Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech and the beautiful songs he treated us to.
I would like to pay tribute to the late Senator Tobias Enverga, the sponsor of this legislation and a great Filipino Canadian who advocated for multiculturalism. I would like to point out that he is the first Canadian of Filipino heritage to serve in the Senate. He was born in the Philippines and was appointed to the upper chamber in 2012 to represent Ontario. He proudly represented not only people from the Filipino community, but many different groups living in the greater Toronto area and elsewhere in Canada, and he did so in a very positive way.
We are debating this today thanks to the member for Thornhill, my colleague who was delighted to sponsor the bill in order to move it along in honour of Mr. Enverga. The bill reads as follows:
An Act respecting Latin American Heritage Month
the Parliament of Canada recognizes that members of the Latin American community in Canada have made significant contributions to the social, economic and political fabric of the nation;
Whereas the designation of a month as Latin American Heritage Month would be a meaningful way to remember, celebrate and educate the public about these contributions;
Whereas Latin American communities across Canada would be mobilized by a Latin American Heritage Month to jointly celebrate, share and promote their unique culture and traditions with all Canadians;
And whereas October is a significant month for the Latin American community around the world;
Now, therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:
Throughout Canada, in each and every year, the month of October is to be known as “Latin American Heritage Month”.
The month of October was chosen because that is the same month designated in the United States to mark this event.
Who are the members of the Latin American diaspora? By definition, they come from all parts of America where people mainly speak Spanish and Portuguese. We are talking about 20 or so countries in all, with 18 Spanish-speaking countries and one where Portuguese is spoken.
It was just announced that the World Cup will be held here. Latin American countries love soccer, or fútbol as some fans like me call it. I have many friends who are fans of soccer and who come from countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, which is a beautiful country where many people vacation, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru—and this gives me the opportunity to say hello to my good friend Marisol Hidalgo, who is originally from there and the wife of one of my French friends—the Dominican Republic, Salvador, Uruguay, and Venezuela. I have had the opportunity to visit and to vacation in some of these countries.
There are more than 400 million Spanish speakers in the world. It is currently the second most spoken language. More than 363 million of these speakers live in Latin America. I mention these big numbers because they are reflected in our international schools and language schools. We live in a bilingual country, where we speak English and French, but Spanish is often the third language children learn. It is a good tool for their future. My three children had the opportunity to learn Spanish in high school, and I am proud that they are able to speak in this language.
Between 1996 and 2001 in Canada, the Latin American population increased by 32%, which is significant. Seven out of 10 people came between 1991 and 2011. According to the most recent data from the 2011 National Household Survey, there are approximately 750,000 people of Latin American origin. The population of Canada is about 34.5 million, so that represents a rather large community. The majority of members from this community were born abroad. Now, we can say that 32.5% were born in Canada. Canada has welcomed Latin American immigrants for more than fifty years.
Based on available data, we know that nearly 23% of immigrants came from the Americas. Although there are no absolute census numbers covering this broad and somewhat imprecise measure, we might estimate a probable demographic well over half a million men, women, and children, and this number is growing quickly.
I want to point out how much they contribute to Canada. They work, buy goods, contribute to the economy, and help fill our labour shortage. Everyone knows we are in the middle of a labour shortage.
In 2013, they surpassed the employment rate of people born in Canada. People often think that immigrants have a harder time finding work, but in this case, they surpassed the employment rate in the labour market. Tens of thousands of workers from Latin America come every year to work temporarily in various regions of Canada and in various sectors, especially in the agricultural sector, where there is a labour shortage.
Latin America is the fourth-largest source of immigration to Canada. That is really something. Those people bring with them a diversity of cultures, a variety of food, and a wealth of knowledge. Earlier I named most of the countries covered by this bill. We all know people who come from those areas. They are all friendly, kind, and intelligent people who contribute to the development of our wonderful country.
Why a Latin American heritage month? It is simply about paying homage to the culture, the traditions, and the contributions made by this community to our society.
The Day of the Dead is celebrated in November in many countries, but the festivities start in October, hence the reason to start in October like the Americans.
October 12 is the day of indigenous resistance in Costa Rica, the day of respect for cultural diversity in Venezuela, the day of the Americas in Argentina and Uruguay, and children's day in Brazil.
Another interesting fact is that the United States celebrates exactly the same holiday, National Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15 to October 15.
In 1988, Canada became the first country to pass a law on multiculturalism, simply known as the Canadian Multiculturalism Act.
This official recognition is in line with other similar commemorations that reinforce how important cultural communities are to our Canadian identity, such as Black History Month in February and Asian Heritage Month in May.
On a more personal note, I am the son of immigrants. My mother and father were born in Egypt. I experienced the process of settling in our country and the desire to learn even more about everything that is good in Canada, while respectfully sharing our own family cultures.
Members should also know that this contributes to our collective history of protecting our rights and freedoms under the principles of peace, order, and good governance.
As mentioned by the sponsor of the bill, the member for Thornhill, the Latin American population in Canada is young. According to Statistics Canada, almost 50% of people of Latin American origin living in Canada are under 25 years old. In light of the difficulties caused by the demographic shock that we are currently experiencing, this is an interesting fact. This population is young and can contribute for many more years to the development of our country. Seniors represent less than 5% of those reporting Latin American origins in the last census, compared to 12% of all Canadians for the same age group. This is a noteworthy statistic.
I join all my colleagues here to pay tribute to Senator Tobias C. Enverga Jr., the author of this legislation, by moving this bill forward and recognizing the month of October as Latin American heritage month here in Canada, much like they do in the United States. I would like to pay tribute to this culture and to these people who contribute to our development across the country.