First-ever Latin American Heritage Month opening ceremony held at Ottawa City Hall

October 25, 2019 — Defence Stories

Author: Captain Rey Garcia-Salas 33 Signal Regiment

Diversity is the expression and representation of Canadian values integral to the military ethos and to the effectiveness of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) at home and abroad. Diversity is viewed as a source of strength and flexibility, and plays a pivotal role in making the CAF a modern, forward-looking organization. The CAF is committed to reflecting today’s distinct Canadian population among its ranks, to build a workforce that reflects Canadian ideals of diversity, respect, and inclusion.

Beginning in 2010, Captain Milton Hoyos and Captain Rey Garcia-Salas began organizing and implementing Latin American activities within the Defence Team in an effort to celebrate Latin American heritage and diversity in the CAF. Since that time, they have communicated with approximately 1500 military members and 500 civilian employees over the phone, through emails and by word-of-mouth in an effort to raise awareness about their heritage and culture. They have also established contact with 2000 public service employees through various outreach initiatives. Currently, approximately 500 members are registered in the GC Connex federal government and CAF Latin American Heritage Group. This interactive intranet page, similar to Facebook, routinely shares information relevant to the Latin American member network.

An opening ceremony commemorating the first Latin American Heritage Month took place at Ottawa City Hall on 4 October 2019. Members from the Canadian Armed Forces, His Worship Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa, distinguished guests, and community members were in attendance. The event offered those with Latin American roots an opportunity to connect and embrace their Latin American culture. Representing the Canadian Armed Forces were Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Maloney and Captain Rey Garcia-Salas. The Canadian Armed Forces was also represented at a meeting of the Hispanic Heritage Quebec Committee, held simultaneously in Montreal, by Captain Milton Hoyos.

As an institution that respects diversity and inclusion, the Canadian Armed Forces has long supported Latin American activities. Recently, in a demonstration of solidarity, the Canadian Armed Forces released an internal message (CANFORGEN 142/19) in honour of Latin American Heritage Month, encouraging commanders to support Latin American heritage and cultural activities in October.

Who is Latin American?

The result of an amalgamation of cultures and ethnicities, Latin Americans represent a mosaic of diversity. Those who maintain Latin American culture today are seen as Latin American even though their ancestors may have originated from other continents.  Latin American includes the indigenous peoples of the Americas, from Mexico to Chile, as well as descendants of those who emigrated from Europe, Africa, and Asia, who communicate in either Spanish, French, or Portuguese, and who have adopted Latin-American culture.

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