Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this evening to speak in support of Bill S-218, which would enact Latin American heritage month. There is a growing Latin American community in Barrie—Innisfil and it is for them that I rise tonight.
I will be speaking about Senator Enverga. In honour of Senator Enverga, I would love to ask the pages for dos cervezas, por favor.
I also want to thank the hon. member for Thornhill for sponsoring the bill in the House, a bill that I believe to be extremely important so that we can honour the legacy of Senator Enverga and what he was trying to do. Of course, Senator Enverga died in November of 2017, in Colombia, while there on parliamentary business. It was a sad day for all of us when we found out. I know some our colleagues were in Colombia with Senator Enverga and are still troubled by what happened on that day in November.
Senator Enverga was appointed to the Senate on September 6, 2012, by former Prime Minister Harper. It was a joyous moment in the Filipino community, because Senator Enverga was the first Filipino senator ever appointed to the Senate. As we celebrate the 120th anniversary of Filipino Independence Day, I know the impact Senator Enverga had on the Filipino community. Shortly after his death, the Bayanihan Club of Simcoe County was holding its Christmas dinner, as it does annually, and there was an incredible tribute to Senator Enverga and what he had done. Many tears were shed that night because the emotion was still raw as a result of his death. I know he is tremendously loved, not just within the Canadian Filipino community but also within the Barrie—Innisfil Filipino community.
Senator Enverga was first elected as a Toronto Catholic school board trustee. He was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. He was a voice for those with special needs, and what a soft and gentle voice Senator Enverga had. He was a champion of multiculturalism here in Canada and some of his parliamentary work, which is too numerous to mention, included matters relating to Canada's indigenous peoples, oceans, waterways, fisheries, ecosystems, and economic resources, as well as matters related to banking, trade, and commerce. He was certainly involved in agriculture and parliamentary procedures and rights. He was a strong voice on both of those issues and many of us in the House can learn valuable lessons from Senator Enverga and the work that he did.
In his community, there literally was no event that Senator Enverga did not travel to as co-chair of the GTA's Filipino Heritage Month celebrations. He served on the Canadian Multicultural Council and founded the Philippine Canadian Charitable Foundation. He was an honourable member of this place and he is sorely missed. However, it is his legacy with respect to this piece of legislation that I hope all members of the House will support, on behalf of Senator Enverga.
As I said earlier, the Latin community in Barrie—Innisfil is a growing and dynamic community. The numbers are growing. The culture, food, and experiences of Latin America and Latin heritage are so prevalent now in Barrie—Innisfil that almost every event that I go to somewhere in my riding, there are members of the Latin community present. There are several key important members, such as Nohemi Hernández-Buitrago, and events like the Mother's Day Fiesta and the numerous Latin dance parties that occur. I have actually gotten very good at doing the salsa because of attendance at these parties.
However, they also help in other Latin communities, teaming up just recently with the Innisfil Latin Organization to raise money for the youth of Guatemala who are affected by the eruption of the Fuego volcano, or the “fire” volcano as it is known. It just recently erupted, and many people lost their lives and villages were buried in ash. This community rallied together, raising money for food, medicine, and other needs of rescue workers.
That really is what Latin people do. They come together. They are so strong in their community and in their commitment to the community. The other thing they do is promote ESL classes for Latino community members. In fact, if one goes to the Barrie community Latin foundation Facebook page, one will see a schedule of those summer classes, which will occur from nine to 1:30 on the dates specified.
One of the most disappointing things for me is that there is a church in my riding that offers English as a second language to many newcomers from Latin America, and because of the government's Canada summer jobs attestation, it did not qualify because it refused to buy into the Liberal government's and the Prime Minister's ideology. Therefore, there are some people within the Latin community who are not going to receive ESL language training this year because of the failure to receive money under the Canada summer jobs grant.
The Innisfil Latin Organization is really growing, and it serves as a communication network for the different needs of the Hispanic community in Ontario. They have a meeting point in Innisfil, and everyone is welcome to attend. They support each other, get more resources and tools, and help the Latino community. I can think of one person in particular, Nina Donayre, who teaches English as second language classes for seniors who are newcomers to Innisfil. This is the way they rally around each other to try to help each other. In fact, I was just talking to Nina at the Innisfil beach recreation centre, and she wants to do more work and outreach to the Latin community.
There are others as well such as Yudi Hibbs and Chris Mathson who are strongly involved in the Latino community, as well as Manuel Antonio Vera and Katherine Lozano Contreras, who are key players in the Innisfil Latino community. They do a tremendous amount of work. I have been to some of the dance events they have, as well as entertainment, parties, birthdays, network share job information, and immigration information. This is where my office can play a key role in providing a service and being that conduit to help them out. As well, they have English as a second language workshops and how to keep Spanish in our homes. They do activities for children, provide recipes, and just provide tremendous contributions to the Barrie—Innisfil community. They are literally everywhere.
This past weekend, the Rotary Family Fun Day took place at the Innisfil beach recreation centre and there they were. I know they are going to be at the Innisfil Ribfest this weekend, and the mayor and I are going to be there. It is probably the only community in Canada where we get the mayor of Innisfil and the member of Parliament for Barrie—Innisfil joining together to sell beer tickets at Ribfest. This is the kind of community we have, and Mayor Wauchope and I often joke about that.
The important part of this bill is that it would recognize the contributions Latin American Canadians have made to Canadian society. This is precisely what Senator Enverga thought of when he developed this bill, the richness and diversity of Latin American language and culture and the importance of reflecting upon Latin American heritage and culture for future generations by declaring the month of October as Latin American heritage month.
Later, the hon. member for Huron—Bruce will be speaking about the contribution Latin Americans have made to the game of baseball in this country. He will be talking specifically about the Blue Jays and some of the members of the Hall of Fame. I do not want to give too much away, but it is going to be great.
I have experienced the Latin community and how it has enriched Barrie—Innisfil. In the words of Shakira, “Hips Don't Lie”:
I never really knew that she could dance like this
She makes a man wants to speak Spanish
I support this bill wholeheartedly.
[Member spoke in Spanish]