House of Commons Hansard #314 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cannabis.


Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

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.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am excited to talk about Latin America. When people first said Latin Americans want a month, I actually thought that we need more than a month with all that Latin America has to give and all the things we need to explore in Latin America. Thirty days is not enough time.

I am pretty excited because I used to be the chair of ParlAmericas and now my good friend from Kenora has taken on that role. He has done a great job. Canada has really carved itself a niche in that entire region. We are looked upon. We are respected. We are kind of like a big brother in a lot of ways. They seek us for advice on legislation. They seek us for advice on all sorts of regulations.

Through ParlAmericas we have done a great job in actually building bridges in countries right across the whole hemisphere. Now I can pick up the phone because of ParlAmericas and talk to somebody in Brazil at a moment's notice, or in Chile, Peru, or Costa Rica. Those are the things that we have done through ParlAmericas, bringing parliamentarians together and sharing best practices, what works and what does not work, and learning from each other. That has made us an even tighter knit community. That is to our benefit, to Canada's benefit, and to Latin America's benefit.

When we look at the potential in Latin America we just say “wow”. Looking at the people, whether they are Portuguese, Spanish, or French, the entire region has so much dynamic to it, so much flare and ambiance with a love of family and a love of life.

My first trip to Latin America was actually to Brazil. I remember being out at a restaurant at 11 o'clock at night and looking over at the table next to me. There were two families having dinner together and they were laughing. I was thinking, it is 11 o'clock at night, why are these kids out? Then talking to a friend of mine he said that it was two teenagers out on a date. The teenagers were bringing the entire family on a date. That is part of their tradition. That is part of their culture. That is something that is appreciated and celebrated. It is quite a bit different from my kids who if they were on a date I probably did not even know about it until a week later. Right away, I could see how much family meant to them.

Then talking to them about what they do on the weekends and in the evenings, they have a love for life. They really know how to live life, appreciate the small things in life, and pull all that value out of those small things, and treasure them, and treasure each other.

Canadians, when we are doing the nine to five, or nine to 10, or, in this case, nine to midnight or 10 to midnight, sometimes we forget we need to express that love for life and to have that joyful time among family and friends.

The next trip was to Peru, Chile, and Costa Rica. I had the honour of going down there with the Prime Minister on two occasions. Again, in those scenarios, the world leaders in those regions really respected Canada. I think there are many reasons why. Part of it was that we never preached. We never went down there and told them they had to do this or do that. We always went down there with a manner of respect. We listened. We learned. We would give advice if they asked for it. We led by example. They appreciated that.

One thing I found when working with people from Latin America is that, when doing business there, the people want to know who we are. They want to understand where people come from and about their families. Once they have a comfortable relationship, then they are ready to get on to business. It is so different from other countries in the world where one sits down, has a business meeting, and that is it. Latin American people really want to know who they are working with and who they are doing business with. It is such a nice concept to have that in a business relationship.

I remember being in Cartagena, at the OAS, or the Summit of the Americas, watching President Obama. I remember sitting in the runway in the Prime Minister's jet looking out the window and there was President Obama's jet, and then there was a little jet that was Hilary Clinton's jet. I was laughing that they both came in separate planes. Maybe there were security reasons for doing that.

However, I remember talking to some of my friends down there. I said, “Isn't it nice the Americans are here?” They said, “Yes, it's nice but they only come once in a while and they write a cheque and then they expect us to do what they want. They don't get to know us. They don't actually understand who we are and what we are doing. They just drop in, drop out, and say, this is what we want.” They do not like that. They like the Canadian approach where they are treated as a friend and a partner, where respect is shown.

I think that is why we see the warmth that we have with the people and the countries in that region. I think that is why we have trade agreements with Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Chile, Peru, and Colombia. Hopefully, we will see something in Mercosur countries somewhere down the road. Hopefully, we will do something with the Pacific Alliance that will even bring us closer and closer together. There are so many opportunities to do business and trade in that region.

As we do business and trade in those areas, their standard of living and quality of life are going to get better. Their ability to purchase more goods and have the things we have here in Canada will become easier. As we look at security in the region, it will become safer.

I encourage everyone, especially when it is minus-40 in Saskatchewan or Winnipeg, to acknowledge that Latin America is our saving grace sometimes. A lot of people from Saskatchewan travel and participate in tourism in places like Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Dominican Republic. A lot of people in my riding go and live in Mexico in the wintertime. They love Saskatchewan in the summertime. I would encourage everyone to come to Saskatchewan in the summertime. It is cheaper to come to Saskatchewan and travel because there is no carbon tax. I just had to get that in there.

However, a lot of people like to get away in the wintertime, whether it is for a week, two weeks, or a month. Where do they go? They go to Latin America. Why? It is the guaranteed sunshine and the friendly people. They love Canadians. They like who we are. They like to talk to us. They like to visit with us. It is such a nice environment and we have become such close friends.

The other thing we have had from Latin America, especially for our honey producers, is a stable force of labour through temporary foreign workers who come in the summer, work in the beehives, and do the work we cannot get Canadians to do. Then they go home and take care of their families in the wintertime, because they do not like Canadian winters, and I do not blame them. It has created a scenario where we have all these people coming into Saskatchewan in the springtime, working right through to September or October, and going back home. Again, families and friends are being created, connections are being created, and it has been a win-win for everyone involved.

I also remember the time I went to Honduras and toured a plant of a company from Montreal, whose name escapes me right now. As we toured that plant I saw how modern it was. Talking to the people on the floor, they said it was so nice that a Canadian company would invest in their region and give them jobs. Those jobs are well appreciated. The company is providing great value to the community, but also it is not taking advantage of the people in the community. It is treating them with respect, offering health care, a fair wage, and excellent working conditions. In fact, we could put that facility in Honduras in Montreal and we would not notice the difference. That is where Canadian companies have played a proper role in the region.

I would be remiss not to talk about Canadian companies in the mining sector in Latin America. We all know that the TSX is the exchange for the mining sector around the world, and we have a lot of Canadian companies doing business in Central and South America, and in the Caribbean. Our companies have recognized the importance of being good corporate citizens.

One of the things I did when I was travelling with ParlAmericas was that I always tried to make part of my trip a tour of a Canadian facility. For example, when I was in Suriname I went to see IAMGOLD's gold mine. One can actually go there and see how it is operating. The nice thing to say about those mines, and this mine in particular, is that the safety standards were equal if not better than they would be in Saskatchewan, Quebec, or anywhere in Canada. That is, again, working well to build our Canadian brand around the world.

When we look at all these things, 30 days probably is not enough time to celebrate our relationship with Latin America. In fact, if we were to go country by country, we could probably do two or three days for each country, just talking about their culture and heritage, and getting a good understanding of who they are.

This is a really good first step, and I am really excited to see this come forward. I am glad to speak to it, and really look forward to working with the people in Latin America into the future, both in my role as a parliamentarian, and even after, some day when I am no longer a parliamentarian, perhaps in the role of a tourist.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Matt Jeneroux Conservative Edmonton Riverbend, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for this tremendous opportunity to speak about Bill S-218, the Latin America heritage month act, brought forward by the hon. member for Thornhill. This is a wonderful opportunity to speak about the many great contributions Latin America has made to Canada. I am glad this bill is now being discussed to honour the memory of late senator Tobias Enverga, who I will talk about later in my speech.

In my hometown of Edmonton, Latin America is celebrated annually with the Edmonton Latin Festival. This event is held during the third week of August every year in Churchill Square. The energy felt during this event is contagious and a great chance for the people of Edmonton to try different foods and dances, and learn more about Latin American culture. At the festival, there is an opportunity for people to learn about different dances, including the zumba, mariachi, samba, mambo, the tango, and salsa. Latin American bands are also a huge part of the festival and the upbeat tunes always put smiles on so many faces. This Edmonton Latin Festival is growing every year and I encourage anyone visiting Edmonton in August to stop by and experience the Latin American culture.

Latin American festivals are held across the country, with annual events in Toronto, Vancouver, and right here in Ottawa. These events are an excellent way for Canadians to come together to celebrate Latin America and learn more about the cultural and ancestral heritage of many fellow Canadians. There are estimated to be about 600,000 people of Latin American descent living in Canada. Latin America is the fourth largest source of immigrants to Canada, with more and more people from Latin America arriving annually. My home province of Alberta has one of the highest concentrations of Latin Americans within it, and I am proud to be from a province that has welcomed and embraced so many Latin American immigrants and their families.

Football, or soccer, as we call it, is a national sport of Brazil and a popular game of many Latin American countries. Just today, we learned Canada will host some of the World Cup games during FIFA 2026. Some of these games will likely be in Edmonton, and I am so excited to celebrate the sport with fans from around the world during that World Cup.

Alberta has become a host to a variety of Spanish bilingual programs in both public and private school boards from Edmonton to Calgary and across the province, encouraging young Canadians from Latin American descent or those who are simply interested in the culture to pursue language studies. Sweet Grass Elementary School in my riding of Edmonton Riverbend is host to the well-known international Spanish academy program, which strives to help students develop language and literacy skills in Spanish and teaches students to use both Spanish and English to communicate. The program has had an emphasis on helping many students to learn about the cultures of Spanish-speaking countries, like those in Latin America.

As well, universities across Canada offer both Spanish and Portuguese classes, proving that it is never too late to enrich your life with a second language or increase your knowledge of the culture. These programs also offer a means for immigrants from Latin American countries to stay in touch with their heritage and to continue to express and learn about their native culture. The culture these students learn about is rich and diverse, making for an educational and exciting program.

Many students often travel to different countries in Latin America on exchange programs to get first-hand experience of the culture and lifestyle. The history of Latin America is not only important to those of Latin American descent, but to all Canadians, and all those in the western hemisphere. This part of the world contributes to the global economy and the relationship between states in America reflects the importance Latin America plays in global relations.

Canada is proud to be a member of the Organization of American States, which includes 35 independent states of America, the vast majority of which are Latin American. Groups like OAS connect all Americans through politics, the economy, and the recognition of each other's culture.

Latin America is a geographically diverse part of our hemisphere, encompassing Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. It is comprised of 20 sovereign states and approximately 20 million people who speak Spanish, Portuguese, and French. The diverse climate promises skiing, surfing, hiking, and much more for both residents and tourists, attracting many people from around the world to experience not only the culture but the land itself.

Just like the area is geographically diverse, each country is culturally diverse. The Aztec empire was built in a modern-day Mexico City and the Aztecs developed an alphabet, created ceramic dishes, and left behind beautiful art. They left their legacy on modern-day Mexico with some parts of their language and traditional food still in use.

Brazil, the largest country in Latin America, was founded in 1500 by the Kingdom of Portugal, though indigenous peoples inhabited the country before the Europeans arrived. Like Mexico, art and pottery were important parts of Brazil's development. Today, it is the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world.

I am giving my colleagues this history and geography lesson to really highlight how remarkable the area of Latin America is. There are so many countries, languages, cultures, and people living in this region of the world. I believe it is important to recognize this area of the world and its peoples through a Latin American heritage month here in Canada. Throughout this heritage month, we would be able to celebrate all that Latin America and Latin American people have to offer the world and also acknowledge and honour their history and current presence in the world.

