Madam Speaker, I rise today to address Motion No. 111, which seeks to recognize the contributions of Mennonite Canadians in building Canadian society by recognizing the second week of September as Mennonite heritage week.
It is well known that Canada is one of the most diverse countries in the world. Canada is home to approximately 200,000 people of Mennonite faith. Ontario and Manitoba have the largest Mennonite population in the country, with 58,000 and 44,000 Mennonites respectively.
Canadians of Mennonite faith have contributed much to Canadian history and to the overall fabric of Canadian society. Many Mennonites have received international recognition for their work and have established themselves as leaders in Canadian communities.
Mennonite Canadians continue to leave a lasting mark on our diverse national fabric in every aspect of Canadian life, strengthening Canada in the process. They are prominent in Canadian film, television, radio broadcasting, newspapers and magazines. They are active in political life at all levels of government.
I would like to quickly speak about a few Mennonite Canadians who are currently reshaping Canadian society while also introducing the world to Mennonite-Canadian heritage and culture through their work and art.
Dawna Friesen is an Emmy Award-winning Canadian journalist with a career that spans both Canada and the world. Her hard work and determination have led to many successes, such as winning a Gemini Award in 2011 for the best news anchor. Travelling the world, she has been able to tell us many stories that have touched our lives as Canadians. She is one of the country's first female news anchors to lead a nightly newscast.
Howard Dyck is a Canadian conductor and broadcaster. He has had a long, distinguished career in classical music, including being the artistic director of the Grand Philharmonic Choir and chamber singers and the conductor of the Bach Elgar Choir of Hamilton. He received the Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.
Miriam Toews, a celebrated Canadian author, writer and actor, is best known for her novels, such as A Complicated Kindness and All My Puny Sorrows. She has won a number of literary prizes, including the Governor General's Award for fiction and the Writers' Trust Engel/Findley Award for her body of work. She is a two-time finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and a two-time winner of the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. Her work explores the challenges and notions of patriarchy, family and community, using her Mennonite heritage as the anchor for her work.
Dr. Henry George Friesen is a Canadian endocrinologist; a distinguished professor at the University of Manitoba; and the discoverer of human prolactin, a hormone that is best known for enabling the production of milk in mammals. He is a recipient of the Canada Gairdner International Award in recognition of his contributions to the fields of biochemistry, physiology and pathophysiology.
The President of the Treasury Board, a practising doctor and politician, has earned much acclaim. As a doctor, my esteemed colleague has worked in Canada and abroad to address issues of social inequality and enhance opportunities for individuals that improve their socio-economic outcomes.
Her work to promote global health includes founding a grassroots response to the global HIV epidemic in 2004. Give a Day to world AIDS challenges Canadians to raise money for people affected by HIV. She was also instrumental in the launch of Ethiopia's first family medicine training program through her work with the Toronto Addis Ababa Academic Collaboration. She was raised in my riding of Kitchener South—Hespeler.
Finally, James Reimer is a professional NHL goaltender who is currently playing for the Florida Panthers. He made his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2011. Reimer plays for Canada internationally and first represented our country in the 2011 world championships.
Despite immigrating to Canada in the 1870s and being key contributors to building our nation, Mennonites experienced discrimination and adversity due to their customs, habits, modes of living and practices. Remembering our past provides us a moment of pause to think about how we see ourselves as a nation in the world today.
The first Mennonites to Canada arrived in the late 18th century, settling in southern Ontario and Manitoba and moving into the Prairies and the Northwest Territories. Today, Canadians of all ethnicities take part in Mennonite beliefs, practices and traditions. Early Mennonites to Canada were Dutch, German, Russian, and American. They came to Canada for the promise of land, cultural and educational autonomy and a guaranteed exemption from military service.
After the First World War, many religious groups were refused entry into Canada under the Immigration Act due to their customs, habits and practices, making it hard for Mennonites. Today, we recognize that Mennonite settlements in the west were instrumental in the development of our nation.
There is a wide scope of worship, doctrine and traditions among Mennonites today and there are many types of practising Mennonites. Some avoid all forms of technology and live traditionally, while others use modern machinery and electronics. They are Canadians, living and practising their beliefs in a manner consistent with their community ideals.
In 1988, Canada became the first nation to proclaim a Multiculturalism Act. The act requires that we continually safeguard equality for all Canadians, in all economic, social, cultural and political aspects of their lives.
Our multicultural heritage is about more than just a commitment to welcoming diverse people from around the world. It is a commitment to principles of equality and freedom, grounded in human rights and enshrined in our legislative framework, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Multiculturalism Act.
A little connection to my riding would be that in 1857, the Hespeler part of my riding was named after Jacob Hespeler, a native of Württemberg, Germany, an immigrant and entrepreneur who established successful industries in my riding of Hespeler.
Many Mennonites came from many areas in the United States, particularly from Pennsylvania, and settled in southern Ontario in my hometown city of Kitchener, which at the time was named Berlin. It drew many immigrants from Germany, approximately 50,000, to the region and continuing well after the war.
Some of the local names one may see in certain areas of my riding would be Bechtel, Eby, Erb, Weber and Cressman. My first summer job was in construction. The last name of my employer, the gentleman who owned company, was Cressman. His cultural ties and his heritage were linked to Mennonites. I had the privilege of working with him. It was great to see how he helped build our community and a lot of the region.
Diversity is a core component of our Canadian identity. The historic and contemporary contributions of Mennonite Canadians are a vital part of the diversity and the social, economic and political fabric of our country.
Finally, I would like to thank all Canadians of Mennonite heritage for their commitment to building our great nation. Celebrating our interconnectedness and the many unique communities and cultures that thrive here gives us a chance to discover what we all share in common. This allows us to fully appreciate the value of our differences. ln celebrating our diversity, we learn about our common struggles and our shared values. We learn how far we have come, but also the hurdles that we must overcome.
I want to thank the member for bringing the motion forward. It is a great motion and I will be happy to support it.