That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the contributions that Hindu Canadians have made to the socio-economic development of Canada, and their services to the Canadian society, the richness of Hindu Heritage and its vast contribution to the world of arts and science, astronomy to medicine, and its culture and traditions and the importance of educating and reflecting upon it for our future generations in Canada by declaring November, every year, Hindu Heritage Month.
He said: Mr. Speaker, namaste. Namaskar. This is the Hindu greeting with palms held together and centred in front of the chest while bowing the head down slightly. It means “the divine in me bows to the divine in you”. It shows respect and humility.
Our wonderful country Canada is an ongoing successful story of a nation with extraordinary cultural, ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity among its residents. Hindus started arriving in Canada more than 100 years back. There are about 600,000 Hindu Canadians, and they arrived here from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, other South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, African countries, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, other Caribbean countries and many other places.
Hindu Canadians have made and continue to make significant contributions to Canada’s socio-economic, political and cultural heritage as doctors, scientists, engineers, lawyers, business leaders, artists, academics, government officials, elected officials, etc. From building institutions to being philanthropists, Hindu Canadians have excelled in all services and sectors and in all walks of life.
This month, the Angus Reid Institute, in partnership with Cardus, published the results of a survey that offers a comprehensive and first-of-its-kind look at the faith journeys of Canadians across the religious spectrum. According to this survey, Canadians raised in the Hindu faith tend to be more privately faithful. They do not necessarily gather as formally and frequently, but nonetheless profess a strong personal connection to their religion. While for many Canadians of Hindu faith attending a temple is a less frequent activity, many have a shrine within their home. Finally, among the seven religious groups, Hinduism is one of only two that had positive views from Canadians in every religious faith group.
For over thousands of years, Hindus have contributed to mankind's deep knowledge of mathematics, including the invention of zero, architecture, medicine, astronomy, chemistry, navigation, metallurgy and engineering, just to name a few fields. Yoga and meditation are also Hindus' important contributions to world civilization.
On Hindu heritage, Hindus have an ancient, magnificent and robust inheritance, which they have received from numerous sources: our wisdom traditions, our religious rites and rituals, our literature, our many arts and crafts, our elders, our fairs and festivals and, above all, our many samskaras, or sacraments in our home. That heritage not only gives us a drishti, or world view, but defines our purusharthas, or aims of life, and equally defines our sanskriti, or culture. In short, Hindu heritage defines our dharma.
In a civilization that is so ancient, what strikes me is that it has not only an unbroken tradition of 5,000 years of recorded history, but also the plurality or diversity of our tradition. Even in the absence of a monolithic religious dispensation, we Hindus, whether in Canada or anywhere in the world, are connected by an invisible thread that binds us together. That is the strength of our Hindu heritage.
Our wisdom traditions, which start from the Vedas, flow into the Upanishads, or forest discourses, and are followed by our Puranas, or our songs and stories, are philosophically rich and form the foundation of our temple traditions. It is the same vast heritage that informs our costume and cuisine, our habits and behaviour and our arts and crafts.
Hindu heritage does not restrict itself to religious matters. We have a strong aesthetic foundation that leads to a celebration of saundarya, or what is beautiful. We celebrate beauty in our lives through stories and paintings, song and dance, colour and cuisine, festivals and many family events.
Though ancient, our heritage is alive and growing. It is open to influences from other civilizations and freely adapts and gives to whomever we come into contact with. Thus it is that, for us Hindus, Canada is a comforting and embracing home away from home.
Let me now very briefly touch on the Hinduism that is the oldest and one of the largest world religions. Hinduism is also known as sanatana dharma, or eternal natural law. Hindus believe in vasudhaiva kutumbakam: The world is one family. Hindus believe in the oneness of all living beings, everything in creation and the universe. Om is the most sacred sound and symbol of Hinduism. It is chanted aloud and is known as the sound of the universe, and it means universal consciousness.