The idea for Latin American history month came from the late Senator Tobias Enverga, who was appointed to the upper house in 2012. Senator Enverga was the first senator of Filipino descent appointed to the Canadian Senate, and with his perspective as an immigrant, he saw the need for a new month to celebrate Latin America. He cited Black History Month and Asian Heritage Month as examples of educational and celebratory months that give all Canadians the opportunity to learn about different cultures and heritages. He argued a Latin American heritage month was deserving of national recognition, and I certainly agree.

Some Canadians might wonder why we have heritage months. These months are important to learn about and recognize the different cultures that have shaped Canada into what it is today. Learning about different cultures, countries, and parts of the world gives our citizens different perspectives and an appreciation for Canada. In May, Canada marked its first-ever Jewish Heritage Month, a great opportunity to reflect on the contributions of Jewish Canadians. I look forward to heritage months every year because I see them as an opportunity for learning and enrichment.

Senator Enverga introduced a bill in the last Parliament, Bill S-228, to create a Hispanic heritage month, which would complement designations already marked by the province of Ontario and the city of Toronto. However, the bill was a casualty of the 2015 election. After that, Senator Enverga altered the bill to focus on Latin America, which encapsulates not only Hispanic culture but francophone communities in Haiti and indigenous peoples in Latin America.

The impact of Latin American culture on Canada cannot be understated. Traditional Latin American food has become common on menus in tens of thousands of restaurants across the country. Spanish is one of the most common languages spoken by Canadians after English and French, and salsa dancing continues to be a popular hobby for many Canadians.

Canada was declared a multicultural nation about 50 years ago. Our multiculturalism designation recognizes the great contributions of so many immigrants who have shaped the landscape of this country. In our bigger cities like Edmonton, Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, a person can visit so many corners of the world through restaurants, festivals, stores, and films. Our nation is admired by so many people across the world for our openness, acceptance, and ability to live among one another peacefully.

In the coming years, with birth rates predicted to continue decreasing, immigration will become even more important for workforce and population maintenance. I am proud to be from a country where immigration is not only happily accepted, but widely encouraged and embraced. I admire immigrants for their courage to leave their country and start a new life in Canada, which often includes learning English or French. Immigrants from Latin America have a great impact on the Canadian workforce, our culture, and our heritage. We are proud to accept Latin Americans from a diverse range of countries into Canada.

I think it is a great idea to formally recognize the month of October as Latin American heritage month, and I wholeheartedly support the hon. member for Thornhill's private member's bill for this declaration. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to speak about the bill today, and thankful for the contributions and hard work of so many people of Latin American descent who now call Canada home. I hope to be able to join my colleagues in celebrating Latin American heritage month this coming October.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to talk here today on Bill S-218, an act respecting Latin American heritage month. It is very important, not only for Canada, but also for my constituency of Windsor West. We are one of the border cities. In fact, I would argue we have a unique feature in our area in that not only were Latin Americans part of the founding of Windsor and Essex County, they are part of our continued trade every day. In fact, approximately 40% of Canada's daily trade with the United States happens through my community of Windsor, and it happens along two kilometres of the international border. We have four crossings that are part of the overall footprint for this trade. What is important is that the—

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I want to remind the hon. members that there is a debate taking place. If you could show some respect for the person speaking, that would be great.

[Member spoke in Spanish]


We will continue.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, now we understand why we are two sword lengths apart in the chamber. I feel more secure with the Sergeant-at-Arms near me.

You are able to articulate in such a colourful spirit this afternoon, going into a long evening.

It is important in a practical sense to recognize Latin American month and the economic development and the cultural experience in my riding. Not only do we trade 40% with the United States, but the vast majority of that also continues on to Mexico and to other Latin American countries.

We celebrate with the Fiesta Latino festival. The fourth annual festival will be June 30. This is important. Some may think that these months, even though they are symbolic, are very important. Our critic, the member for Vancouver East, has done wonderful work on this. She knows quite well that part of our founding and the importance of our communities and our country is not only having the connection of coming here, but it is also the continued connection with culture, heritage, and the experience of where they came from, including family members.

I want to note one of the most difficult and serious things that the government needs to look at is visitor visas, whether for Latin American countries or other countries around the world. Whether they be for weddings or funerals, visitor visitations in this country have ground to a halt. It is very serious. As we continue to recognize important connections like we are recognizing today and continue to grow those things, we cannot get away from the practical reality that is the continued connection of the cultural experience.

We have so many different independent days that are connected. We have trading partners in Latin America as well as Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Chile. These are all countries we have strong economic and social relationships with, and they have business relationships that come back to our communities.

As I look at this through a local lens, I am proud that we have many Latin Americans who not only come to the Windsor-Essex area, but also Chatham and Leamington to be part of our economy. They are temporary foreign workers who have expertise in the agriculture sector and are part of our families in many respects. In the House, there have been debate to try to improve their rights. We have had many families and workers' issues brought about because of the value they add to our country and communities. The Windsor-Essex region and Chatham-Kent-Leamington region have that type of economic connection to it.

We see the influence of those communities in the downtown districts or business districts where there are restaurants, grocery stores, and different staples that are basically built around that economic development. When we are looking at trade and commerce, those have become economic powerhouses. One should not underestimate the greenhouse industry and the agricultural industry that contribute to the welfare of our country and our taxation base. That is critical.

Festivals like we have in Windsor increase our awareness and connect us to social justice issues. They also connect to a number of environmental issues that we are trying to push and develop. This includes celebrities in art, music or other realms, but also workers. That is important to recognize.

We had a delegation from Mexico here about two months ago. One of the key things they talked about was the working conditions in their auto industry and in other industries involved in the trade agreements we have. Family members and workers were challenged not only in the private sector industries, but also in the public sector, which includes universities, other educational institutions, and so forth.

Historically, we can look at Nicaragua and other places from which we have had people come to Canada looking for freedom and its expression, sometimes escaping difficult and extreme situations. They have been front and centre in founding and keeping a strong sense of social justice, acting as a moral compass for our own communities and our country.

In many respects, they have become agents of social change for our communities and for the globe. In fact, many people with different heritage backgrounds are coming to our country. Some are fighting for issues of social justice and welfare. After escaping regimes that have significant cruel and inhumane practices, they have now begun to form a better world for many more people.

Latin American heritage month is not just about the experience of the music, the food, and the colourful things that take place. It is about continuing to enshrine the responsibility we have in raising the next generation in a global village that works for social justice and humanity. What better way to do it than to continue to recognize not just the past, but, most importantly, the future? That is what this does.

The fourth annual festival in Windsor, happening on June 30, will be one of the many events across Canada proudly celebrating Latin heritage in our communities, and celebrating our continued economic, social, and cultural development in our neighbourhoods, our provinces, our country, and other places, like Latin homelands, in the world.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an absolute honour to stand in the House today and speak to Bill S-218. This bill would designate the month of October each and every year Latin American heritage month.

Permit me to begin by paying tribute to the late Senator Enverga, who was the author of this bill. He was the first Filipino Canadian to sit in the Senate, and he was a proud voice for his community during this time. Senator Enverga also brought a tremendous amount of passion, energy, and commitment to everything he did in this place, and we honour and respect him for that. He worked tirelessly in his role as senator, and he used his position to advocate for the most vulnerable members of society. In fact, he was a diligent champion for people with Down syndrome and a strong advocate for diversity and multiculturalism in Canada.

Senator Enverga sat as co-chair of the Canada–Philippines Interparliamentary Group and inaugurated the annual Filipino Independence Day flag-raising on Parliament Hill, which is something we celebrated earlier this week. The senator loved his family, he loved his community, and he loved his country. He was proud to be Canadian. It is my hope that this private member's bill will pass through the House quickly, in honour of his memory.

What would Latin American heritage month look like? First, let us get an idea of the countries that would be involved. Latin America encompasses all the countries in the western hemisphere where Spanish, French, and Portuguese are spoken. This list is extensive. It includes Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Cuba, Haiti, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Paraguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Puerto Rico, and Uruguay; and the French colonies of Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, St. Martin, and Saint-Barthélemy. Latin America clearly encompasses many different people and many different ways of life.

There are many Canadians of Latin American descent. According to the 2011 census, nearly 545,000 people of Latin American origin live in Canada, a number that has continued to grow in the last seven years. Canadians of Latin American origin make up one of the largest non-European ethnic groups in Canada. Clearly there is a substantial population of these individuals, and they are ready to celebrate with us.

Canada has a strong history of partnership with Latin American countries. Our nation looks forward to helping in the continued development, growth, and integration of the entire hemisphere.

As Conservatives, we have a strong history of partnership with Latin America. One of the most significant decisions in Canada's relations with Latin America took place under the government of Brian Mulroney, when he opted to join the Organization of American States as a full member in late 1989. We remember the words of the former external affairs minister, Joe Clark. He said, “For too long Canadians have seen this hemisphere as our house; it is now time to make it our home.” I fondly recall former prime minister Stephen Harper visiting Colombia, Chile, Barbados, and Haiti as one of his first major trips overseas. Members can see that Canada's relationship with Latin American countries is deeply valued.

When it comes to celebrating Latin American culture and heritage, there is a great deal we can talk about. The culture of Latin America is diverse and rich, with beautiful music and dance, delicious food, and stunning natural landmarks.

With regard to dance and music, Latin American music and dance are both fun and challenging. The music is known for its strong rhythms, large percussion sections, and signature horns, and when we hear music from these regions, it is difficult not to start dancing. Often the different dances incorporate a lot of hip movement as well as quick steps and spins, something I would imagine you would be quite good at, Mr. Speaker. From the Caribbean region, we get rhythms like salsa and bachata. Brazil is famous for being the original place of the samba, a cheerful dance often performed at Carnival. The tango is another Latin dance. It originated in Argentina. I am sure these dances would be a lot of fun for all of us, and I look forward to the celebrations that are to come. Dance and music are a big part of this culture, and I look forward to the various festivities after declaring October Latin American heritage month.

Another significant aspect of Latin America is the food. I am sure all of us can appreciate the vast contributions of Latin America to the international culinary scene. Latin food is delicious and colourful and often full of interesting spices and exotic ingredients. Each country has signature dishes it is well known for.

From Mexico, we have the classic tacos, burritos, quesadillas, fajitas, and more. Authentic Mexican food is very spicy, and they use a lot of chilies, which maybe is not for everyone but is certainly enjoyable for many. From Venezuela, we get the arepa, a round, flat corn patty filled with various fillings, such as cheese, avocado, meat, or beans. Argentina and Chile give us empanadas, hot patties made from flour and filled with meat, cheese, and beans. In Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil, we eat a lot of grilled meat.

As members can see, there is a lot of good food going on in Latin America, which will also be incorporated into our festivities, should this bill pass.

Latin American countries are also known for their beautiful landscapes and natural beauty. The many natural wonders attract tourists from around the world. Between Argentina and Brazil are the Iguazu Falls. At 269 feet, these falls dwarf Niagara Falls and are surely a sight to be seen.

In Peru, people can visit the Colca Canyon, which is about twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and is populated with towns founded in Spanish colonial times. While in Peru, people can also stop by Machu Picchu, which is one of the seven wonders of the world. Another incredible sight is the Amazon River, the longest river in the world, stretching at least 6,400 kilometres across South America. Its source is in the Andes Mountains and it empties in the Pacific Ocean.

With mountains, waterfalls, rivers, and canyons, this region of the world is filled with beautiful natural landmarks.

Of course, I cannot give a speech about Latin America without mentioning soccer, as it has been in so many speeches already. The fast-paced game is played throughout the region, and many accomplished teams have come from Latin American countries. I look forward to seeing many of these teams play in the World Cup this summer.

