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Third reading of Bill S-218, An Act respecting Latin American Heritage Month

Third reading of Bill S-218, An Act respecting Latin American Heritage Month

Third reading of Bill S-218, An Act respecting Latin American Heritage Month

Hon. Jane Cordy: 

Honourable senators, Senator Jaffer was going to speak to Bill S-218 today, but, unfortunately, she is unable to be here to deliver her remarks. She made a promise to Senator Enverga to speak today and, senators, if you would permit me, I would like to deliver Senator Jaffer’s remarks on her behalf.

Senator Jaffer writes:

Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Bill S-218, An Act respecting Latin American Heritage Month.

Before beginning, I would like to thank the late Senator Enverga for his hard work on this bill. I promised him that I would speak on this bill today, and it is sad that he is not with us today to hear it.

Senator Enverga and his wife have done incredible work for all communities across Canada, especially for Filipino-Canadians. This bill is a reflection of Senator Enverga’s desire to see Canada’s diversity recognized.

Senator Enverga, I thank you for your efforts and determination.

I would also like to thank Senator Galvez, who has supported this bill as a member of Canada’s Latin American community.

I rise to support Bill S-218, which would designate October as Latin American history month, because I truly believe that Canada’s strength comes from its diversity. Each group in Canada makes it stronger.

I know this well because I came to Canada as a refugee many years ago. When I came to Canada, my entire family knew that we, our children and our grandchildren, would be accepted here.

In fact, we knew that we would find more than acceptance — we knew that our culture would be celebrated here. We knew that we could look back to our roots with pride as we joined our fellow Canadians.

The Latin Americans who came to Canada with their languages and cultures are no exception. Even though their history in Canada is a relatively recent one, with the significant majority arriving in Canada after 1970, there is no denying that they have left a remarkable impact on our society.

According to Statistics Canada’s 2016 census, there 789,000 Latin American Canadians. They are now our teachers, entrepreneurs, artists, activists, friends and neighbours, and, honourable senators, they contribute to this great country.

Senator Enverga put it best when he said the following at the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology:

Here in Canada, the Latin American community is large, vibrant and growing rapidly. Canadians of Latin American heritage contribute to their communities and to the economy in a positive way from coast to coast to coast. A sign of the rapidly growing Latin American Canadian community is that there are civic and cultural organizations spanning all professions and fields that claim and celebrate the common heritage and unite around this commonality to improve their ability to succeed.

I agree entirely. When I think of these successes I think of great artists like Eva Avila, Addictiv, Esmeralda Enrique and Gabriela Echeverry, who left their mark on the music, dance and writing industries through their award-winning works.

I think of the many great Latin American Canadian athletes like Mauro Biello and Keven Aleman, who have made Canada proud when they displayed their talents worldwide.

Finally, I think of the many motivated Latin American Canadians who have run and been elected to both federal and provincial parliaments.

Given more time, I could speak at length about each of them. However, since I do not, I will simply say this: Latin American Canadians deserve recognition. They deserve to know that Canada values them and celebrates the culture and languages that they bring with them.

When we recognize the cultures that make up Canada, we come out an enriched country.

My son and grandson, Azool and Ayaan, have both learned Spanish because they recognize the value of being able to better communicate with their Latin American peers. By celebrating Latin American culture, we can encourage many more Canadians to do the same.

History months, like Bill S-218’s proposed Latin History Month, are the perfect opportunity to provide Latin American Canadians with this recognition.

I would like to share my experience with two other history months to show just how much of an impact these history months have.

In February, I had the opportunity to attend Black History Month celebrations. While I was there, I had the pleasure of eating food from many African countries, watching dancers and learning the rich history and civil rights struggles of Black Canadians.

By listening to the history shared that night, I learned things about Black Canadians that I would have never learned through textbooks or school.

This is one important element of history months — they allow us to learn the history from the people who have experienced it themselves.

This past May, I was able to share my Indian heritage with Asian Heritage Month. During my time there, I was overjoyed to see so many people discover Indian cuisine and dance. I was also incredibly proud when many people came and commented on how they loved the sari I wore to the event.

It was truly a special experience for me to share my culture, and I believe that it is long past time for Latin American Canadians to have the same opportunities.

There are already several smaller instances of this across Canada. Ontario already recognizes October as Latin American Heritage Month, and Toronto hosts its Hispanic Fiesta every September. Vancouver also hosts the biggest Latino festival in the Pacific Northwest of North America—the Carnaval Del Sol, which features Latin American dance, cuisine and music.

I am proud to know that my province of British Columbia hosts such a popular festival that showcases Latin American culture.

However, I also believe that it is time to bring this recognition to a national level.

To conclude I would like to leave you with the words of Senator Galvez at the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology:

People from Central and South America have immigrated to Canada since the 1960s by waves and in larger numbers each time. Most have immigrated due to harsh political or economic conditions in their countries. These immigrants have brought with them a rich cultural heritage, particularly in arts such as crafts, textiles, music, agriculture, fruit products and cuisine, but also perspectives in history and relationships with indigenous peoples.

Honourable senators, it is time for us to recognize this incredible culture that Senator Galvez described. We cannot do this without taking action.

In December 1995, Parliament recognized February as Black History Month, thanks to the hard work of Jean Augustine, Canada’s first Black woman member of the House of Commons.

In 2002, Parliament recognized Asian Heritage Month, thanks to the hard work of our former colleague Senator Vivienne Poy.

With this bill, people will be able to look back and say that we brought Latin American Heritage Month to Canada in 2017 with Bill S-218.

I urge you all to come together in support of Bill S-218 so that we can make this a reality.

Honourable senators, that concludes Senator Jaffer’s remarks. I would like to add a few words in support of Bill S-218 as well. Celebrating months such as Latin American heritage month allows Canadians to celebrate our diversity and recognize the incredible contributions that people from all over the globe make and continue to make to our great country.

I hope that in 10, 20 or 30 years from now, as we celebrate Latin American heritage month, many people will look back and trace its origins to the passionate efforts of Senator Enverga, just like we do for Jean Augustine with Black History Month and Senator Vivienne Poy with Asian Heritage Month. Thank you.