The swastika is one of the most sacred symbols for Hindus. In Sanskrit, the word swastika means “that which brings good luck and well-being”. One of the oldest languages in the world, Sanskrit is the language of Hindu sacred texts.
While Hindus do not have one holy book, the vedas and Upanishads penned thousands of years ago teach core spiritual knowledge and philosophy. In addition, the Bhagavad Gita and Ramayana are the most loved sacred texts. The Bhagavad Gita teaches us that true knowledge is to see God in each soul. Hindus introduced the concept of ahimsa, non-violence, to the world.
I now go back to Hindu heritage. For many people in the world, cultural heritage refers primarily to tangible or material cultural heritage, such as archaeological sites, historical buildings and precious objects like sculptures, pottery and ornaments in museums. For them, they are what matter the most. There has always been an intangible or living cultural heritage underlying material manifestations that has not been promoted to the extent it deserves. This cultural knowledge is typically oral and is transmitted from elders to younger generations.
UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, describes cultural awareness or cultural knowledge as what individuals, groups, communities or nations consider as an element of their identity that guides people to respect special values, attend special places, produce and utilize certain objects and manifest certain behaviours.
The intangible, or living, cultural heritage elements related to Hindu heritage that we need to preserve, celebrate and promote are, number one, oral traditions such as songs, proverbs, tales, legends, myths, epic poetry, dramatic performances, storytelling, etc. Katha is Hindu storytelling, performances of which are ritual events that involve storytellers who recite sacred texts, such as the Puranas or Ramayana, followed by comments.
Number two is performing arts, which cover theatre, vocal and instrumental music such as Carnatic and Hindustani music, as well as dances like Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Odissi and Mohiniattam.
Number three is social practices, rituals and festive events such as Diwali, Ugadi, Holi, Navratri and Vaisakhi, new year celebrations and traditional games, etc.
Number four is traditional knowledge, traditional cuisine and traditional medicines, etc.
Number five is traditional craftsmanship, which brings together numerous traditional arts in the fields of pottery, woodwork, metalwork, jewellery, textiles and leather work.
It also makes business sense to promote culture and heritage. The arts, culture and heritage sectors of the Canadian economy generate more than $57 billion and provide close to 673,000 jobs in sectors such as music, performing arts, heritage institutions, festivals and celebrations. The activities related to safeguarding Hindu heritage, as per the UNESCO definition, cover awareness-raising, capacity-building and education, inventory-taking, documentation, research, promotion, protection, preservation, revitalization and inscription. This cultural knowledge is typically oral and is transmitted from elders to the younger generations. It is very mobile, as it transcends borders and is adopted by other nations. While it keeps its core, it allows its peripheries to be modified according to the tastes of the time and following the surrounding communities' creativity.
The Hindu-Canadian community has talented individuals, experienced practitioners and creative artists, researchers, teachers and entrepreneurs who can help with these aspects of safeguarding Hindu heritage in Canada. We can have promotional activities such as organizing storytelling events, holding photo and video exhibitions, planning competitions, organizing performing arts events and releasing promotional material through media and online platforms. There are excellent capacities among us that need to be identified and employed.
With the recent census expected to be published next October, the population of Hindu-Canadians is expected to rise much beyond 600,000. Currently, there are more than 220,000 international students from India here in Canada and a majority of them are Hindus. With many of these students expected to become permanent residents and eventually citizens following their education, the number of Hindu-Canadians is expected to go higher.
According to the Pew Research Center, in the U.S. 77% of Hindu-American adults have a college degree and nearly 50% have a postgraduate degree. While this info is not available for Canada, the numbers are probably better here.
Hindu-Canadians are a peaceful and productive community and have contributed to the socio-economic development of Canada. They have also added to the richness of the multicultural fabric of our country. Many organizations and hundreds of individuals have expressed support for this motion. I will just name two or three: the Hindu Federation, the Coalition of Hindus of North America and the Canada India Foundation.
