Latin American Heritage Month has special meaning for the Commander of Joint Task Force IMPACT

October 30, 2019 — Defence Stories

On June 21, 2018, Parliament passed a law designating October as Latin American Heritage Month, in recognition of the significant contribution that the Latin American community has made to the social, economic, political, and cultural fabric of Canada.

Raised in a diverse family with a Canadian father and Nicaraguan mother, Latin American Heritage Month has special meaning for Brigadier-General Michel-Henri St-Louis, Commander of Joint Task Force IMPACT – Canada’s training mission in the Middle East. BGen St-Louis was born in Managua, Nicaragua to a Canadian father from Boucherville, Que., and a Nicaraguan mother. The couple had met in Quebec City, where his mother was studying, and dated for a year before she returned to Nicaragua. Four years later, his father travelled to Nicaragua and in a matter of months the two were married and made that country their home. A year later, BGen St-Louis was born. After Nicaragua became engulfed in the Sandinista Revolution, his family relocated to the south shore of Montreal in Longueuil, Que., when he was seven years old.

BGen St-Louis believes that his unique upbringing—that of being raised in a family of diverse cultures—has afforded him a unique perspective on individuals and their challenges that he can leverage in his current role as the Commander of Joint Task Force IMPACT.

“I believe that exposure to diversity at a young age has helped me be more patient with host nation forces and more tolerant of differences,” he says.

He believes his Central American roots have served him well in connecting with senior army leaders from South American countries such as Colombia and Chile, as well as serving members in the Canadian Armed Forces. As part of several Canadian Army delegations at the Inter-American Defense Boards in Toronto, Ont., Argentina, and the province of Quebec, which help to develop collaborative approaches on common defense and security issues facing countries in the Americas, BGen St-Louis says, “My language proficiencies have helped me on deployments, specifically during interactions with the Spanish-speaking militaries.”

This October marked the first time the Defence Team officially celebrated Latin American Heritage Month, recognizing the Latin American community within the Defence Team and showcasing the richness and vitality of Latin American culture and heritage.

When asked what diversity and inclusion means to him, both as a Latin American and as a Canadian Armed Forces member, BGen St-Louis said it signifies “a willingness to embrace our cultural differences, and see them as strengths and opportunities to do better as a whole.”

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