Visitors in the Gallery
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I would like to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Rocel and Rosemer Enverga. They are the daughter and wife of the Honourable Senator Enverga.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
World Down Syndrome Day
Hon. Tobias C. Enverga, Jr.: Honourable senators, I rise today to mark the twelfth anniversary of World Down Syndrome Day, which we celebrated last week on March 21. This year, the theme of the celebration was “My Voice, My Community,” enabling people with Down syndrome to speak up, be heard and influence government policy and action, to be fully included in the community, which focused not only on raising awareness of Down syndrome but also on empowering people with this condition.
Honourable senators, there is no better time for us to empower those with Down syndrome than this year, when we celebrate Canada’s one hundred fiftieth birthday. By making them an integral part of our celebrations, we can show them how much they’re valued in society, and how grateful we are of their contributions to Canada. I am therefore extremely glad to note that, in his mandate letter to the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, the Prime Minister asked for the celebration of achievement of athletes and persons with disabilities.
One such person is Michael Qing of Regina, Saskatchewan, who was the recipient of the 2016 Special Olympics Canada Athlete of the Year Award. Michael won eight gold medals and broke four world records at the 2016 Trisomy Games in Florence, Italy, the first-ever competition for athletes with Down syndrome.
Honourable senators, I encourage you to promote the creation of a fully inclusive environment for people with disabilities. It is up to us to recognize their contributions to society and to dispel the prevailing negative attitudes that cause low expectations, discrimination and exclusion of people with Down syndrome.
We need to help organizations like the Canadian Down Syndrome Society to raise awareness of the issues faced by people with trisomy-21, so that we may come up with ways to address these issues. The voice of advocates for the rights and well-being of people with this condition is getting louder every year, and it is our responsibility to listen to them and to give them an opportunity to be fully included in our community.
Honourable senators, most differently abled people would like to be valued as equal and participating members of society. In the Senate of Canada, through the Friends of the Senate program, we are given the opportunity to help local high school students with different abilities to gain some workplace experience that will allow them to gain meaningful employment, and I urge colleagues to take part in this wonderful initiative by welcoming differently abled volunteers to assist in their offices.
Let us celebrate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Canada by celebrating the diversity of its peoples. A belated Happy World Down Syndrome Day to everyone. Thank you.