I conclude my speech by stating that making November Hindu heritage month across Canada would allow us to recognize, preserve, celebrate and promote Hindu heritage as defined by UNESCO's intangible or living cultural heritage. Proclaiming Hindu heritage month would also provide an opportunity to remember, celebrate and educate both current and future generations about Hindu-Canadians and the important role they have played, and continue to play, in communities across Canada.
Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to second this motion, and I commend the hon. member for for bringing this matter before the House.
Canada, as is so often observed in this place, is a community of communities. We may not all be immigrants, but all of us, even our first nations, can trace our roots to another place. With such diversity, it is important to celebrate our heritage and to remember our roots as we come together to forge this still young nation.
Our neighbour to the south, the United States, has for years proclaimed itself to be a melting pot. Those who go there are expected, to a certain degree, to forget their former culture, to melt together to form one America, with a homogenous culture and vision. That was especially apparent when it came to language. How well that has worked in recent years is a matter of debate. The American dream may not be as accessible as it once was, though the ideal remains strong. Different communities are making their voices heard in a way that did not happen in the past.
In Canada, we have never been a melting pot, never a place where immigrants were expected to become something completely new. Sociologists refer to the Canadian experiment not as a melting pot but as a mosaic, a place where each cultural group retains its distinct identity while contributing to the nation as a whole. In Canada, we celebrate our differences and try to learn from them, to better our cultural understanding of what makes our nation a great nation.
Hindu heritage month would celebrate Hindu Canadians and the contributions they have made to the socio-economic development of Canada. It would highlight their service to Canadian society, the richness of Hindu heritage and the contributions Hindus have made to the arts and sciences, both in Canada and around the world.
Hindu heritage month would bring to the forefront the Hindu religion, something many Canadians know little about. As a religion, Hinduism is one of the oldest in the world, with almost a billion adherents worldwide, dating back beyond recorded history. Today, there are nearly 900 million practising Hindus worldwide, about 9% of the world's population. It is the world's third-largest religion, after Christianity and Islam. While most Hindus call India home, there are more than half a million living in Canada. They follow a rich religious tradition, one with high ethical standards and practices designed for both individual and cultural enlightenment.
The first Hindus came to Canada more than a century ago. They are found in every province and territory. Each one has a different story of how they or their ancestors came to this country, and I do believe the hon. member for has his own story, too. What they have in common is their desire to become part of Canadian society and to contribute to its well-being.
When I think about the contributions of Hindus to Canadian society, the first name that comes to mind is that of the late Deepak Obhrai, who served this House and all Canadians as the member of Parliament for Calgary Forest Lawn from 1997 until his death in 2019. Deepak was a proud Canadian, an air traffic controller who retrained as an accountant when he came to Canada and opened his own small business. Before becoming an MP, he served the community as president of the India-Canada Association of Calgary, the Monterey Park Community Association, and the Hindu Society of Calgary. He also served as a vice-president of the National Indo-Canadian Council.
When first elected, Deepak served as an opposition MP. Then, when the Conservatives formed government, he became parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs and to the minister of international co-operation. In those roles, he was able to visit other countries as a representative of his adopted country. His official visits took him to more than 100 different lands. He could tell stories about his adventures in practically every country in the world.
Deepak was known for his support of immigrants in general and the Hindu community in particular. He may have lived in Calgary, but he was known to every Canadian of Hindu or Indian descent. He was proud of his roots and proud of his adopted country and the opportunities it offered to immigrants like him. He understood that there are no limits to what may be accomplished by those who make Canada their home.
In 2017, he ran for the leadership of the federal Conservative Party. His goal was to become the first Hindu prime minister of Canada. He dared to dream big, even knowing the odds were against him. That is the Hindu spirit. His presence enriched the campaign and the Conservative Party at that time.
Deepak Obhrai's story, as I have said, is but one of so many success stories that can be told of Hindus in Canada. All too often, though, these stories are not well known outside a limited community. Setting aside November every year as Hindu heritage month would allow the Hindu community a platform to present their history, their culture and the stories of their people to a wider audience. As Canadians, we like to celebrate our diversity. We are a nation of stories and storytellers, painting a rich tapestry of cultures that is envied by nations the world over.
