United Nations that our government leads.

We have been very clear with the Iranian government in calling for it to allow people to protest, to call for democratic reforms, and to call for free elections. Our government was one of the first governments in the world to speak in support of freedom of assembly in Iran during the latest protest, which the hon. colleague mentioned.

I know the member was not part of the former government, but when the Conservatives were in charge, they had a lot of posturing but did nothing to help the Iranian people. They were not able to move the needle an inch.

We have spoken with many Canadians who have relations with Iran and interests there. They have been asking us to continue to speak up clearly for human rights, but they are also asking us to make sure that we represent their interests in Iran to the Iranian regime.

We have been very clear and consistent. We want to have the ability to speak directly with the Iranian regime. We have also been clear in condemning it for supporting terrorism and for its destabilization efforts in the region. We have been very clear in condemning it for supporting the Assad regime and what it has been doing in Syria.

We have loudly condemned the death of a Canadian citizen in Iranian detention. We have called, and will continue to call, for an independent, transparent investigation into the circumstances of his death. Today, we will continue to call for allowing his widow, Maryam Mombeini, to leave Iran and to be reunited with her family here in Canada.

I welcome my hon. colleague's input and feedback, but we have been very clear. We will not compromise the interests of Canadians, and we will not compromise the promotion of human rights in Iran and around the world.

Consular AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, certainly this is an important exchange. What the member has characterized as partisan jabs are in fact legitimate and important policy criticisms of the government. I am not suggesting that we disagree on every aspect of this issue, but there are some important things that we need to hear from the government that we have not heard.

The parliamentary secretary has not addressed the comments of the member for Richmond Hill. The characterization of the Iranian regime as elected is deeply concerning to the Iranian community and problematic for those who are promoting democracy.

The government has spoken about the right to protest, which is important, but so is endorsing the message of the protesters. It is one thing to endorse the right to protest; it is another thing entirely to say, as I have and as, I believe, some backbench members of the government have, that the message of the protesters is a message that Canada should support.

It is interesting that the member said that nothing was done under the previous government, when in fact he referred to an activity at the United Nations that began under the previous government. There are points of continuity, but there are also clear points of difference.

I wonder if the member could clearly address the comments of the member for Richmond Hill, the message of the protesters, and the broader issue, which is that the government is pursuing closer and closer commercial ties in the midst of these major human rights problems.

Consular AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague wants me to comment on my colleague, who has already addressed his comments in the media. He already has explained his comments so it is not up to me to comment on my hon. colleague. If the member has further questions, he can take it up with my colleague.

It is kind of a contradiction. When I asked my hon. colleague to tell me the accomplishments of the previous government, he raised that the Conservatives have been championing these resolutions that our government continues to champion and that somehow our government has failed in upholding human rights, but their government did so much work for human rights.

Regardless of the message of the protestor, whether I agree with it or not, and whether the member agrees with it or not, we will stand firmly in supporting people's right to protest, free of oppression and free of violence. That will be our consistent position.

Public TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, in January, I asked a question in the House about the hardship brought on by the closure of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company a year ago this month, and was encouraged when the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development replied:

As the member knows full well, this is an issue that we are working on. We will work with her office to make sure we take the appropriate steps that are required and needed to address the issue in a meaningful way.

Having heard nothing from the minister or anyone else in the government, I sent a follow-up letter to the minister on March 14. Sadly, to this day, I still have heard nothing from the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development nor from any other minister.

The loss of STC is keenly felt by many people in Saskatchewan. If people do not have the means to own a car or they cannot drive, STC was the only affordable means of transportation. Without it, people in Saskatchewan are forced into impractical and sometimes dangerous alternatives. Women seeking to get away from domestic violence or to attend medical procedures are hitchhiking to get support and health care. Further, many families were not able to testify at the only missing and murdered indigenous women and girls hearing in Saskatchewan.

Last June, seven women's organizations from Saskatchewan sent a joint letter to the minister about the lack of public transportation for rural and remote locations in Saskatchewan. They are still waiting for a response. In March, at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women session in New York, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs was asked about the lack of response and promised to look into it. To date, these women's groups have not received a response.

If I may, I will share a story that will illustrate for my hon. colleagues just how important it is to bring back STC. Just last week, a constituent of mine who works at a trade school was contacted by one of her students. He was in Prince Albert with no means to get to Saskatoon in time to start his final year of trade training. He was not able to find a ride, and even if he did, he did not think he would have enough money to pay for someone to drive him. This constituent of mine could not bear to stand by and do nothing while all the hard work that this student had put into his training was wasted should he fail to be present for his final weeks of training. Therefore, she decided to drive to Prince Albert to bring the student back to Saskatoon. This is what people with few means in Saskatchewan are forced to do: rely on the goodwill of others or the kindness of strangers.

