Mr. Speaker, before I begin today, I would like to share a quote with my colleagues that I came across while preparing for this speech. It is a quote from Summer Sanders:
To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It's not about winning and losing; it's about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It's about embracing the pain that you'll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid.
As Canadians, we are not shy when it comes to hard work and facing challenges, particularly in my beautiful riding of Haldimand--Norfolk, where we are not afraid to roll up our sleeves and get the job done.
When I think of my Portuguese friends at home, these are the traits that personify them completely.
Today, I rise to pay tribute to the Portuguese community within my beautiful riding of Haldimand--Norfolk on the south coast, north shore of Lake Erie, and I do so by sharing my thoughts on Motion No. 126.
This is the first time the motion has been debated in the House, so for my colleagues who are not aware of what the motion proposes to do, let me explain briefly.
Motion No. 126 was put forward by the member for Davenport, and calls on the government to recognize the contributions made by the Portuguese community to building Canada and their contributions to Canadian society in general.
As a way of educating and reflecting on Portuguese heritage and culture for future generations, the motion proposes that June be declared Portuguese heritage month, and that June 10 be claimed as Portugal day. Before I go into why I am standing to support the motion today, please let me first share with the House a brief history about why this month and this day are important to the Portuguese community.
Every June 10, the Portuguese celebrate their national holiday known as Dia de Portugal, or Portugal Day, as it known to the rest of the world. While many Portuguese Canadians currently celebrate Portugal Day, the motion would solidify this day as a recognized cultural day right across Canada.
This date commemorates the death of Luis de Camoes, a significant figure in the history of Portugal. Camoes is best known for his work on Os Lusiadas, the national epic poem of Portugal that celebrates the nation's successes and its rich history.
Camoes was known to be an adventurer. His many escapades include surviving a shipwreck in the region of Cochinchina, now known as Vietnam, and losing an eye while in battle in Ceuta. Legend has it that in order to save the Lusiadas, Camoes had to keep it afloat with one of his hands while he used his other arm to swim through the unforgiving waters of the region's seas. Patriotism and bravery are just a few of the qualities that Camoes had that made the nation choose to celebrate Portugal Day in his honour.
Camoes, and his perseverance through his adventures, is a direct representative of the Portuguese people in my area. Their ability to see a challenge and overcome that challenge is, quite frankly, inspirational. I cannot think of a better way to honour them then by showing our support for this day and the motion.
In order for me to explain further why the motion is important to people where I live, I need to share with the House a bit of background on my beautiful riding of Haldimand--Norfolk and the wonderful people who live there.
There is no doubt that Canada is a diverse country. Many people come from all over the world to live here, and that is something that should make us all proud.
I do not have the largest Portuguese population in my riding, especially when it is compared with ridings like those of the member for Davenport. In fact, Haldimand--Norfolk is made up largely of people from countries such as Britain, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland, and Hungary.
The Portuguese people make up just shy of 3% of the population throughout Haldimand--Norfolk according to the latest census records. That is just over 3,000 people. That may not seem like a lot, but 3,000 people is the total population of many of the smaller communities in my riding if I were to lump them all together.
While the Portuguese community in my riding does not make up the same large percentage of the population as perhaps that of the member for Davenport, and there may not be as many Portuguese in Haldimand—Norfolk now as there have been in past years, this group contributes immensely to the community. It is not just about the number of people, but the quality of those people and the action that those people choose.
In Haldimand—Norfolk, challenges are abundant. In order for many people in my community to provide for their families, hard work is often a requirement. It is not easy, but if they are not afraid to get some dirt on their hands, the opportunities are also abundant. All the Portuguese people I know make hard work look easy, even when we know that it is not. In fact, they welcome it with open arms, and that does not change whether that work is working in the home, or around the yard, working for an employer, or their very generous contributions as volunteers.
Not only does the Portuguese community welcome hard work, but they also welcome other people around them. I consider myself very fortunate to have good friends in our Portuguese community. In fact, whenever I visit them, they always make me feel at home.
I have one very special good friend who is a leader within the community and he often takes me to visit with his friends and even with his family. Whenever I enter their homes, I am always greeted with love and affection, just as if I were a direct member of the family. We share stories and we share wonderful food. We laugh and sometimes we cry from laughing so hard. Then, perhaps after too many carafes of Vinho Verde or Porto, I leave feeling even more like a family member than when I arrived.
Like hard work, this comes as second nature to the Portuguese community. I am proud to call them my friends, and I am honoured to support this motion. This is a community that could not be more deserving of this kind of recognition.
For my Portuguese friends at home and those in communities right across Canada, they truly are champions and they deserve this. Obrigado.