That tapestry has been made stronger by the contributions of Hindu Canadians. Whether their origins are in India, Fiji, Mauritius, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Eastern Africa, like my friend Deepak Obhrai, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan or Sri Lanka, their presence has enriched Canadian society. They have become an important part of the Canadian mosaic, and it is only fitting that we recognize that fact.
I am confident that all the members in this House will support the member for in his desire to see the establishment of Hindu heritage month. I congratulate the hon. member for for bringing this bill before the House and thank him for his service to Canadians.
Madam Speaker, namaste
I am very pleased to rise in the House as the my party's critic on living together to speak to Motion No. 42, which would declare November Hindu heritage month.
The motion, for the benefit of my colleagues, reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government should recognize the contributions that Hindu Canadians [and Quebeckers] have made to the socio-economic development of Canada [and Quebec], and their services to the Canadian society, the richness of Hindu Heritage and its vast contribution to the world of arts and science, astronomy to medicine, and its culture and traditions and the importance of educating [this is very important, I will come back to it] and reflecting upon it for our future generations in Canada [and Quebec] by declaring November, every year, Hindu Heritage Month.
First, I want to say hello to my colleague from who moved this motion. It has the support of 14 other members, so it must be relevant. I will state right away that, for many reasons, and I will not go into them all today, we will be voting in favour of this motion. I would nevertheless like to explain why we, in the Bloc Québécois, are the sort of people who appreciate this kind of initiative.
The reason is that this is an era of extremes. These days, people are so afraid of offending anyone that they are constantly walking on eggshells. Victimhood activists everywhere are monopolizing the public debate to the extent that many people hesitate to speak up out of fear of inadvertently making a faux pas. This silences voices that would be more worth listening to than the ones we hear nowadays, which yell but, of course, do not listen.
I recently learned that I, a white man in my fifties—by the way, I am turning 54 tomorrow, for those who would like to know—am not allowed to talk about racism or social injustice, or even express an opinion on certain situations, not even to defend the oppressed. The simple reason is that as a white man in my fifties, turning 54 tomorrow, I am privileged, which means I do not know what I am talking about. My opinion is immediately considered to be patronizing for the individuals or groups who define themselves as victims of oppression, injustice or inequality.
However, I call myself a progressive. I consider myself to be someone who has actively worked on opening doors and removing barriers so that immigrants can join our society as smoothly as possible, with respect for our respective values, both their values as new Quebeckers and ours as Quebeckers of all origins who have been in Quebec for one generation or many.
My generation played a role in making progress for groups that have been oppressed and discriminated against. My generation recognizes that there is still a lot of work to be done before every person is included and respected. However, the pendulum is swinging so far the other way that it seems people in my generation would no longer be included in these efforts.
I object to how people like me and many of my colleagues are being shut out of the discussion. It upsets me because this is a divisive, not to say polarizing, debate that serves as a distraction from what I feel is the most obvious point when we are talking about cultural diversity and the integration of immigrants in Quebec and Canada.
The only reason that intolerance and racism are still an issue in 2022 is ignorance. The only way to combat ignorance is through education, which is precisely what Motion No. 42, which we are debating today, would allow for, and that is why I support it, as I said. Activism is not what will help swing that pendulum back to the other end of the spectrum. As I said earlier and as we can see, when the pendulum moves so swiftly, there is no time for any nuance, for discussion or for education. If people are to learn, they need education. They need to be taught. People need to be able to speak up, talk to each other and explain things without having others constantly take offence. As members know, everyone has a thin skin these days, but it has not always been this way.