While there are many things to celebrate and enjoy in Latin American culture, we must acknowledge that this culture is diverse, and our country does not support everything done in each and every one of these countries. We strongly condemn the human rights violations committed by the Venezuelan government, and we urge the powers that be to establish a true democracy and to respect the dignity of human rights in their governing practices.

We also condemn the human rights atrocities committed against the Colombian people and the faulty jail sentences given to many in Peru. We call upon all Latin American countries to respect human rights.

That said, Latin American heritage month is about celebrating the common people and the culture of Latin America. Why is it important to celebrate Latin American heritage month in Canada? As we have already established, Canada has a large Latin American population, one that continues to grow and contribute positively to Canadian society. This is an opportunity to honour it. We have many other months, days, and weeks dedicated to celebrating other cultures and heritages. It seems fitting, then, that we would take another month to celebrate Latin American culture. Surely we can find the opportunity to do that.

I look forward to this bill passing, and when it does, I look forward to celebrating alongside my Latin American friends. In the company of hospitable people, beautiful music, enjoyable dance styles, and delicious food, I know that October, with all of its celebrations, will be a time we do not want to miss.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, this evening, I am very pleased to speak to Bill S-218, which seeks to designate October as Latin American heritage month.

Thanks to my two daughters, Mélinda and Marie-Catherine, I have had the opportunity to learn a lot about Latin American culture. When they were teenagers, my daughters became very close friends with the wonderful Cornejo and De Leon Velasquez families from El Salvador and the equally wonderful Neto family from Mexico. I was therefore able to discover this unique culture and often share delicious meals with these families. I remember Ms. De Leon Velasquez's delicious pupusas and tamales and the Neto family's amazing guacamole. What can I say about Latin American culture? Its music brings back memories of girls nights with my daughters and friends. The music of Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, Luis Fonsi, and Shakira, among others, made us dance, sing, and most importantly helped us discover the beauty of Latin American heritage.

Latin Americans brought colour and flavour into our lives. They shared with us their way of life and taught us to be more open to a people who may have had difficulty integrating into our society when they first arrived in Quebec or Canada. They are now quite well integrated and are sharing their culture, music, and food with us.

By designating a Latin American heritage month, we will be opening ourselves to the world. We will be opening ourselves up to new cultures and a new vision of who we are as Quebeckers, Canadians, and in my case, as a French Canadian woman.

Unfortunately, I have not learned the language. I only know two words in Spanish, hola and qué tal. My daughters and my grandson speak Spanish. My seven-year-old grandson has friends from Mexico. I think it is great that at age seven he is learning French, English, and Spanish, and that he is discovering Latin American culture. I think it is great that this bill highlights the importance of Latin American heritage.

What can we say about these Latin Americans who come here to lend a hand? In 2015, 9,000 Mexican and Guatemalan agricultural workers arrived in Quebec to help us in the fields. In my riding alone, there are many Guatemalans and Mexicans, especially in Île d'Orléans for the strawberry harvest. In the winter, more and more Mexicans come to Quebec to enjoy everything that our winters have to offer. We can learn a lot about ourselves from Mexican or Latino culture. Through their eyes and their friendship I realize how fortunate I am to spend time with them. They helped open my eyes to the world. They explained their culture and religion to me; how different they are from mine. Thanks to my daughters, they helped me discover the splendour of the Latin American community. That was in my old riding. In my new riding, I have a larger number of agricultural workers.

When I was the MP for Beauport—Limoilou, there was a very active community in Saint-Pie-X. There were always Guatemalans, Mexicans, and Salvadorans at Parc Bardy. All those wonderful people formed a community together with francophones from Ivory Coast and people from Senegal. My riding was multicultural. Multiculturalism is a great way to engage with the world. When my girls were teenagers and we went over to the Cornejos' or the De Leon Velasquezes' place, we got used to watching telenovelas. I told them I thought the shows were cheesy, but really, they were no cheesier than American tabloids.

The Latin American community is very tight-knit and family-oriented. Quebeckers are pretty family-oriented too, but we are more self-absorbed, and that is a shame. Latin American families offer a different perspective.

My girls are 29 and 30 now, and they still have the same friends. I knew Neto when he was 13 or 14, and now he is a young man with two daughters of his own. I think that is wonderful; they are just so beautiful. From my grandson's perspective, they are a kind of bridge between what we are and what they are. That community's culture is very important to me.

Usually, it is parents who raise children, but I am grateful to my girls for teaching me to be open to the rest of the world. When we take an interest in another culture and try to understand where people are coming from to see where they are going, when we understand that despite their differences other people can complement us, that changes everything.

This kind of bill may seem unimportant to some people, but it is very important to me because it underscores something very special: we are open to all communities. Today, our focus is on the Latin American community.

Today I would like to send greetings to Neto and the Cornejo and De Leon Velasquez families. I thank them for introducing me to their magnificent culture.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

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.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

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]

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise tonight to speak to Bill S-218, a bill for the creation of a Latin American cultural month in the month of October. Obviously, this is a heated debate over a very controversial bill, which is why we have six hours devoted to it.

I have been a member of Parliament for seven years. This is the first time I have been allowed to rise in debate during private members' hour when it was not my own bill. I spoke to my own bill, Bill C-442 in the previous Parliament, which created a Lyme disease strategy. For those who are political nerds and might wonder why it would be that a member in my position does not usually speak to a private member's bill, it is because private members' business is usually brief and speaking slots are hard to find. For some reason this evening I was able to get a much-coveted speaking slot on a Latin American heritage month for Canada.

For viewers, or historians opening up Hansard at some point covered in dust some decades from now, we should reveal that the successive six hours of debate on a non-controversial private member's bill is a tribute to political and procedural shenanigans in this place, and somehow or other, credit or blame—one might say how clever—is to Conservatives, who managed to force an extra five hours of debate on this bill. That is not to minimize that this is a great bill, but I do want to explain why we are here.

To anyone watching or anyone who cares about Latin American heritage, as I do, there is no disrespect intended, but there are more pressing matters facing the nation. However, tonight for six hours we are debating Latin American heritage month.

I want to turn my attention to that and start, as others have, by paying tribute to a departed colleague from the other place, Senator Enverga, whom I knew. His death was a terrible shock to all of us. He was on parliamentary business when he died quite suddenly, and it was a terrible thing as is always the case when someone dies unexpectedly doing his or her work on behalf of this place. This private member's bill comes to us from someone who did not have Latin American heritage, and that is quite interesting.

I am happy to support it. I want to say that in my riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands, while we have a very vibrant community that is Latin American, it is indeed small. Spanish is spoken and Portuguese is spoken, but not by very many. I do want to share, though, that Spanish names and Spanish heritage are commonly found in the geography of place. In the colonial waves that came across Turtle Island, the Spaniards of course came. Looking at my riding, my representation is Saanich—Gulf Islands. “Saanich”, of course, is indigenous, from the Sencoten word: WSÁNEC. It actually means “the people who are rising”.

However, in the Gulf Islands there is Galiano Island, which is named after a Spanish explorer from 1792. There is Saturna Island. Saturna Island is actually named for a naval schooner, not a person. The Santa Saturnina came to the Gulf Islands in 1791. I could digress and discuss the pig war that took place at Saturna Island. It was a hotly contested piece of real estate. It is amazing that it is not now. If there are people who have never really looked at a map of southern Vancouver Island, they should because they will find that where I live is actually south of the 49th parallel and I look due east at the state of Washington. It is a territory that is entirely shared lands and waters.

Some of those shared waters are the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Juan de Fuca goes way back. Juan de Fuca was actually a Greek, but he was exploring on behalf of King Philip II of Spain in the 1580s. The Strait of Juan de Fuca is one that is terribly threatened by Aframax tankers loaded with dilbit, but that is a different debate.

The entertainment from across the way may distract me from telling members about Portuguese Joe, but this is fascinating.

Portuguese Joe was the first European to live in Stanley Park. He was born in the Azores in 1828, and he lived in Stanley Park outside of where Vancouver is now. He married the granddaughter of none other than Chief Kiapilano. He really brought Portuguese culture and heritage to Vancouver proper, the Lower Mainland, and in his later years, he moved to Reid Island. He actually bought a chunk of Reid Island, which is off Galiano Island.

He passed away on Reid Island, having had two first nations wives. The first was, as I mentioned, the granddaughter of Chief Kiapilano, and the second was from the Sechelt Nation.

All of this connects indigenous culture and Latin American culture, on which is I want to reflect.

So far tonight we have talked of Latin American culture exclusively in its colonial connotations. We have talked about Spanish dancing, Latin language, and yummy food. Let me just cast our minds to the reality that Latin America is an indigenous place. We stand tonight on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Nation, and much of Latin America is the traditional territory of the Mayan people and the Quechua-speaking peoples.

This is being reflected at UBC right now. For anyone who wants to go to UBC's Museum of Anthropology, starting on May 17 and running until October 8, there an exhibition entitled “Arts of Resistance: Politics and the Past in Latin America”. There is a write-up in The New York Times if members want to read about it.

Those who put this exhibit together looked at political overlay with respect to how politics and oppression showed themselves in the art of indigenous people of Latin America. It might seem incongruous that of all places in Canada, an exhibition like “Arts of Resistance: Politics and the Past in Latin America” is on display in the Museum of Anthropology at UBC.

I do not know how many members have been to the Museum of Anthropology at the UBC campus, but it is a spectacular place, overwhelmingly devoted to British Columbia culture and indigenous arts. There are a lot of original Bill Reid pieces, carved totems, and art from the Nuu-chah-nulth, Haida, and Saanich. There is a whole range of indigenous art from British Columbia. That is the place people can go to get a sense of the kind of art that is expressed from people who are marginalized and oppressed by colonialism within Latin America.

The connections between Canada and Latin American are not only those found in our shared colonial history, those who have moved to Canada who come from a colonial past. Many people who have come to Canada from Latin America also come from that indigenous tradition. Whether they are from Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, or whichever Latin American country, they also often come with a connection to their indigenous traditional past, and that culture infuses so much richness into history throughout Latin American.

By the way, one of my constituents, Ronald Wright, is a bestselling author who has documented these connections well in his book Stolen Continents, through his review of indigenous culture in Time Among the Maya, and through a lot of reflection on indigenous culture in A Short History of Progress, although the latter mostly focuses on the foibles of hubris, western civilization, and greed.

I believe this controversial bill on Latin American heritage month will pass, and we will celebrate every October with great gusto across party lines. If nothing else, the bill brought parliamentarians together on a June night in 2018 for the second hour of a six hour debate. This debate allows us to say Latin American culture is alive and well in Canada, and we celebrate it.

Meegwetch. Gracias. Muito obrigado.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak this evening in support of my colleague from Thornhill, who is proposing that Bill S-218 , an act respecting Latin American heritage month be read the second time and referred to a committee.

The people in his riding can be proud of the work he has accomplished here in Ottawa for them and for all Canadians. I too support this bill, which seeks to recognize the tremendous contribution that Canada's Latin American community has made to our country.

This bill was drafted by our late colleague, the hon. Senator Tobias Enverga whose work with ParlAmericas moved him to propose the bill before the House today.

Latin America is part of our hemisphere. The region is generally understood to consist of the entire continent of South America, all of Central America, Mexico, and the islands of the Caribbean, whose peoples speak a Romance language or have a Romance language among their various national official languages.

