[Member spoke in Tamil]
I rise to speak to Motion No. 24 which, if adopted, would recognize January as Tamil heritage month every year. This holiday would underline the contributions made by members of the Tamil Canadian community and provide opportunities for educational experiences and events for Tamil culture.
The month of January is significant to the timing of Tamil heritage month because it includes Thai Pongal, the Tamil harvest festival. As the president of the National Council of Canadian Tamils, Dr. Ranjan Sri Ranjan has said, Tamils all over the world celebrate Thai Pongal in the month of January to give thanks to the sun for providing the energy for a bountiful harvest. It is similar to our Thanksgiving. Many events celebrating the arts and cultural richness of the heritage are held during this festival. Any new venture is initiated with Thai Pongal making it a time for new beginnings. These new ventures are new ventures that helped build our country by Tamil Canadians.
The Conservative Party, and I think all Canadians, has a proud history of opening its arms to the Tamil community across the country. We recognize how Tamil Canadians are helping build our nation.
What is not so well known though is that a Conservative prime minister, the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney, initiated direct action to allow the resettlement of Tamils after the attempted ethnic cleansing of Tamils in Sri Lanka in 1983. This single act of generosity eventually led to the resettlement of over 300,000 Tamils here in Canada, many of whom many of us call friends—I call friends—from across the country.
As part of the last Conservative government, I fully supported and applauded our government's decision to condemn Sri Lanka, boycott the Commonwealth Summit, cut off funding to the Commonwealth for its refusal to change the venue, while denouncing the human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, and the release of the statement on the genocide in Sri Lanka, denouncing these atrocities.
Tamil Canadians are one of the fastest growing communities in Canada, boasting thousands of successful professionals in academia, lawyers, doctors, and engineers, just to name a few. In fact, the current president of the National Council of Canadian Tamils, Dr. Sri Ranjan, is an engineer himself at the University of Manitoba. He is a professor there, contributing to the education of not just Tamil Canadians but obviously a wealth of young engineers.
Additionally, the community is well known for its entrepreneurial ventures in important sectors of the economy, such as manufacturing, hospitality, education, and technology.
Canada's Tamil community is well integrated and is made up of roughly 300,000 people. They share the Canadian values of liberty, human rights, democracy, and sharing. They arrived in Canada in the mid-1980s as refugees. They had quickly fled a very difficult situation.
Most came to our country after atrocious experiences of genocide and oppression in their own country. They deeply understand the value and importance of freedom and justice, and stand firm with our Canadian identity and our Canadian values. As the member opposite also mentioned earlier, they advocated for human rights, freedom, tolerance, and generosity.
Many arrived in Canada as refugees decades ago, and now are proudly part of the Canadian fabric. The community's success can be attributed to hard-working individuals and highly valuing education and fiscal responsibility.
The community has long-standing commitments to the arts, culture, and literature. In fact, Canadian Tamils were able to preserve one of the longest surviving classical languages, with literature spanning over 2,000 years. Tamil language studies at Canadian universities, along with their annual conferences, enrich our communities and has made Canada, and in particular Toronto, the centre for Tamil studies across all of North America.
Tamil Canadians have been and continue to be generous and supportive of many charities, including a place where I currently work, CHEO here in Ottawa. The Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, as well as the Canadian Cancer Society, SickKids have been huge beneficiaries as have charities that Tamil Canadians participate in, including the ones they host individually among their community members.
The Tamil community in Canada makes an enormous contribution to our society. Tamil people are involved in charities and give their time and money to help other Canadians.
I support this motion, because it also serves to recognize this important contribution.
I join the Tamil community here in Canada and the National Council of Canadian Tamils in celebrating their vibrant heritage, which I understand has flourished for more than 2,500 years and, today, flourishes in Canada.
Nandri. Merci. I thank all members in this House and encourage them to support the motion.