I would like to take a moment to look back on the past, my past. Let us imagine that it is 1971 in Quebec City. I am a little boy. My brother and I are excited because we are about to welcome our little sister, who my parents just adopted. This baby, who was born in Jamaica, is going to become part of our family, and our lives are about to take a rather unexpected turn as a result. It is important to understand that there were not a lot of Black people in Quebec City in 1971. I always joke that, besides my sister, the only Black people in Quebec City in 1971 were one or two African professors at Laval University and a guy who got lost trying to find his way back to Montreal and ended up staying.
I was lucky. I had a sister who opened our minds and helped us become aware of the issue of difference at a very young age. I am not yet talking about racism. As we grew up, we felt the disconcerting sidelong glances that people gave not only my sister, but us as well, her family members. Although we did not feel as hurt by this as she did, we were still targeted.
I heard every kind of comment imaginable, from derogatory remarks to things that were less hurtful but that clearly showed that ignorance and fear of the unknown were the cause of the resulting intolerance and racism. Ignorance does not always manifest itself in a disparaging or mean way. Sometimes, it can even be a bit funny.
Here is one example. My sister was probably about two years old when a woman approached my mother to ask, intrigued, how she would understand my sister when she started talking. Had my mother learned the language of my sister's native country? My mother gave me a little wink and told the woman that she was completely fluent in the language of my sister's country.
All through my childhood, I answered questions about my sister. How long was her hair when she straightened it? Could she get a sunburn? It was naive ignorance. Unless it is addressed head-on with education and discussion, that kind of ignorance can grow and morph into intolerance, racism and fear of the other.
I feel that I did a pretty good job of educating people around me about my sister at the time because, a little later, when we were teenagers, my friends' questions about my sister changed. Was she single, and would she mind if they called her?
I just wanted to share that story to illustrate how important it is to be open-minded and to educate each other. That is the secret to a diverse society in which people of all different backgrounds must and can live together and integrate while upholding the host society's basic values and still honouring their own culture. In my ideal world, all these diverse cultures actually help strengthen Quebec society's guiding principles with their customs, flavours, music, poetry and traditions.
I am not talking here about Canadian‑style multiculturalism, which I think is more like a Tower of Babel than an integration model. I am talking about my dream society, where all cultures converge and become part of a strong tree whose roots serve as a foundation for each one to thrive in a context of mutual respect. It is about opening up, and learning from and about each other.
Just talking about Hindu heritage month made me learn 100 times more than all I knew or thought I knew about the culture and Hinduism. One of the things I learned is that we have architectural treasures. In Dollard-des-Ormeaux, for example, there is an absolutely majestic temple that is worth a visit for its architecture, as well as the history of its design and construction.
I also learned a lot about certain rituals that had to be adapted because events cannot always be celebrated outside, as they are in India or in other places in the world where the weather allows it. The dates of celebrations and events have even been moved during the year to adapt to the weather in Quebec.
I was fascinated to learn so much in so little time while doing a bit of quick research for my speech this morning. If I could learn so much in the little time I had, imagine what an entire month could do if used properly.
What will we do that month?
We are often asked to devote months to different cultures or different themes. I am certainly open to declaring November Hindu heritage month, but my one hope is that the month will be used for communicating, sharing and promoting the culture, because that is how these months become relevant, in my opinion.
I will quickly close by congratulating Sunil Chandary, a constituent in my riding who made a lot of sacrifices to come here. I know that he is watching today. I want to tell him how glad I am to have him here and how much I appreciate the advice he gave me for my presentation this morning. I want to assure him that we will help him and be there for him throughout the process to get his wife and son here from India so they can join him in Drummondville and enrich our society, just as people from all backgrounds do.
Madam Speaker, today I am proud to rise in support of what I believe to be another crucial and important opportunity for us and all Canadians to reflect on what this place, this land and this territory really mean.
When I was young growing up in the Fishing Lake Métis Settlement, one of eight Métis settlements in Canada, one of the things my kokum would always mention is that people come here from all walks of life seeking refuge, peace and safety. When our ancestors welcomed people into our community onto these territories, we did so with open arms. We did so wanting to understand one another. We did so wanting to cherish one another. We did so knowing that we could do that in peace. However, today, we have to go much further than that. We have to recommit ourselves to understanding the impact that Hindu Canadians have had on our society and redouble our efforts in making sure that they are recognized, they are seen and their achievements are truly noted.
