Hon. Tobias C. Enverga, Jr.: Honourable senators, I rise today to inform you that today is really close to my heart. Today, March 21, is World Down Syndrome Day. The United Nations General Assembly declared this by resolution in 2011 and has officially observed it since 2012. It is celebrated in cities across Canada through a number of events. The date stands as a symbol for the extra twenty-first chromosome that 95 per cent of people with Down syndrome have.

Honourable senators, World Down Syndrome Day is about raising awareness. It is about highlighting and sharing information on Down syndrome with educators, medical practitioners, law enforcement officials and the general public. It is about debunking myths and replacing them with facts that will make the lives of people with Down syndrome better and longer, facts that will enrich the lives of all members of society through understanding.

Honourable senators, the fact is that one in 900 people is born with Down syndrome regardless of the mother’s age, race or nationality or the social or economic status of the family. The fact is that 30 per cent to 40 per cent of people with Down syndrome have heart defects that can often be corrected with surgery. The fact is that people with Down syndrome are as diverse as the rest of the population in terms of their hopes, aspirations and abilities. The fact is that a child with Down syndrome is not a burden to his or her family but a gift, as is any other child, to their parents, their families and their communities.

Honourable senators, I have been fortunate to serve on the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto Catholic District School Board where I advise the board on educational policies for children with special needs. I will continue the national dialogue on this matter through my Senate committee work.

Honourable senators, raising awareness is key, and it is more than just talking about an issue. Raising awareness saves lives, generates procedures in law enforcement and allows for inclusion of people with challenges in our society. Awareness allows for debate on allocating more resources to further medical research and to improve educational opportunities for people with Down syndrome. It allows for people with abilities to contribute in a meaningful way to our society and to our economy.

My own daughter, Rocel Enverga, is proof of this. Rocel is a loving and caring daughter, the special gift that keeps on giving to me, to our family and to the whole community. I know that I am not the only member of the house who can personally attest to this fact.

Thank you, honourable senators.


The remainder of this day’s Senate Debates are available here.