For the purposes of this bill, Senator Enverga envisaged the widest possible interpretation so that Bill S-218 would cover those who identify as Spanish and Portuguese speakers from South America and Central America, as well as those whose heritage is of the francophone and Hispanic Caribbean islands.

Using that broad and very inclusive measure, we can see that Canadians of Latin American origin can be found far and wide across our great and beautiful country. In the absence of exact census numbers covering that broad and somewhat imprecise measure, we might estimate a probable demographic well above half a million men, women, and children.

What we do know is that the Latin American community is one of the fastest-growing cultural groups in Canada today. Statistics Canada reports that between 1996 and 2001, the number of individuals reporting Latin American origins rose by 32%, at a time when the overall Canadian population grew by only 4%. Again, in terms of actual numbers, demographers can only estimate that between 600,000 and perhaps 1.2 million Latin Americans, again from the broadest possible measure, live among us.

These numbers are particularly interesting given that there was only a very small Latin American population in Canada before the 1960s. It was in the 1960s and 1970s that Canada recorded the first significant migration of Latin Americans. Their motivation, sadly in too many cases, was to escape social and economic turmoil, dictatorships, and conflict. Most recently, another wave is fleeing Venezuela's corrupt and repressive regime.

These Latin Americans represented a significant loss to the countries that they left, but they have been a boon to Canada. Their education, their skills, and their adaptability have been of great benefit to Canada's labour market, to our economy, and to our culture.

The top three South American countries with the highest populations living in Canada, according to census statistics, are Mexico, Colombia, and El Salvador. The three countries from South America with the smallest populations now living in Canada are Puerto Rico, Panama, and Costa Rica. Most Canadians of Latin American origin live in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, or Alberta, with almost half making their homes in Ontario.

Canada's Latin American population is young. Statistics Canada tells us that almost 50% of those with Latin American origins living in Canada are under the age of 25. Seniors make up less than 5% of those reporting Latin American origins, compared with 12% of all other Canadians.

Virtually all Canadians of Latin American origin are functional in one of Canada's two official languages. They are slightly more likely than the rest of our population to have university degrees. Also, Statistics Canada tells us that working-age adults of Latin American origins are somewhat more likely to be employed than the rest of Canada's adult population—fully 64% of adults of Latin American origin.

Latin America as a region is considered the fourth-largest source of immigration to Canada.

However, in sharp contrast to the United States, the demographic is not measured or appreciated nearly as much as are their counterparts in the U.S.

Bill S-218 stands not only to deepen our appreciation and celebration of our Latin American community, but also to more precisely measure the actual numbers and its regional contributions to our economy and culture.

Canada's Latin American population is a vibrant and multicultural community, composed of a range of subgroupings. First-generation artists, musicians, writers, and athletes, as well as leaders in the science, health, and business sectors, have led second and third generations that are adding their talents and skills to the mix.

Senator Enverga's bill, Bill S-218, would designate the month of October each and every year as Latin American heritage month.

I will explain the logic of this designation. October is a very significant month across Latin America. It is the month that marks the end of the annual season of independence celebrations from Mexico to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. October 12 marks the day of the cultures in Costa Rica, the day of indigenous resistance in Venezuela, the day of respect for cultural diversity in Argentina, the day of the Americas in Uruguay, and children's day in Brazil.

Puerto Rico and Chile also wrap up their independence celebrations just before October, and in many other countries, such as Mexico, end October with a three-day celebration of the Day of the Dead, when people honour their ancestors.

Of course, we must not forget the Hispanic influences in Senator Enverga's own country of origin. Canada's large and vibrant Filipino community, although fiercely proud of the independence won from Spain, which we celebrate every year in my riding of Thornhill, still observes All Saints' Day, the day of the dead, and many other cultural legacies of colonial days maintained among their newer national traditions.

To anyone wondering what a heritage month is, why we have them, or why we need them, I would say that they are meaningful moments for acknowledging and honouring the contributions of Canada's various cultural communities. People should also know that creating heritage months does not cost the government a penny. It is not a month off work or anything like that. Heritage months give us a chance to stop and take the time to acknowledge and honour the contributions of various groups. They also provide a unique opportunity for cultural sharing. Naturally, members of the community whose culture is being celebrated are aware of their culture and heritage year-round.

However, when we have a designated heritage month, that is a point in time for everybody else to pay particular attention to or recognize it, or maybe be reminded that this is an opportunity to learn about and from the particular aspects of a culture.

It is not as practical to say that we should just be aware of all cultures at all times, although in a lot of ways we should. Having these specific points of noting and reminding ourselves is worthwhile as part of that process of ongoing cultural sharing and education.

These heritage months also provide us with an opportunity to note and listen to the experiences of Canadians from diverse backgrounds. In particular, we know Canadians from visible minority backgrounds may experience prejudice others do not, and using these times as an opportunity to reflect on that, be sensitive to that, and learn about the experiences of others is very valuable.

There was an article in The Economist recently about Italian speakers in Brazil. I did not know this, but certain dialects in Brazil have a close relationship to forms of Italian, German, and of course, many different indigenous languages. That diversity is certainly reflected in the Canadian experience as well. We are enriched by the contributions of the wide diversity of peoples who come here from different backgrounds.

Other colleagues have mentioned the importance of October in terms of a number of different holidays and celebrations that have their roots in the various cultural backgrounds from that part of the world.

In conclusion, I want to thank Senator Enverga, as well as the bill's sponsor in this place, for bringing this important bill to our attention.

These heritage months are an opportunity for us to recognize the contributions of Canadians from diverse backgrounds. I commend this bill to the consideration of members of the House. I hope everyone will support it.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today to discuss Bill S-218, an act respecting Latin American heritage month. This is an opportunity for me to point out the work and presence of a vibrant community in my riding, whether in Saint-Hyacinthe or Acton Vale.

As we know, members of the Latin American community in Canada have made an invaluable contribution to our social, economic, and political fabric. The objective of the bill is to designate the month of October of every year as Latin American heritage month. I am proud to support this bill.

I would like to acknowledge in the House important members of and organizations in the Saint-Hyacinthe region who do valuable work in my riding with the Latin American community. Some of them come from this very community.

It is an honour for me to rise to talk about the great work done by the Maison de la famille des Maskoutains. For 25 years now, this organization has been helping to integrate and settle newcomers to the Saint-Hyacinthe area and give them the support they need to adapt to and manage their new lives.

The Maison de la famille des Maskoutains helps all families, accommodates them and provides family members with support, reference, and prevention services. The mission of this organization, which celebrated its 25th anniversary in February, is to help newcomers integrate into Saint-Hyacinthe and help them adjust to their new life.

The Maison de la famille des Maskoutains seeks to anticipate and remove obstacles that every newcomer might face and help them regain their autonomy as they get their bearings. To that end, it has 51 interpreters on staff and provides interpretation services in 17 languages. Last year, the centre responded to requests from a hundred or so newly arrived families, either for appointments or home visits. The Maison de la famille des Maskoutains is very present in community, education, and early childhood settings, and it organizes events all year long to address themes from different categories of immigration to culture shock. I thank the Maison de la famille des Maskoutains for its good work.

I also want to acknowledge the amazing work being done by the team at the Maison de la famille des Maskoutains, some of whom are members of the Latin American community. I will start with Lizette Flores, the executive director, who took over from Carlos Martinez in December 2016. Like me, Ms. Flores has a master's degree in public administration from the École nationale d'administration publique. She also has management experience in the non-profit sector and does terrific work for this organization.

Then there is Jubilee Larraguibel, an immigrant services coordinator, who founded the organization Solidarité éthnique régionale de la Yamaska in Granby in 1996. She has been a compassionate and dedicated employee of the Maison de la famille des Maskoutains for 19 years.

Alvaro Sierra is a settlement worker. His job is to facilitate the settlement experience for young immigrants as soon as they arrive. He meets with families before they enrol their kids in school and guides them through the process. Then he follows up with the child, the parents, and the school to make the settlement process as smooth as possible.

Kawthar Ouazzani and Carmen Cecilia Calderon are settlement workers too. They both work closely with families and newcomers. Carmen Elena Serna is an early childhood educator and facilitator, and Luz Dary Marin Morales is an early childhood education assistant. They are both with the children and youth program. They bring a compassionate approach to meeting the needs of the young and old. I thank them for their amazing work.

It is also my honour to talk about Forum-2020, a non-profit that helps people looking to settle in and around Saint-Hyacinthe. Forum-2020's mission is to attract fresh blood to the RCM of Les Maskoutains through immigration. The organization breaks down barriers to immigrant integration and helps immigrants integrate by encouraging civic engagement in institutions and organizations. It works toward aligning immigration with the region's needs in a way that honours everyone's values.

For the past 10 years, Forum-2020, whose management team includes members of the Latin American community such as executive director Ana Luisa Iturriaga and immigration development and communications officer Claudia Mansilla, has been dedicated to promoting cultural diversity in Saint-Hyacinthe. The organization hosts cultural events on Saturdays in the summer. I am always delighted to attend these activities, which showcase cultures from a dozen different countries and give residents and newcomers an opportunity to connect.

To sum up, Forum-2020's goal is to attract, mobilize, and integrate families from around the world and help them flourish in our community. I thank the team at Forum-2020 for their hard work and wish them a happy 10th anniversary.

Saint-Hyacinthe and Acton Vale are vibrant communities, in part because of the contributions of their cultural communities. I want to highlight the extraordinary work that the Société de développement du centre-ville de Saint-Hyacinthe, or SDC, as it is known, does in collaboration with Forum-2020. SDC has been running cultural events on Saturdays since 2015, where new residents from diverse backgrounds can share their values and traditions with the Saint-Hyacinthe community. I want to thank Simon Cusson and Chantal Lefebvre for the incredible work they do to keep our downtown abuzz with cultural exchanges.

Saint-Hyacinthe and Acton Vale have a vibrant, well-established Latin American community. I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of businesses that employ members of this wonderful community. I am thinking of Gloria Jaimes, a project management engineer who manages manufacturing supervisors at Beaulieu Canada, a company in my riding that is on the cutting edge of flooring trends and is constantly coming up with innovative products to meet the market's needs.

I am also thinking of Odilso Rocha Rodriguez, a volunteer who is very dedicated to our community; Martha Rincon, an active and enthusiastic volunteer; and Nilda Benito, a tireless volunteer and entrepreneur who created PachaMama Canada, an eco-friendly company that works directly with Peruvian artisans to sell high-quality, fair trade alpaca products. I am also thinking of Jesus Sauce, who works at Penske; Celso Kossaka, Davi Almeida, and Sallira Sanchez from Denis Cimaf; and Carlos Chacon from the Tienda la Fé grocery store in Saint-Hyacinthe.

I am thinking of Lorena Meneses, an outstanding young entrepreneur who is the head of Mareiwa Café Colombien, a successful business that imports, roasts, and distributes high-quality Colombian coffee; John Sanchez, who works for the diocese and welcomes immigrants with open arms; Erick Gonzalez, a sales support manager at Caisse Desjardins de la région de Saint-Hyacinthe; and Angelika Gill, the executive director of Le Phare, which supports the loved ones of people with mental health issues by offering resources tailored to their needs.