I want to give a special thanks to my hon. colleague, the member for , for ensuring that we recognize each November as Hindu heritage month and that we continue on this very important and, I would say, sacred obligation to recognize each and every member of our community here in Canada and their unique contributions to building this place.
As we recognize and celebrate the achievements of various diaspora communities in Canada, the New Democrats are proud to stand in support of the motion to do the same for Hindu Canadians, which is truly what is right. They have built a better Canada for us. They have contributed to a Canada that we enjoy today, and we must ensure that their recognition stands the test of time.
As one of the oldest living religions in the world, Hindus' teachings of love, equality and peace resonate here in Canada. In many ways, they are the very same values of my people, the Métis and the Cree: the values of love, the values of equality and the values of Canada.
I feel it is extremely important to remember the contributions of the nearly half a million Hindus who came to Canada from all parts of the world and now call this great place home. From advancing science and technology to making their mark in our academia, politics and overall Canadian society, it is truly something worth recognizing.
Canadian Hindu communities deserve complete recognition, because often, through recognition, we also have to recognize pain. Many communities have come to Canada after fleeing and finding a way to escape this pain. We have to ensure that the next generation not only recognizes the hardships of their ancestors and maybe even the current generation, but projects that into strength for the community.
I want to take a moment to highlight and condemn the many attacks on places of worship that we have seen in large Hindu communities. It is truly troubling in Canada. Burglaries and hate attacks are on the rise, and we must have the courage to stand and defend our fellow Canadians and our Hindu Canadians.
As the member for highlighted, Hindus possess a great cultural knowledge base that has scientific roots and deep intellectual roots. There have been immense contributions, particularly to astronomy. We have seen, for example, the formation of the number zero, which has laid the foundation of advanced mathematics, the same mathematics we use here today. It is a contribution we must recognize. It is something that our children right now in schools across the country continue to learn.
We are truly blessed in the way that our country has the ability to bring these teachings to one place, to one foundation, for the betterment of all people. I believe that is the spirit of Canada. That is the spirit of my ancestors. When we welcomed Europeans here for the first time, it was our intent to create peace, mutual prosperity and, moreover, a place where each and every one of us can truly be ourselves.
Canada has been a refuge and home to various communities, particularly now, for example, with welcoming many Ukrainians and Afghans. We must not forget our existing commitments to the world, but this is an example of what happens when we invite people into our community and our homes. We are truly all the better for it, just as we welcome many more today.
I want to call on the federal government, in relation to this motion, to contribute funds and resources to the Hindu community so that we can continue to see the impact in each and every one of our communities. Everyone of us in every single one of our districts has been impacted by members of the Hindu community. They have contributed so much, and it is the very least we can do to ensure that their recognition, their visibility and their safety are paramount.
Creating a Canada that is safe for culturally diverse immigrants and the many families that are still here today is a job that is ongoing. We know, people of colour know and immigrant families know that in Canada today, we are still facing the ugly truth of racism and its long-lasting barriers. The fear of not being able to pronounce something correctly is a real barrier to people succeeding in this country. Hindu heritage month seeks to remedy that by demonstrating to all Canadians, businesses, not-for-profits and even the government that Hindus, much like all communities seeking peace, deserve a place here and deserve recognition for their contributions.
This means that we must take a principled position to support these communities and have a unique attention on the fact that hate crimes are affecting them. This must be a motivation for us. This must be a stepping place for us to ensure that we eliminate hate in all places.
It also means providing unique support for languages. The Hindu community has a diverse language and dialect that requires Canadians to adapt to ensure that we create space and opportunity for those folks who would rather speak their mother tongue. In the House, we have spoken about mother tongue recognition. We have spoken about the importance of our cultures and our languages to this country. Recognizing the contributions along with the language is part of that. We cannot fully have the recognition of language without fully having the recognition of culture, peoplehood, nationhood and religion.
