Mr. Speaker, It is a pleasure, as always, to stand in the House and take part in the important conversations we have at the heart of Canadian democracy. Today I am pleased to join the conversation surrounding S-218, the Latin American heritage month act. I am especially proud to speak to this bill sponsored by my friend the late Hon. Senator Enverga.
I would like to say a few words about Senator Enverga before I discuss the bill.
Senator Enverga was the first Canadian of Filipino descent to be appointed to the Senate. He represented my home province of Ontario in the upper house after being appointed in 2012. He did outstanding work for the Filipino community, but also for a number of communities in the greater Toronto area, and across the country, my riding including.
Speaking of my riding, we worked hand in hand for a number of years. Sometimes we met each other five or six times a week in the different communities for the different community functions all around the GTA. It was a pleasure to have been able to call him my friend.
Senator Enverga passed away on Thursday, November 16, while on parliamentary business in Colombia. However, even after his passing, Senator Enverga's Latin American heritage month bill lives on. This is his legacy. I am proud to be able to speak to the bill, and to contribute my thoughts here today.
I would like to express my full support for this act. Multiculturalism is at the very core of our Canadian identity. Bill S-218 recognizes the many major contributions of the Canadian Latin American community to Canada's social, economic, and political fabric. It recognizes that the Latin American community is an important part of our diverse nation and collective heritage.
I hope members of the Latin American community across the country are able to celebrate Latin American heritage month. Further, I hope the community is able to use it to share its unique culture and traditions with all Canadians.
Given the strong and growing presence of the Latin American community in Canada, the formal recognition of Latin American heritage is important. This will provide Canadians of all backgrounds a perfect opportunity to recognize and reflect on the contributions of this community. Together we can celebrate our diverse society in Canada.
Some may say that the recognition of this community means very little to bettering the lives of the Latin American communities in Canada. However, I would argue that the bill is one more meaningful way Canada can work toward being a more inclusive nation that celebrates and accepts people from all backgrounds and walks of life. The bill recommends that the government recognize the contributions that Latin American Canadians have made to Canadian society and Canadian culture for future generations by declaring each October Latin American heritage month.
I am proud to support the bill. I know all of our Conservative members, and of course the previous Conservative government, have reflected on the contributions that Latin American Canadians have made to Canada. We are strong allies of the community, and are thankful for its contributions to Canadian society. I will be happy to support and recognize the unique culture that Latin Americans bring to the table.
The bill reads, “Throughout Canada, in each and every year, the month of October is to be known as “Latin American Heritage Month”.” It is important that we designate October as Latin American heritage month, as it is a very meaningful month for the Latin American community at home and abroad. It is particularly important because it is the month that marks the end of the annual season of the independence celebrations in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica.
Designating October as Latin American heritage month would be a meaningful way to remember, celebrate, and educate the public about their contributions.
By passing this bill, we will provide monumental appreciation and support for the community. This is important in respecting multiculturalism in Canada.
We have seen many examples of this type of legislation at work. We can look to Asian Heritage Month and Black History Heritage Month just to name a few. We have also seen Italian Heritage Month and Portuguese Heritage Month, both passed into law just last year, and just recently we celebrated Jewish Heritage Month. The work done in this regard does a lot toward educating our youth in schools and sharing the vibrant cultures of the different communities that contribute to our great country.
Latin America should be no different. Its community in Canada is among the fastest growing cultural groups in our country. According to Statistics Canada, between 1996 and 2001, the number of individuals reporting Latin American heritage had risen by 32%, at a time when the national population only grew at a rate of 4%.
Canadians of Latin American heritage have played an active role in communities across our country, going back to the early 1970s.
It is clear that the Latin American community is rapidly growing in our diverse society. From a community that had less than 3,000 members before the 1970's, over the next decades, the community will see rapid expansion and will continue to strengthen beyond most expectations. According to Statistics Canada, there were close to 250,000 Latin Americans in Canada at the start of the 21st century. By the end of 2006, their numbers more than doubled, reaching over 527,000. It is clear that Canada's Latin community is rapidly expanding and becoming evermore present in our diverse society.
Again, I am extremely proud of the work that Hon. Senator Enverga did for the Latin American community in Canada. I hope to see this legislation pass. As Senator Tobias Enverga said, “Few countries in the world are as open and accepting to people who come from other countries to settle and make a new life for themselves...”.
This is important work for the Latin American community. I truly believe that designating the month of October to be Latin American heritage month would be a meaningful opportunity to celebrate another part of our uniquely Canadian multicultural society, just as we have seen done before.
I value the contributions made to Canada by Latin Americans and I am proud to stand in support of this legislation. I hope everyone in the House will support Bill S-218.