Mr. Speaker, it has been wonderful today to sit in this chamber and listen to these speeches on why it is so important to have an Arab heritage month. We are living in a country where today in this chamber we are talking about the Ukraine. I have listened to so many of my colleagues talk about what is happening in Ukraine, and this is what Canada is. It is a country made up of so many different nationalities, and I am so fortunate to represent the riding of Elgin—Middlesex—London, where one of the largest populations in the city of London is Arabic.
I really want to talk about this motion and I am thankful for being able to do so. I want to thank the member who put it forward. It has given me a good chance to reflect on my own community and reflect on why it is important that we have this heritage month.
Earlier I said something to one of my staff. Her name is Raghed, and I said to her, “You learn about other people when you break bread with them.” When we had our staff retreat last summer, I asked her, “Can you bring some food, because we want to learn more?” That is what we do and that is why, when we are having these heritage months or heritage days, we can actually sit there and say, “This is where I came from. This is the language I speak. These are some of our traditions.” I think it is very important.
I want to speak about some things that we see in the city of London. I know the member for London West is here, and we should be very proud of the people we have in our communities. I want to read an excerpt, and to be honest, I have stolen a lot from this excerpt, but it was so well written that I want to read it into the record. This was from the University of Western Ontario, in the Western News. Adela Talbot wrote this article a few years ago. It is a history of the Arab community in the city of London, and I quote her:
Starting in 1890, and continuing throughout the 20th Century, generations of Arab immigrants came to London, Ont., to establish a new life for themselves and, in turn, to build a community that continues to flourish today. Many of the original names from those early immigration waves still resonate: Hasan. Barakat. Said. Aziz. Hajar. Fadel. Shoshar. Sala. Hejazi.
Perhaps quite familiar to the Western community, Philip Aziz was a well-known member of one of these families. With a father from Lebanon, Philip grew to become a professor at Western and have a street named in his honour.
I just lost that street in the redistribution a few years ago, but I am so proud of that. The article continues:
These families have succeeded in countless areas. But across the years, it was a deeply rooted respect for the history and future of the Arabic language that united this community and created a lasting legacy for native speakers to pass along to the next generation.
In 1950, the community organized the first Islamic Benevolent Society to care for newcomers by assisting with language, local customs and cultural issues. This promoted ties of friendship and cooperation with the non-Arab, non-Muslim members of the wider community. The society built bridges of understanding that integrated the new arrivals into the heart of their adopted land.
As time passed, the Arabic-speaking community institutionalized the learning of their mother tongue. They reached out to friends in surrounding communities for support. More than a thousand people — from London, Toronto, Windsor and Sarnia — attended the first conference of Arabic native speakers. They expressed their wish to strengthen cultural ties, and encourage future generations to preserve the linguistic and cultural heritage of their common roots.
As more immigrants came to Canada from Muslim and Arabic-speaking countries, the importance of Arabic was a concern felt among many of the more educated members of the community. Worried about the loss of their Arabic roots, and the identity of their children, parents donated for the construction of a modest location for prayer. This also served as a space for speaking Arabic....
Since I have only a minute left, I want to talk about this. This is the mosque that people will find in London. It was built on Oxford Street back in 1957. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed it back in 1962, but the community came to rebuild the mosque, and it was rebuilt in 1964. Those are things that we should be proud of. Those are things that a community does.
There are over 400 million Arabs throughout the world, and in Canada we know that they are coming to this beautiful place to find hope, sometimes refuge and a new life. I am so proud to welcome so many Arabic community members to the city of London to be our neighbours and recognize that when we take time to learn and we have time to celebrate the heritage of another country, we learn how wonderful Canada really is.