Saskatchewan has the second-highest rural population per capita in Canada. Seventy per cent of STC users were low-income earners and 60% of those were women. In Canada, one in five people who use public transportation is living with a disability.

Why is it that we see federal leadership, investment, and willingness to subsidize public transportation only in large urban centres? Public transportation is critical infrastructure in this country. Linking rural and urban centres, it is a sustainable, cost-effective way to connect people to health care, to education, to employment, and to family. It is a lifeline for indigenous communities and we need the federal government to lead the way.

Why will the government not act on its word and work with me and my colleagues to ensure that there is a safe, affordable, and reliable public transportation system in Saskatchewan?

Public TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs Québec


Marc Miller LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

Mr. Speaker, at the outset, I would like to thank the hon. member for the advocacy on behalf of her constituents that she displays on a daily basis, particularly with this issue.

As the hon. member well knows, our government is making unprecedented infrastructure investments in communities across the country, totalling more than $180 billion, through our investing in Canada infrastructure plan. Public transit infrastructure is a top priority for our government. These investments improve commutes, cut air pollution, and help grow our economy.

The public transit infrastructure fund, which we launched as part of phase 1 of our infrastructure plan, focuses on the rehabilitation of public transit systems across the country. It includes investments of more than $29 million in Saskatchewan.

Our government has so far invested in 15 projects in Saskatchewan worth more than $38 million.

This funding supports projects such as fleet renewal in Saskatoon, the replacement of 17 buses and nine paratransit buses in Regina, and public transit fleet upgrades in Prince Albert.

Projects like these are helping modernize transit fleets across Saskatchewan, making public transit more accessible and reliable while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

As the member well knows, the Saskatchewan Transportation Company was a provincially run service, and the decision to terminate the service was made by the province. It is up to the provinces to decide how to best provide public transit services to their communities within their jurisdictions. It is a tenet that we all well know.

The federal government has infrastructure programming available to support transit services and facilities. The Government of Canada does not actually operate the bus system, but the Government of Canada can invest in the physical assets that are required to support the bus system. There would need to be a proponent in Saskatchewan willing to bring forward that proposition.

We are currently working closely with the province of Saskatchewan to finalize the new bilateral agreement for long-term funding under the investing in Canada infrastructure plan. For Saskatchewan residents, this will mean federal investment of just over $307 million in public transit.

The Government of Canada recognizes that local governments are in the best position to know the priorities and needs of their communities. That is why we work closely with them to support priority and transformative investments that will have a positive, concrete impact on communities.

We are committed to supporting the provinces, territories, and indigenous communities while working to improve the infrastructure Canadians need and use every day.

Public TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, last Friday, I rose in the chamber to ask again what the government was doing, and the reply from the government was:

...we understand that having an efficient and functional transportation system is absolutely critical. We need to work together. We have to work together with the provinces and with the municipalities to make that happen. Those kinds of discussions are under way.

I believe in working together and there is a role for the federal government to help lead the way, with Saskatchewan residents, when it comes to public transportation. That is what I had asked the minister, and it was my understanding that the government was participating in looking at the Saskatchewan Transportation Company, or a public transportation system outside the urban areas.

It has been a year since STC shut down. I really would like to see the government step forward and work with the province to find a way to have a good public transportation system not just for urban people but for everyone in the province of Saskatchewan.

Public TransportationAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.


Marc Miller Liberal Ville-Marie—Le Sud-Ouest—Île-des-Soeurs, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the member opposite to continue her advocacy on behalf of her constituents. That would include engaging the provincial government on this priority in particular.

As she knows, the Government of Canada has made this public infrastructure a top priority. Through the first phase of our investing in Canada plan, we have committed $29 million specifically to public transit systems in communities across the province of Saskatchewan.

For the next stage of our long-term plan, we are working closely with Saskatchewan. We hope to finalize a new bilateral agreement, which would commit the aforementioned sum of $307 million to the province for its transit investment priorities.

Public transit is essential to building strong, inclusive, green communities. The Government of Canada is firmly committed to supporting the construction of modern, efficient public transit networks across the country. We are eager to work with Saskatchewan communities to support their public transit plans.