I am thinking of Lucie Kablan, a field crop researcher at the Coop fédérée and author of a study on crop production that was published in the American Society of Agronomy's prestigious Agronomy Journal; Nestor Arrieta Bernal from Techno System, which produces heat exchangers; and many others who enrich our beautiful riding with their expertise, professionalism, and passion.

In closing, I would like to take a moment to invite new residents of Saint-Hyacinthe and Acton Vale to a celebration that I am hosting on Sunday, July 1, at 1 p.m. at Jean-Claude-Patenaude Park at Loisirs Bourg-Joli, which is located at 2520 Sainte-Catherine Street in Saint-Hyacinthe. I will be very pleased to have the privilege of welcoming them to the community, and I hope to have the opportunity to talk with them on July 1. Once again, I am proud to support this bill, and I thank the Latin American community for its exceptional contribution to our community and our country.

I look forward to celebrating Latin American heritage month with them.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

7:25 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise tonight to speak to Bill S-218. I echo so many of my colleagues tonight who paid tribute to Senator Enverga. He was the first Filipino Canadian appointed to the Senate. He worked tirelessly on behalf of the Filipino community but also reached across ethnic lines, which is why he brought forward the bill before us, Bill S-218. While travelling on ParlAmericas business, he became ill and died suddenly in Colombia. All of us miss him greatly and extend our condolences to his family and the Filipino community.

I have a great interest in Latin America. I used to be in the livestock export business. I had a number of individuals working for me in Mexico, and I had an office in southern Brazil. I travelled extensively across the Pampas. Over the years when I was selling livestock and genetic materials, I fell in love with the culture, music, food, and especially the people. It is amazing how many of them have called Canada home. They have left some gorgeous countries, especially in Central America and the Caribbean, to come here and live in the cooler climate of Canada.

Since I was elected in 2004, I have had the opportunity to work quite a bit on ParlAmericas, including three years as its Canadian president. Sitting on the international executive of ParlAmericas, I worked side by side with politicians from Latino parliaments and got to visit a lot of the countries. I went a number of times to Colombia, Brazil, Panama, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina.

They are great, thriving democracies, but they were not always that way. So many people have come to call Canada home because this is the country they came to for refuge. They were fleeing violence, dictatorships, internal conflicts, and civil wars, and they were trying get away from the drug cartels.

I think about Colombia in particular, and how long FARC, paramilitaries, the government, and the drug cartels battled over territory. I have been in the city of Medellin, which is about the size of Ottawa or Winnipeg and has about 800,000 people. At the peak of the conflict, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, that city alone was seeing over 4,000 murders a year. If we contrast that with the number of murders here, in cities of that scale, it is astounding that so many people are killed because of that type of violence. Of course people would want to get away from that.

Many people came to Canada from Chile to get away from Pinochet, the general who, through the coup and the junta, took over the country in 1973. He was a dictator there until 1990. Of course, Chileans fled.

We have a lot of Cubans who came to live in Canada to get away from the Castros. First it was Fidel, and now Raúl. We always forget, because a lot of people like to go on vacation in Cuba, but it is a communist country where thousands of people were political prisoners and were executed during the civil war by Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl.

In Ecuador, we had Correa. In Honduras, there are many different conflicts. In Bolivia, there is Morales. In Nicaragua, people lived under Daniel Ortega from 1979 until 1990. He was a brutal dictator, who came back to power in 2007, and even this spring, we were seeing student protests trying to overthrow his corrupt government. Of course, we have heard members talk about Venezuela and how corrupt it is, first under Hugo Chávez, and now under President Nicolás Maduro. Each and every time, people are trying to get away from these individuals, who are committing atrocities. Maduro was using food as a weapon.

That was something we experienced in Ukraine in 1932 and 1933, when Stalin, another Communist leader, actually used food as a weapon. We are seeing it being done in modern times in Venezuela. We have all these people who have come to Canada.

Back in the fall, we passed the Sergei Magnitsky law, which Senator Raynell Andreychuk and I brought to both Houses of Parliament. The first name on the list of government sanctions was Nicolás Maduro, the President of Venezuela. I applaud the government for doing that, because it sends a strong signal that these dictators who commit atrocities against their citizens are the target of what we are trying to do under the Magnitsky sanctions. They cannot use Canada as a safe haven to hide their wealth or hide their families, and their hypocrisy, atrocities, and violent suppression of their people will not be tolerated by the free world.

Of course, a lot of Latinos have come to Canada because of economic opportunity. I think about the Mexicans, in particular. Over 80,000 have come to call Canada home. They are by far the biggest Latino community in Canada. A lot of them came here originally to work on our farms. A lot of them still do as summer migrants as part of the farm workers program we have, with temporary visas. They come year after year, often working in the orchards and vegetable fields, and even on the honey farms in the apiaries. They fall in love with Canada. They love the standard of living they can enjoy here, so they stay. We welcome their joining Canada and our economy.

The largest community of Mexicans is in the city of Brandon. They came to work in the pork industry. They have great-paying jobs, are making major contributions to the city, and of course, brought their culture with them.

We talked about the music, the dance, the language, the art, and of course, the food. However, let us remember that there are some great festivals. I want to invite everyone here to Folklorama in Winnipeg, August 5 to 18. Folklorama has over 44 pavilions of all different ethnicities. Seven pavilions are Latino. There is the Argentina “Tango” pavilion, the Brazilian pavilion, the Caribbean pavilion, and the Mexican pavilion. Chile has two, the Chilean and the Chile Lindo, which means beautiful. There is also the El Salvador pavilion. We have these great pavilions that people can tour. They get a passport. They get it stamped and can enjoy this fantastic festival.

I know there are lots of great Latino festivals. Of course, in Toronto they like to talk about Caribana, but by far, the best cultural festival in Canada, which runs for two weeks, is Folklorama. My friend from Winnipeg North agrees with me. We want to see Canadians come and enjoy all the different cultures, but if we are now going to recognize Latin American heritage month in Canada every October, let us make sure we get out there and support their festivals and learn more about their culture. All of us will be better for it.

I thank all our friends in the Latin American community across Canada for coming and making Canada their home. I thank them for coming here and making such a major contribution. I thank them for being part of our cultural mosaic, as a multicultural nation. I thank them for making us a better country.

I encourage all my colleagues to support Bill S-218. Let us do it in celebration of the memory of Senator Enverga. I know, at the end of the day, that we will be a better country for it.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

7:35 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, buenas noches. It is my pleasure as well. Unfortunately, I forget most of the Spanish I learned with my Mexican colleagues in Montreal. We need to work on our languages. I would add at the beginning that I am totally supportive of this bill for a Latin American heritage month, but knowing my Latino friends, they would probably rather do it in July or August, given where they come from. Maybe that is negotiable.

There are more than 25,000 Latinos in my city of Edmonton, and most in the Latin American community speak a minimum of two languages. Many, of course, speak Spanish, but they also speak Portuguese. As I will share later, there are other languages our Latin American friends have brought to Canada. They were attracted to Edmonton, in particular, for reasons like many others, such as good schools and economic opportunity, but mostly for freedom. Many came as refugees.

As Giuseppe Marconi, the organizer of the Edmonton Carnaval, explained, “Trying to describe over 20 Latin American countries where a language is in common sounds easy, but in reality, everyone is unique, with different cultures, gastronomies, arts, folklore, stories, but we are always looking to overcome the difficulties.”

I asked him how many languages, and he said that everybody thinks that they all just speak Spanish, but if we have Spanish-speaking friends, we know that many of them speak differently. Of course, in part of Spain, they speak Spanish with a beautiful lisp. It is a beautiful language.

Edmonton's Latino community is made up of 20 different country backgrounds. Some speak Spanish, some Portuguese, but many speak indigenous languages, such as Mayan and Arawak languages. Over 2,000 claim Latino heritage in my riding of Edmonton Strathcona alone, and over 4,000 in my riding profess to being able to speak Spanish or Portuguese.

There are many prominent Latino Edmontonians and Albertans. Three Alberta members of the legislature are of Latin American heritage: Alberta culture minister Ricardo Miranda, who came from Nicaragua; Rod Loyola, who emigrated to Alberta as a child refugee from Chile; and Estefania Cortes-Vargas, who is from Colombia.

Sandra Azocar, a renowned community leader, is executive director of Friends of Medicare and is a great campaigner, on our party's behalf, campaigning for pharmacare.

Ricardo Acuña, a dear friend, is the executive director of the Parkland Institute. He immigrated to Canada as a child with his family, political refugees from the repression in Chile in the 1970s. Ricardo reminds me of the substantial influence the Chilean community has had on Alberta in infusing commitment to both social democracy and the union movement. He has reminded me that Ramon Antipan, also a Chilean refugee, was instrumental in building CUPW.

A Peruvian, a rather controversial Latino, Raffi Torres, formerly played with the Edmonton Oilers. He is now a retired NHL hockey player.

My dear friend Sonia Varela, and her daughter Maria, also Chilean refugees, have been stalwart supporters of social democracy, pharmacare, and medicare in my province.

César Augusto Rendón is the president and founder of Multicultural Media and Art Foundation, which has supported projects including Edmonton Carnaval, La Prensa, and Directorio Latino de Alberta.

Giuseppe Marconi, whom I mentioned earlier, is host and creator of the VIVAYEGLATINO podcast and the Latino Canadian Awards Gala. He organizes Carnaval Edmonton, which takes place over three days in the summer in Edmonton Strathcona. He proudly advises that this is the largest Latin festival in Canada, so come and check it out.

Mexicans Carlos Isaias and Bernardo Maldonado are the owners of the fabulous Tienda Latina Argyll Foods, which offers a full range of Latin foods and condiments, also in my beautiful riding of Edmonton Strathcona.

Juan Caroca, is a long-time radio host for Corazon Latino on World FM, also broadcast from Edmonton Strathcona.

Sebastian Barrera, community promoter of the arts, is founder of the CreArt Edmonton school of art in Parkdale Cromdale. It is a free donation-run arts school that provides free music lessons and has completed large graffiti and mural art in the Kinnaird Ravine in my city. My neighbours hosted a backyard fundraiser for his program. It is a very worthwhile program.

There are many cultural organizations and schools, including the Gabriela Mistral Latin American School in my riding. It is a highly regarded school for teaching Spanish to adults and children. It was founded in 1987.

The Edmonton Hispanic Bilingual Association, also in my riding, at McKernan School, was founded in 1981. The Cultural Association Folklorical Mexico Lindo of Alberta teaches traditional Mexican folk dance. LASCA, the Latin American Senior Citizen Association of Edmonton, and Primavera Grupo are Latin American senior citizens groups. LACEN, the Latin American Community Engagement Network, has settlement services, English classes, and training for recent immigrants. It has also partnered with the Papaschase First Nation to honour indigenous culture.

Venezolanos en Edmonton is a Venezuelan group that gets together. Aculpeca, the Pervuvian Canadian Cultural Association, is also in my riding. There is the Chilean Canadian Cultural Society, and the Latin American Students' Association, at my alma mater, the University of Alberta.

Across the city, and I am particularly proud, in my riding of Edmonton Strathcona, are many fabulous Latino restaurants: HUMA; El Cortez; Mucho Burrito; Àvila Arepa, which is a Venezuelan restaurant; Julio's Barrio; Burrito Libre; and Tacos on Whyte. They are all places to get together when people visit beautiful Edmonton Strathcona.

