1st Session, 42nd Parliament,

Volume 150, Issue 27

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker

Latin American Heritage Month Bill

Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Enverga, seconded by the Honourable Senator Stewart Olsen, for the second reading of Bill S-218, An Act respecting Latin American Heritage Month.

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise to speak on Bill S-218, An Act respecting Latin American Heritage Month. But before I speak, I would like to thank Senator Enverga for tabling this bill. I’m particularly pleased that he has tabled this bill, because our Latin American friends are our neighbours, and the more connections we can have with them, the better it is, and the more understanding we have of each other, the stronger our diversity is. Senator Enverga, I thank you for tabling this bill.

The preamble of the bill states that the designation of a month as Latin American Heritage Month would be a meaningful way to “celebrate, share and promote” Latin American culture and traditions.

Honourable senators, I cannot think of a more fitting month than October, which is seen as a significant month for the Latin American community around the world.

Canada is a country that finds its strength in its diversity. We just observed Black History Month in February, and we know that Black History Month is an integral part of our cultural fabric. We will be observing Asian Heritage Month in May, something that our former colleague Senator Poy introduced. Both are integral events that the Senate recognizes.

As Senator Enverga pointed out when speaking on this bill:

These months also provide a very important aspect of multiculturalism beyond learning about the culture and legacy of others. They can provide a meaningful vehicle to explore one’s own culture and history. They can provide a series of events that strengthen one’s own sense of identity.

He went on to say:

They can provide persons of immigrant background a sense of understanding and pride in one’s heritage. This is why our country is unique. We celebrate diversity rather than enforce assimilation. A Latin American heritage month would be part of this continuous exercise in nation building.

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Honourable senators, I stand here today to echo these remarks made by my colleague. The history we learn in our textbooks is conditioned by our past biases. The cultures we learn about at school happen in isolated pockets. The reality is that our cultures in Canada are fluid. We carry multiple identities, and we as a nation stand for the right to not only protect that duality but promote the understanding and education of it.

By adopting heritage months of the various cultures in Canada, we are beginning to explore each a little more in depth. By doing this, we gain a little more depth in ourselves.

I believe a heritage month for the Latin American community would not only be an important step in that direction, but it will also be a symbol of good faith to our neighbours. The Latin American story plays a key role in the history of our country. We should honour it as such.

Allow me to end my comments by once again borrowing from Senator Enverga, who said:

By maintaining a strong sense of belonging to our origins while sharing it with our neighbours, we enrich the multicultural mosaic that Canada has become.

A national Latin American heritage month would be a vehicle that could be used to strengthen the efforts of the Latin American Canadian community to enlighten others about their contributions to and achievements in Canada. It is a platform from which stereotypes can be broken down by showing the positive aspects of the various cultures and to fight ignorance that often causes prejudice.

To create a more equal Canada, to strengthen our diversity, which in turn strengthens us, we must give adequate recognition to the variety of cultures that create us. It is for these reasons that I support the adoption of a Latin American heritage month.

Honourable senators, I urge you also to consider supporting Senator Enverga’s bill on Latin American heritage month.

Thank you.

(On motion of Senator Fraser, debate adjourned.)

 

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