moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, good evening to you and to colleagues in the House, and to those who may be watching these proceedings. I am delighted to speak at third reading on my private member's bill, Bill C-232, which would designate every April as Arab heritage month. I would like to thank members from all sides of the House for their support thus far. I would like to note that the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage reported the bill back with no amendments.
Bill C-232 recognizes and celebrates the historic mark that Arab Canadians have made and continue to make in building our great Canadian society. I have had the privilege to spend the past three days in senior briefings at the United Nations in New York on water, sustainability, refugees and other global security issues. While there, it struck me that I felt, as a Canadian, very much at home. I felt at home because I think one leaves the United Nations with an understanding that we are very much all in this together, and the miracle of the planet that we live on needs us to come together. My bill addresses some of that, as I think listeners will conclude in just a few moments.
In the past, I have had the privilege of serving as a deputy minister executive in the Privy Council Office for 10 years. I would like to take a moment to give those watching tonight a bit of a snapshot of what goes on in the work of an MP and the nature of the variety of work that is undertaken in my constituency, and why that has led me to bring this bill forward.
I have the honour of representing Ottawa South, where we have the second-largest Arabic-speaking population of the 338 electoral districts in Canada. In fact, we have residents from over 100 countries of origin who speak over 80 languages. That is not only an opportunity, but it is in fact a special responsibility to show the world that we can all live together, work together and learn from each other, a theme I will return to in a moment.
There are 43 schools in my district. Before the pandemic, I made it a point to visit them and, where possible, have the students visit me here on Parliament Hill. I would tell the kids that they were rich. When they would look at each other in bewilderment and fumble through their pockets looking for change and for coins and cash, I would explain that I did not mean rich in terms of money, but in terms of culture, language, religion, dance, dress and food types, trying to instill in them at an early age an appreciation of the fullness of their world.
Every week, Canada receives representatives from other countries and they ask all of us in this House how we do it in Canada. They ask how we are managing to build a society that is inclusive, where there is room for all. Of course, it is a perfectly imperfect society and a work in progress, but they ask us each and every day when they visit.
I tell them that I am out of patience with the word “tolerance”. I am convinced we have moved on. I do not think it is about tolerating someone anymore; it is about celebrating everyone. It is not only the right thing to do; it is the inclusive thing to do. It is not only the inclusive thing to do; it turns out it is the economic thing to do. Only a foolish country would not avail itself of all the talent within its borders. Only a foolish country would not deploy all of that talent. We need to find and nurture as much talent as we can. This is Canada's privileged opportunity. This is Canada's undeniable responsibility, along with our special responsibility to show the rest of the world that we are a diverse and inclusive place and that we are all in this together, building a society that is the envy of the world.
My mother raised 10 children, and along the way she worked as a nurse for 50 years. She also helped to build two businesses. She was an extraordinary role model. She was an extraordinary person. She used to tell her 10 children that we had a choice to make: If we pulled apart, we would feel like we were five, but if we pulled together, we would feel like we were 20. To pull together, she would say, means leaving no one behind; it means ensuring opportunity for all. Finding and nurturing the talent in everyone around us and deploying it to the benefit of a country and to the benefit of each other is, in fact, in our enlightened self-interest.
Let me draw from some recent professional experience to share some insights on questions of diversity and inclusion, which also underpin my bill. It is illustrative. I have the honour of being the founding chair of Canada's National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. In March 2020, we released a groundbreaking report that helps to illustrate how seeking out all the talent around us and deploying it is absolutely essential, and that was an analysis of diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community.
We know a diverse workforce is made up of individuals with an array of identities, abilities, perspectives and experience. We know an inclusive workforce is fair, equitable, supportive, welcoming and respectful. Why did the committee decide to review these issues in the security and intelligence community in the first place?
First, there are persistent challenges to increasing diversity and inclusion in the security and intelligence community, even after decades of legislation, multiple reports and repeated calls for change.
Second, the committee believes that organizations responsible for defending Canada and protecting Canadians must leverage the broad range of skills, talent, experience and perspectives that this magnificent country has to offer.
Third, as shown conclusively in numerous international reports and studies on security and intelligence organizations worldwide, a diverse and inclusive workforce is critical to operational success and performance. In other words, the more diverse and inclusive a workforce is, it turns out the higher-performing it is. That is a good thing. That is an inclusive thing. That is a fair thing, and that is an economic thing.
Our committee saw evidence that the leaders of our national security agencies are all committed to improving diversity and inclusion in their respective workforce, but we have a long way to go. As detailed in our report, that needs sustained leadership, a broad commitment and increased accountability right across the community, if those organizations are going to fully reflect and include Canada's diversity.
Inspired by those ideas, I am honoured to speak again to my private member's bill to establish the month of April in Canada as Arab heritage month.
On a more personal note, in my own family, I was privileged to have a Syrian Canadian godfather, one of the original founding Syrian Canadian families in my hometown of Ottawa, a man of great intelligence, kindness and integrity. His origins were humble. In fact, they were steeped in poverty, and his values instilled in me a deep appreciation for hard work, giving back and public service. He was the ultimate Canadian. He had no access to formal education, and he loved this country far less critically than, I might say, I do.
I have always believed that Canada's diversity is its single greatest source of strength. It is a conclusion I have arrived at having had the privilege of living on four continents and working and travelling in over 80 countries before ever entering elected public service. The belief that Canada's diversity is its single greatest source of strength informs this bill. It is a belief I have reaffirmed over and over again during my almost 19 years in this House.
It is a belief I have reaffirmed over and over again during my almost 19 years in the House, and nowhere has this been more evident and obvious than in our Arab-Canadian community. Arab Canadians, from all walks of life, continue to make extremely important contributions to social, economic and political life in Canada, as well as to Canada's cultural fabric, including through literature, music, food, fashion, science, research, academia, public service, professions and businesses.
Arab heritage month in Canada would be a terrific opportunity for Arab Canadians to be recognized, finally, for their contributions to this amazing country. It would give us the opportunity to recognize and pay tribute to the countless Arab entrepreneurs and small business owners right across Canada, who do so much to support their communities.
From the diversity of my riding to my own godfather, to my many friends in the national capital region Arab community and beyond, perhaps it is more clear to those watching tonight as to why I introduced this bill and why I am working so hard, with all of my colleagues, to make sure it is passed.
The enactment of Arab heritage month in Canada would ensure that the contributions of Arab Canadians are recognized, shared, and celebrated across this great country, not just every April, but every day. It is long past time that we take up that mantle and celebrate that incredible contribution.
We are always stronger when we pull together.