In closing, I would like to share that for four years, I had the opportunity to work with Mexican colleagues in Montreal at the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, and at every opportunity—every child's birthday, every spouse's birthday, every celebration, such as Cinco de Mayo, the Day of the Dead, or the Day of the Dead plus Hallowe'en—we would have celebrations. There would be a lot of salsa, a lot of samba, a lot of merenge, a lot of music, and of course, a lot of tequila.

I have been very privileged to spend a lot of time with Latino colleagues and friends, and this is a culture in our country that merits a celebration. We still might want to negotiate the month, because many of these festivals are outside. At the Heritage Festival in Edmonton, which is mammoth, and goes on over three days, people will find a lot of the culture of the Latino community.

Buenas noches, and enjoy the rest of the evening celebrating the Latino culture.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

7:45 p.m.


Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Buenas noches, el presidente. I am very pleased to speak in support of Bill S-218, seeking to create a Latin American heritage month in Canada. The proposed legislation would create an opportunity for us to appreciate more and learn more about the Latin American culture in Canada.

Latin American heritage month was originally proposed by the late senator Tobias Enverga, the first Canadian senator of Filipino descent. The senator, not being Latin American himself, still found it important that Canada would celebrate the amazing contributions Latin American culture has given to Canada.

Senator Enverga, who was a champion of multiculturalism in Canada, passed away suddenly on Thursday, November 16, 2017, while on parliamentary business in Colombia. He is and was very deeply missed. He said, “The Canadian policy of multiculturalism is a great success when it comes to allowing for, and celebrating, the various cultural backgrounds and languages we have [and we share].” He also 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 as [Canada].”

I also want thank my hon. colleague, the member for Thornhill, for continuing the work started by Senator Enverga.

We are so blessed to live in such a multicultural society in Canada. The Canadian Multiculturalism Act of 1988 has done much to welcome and invite cultures from across the globe into our Canadian family. The measures emphasize the right of all individuals to preserve and share their cultural heritage while retaining their right to full and equitable participation in Canadian society. The act sought to remove any barriers preventing full participation in society and promised to assist individuals in eliminating and overcoming discrimination.

Canada's Latin American population is approaching 500,000 people. That is a significant number of Canadians who self-identify as Latin American and we are grateful that they have chosen to make this great country their home, and home they make it. Their contributions to our society are absolutely wonderful. Across Canada, there are many Latin American festivals and celebrations that take place and being able to access such a vibrant culture is a privilege that we are blessed to appreciate.

In my community of Yorkton, Saskatchewan, I was able to participate a few months ago in Mosaic - A Festival of Cultures, in which over a dozen different cultures were involved, and believe me, the Latin American contingent was second to none. They bring a great deal of energy, colour, and vibrancy to the community.

Latin America itself is comprised of 26 countries: Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Peru, Venezuela, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Cuba, Haiti, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Paraguay, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Saint Martin, and Saint-Barthélemy. The Latin American population is approximately 620 million people, and that is excluding those who have emigrated elsewhere.

Latin America is full of both human and natural resources. Being up in the north, we have Latin Americans to thank for being able to enjoy things like strawberries, oranges, grapes, watermelon, and much more in the midst of our Canadian winters. We also welcome many people from Latin America to help fill our labour gaps in different regions of Canada. In my riding of Yorkton—Melville, many of the honey farms hire wonderful Latin American beekeepers. Their hard work is such an integral part of our honey and agricultural industry. That is an area where we need to work harder to enable them to work in this country more consistently without having to make so many trips back and forth when they want to spend their time in Canada and contribute to our economy.

Canada's Latin American population is a vibrant and multicultural community, composed of a range of subgroupings. First generation artists, musicians, writers, and athletes, as well as leaders in the science, health, and business sectors, have led second and third generations who are adding their talents and skills to the mix.

As much as our cultures are different, there are also similarities. With some countries, we share French as our official language. With other countries, we share resources in the mining and oil sector, and with most of the countries we do share a Judeo-Christian heritage.

If Latin America was one entire country, it would be the fifth largest economy in the world. It is vital that Canada continues to build a trade relationship with this key region of the global economy, and continues to welcome these wonderful people into our country, with all that they have to offer and all that we have to offer to them. We only stand to benefit from a deep relationship with Latin America. Creating a Latin American heritage month in Canada is a meaningful gesture that signals to Canada's Latin Americans that they are welcome here and they are very much valued in our society.

I invite all members of the House to join me in my support of Bill S-218. I look forward to Latin American heritage month and celebrating our Latin American community more.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

7:50 p.m.


François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to celebrate Latin American culture. Later in my speech, I will explain why it is so important and so emotional for me to talk about this culture.

I want to start by talking about the bill before us, which designates a Latin American heritage month. This bill says that 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 and that the designation of a month as Latin American heritage month would be a meaningful way to educate the public about these contributions. It also says that Latin American communities across Canada would be mobilized by a Latin American heritage month. October is a particularly significant month for many Latin American communities, which is why it was chosen as the month to celebrate Latin American culture.

We are in favour of this bill, and we support it. We know that dozens of Latin American nations are represented in Canada. Drummond is home to many diverse communities. In fact, on March 25 and 26, we celebrated the seventh edition of the Drummondville cultural diversity festival in Sainte-Thérèse Park. The people of Drummond are very proud of this event. It is an intercultural family event where everyone, young and old, can dance to music from all over the world, taste traditional dishes, and participate in a wide range of free activities designed to promote dialogue and exchange.

I attended this festival and even danced a little with my wife. As we know, it is Ramadan, and we also got to break our fast that night. This year's edition was amazing as usual. Latin American culture was also represented at this tremendously enriching and very relevant festival. Many communities participated. As a matter of fact, the Regroupement interculturel de Drummondville, the organization behind the festival, has been welcoming and assisting newcomers on behalf of the Quebec department of immigration, diversity, and inclusion for over 20 years.

There are 55 different cultural communities in Drummondville, which account for approximately 4% of the total population. The Latin American population is a significant component of that. Between 30% to 40% of immigrants belong to that community. There is also a large African community. Drummondville now has a large Arab community, including Syrians and Iraqis, to name just a few. We are very proud to have all these cultures and to be able to learn from each other.

Every year, at Drummondville's Fête de la diversité culturelle, the cultural communities of our region set up booths representing some 15 countries. For the first time, Scottish clans were there, including members of the Lindsay clan, one of the founding families of Drummondville. We were very happy to have them all there.

Earlier I mentioned that Latin American culture is very dear to my heart. It is so dear to my heart because of mi querida, mi vida, mi corazón, y mi mujer, also known as my wife, Liliana Moncada Garcia.

She lives with me, so one could say that Latin American culture is alive in my home. That is why it is so important to me. I am already pretty well sold on this bill because my wife, my life, my love, Liliana Moncada, brings Latino culture to life every day in my home and in my life.

Others have already talked about the importance of music and dance to Latin Americans. At my house, Latin music is our soundtrack. From salsa and merengue to bachata and reggaeton, Latin music and rhythms are a constant presence. My wife loves to groove to Latin music. She has tried teaching me to dance, but with two left feet, I find it hard to keep up. In Latin dancing, the man usually leads the woman, but in our case, my wife is the one in charge.

I have also developed an appreciation for the flavours of Latin American food. That is extremely important because, as they say, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Latin American flavours are important to me for that reason. I have savoured the gamut of flavours at home and on the road with the ParlAmericas parliamentary group. I have travelled to and worked with other parliamentarians in Panama, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, and Colombia, discovering Latin American dishes such as ceviche and empanadas along the way. I love them all. Regularly sampling and enjoying Latin American cuisine is such a pleasure for me.

October was chosen because many countries celebrate important dates then. For example, October 12 is the Día de las Culturas in Costa Rica, the Día de la Resistencia Indígena in Venezuela, the Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural in Argentina, and the feast day of Our Lady of Aparecida and Dia das Crianças, children's day, in Brazil.

It is therefore an important month for many Latin American countries and cultures. It also marks the end of the independence celebrations for several Latin American countries, including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Mexico.

I am also very proud that my daughters, Ariane and Oriana, have had the opportunity to volunteer in Latin America to learn about these countries. They lived with families and worked every day. They picked coffee beans, helped with cleaning, worked on the farm, and did some sewing. They spent a few weeks discovering the culture of Latin American countries. I am very pleased that my entire family has been enriched by this culture and that Drummondville is also enriched by 55 very beautiful cultures.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

8 p.m.


Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very excited to rise in this place to speak to the Senate bill, BillS-218, an act respecting Latin American heritage month. The Latin American community has always been a strong contributor to building Canada.

Before I get into the meat of the bill, I would like to take a few moments to talk about the bill's sponsor in the other place, the late Senator Tobias Enverga. It is fitting that the bill would establish the first Latin American heritage month, as Senator Enverga was a man of firsts. He was the first Filipino Canadian elected to the Toronto District School Board and the first senator of Filipino descent appointed to the other place.

As we all know, Senator Enverga was a tireless advocate for the Asian Canadian community, having served as the co-chair of the Asian Heritage month celebration for the greater Toronto area, and was a director of the Canada Multicultural Council. The senator also founded the Philippine Canadian Charitable Foundation and was the former president of the Philippine Independence Day Council.

Just this week, I was honoured to attend the annual Filipino independence day flag-raising ceremony on the steps of Parliament Hill, with a number of my colleagues on all sides of the House and the other place.

Bill S-218 is evidence that Senator Enverga's advocacy was not limited to our Asian Canadian populations, but rather stretched across the great Pacific Ocean into Latin America, which is the focus of the bill, to create a heritage month for Latin America.

For some people, making the difficult choice to pick up their lives and start over in a new world is never an easy one. In many cases, people leave behind friends, loved ones, and the familiarity of years gone by in search of opportunity and prosperity. These are the difficult choices that nearly all of our ancestors, if not ourselves, have made at one time or another. It is a journey that I, as well as many others in this place, have made. Vancouver is home to one of the largest communities of Latin Americans in Canada.

Latin America covers a huge stretch of land, from Mexico in North America, down through the central American nations, via Panama to Colombia, and down the Andes mountains to beautiful Tierra Del Fuego, in the southern reaches of Argentina and Chile, and reaches from the Pacific across South America to the warm beaches of Brazil. This is not an exhaustive list of the names of every country that is associated with Latin America, but I am trying to give people an idea of the massive geography from which Latin Americans come.

The most common attribute among Latin Americans is the language they speak. The predominant languages are Spanish and Portuguese, where Portuguese is the primary language spoken in Brazil, and Spanish is the primary language spoken elsewhere. I understand that many Portuguese speakers are able to speak Spanish and vice versa, just like many Canadians are able to speak English and French.

Latin Americans have made many cultural contributions to Canada. Indeed, 2018 is a World Cup year. It is well known around the world the passion that Latin Americans have toward their soccer teams. This passion has reached Canada, where soccer is quickly becoming a sport that is gathering a growing following. In fact, just this morning, I learned that a joint bid between Canada, the United States, and Mexico to host the FIFA World Cup was successful, and we will see the world’s best soccer players, or should I say football players, descend on Canada in 2026.

Given this good news, it is no wonder our NAFTA talks have been held up, as all three countries were too busy securing the World Cup. The best news, however, is that we are guaranteed to see our men's national soccer team make its return to the largest stage in all of sport, and I have no doubt the players will make each and everyone of us proud.

