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.