I am positive that this motion will celebrate diversity. That is its intent. I believe that in celebrating our place here in Canada and celebrating the fact that we are neighbours, we have the opportunity to learn from one another. Canada is a place in the world where we can do that in a way that many other countries cannot. I see that as a strength for us. It is a strength to be able to see our Hindu Canadians succeed. It is a strength to see Hindu Canadians succeed in our academics, politics and cultural institutions. I know Hindu Canadians will contribute greatly to our cultural mosaic and the future of our country.
The New Democrats want to congratulate the member for for ensuring that this work is done and that Hindu Canadians see themselves this November. We have had a tough year. We have had a tough few years. All Canadians, including Hindu Canadians, have taken a leadership role throughout this time. We want to recognize them for their contributions and sacrifice in making sure that the Hindu Canadian community continues to be resilient and prosperous. When we get to a point when we can celebrate together again, I look forward to this November when we can celebrate the very first Hindu heritage month.
Madam Speaker, namaste. It is such a pleasure to rise and speak to my colleague and friend's motion recognizing the significant contributions that Hinduism has offered not only to Canada but to the world. I was very impressed as I listened to his opening remarks. We get a sense of pride in Canada's diversity when a member of the House of Commons stands in this place with a great deal of pride to talk about the importance of Hinduism to every Canadian, no matter where they live, and about the many contributions that people of the Hindu faith have made over a hundred years here in Canada. There are contributions in virtually every political, economic and social sector of our society today. Ultimately, I suggest that it is a part of our Canadian identity. One only needs to listen to what the member for had to say to get an appreciation of just how important it is to our society.
Members might recall the issue of the swastika. When it is being debated inside the chamber, it is often debated in a very negative sense, but it was our friend who brought its meaning to our attention in a very real and passionate way. He even sent me a YouTube link on the importance of that symbol to Hinduism, and that has not been lost on me, nor, I suspect, on many others.
I say that because in a good way, education is the best way for us to combat issues like racism and intolerance. I genuinely believe to my core that the way to evolve into a better society is though education. Motions like the one the member has presented today are opportunities for all of us to continue along that line. Declaring the month of November as Hindu heritage month would provide each and every one of us the opportunity, if we choose, to ultimately promote and encourage educational opportunities.
As passionate as the member for is on this particular motion, I have seen the member participate in other types of heritage month celebrations. For example, I can recall him standing on the lawns of the House of Commons talking about and participating in Filipino Heritage Month. I say that because when we have a heritage month, it offers a broader opportunity for all of us to become better acquainted with and have a better understanding of faiths and ethnicities.
Hinduism is the third-largest religion and way of life in the world today. It has well over a billion people. As my colleague pointed out, there are just over 600,000 here in Canada. What an amazing community, as the member referenced. I suspect that if we looked at this per capita based on communities, we would be very impressed with the level of education and expertise and the sense of professionalism that can be found among our people of Hindu faith.
While I was an MLA, I had a little more time to go into a number of different communities. I am very grateful for Manitoba Hindu Seniors Inc. It would invite me quite often to its centre, which is located on Ellice Avenue in Winnipeg. Just recently, it was the recipient of a grant from Ottawa to assist in the modernization of its accessibility.
I can tell members that, when I attended events, every one of them provided some sort of educational opportunity, whether it was a celebration of the country of India's independence or providing a better understanding of what Hinduism is really all about. My colleague made reference to a thread of life that unites Hinduism around the world, and Hindus can be united through that thread. The first time I heard something of that nature was at the Manitoba Hindu Seniors centre.
Would one want an appreciation of brilliant colours and to know the importance of colours to the world? We already had one member make reference to the celebration of Holi and the many different colours one can experience. If someone wants a good sense of that, they could attend a Holi celebration sponsored by members of our Hindu communities, and they would see the joy, happiness and love in the hearts of people in a real and tangible way.