Latin American cuisine is also very popular. In any Canadian city of size, we can always find restaurants that offer both traditional and a fusion of culinary tastes. There are many places in Ottawa within walking distance of the House and also in my beautiful home constituency of Richmond Centre, offering Latin American tastes. Not to offend our Albertan colleagues, but if people are hungry for meat, a great option is a Brazilian steakhouse.

In Bill S-218, it is mentioned that Latin Americans and the Latin American community in Canada have made significant contributions to the social, economic, and political fabric of the nation. This is indeed true. On an individual level, the contributions of Latin American Canadians to our nation have been immeasurable. They have distinguished themselves in all fields of work, whether it be in sport, music, sciences, or even in this very place. Having his origins in Argentina, I know the chief government whip will surely have much to say in support of Bill S-218.

Indeed, our former leader of the official opposition, the Hon. Rona Ambrose, grew up in Brazil, and speaks Portuguese and Spanish. Former minister of justice and public safety, the Hon. Vic Toews, was born in Paraguay. Not surprisingly, several Latin American Canadians have gone on to play in the NHL, including Raffi Torres and Bryce Salvador.

October also marks a number of special dates for Latin American nations. On October 10, Cuba celebrates Grito de Yara, the anniversary of the start of Cuba's struggle for independence from Spain. I will restrain myself from commenting on the fascination with Cuba some members across the floor have. On October 12, many Latin American nations celebrate Día de la Raza, or pan American day.

I am more than happy to support Bill S-218, and, if the House of Commons so agrees, proclaim the month of October to be known as Latin American heritage month.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

8:10 p.m.


John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is always nice to have the enthusiastic support of my colleagues. It is unfortunate that my friends across the way are not participating. I am the 18th Conservative member who has spoken to this very important bill. There has not been one single Liberal speaker tonight. It is unfortunate that the Liberals are not participating and celebrating a very rich Latino heritage in our country. It is great to have the support of my Conservative colleagues here tonight, and I thank them for their enthusiasm.

Tonight I want to talk about my own experiences with the Latino community. In February, I had the opportunity to tour Guatemala as part of a delegation with some colleagues and with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. I wanted to make this trip because there are a number of very strong supporters of the Canada Foodgrains Bank from my own constituency in Foothills. This includes a number of producers, farmers who have designated certain quarter sections of their land where they grow a variety of crops, such as wheat and canola, which they send to many of these countries as part of their co-operation with the Canada Foodgrains Bank. I also have a number of faith-based groups and churches that are participating with the Canada Foodgrains Bank.

What is so unique and beneficial about this program and this partnership with countries like Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador is that not only are they participating by sending actual commodities and products to help those who are in poverty or suffering from malnutrition, but they are also participating by going to these countries and teaching people how to grow products, teaching them new and innovative ways in agriculture, and giving them the opportunities to start new businesses.

Tonight I would like to share one story in particular. I was in a very remote community in Guatemala, high up in the mountains, sitting in a family's cinder-block house. It seemed like every couple of minutes more wives, kids, and husbands were coming in to see the Canadian delegation. We saw how proud a father and his son were, talking about their new business. They had just started a potato farm. When we talk about farms, we are talking about maybe hundreds of acres. This farm was a garden plot, probably not much bigger than a couple of desks. They were growing potatoes for sustenance and to sustain their community in this very remote area.

I learned from this experience that potatoes actually started in the mountains of Peru. I just assumed, Mr. Speaker, as I am sure you would, that this was a Prince Edward Island or an Irish invention. I was proven to be very wrong. These actually started in the Andes Mountains, and people are trying to reintroduce this crop into the mountainous areas in these communities in Guatemala.

However, they were finding that pests were making it very difficult to get good crops. There was a kind of black mite or wireworm. Of course, these communities cannot afford the pesticides and chemicals that we have here in North America, but they invented their own natural pesticide. It was pepper, vegetable oil, and some kind of wild mushroom, and they were fermenting it in barrels. I am not sure how they came up with that concoction, but it actually worked. It proved to be extremely successful, so much so that communities in other villages around them were coming to this community asking if they could get the recipe.

The father and son found that this was a great entrepreneurial opportunity. They applied to the Canada Foodgrains Bank, which gave them some seed money to start their own micro-business. They built a little factory. They purchased the barrels, as well as the ingredients and some packaging, and put together a little assembly line. We could see how excited they were to be able to start their own business. Hopefully, it is going to be successful.

The one ironic thing I would mention is that, despite being above the clouds in this very remote mountainous area, they have better Wi-Fi and Internet service than we do in many of the rural communities in my own constituency. They were going to be marketing these products on Facebook, and they were building a website. I think we have some work to do here, if the remote areas of Guatemala have better cell service than we have here in Canada. However, they were already thinking that far ahead to market these products. This opportunity would not have happened were it not for the contributions of people back here in Canada. That is why it is so fitting that we take the opportunity to celebrate Latin American heritage month here in Canada, if we look at the partnerships we have built from one country to the next.

I found it interesting that when it comes to agriculture, there is a large export market to many of these countries in Latin America. More than $2 billion is traded between our countries and between these communities. We have free trade agreements with several countries, including Chile, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Peru. Now we are in negotiations for other free trade agreements, with the Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and obviously Guatemala, which has the largest economy in that area.

As we were going through Guatemala, my NDP colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot was also with me. I have visited her riding. She helped me practise my French when I was there as well. I kept it a secret that I could understand French so I could spy. However, we were all there to see the businesses the Guatemalans had started, anything from this little pesticide business to a co-operative of coffee bean growers. Through the support of Canadians, they were able to buy a coffee roaster facility, bring it all together, and become successful on a large scale. It was really exciting to see that first-hand, as well as the co-operation and communication that happens between Canada and Guatemala.

There is another story I would like to share with members about our trip that I thought was interesting. We visited a communal area in a community where a large number of women had started their own business making scarves, blankets, and a number of souvenir items. It started as the result of our having so many seasonal agriculture workers from Guatemala coming here to Canada. Obviously, it is mainly men making that trip over here for six or seven months to help with our agriculture businesses. At the same time, many of the women were left at home trying to take care of their family and also trying to raise money on their own. A lot of these women were also left without husbands as a result of the decade-long civil war that ended just a few years ago. With the help of a Canadian, who provided the initial funding to purchase looms and material, they were able to start their own business, which has become extremely successful. Now they are selling these products not only across Guatemala in souvenir shops but around the world by marketing them online. We can learn a lot of lessons from some of the things they are doing, and some of the things we are doing here.

In conclusion, I want to say that it really is an honour to rise and speak about Latin American heritage month. I want to give a quick acknowledgement of Senator Enverga, who brought this forward. We have a large Filipino community in my riding. I had a lot of respect for Senator Enverga and what he did for the Filipino community across Canada. I want to recognize that as well.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

June 13th, 2018 / 8:20 p.m.


Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Foothills for his incredible speech. It says something about his quality as a shadow minister of agriculture that he can speak on Latin American heritage month and tie in agriculture and the importance of that community and its product to Alberta.

I am very happy to speak in support of Bill S-218, to establish the month of October as Latin American heritage month.

I am the 19th Conservative speaking in support of this bill, and I express my disappointment that not a single Liberal has decided to stand up to support this bill or to recognize the importance of this community to Canada. Liberals choose not to participate in the debate to recognize all that this community has contributed to our country.

Before I address this bill, I want to honour the memory of my good friend, the late Senator Tobias Enverga, also known as “Jun”, who first brought this bill forward in the Senate.

Born in the Philippines, Tobias Enverga became the first Canadian senator of Filipino descent. He was appointed to the Senate by previous prime minister Stephen Harper. As an immigrant, Senator Enverga was not shy about his love for Canada, and he was a hard-working parliamentarian who carried unparalleled influence within his community.

Prior to entering politics, Senator Enverga served as a Catholic school board trustee in Toronto, and he became known in the Toronto region for launching the Philippine Canadian Charitable Foundation. He was co-chair of the Canada-Philippines Interparliamentary Group and initiated the annual Filipino independence day flag raising on Parliament Hill, an event we just celebrated a couple of days ago, and one I was very happy to take part in last year, when I was not in committee. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I remember being with Senator Enverga, unrolling this massive Filipino flag in front of many hundreds of Canadians of Filipino descent who were celebrating as well.

Senator Enverga was also an executive member of the ParlAmericas group and worked hard to forge closer ties with parliamentarians throughout Latin America. He aimed to help them strengthen democracy and governance through international co-operation and productive dialogue. He was most notably known for his fierce advocacy for immigrants, the poor, and especially those with special needs, like his daughter Rocel, who has Down syndrome.

I first met Senator Enverga a few years ago, and I knew him as a devoted husband to his wife Rose, and a devoted father. He was also devoted to his faith. He was a Catholic and a fourth degree Knight of Columbus. I am a mere first degree Knight of Columbus, as I have not had time to attend because of my parliamentary duties, and my church constantly reminds me of that. Senator Enverga constantly reminded me that he was a fourth degree and I was just a first degree. I appreciate his commitment to his faith and to his church as well.

In the spirit of multiculturalism, Senator Enverga sponsored Bill S-218, designating the month of October as Latin American heritage month. This is important to me as the member for Edmonton West, as there are over 55,000 Canadians of Latin American heritage living in Alberta alone. This vibrant demographic is growing every year, and we should embrace the growing rate of Latin Americans coming to our beautiful country.

During the 1970s, Edmonton gave a warm welcome to a wave of Chilean and Argentinean refugees, following the military dictatorships that devastated these countries during that period. During the 1980s, the armed conflicts in Central America resulted in a wave of Salvadorian, Guatemalan, and Nicaraguan refugees coming to Edmonton, and there was also one refugee from Toronto during that time: me.

The Latin American community in Alberta is diverse and multi-ethnic, coming from several different areas, such as Mexico, South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and even Africa and Europe. This legislation would recognize the many significant contributions to Canada's social, economic, cultural, and political fabric made by our dynamic Latin American community.

Latin American heritage month would join several other months that we celebrate, such as German Heritage Month, Asian Heritage Month, Italian Heritage Month, and all the other months, weeks, and days we celebrate in the House. Canadians of Latin American origin, like Canadians of other cultural origins, want to celebrate and maintain all of the best of their individual cultures and languages, as well as share them to enable all Canadians to join in the celebrations. In this case, celebrations would take place during the month of October.

As Bill S-218 honours Latin American culture and history, I want to highlight the outstanding achievements of a member of my own community, Alberta's own Victor Fernandez. After I tell members about everything he has contributed to Edmonton, to Alberta, and to all of Canada, it would not surprise me if someone suggested that we have a month just to honour him.

After immigrating to Canada from Chile, Mr. Fernandez joined St. Albert's fire and EMS services and had a remarkable 32-year career as a firefighter.

Mr. Fernandez is a hero to all Canadians and has dedicated his life to putting the safety of others ahead of his own in St. Albert and the surrounding areas.

In 1999, he made a significant contribution to his community by founding the Canadian Aid for Fire Services Abroad, CAFSA. His organization provides much-needed equipment and training to first responders in developing countries all over the world. Under his leadership, the CAFSA has received more than $6 million in donations, including 45 tonnes of firefighter and paramedic equipment and 15 fire trucks.

Mr. Fernandez never tires in his endless quest to better the world and help in any way he can. He has led missions to countless countries such as Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Cuba, and Paraguay. His motto is to “work for the citizens” and “do unto others as you would have done unto you.” He is truly a role model for all Canadians.

