Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Senate met at 1:30 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.





Hon. Tobias C. Enverga, Jr.: Honourable senators, it is with great pride that I rise today to speak on this very first day of May. May is Asian Heritage Month. It is a month to celebrate all the contributions from Canadians of Asian descent to Canada’s prosperity and cultural richness.

This chamber is a testament to the distinguished service that men and women of Asian heritage have done for Canada. Senators of Asian heritage, past and present, show the diversity of Asia’s ethnic and cultural multiplicity. Today, we are from China, Korea, Singapore, Vietnam, India and Pakistan. Prime Minister Stephen Harper added the Philippines to that list when he nominated me as the first Canadian-Filipino senator in Canada.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Enverga: Honourable senators, the national celebration of Asian heritage originated in this very chamber. The Honourable Vivienne Poy moved the motion that was adopted on December 6, 2001. The intent was to recognize, as the motion states:

… the important contributions of Asian Canadians to the settlement, growth and development of Canada, the diversity of the Asian community, and its present significance to this country.

The government followed suit with an official declaration the following year. As a former co-chair of the Asian Heritage Month celebration for the Greater Toronto Area and former director of and now an adviser to the Canadian Multicultural Council – Asians in Ontario, this month-long celebration is close to my heart.

Honourable senators, throughout May there will be festivities and events marking our diverse, yet shared, historical and cultural backgrounds. Although celebration is emphasized, Asian Heritage Month allows us to contemplate and remember the vital influences that people from Asia have had on this great nation, as well as the increasing role we play today.

Honourable senators, Canadians of Asian descent have made great contributions to Canada, from building the Canadian Pacific Railway until the present. In 2011, 48 per cent of the immigrant labour force was born in Asia, and almost 60 per cent of permanent residences granted were to people from Asia. According to the 2006 Census, of the 3.9 million first-, second- or third-generation members of a visible minority, over 75 per cent were from or had roots in the Asian continent. In my home city of Toronto, where visible minorities make up 43 per cent of the population, 74 per cent of these are of Asian descent.

It is clear that Asian heritage is a vital aspect of Canada’s ethnic and cultural mosaic. In my view, that is one of the reasons why Canada is the number one country in the world.

Honourable senators, May is also a time to reflect upon Canadian contributions to Asia. It is a two-way relationship.

I urge honourable senators to join with colleagues of Asian backgrounds and celebrate May this year. Happy Asian Heritage Month.


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