Thousands of Winnipeggers, non-Hindus, see that every year, with the exception of the last couple of years because of the pandemic, when they attend a traditional summer festival known as Folklorama. At Folklorama, people can go to the India pavilion where they will see many religious symbols of the Hindu community and see many of the different dances that originate from the Hindu faith or followers of the Hindu faith. It is very inspiring.
I remember one of the dance instructors I got to know and knew for many years. She once talked to those in attendance, these young ladies, about how it is an impressive art that the dance provides to the community. She was very much boastful of her students. She talked about how, at the time, somewhere around 80 students had graduated from her school, and 67 of them had gone on to become doctors. I suspect the discipline in learning the dance, the understandings and the meanings of the dance, contributed to that.
The member made reference to the importance of the preservation and encouragement of the many aspects of the Hinduism faith. It is so critically important. We see that the contributions go far beyond the faith alone. It is rooted in the faith, a faith that has been in existence for a while. I have heard it called the oldest religion. I think it gets that because of a script that was written thousands of years ago. In fact, it might be the first script written of a religious nature. Do not quote me on that, but I believe that is where it comes from. We are talking about thousands of years ago. Around 4,000 years would be my best guesstimate.
It is a religion that has a great deal of tolerance. I have had the opportunity to participate in special engagements, be at the temples, see the shrines come to life and see the manner in which that is conducted. There is an understanding and appreciation of other faiths. There is a lot to be learned by that. That is why I think having a heritage month for Hinduism in November would be of great benefit to all Canadians. It would not be just for the Hindu community, but for all Canadians. I look forward to future months of November when we will see extra celebrations because of this motion ultimately passing through the House of Commons.
Mr. Speaker, it is rare moment indeed when I find myself agreeing with the member for , but from what I see of what is on the agenda today, I will have plenty of opportunity to disagree with him for many hours to come.
Today, we are debating Motion No. 42, which is a motion to establish Hindu heritage month in Canada. Canada's Parliament has by now an established tradition of discussing and generally unanimously passing bills or motions to designate a particular month for the purpose of recognizing and celebrating the contributions of a particular community. I think this practice originated with the recognition of February as Black History Month.
Canada now has recognized many months to celebrate a number of communities, including the Tamil community, the Jewish community, the Dutch community, the Mennonite community, the Irish community, the Asian community, the Italian community, the Filipino community, the Portuguese community, the German community and the Sikh community. I may have missed some. I know there are lots, and I did my best to find them all. I also believe there are some other months recognized at the provincial level, which may be different from the ones that are recognized federally.
There are lots of opportunities to celebrate in this country. These initiatives might not reflect the number one priority of the community in question, but they do constitute a valuable opportunity for us to recognize and appreciate the substantive contribution of people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds, and that practice contributes to a sense of national inclusion and pluralism.
It is noteworthy that we have shifted recently from previously only recognizing ethnocultural communities to now also recognizing religious communities with these months. It is important to reflect on this because religious traditions and religious diversity by their nature bring something different to our national life than ethnocultural traditions and ethnocultural diversity do.
One's membership in a particular ethnic group may be very important to one's identity and can be associated with a broad range of cultural practices, but religious identity reflects an individual's voluntary choice. It is a choice to believe in and associate oneself with a community that believes in a particular system of thought that seeks to answer fundamental questions about the ends to which life should be directed.
Many people embrace a religious identity as part of membership in a community and see a close tie to their cultural identity, but these things are conceptually very different. I see great value in recognizing the contribution of religious traditions, specifically, as well as ethnocultural traditions.
We cannot pass the first hour of debate on this without recognizing the contributions of the great Deepak Obhrai, the first member of Parliament of Hindu origin elected to this House and a former Conservative leadership candidate. I believe, if he were still alive today, he would be running again, and no doubt would have been a juggernaut in this one. It is therefore important to recognize Deepak Obhrai, and I will have much more to say on the subject of Hinduism and its contribution to Canada at a subsequent time.