Mr. Fernandez's fantastic contributions have earned him the Cross of Fire from Ecuador's fire department. He was the first non-Ecuadorian in history to receive this honour.

In 2015, the Canadian Hispanic Congress and the Hispanic Business Alliance presented Mr. Fernandez with an award for being one of the 10 most influential Hispanic Canadians. The city of St. Albert also declared him Citizen of the Year.

But wait, there is more.

Victor Fernandez has been the recipient of the Alberta Centennial Medal, the Alberta Emergency Services Medal, the Outstanding Service Award by the Canadian Mental Health Association, and the St. Albert Community Recognition Pillar of the Community Award. He represents what it means to be a steward of his community.

Mr. Fernandez's tireless work in the Alberta community is greatly appreciated and we cannot thank him enough for everything he has done at home and abroad to make the world a better place.

Bill S-218 and Latin American heritage month will honour people like Victor and recognize the outstanding achievements of Latin Americans throughout Canadian history.

There are many Canadians of Latin American heritage who have made substantial contributions to science, sports, photography, entertainment, music, the clergy, and politics, so with my limited time left I would like to highlight just a couple tonight.

Our very own Hon. Vic Toews, who served Canadians in the House for 13 years, was born in Paraguay in 1952. The Hon. Vic Toews had an illustrious career in both provincial and federal politics, holding positions as minister of labour and justice in Manitoba, as well as federal minister of public safety, justice, and president of the Treasury Board.

During his time as a politician, he was a major advocate for building long-term economic security in Canada and creating jobs in his community.

As public safety minister, the Hon. Vic Toews supported the former prime minister's efforts to implement Canada's first counterterrorism and cybersecurity strategies as well as a human trafficking action plan.

He was known for being tough on crime because he valued the safety of the citizens in his community above all else.

Mr. Toews is a proud Manitoban and had the privilege of serving his community as the regional minister for the province. He represented the people with integrity, courage, and always ensured their voices were heard.

Another notable Latin American Canadian is Rafael Cruz, a Cuban American Christian preacher, public speaker, and father of Texas U.S. senator and former presidential candidate Ted Cruz. Rafael Cruz lived in Alberta for four years, albeit in Calgary but we cannot all be perfect, where he also witnessed the birth of his son. Cruz senior is a staple of the U.S. political and religious realms.

This legislation is an important step in recognizing the richness and diversity of Latin American languages and cultures while enabling future generations to learn about Latin American heritage.

By passing Bill S-218, the month of October will be dedicated to honouring the significant contributions of Latin Americans in this country. In doing so, we can thank them for all they have done to help make Canada the great country it is.

Bill S-218 will also stand as a major element of Senator Enverga's political legacy. As this legislation is one of his final pieces of unfinished business, it is my tremendous honour to support the bill in his memory.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

8:25 p.m.


Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently, and I thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful comments made by the member for Edmonton West. I want to thank him for his faithfulness and hard work in Edmonton West. He pointed out that he was the 19th member in the House this evening to speak on this important bill. He also pointed out that we have not heard any comments from the silent majority sitting across the way. Not a single Liberal member has spoken on this tonight. I do not know why they would show disdain for the bill because it should be supported unanimously by every member in the House, including comments of support for Bill S-218. It is not too late for them to stand up and fulfill their responsibilities in speaking in favour of this important bill. Hopefully, that makes a difference.

Bill S-218 began with a vision of support from Senator Tobias Enverga, and we miss him. He did great work. The S in the bill, for those at home watching, means it began in the Senate. If it was a C it would have started in the House. The member who is supporting the bill in the House is another hard-working Conservative member, the member for Thornhill. I want to thank him for his hard work and support for the bill. It is worthy of support. It is at report stage, so that means it has gone through the committee process and now here we are at report stage, and very soon, hopefully, we will have unanimous support in the House.

Bill S-218 acknowledges the importance of Latin American culture in Canada. I am thrilled that there are other cultures in Canada that have already been acknowledged. For example, February is Black History Month. It is exciting that we have acknowledged that. May is Jewish Heritage Month. I am thrilled and want to thank the members across the way and on this side who supported that. May is also Asian Heritage Month. I am hoping that in time for this coming October, we will have Latin American heritage month.

My heritage is Ukrainian. My gido, my grandfather, came from Ukraine in 1906. Canada was very good to our country. We worked hard as a family. We helped build roads in Alberta. That is where the family homesteaded. I am honoured that as a member of Parliament from Canada, I will be able to go back to that little village in western Ukraine, Biliavtsi, just outside of Brody. There is Lviv, Brody, and Biliavtsi. That is where they came from in 1906. My grandfather was 16 years old when he came. Six months later, my grandfather Danello Warawa came. I will be the first from my family to actually return since 1906. I am thrilled to be going back there.

Our heritage is so important. I shared that just a little. I hope one day we will have a Ukrainian heritage month. Alberta has one. It got it right. September 7 is Ukrainian-Canadian Heritage Day in Alberta. Perhaps Canada could step up and do that. Perhaps one of the Liberal members, if they wake up and are ready to speak, could seek unanimous consent for that.

However, we are here tonight to talk about Bill S-218, Latin American heritage month. In Langley, in the constituency I represent of Langley—Aldergrove, every year we have the national cultural festival, and we have all the different cultures represented there, including the Latin American culture. What does that look like? Of course, there is the wonderful music and the costumes, and the wonderful, friendly people. Along with that are the wonderful Latin languages of Spanish, Portuguese, French, and English, all in Latin America. We enjoy the wonderful music and art that comes from that.

One of my favourite parts of the Latin American culture is the cuisine. I am sure I would have great support from each member in the House in enjoying that wonderful food.

When we spend time with people from Latin America and enjoy the culture, the music, the art, the food, and the wine, it is wonderful and we can imagine being there. I was thrilled to go to different parts of Latin America and a very small part of Mexico. Unfortunately, I have not been able to go south of Mexico, which is huge country. It is part of North America, but it is part of Latin America. Latin America goes down to Central and South America. It is beautiful and I have enjoyed the culture there.

Canadians are a diverse people. The majority of us have a history of immigration to this wonderful country. There are great opportunities and I hope there will be unanimous support when we have a chance to vote on this bill. I also want to encourage the government to create an environment where Canadians, particularly new Canadians, can thrive and have an opportunity to share their culture but also to get a good job. That means we need to have investment in this country.

The government has a responsibility to create that environment where people are willing to invest. With the growing taxes and ideologies we see from the government and not even wanting to speak to the bill, it is concerning. How much do the Liberals really care? How much is talk and how much is actually doing it?

The Liberals have a responsibility to speak up on important pieces of legislation like this and to create an environment where Canadians have a future, not only this generation. I have five children and 10 grandchildren. I want to wish all the fathers a very happy Father's Day coming up. We have a responsibility as men and women in the House to create an environment where not only this generation but the generations to come, our children, grandchildren, and their children, have a bright future.

Growing taxes are hurting Canadians. When I go home and enjoy my wonderful community, that is the common message I am hearing. Their concerns are growing that the government is not getting it right. Liberals need to listen to Canadians and they need to keep their promises. They need to respect cultures like the Latin American heritage month. I hope that they comment on this important piece of legislation.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

8:35 p.m.


Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary Forest Lawn, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague said that he was the 19th speaker. I will be the 21st speaker. The 20th spot is in between and we thought the Liberals would fill it, since they have not gotten up to say a word about the bill. They have a chance, spot 20, to get up and speak and say something.

I am delighted to support Bill S-218, an act respecting the month of October as Latin American heritage month.

I want to pay tribute to the bill's sponsor, my very good friend from Ontario, the late senator Tobias Enverga Jr. Last year, Senator Enverga passed away while on a parliamentary visit to Colombia. I travelled with the senator many times to the Philippines and elsewhere, and I know that he was a great Canadian looking out for Canada's interests.

Latin America is in our hemisphere. It is part and parcel of the Americas. Therefore, it is critically important that we have strong relations. As a matter of fact, we have had a relationship with Latin America for a long time. In my own riding of Calgary Forest Lawn, the northern part is called the Latino village. It is home to thousands of Latin Americans of Chilean origin who escaped from Chile and made their home in this part of Canada. We, of course, always had a policy of giving shelter to those who are fleeing for human rights.

The Prime Minister said this on the world stage. However, the Liberals are not speaking on this bill. Therefore, I will explain that when the Conservatives were in power, we were the ones who actually felt that it was very important that we had a special relationship with Latin America. To that point, the former prime minister appointed my friend and colleague, the Hon. Diane Ablonzy, as well as the member for Thornhill, as special ministers of state in charge of Latin affairs. They were given a special responsibility to build relations between Canada and Latin America.

Part of my duty, as parliamentary secretary, was to represent Canada overseas. In fact, I travelled to many countries in Latin America, such as Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Guyana, and Mexico. While I was on a state visit to Brazil, we went to Trinidad and Tobago, and from there we could see Venezuela.

Venezuela is a country I will never forget, because this is where my effigy was burned. It is the only place in the world where somebody burned my effigy. Can members imagine that? The reason was that when former president Chávez died, I said that he was a dictator and a human rights abuser. Holy smokes, did they ever have a demonstration. They burned my effigy out in the water.

However, we have had great relations. We stand up through the Organization of American States with strong support for human rights, in this case for Venezuela. As members know, before the current government took steps, we had also taken strong steps to fight human rights abusers. However, in the larger scheme of things, we share this hemisphere with Latin America. Therefore, it is natural for us to ensure that we have a solid relationship.

My other colleagues gave the names of outstanding Canadians of Latin American origin who have contributed immensely to the well-being of our nation and for building our relationship. It is only natural that Conservatives put forward a bill to celebrate Latin American heritage month. There are close to half a million Latino Canadians living in our country. Therefore, it is very important that we celebrate their heritage.

When I was the president of the India Canada Association, there were cultural nights. One of the most exciting things to see were the Latino cultural dances and performances. The crowds were thrilled. Before I became a parliamentary secretary and visited many countries, I used to say that I did not have to go to Latin America because they are all here. I can watch them in my backyard or on the stage, because we in Canada are fortunate enough to share their culture. We all know their great culture. Who can forget the great parades in Brazil?

Ultimately, I am very glad that parliamentarians are speaking about recognizing their contributions. Somewhere along the line, I think one of you guys, in spot number 20, should get up and say something to recognize that these are great Canadians. A bit of input from your side would be fine. You are just sitting there—

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

8:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

8:40 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Order. The hon. member is an experienced member and knows, which I think he had forgotten for a moment, that he should address his comments to the Chair. If members say “you” or “your” here, they are talking about the Speaker, and I do not think that was his intention.

The hon. member for Calgary Forest Lawn.

Latin American Heritage Month ActPrivate Members' Business

8:45 p.m.


Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary Forest Lawn, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that somewhere down the line, there will be a few members from that part of the world in the Liberal caucus that will feel compelled to talk. It shows quite clearly that they really need some outreach programs, but we will do it, so do not worry about it. I know it is late, so we can throw a couple of rules out the window.

It has been an honour and a pleasure for me to recognize Latin Americans who have contributed. I have had the greatest honour and pleasure of visiting all of these countries. I was one of the parliamentary secretaries who visited most of the countries in the world and I had a great time in Latin America.

I will conclude by again saying that it is a great honour and privilege to have Latin Americans in Canada.