Let us start right away, because we are a little late.
Welcome, everyone, to our 128th meeting.
We have some new members here. Mr. Saganash, Mr. Deltell, Mr. Vandal and Mr. Casey, welcome.
We are beginning consideration of Bill .
As witnesses, we have Georgina Jolibois, MP, and Morley Googoo, Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, representing Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Why don't we begin with you, Ms. Jolibois, as the proponent for this bill?
: Mahsi cho
. Thank you very much. I would like to begin my remarks by thanking the members of the committee for having me here to discuss the creation of National Indigenous Peoples Day as a statutory holiday.
I very much appreciate the support that my bill has gotten from across party lines as we move forward on the government's project of reconciliation with first nations, Métis and Inuit peoples across Canada.
I'd like to acknowledge that the idea for National Indigenous Peoples Day is not my own, but is the work of generations of indigenous people who have come before my time, and it is sustained by the work of first nations, Métis and Inuit people who keep their celebrations going on every year on June 21.
It has a deep and vibrant history, and I would encourage you all to seek out its story. National Indigenous Peoples Day is currently one part of Celebrate Canada, four days in the summer when the Canadian government sponsors events across the country to celebrate the people that make our country unique.
You may know June 21 as the summer solstice, the longest day of sunshine every year. As such, it holds a special significance to many indigenous people, who feel a unique connection to the land they live on and are inseparable from.
Over your study of Bill , you're going to be hearing a lot of remarks about residential schools, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action and a day of truth and reconciliation, specifically call to action number 80 from the TRC, which calls for a national day of truth and reconciliation to honour survivors, their families and their communities so that the legacy and history of residential schools is never forgotten.
It was in the spirit of call to action 80 that I proposed my bill. I understand that it doesn't meet the exact wording of the call to action, but I do believe my bill fulfills its intentions. You will remember that the project of residential schools was to eliminate the culture and presence of first nations, Métis and Inuit people because they weren't a part of Canadian society, and that the government believed there was no future for first nations, Métis or Inuit people in our country. History has not been kind to indigenous people, but indigenous people continue to survive and continue to engage with all levels of government in good faith.
First nations, Métis and Inuit people want to have a positive relationship with the federal government, and I believe that the decisions made by this committee will affect how that relationship moves forward.
I do want to be clear that I understand the reasoning behind having a date that is different from the one I proposed in my bill. Call to action 80 specifically requests a day recognized as a day of truth and reconciliation for the exclusive reason of honouring the survivors and legacy of residential schools. Orange Shirt Day is a great choice for that day.
Before proposing my bill, I did carefully consider Orange Shirt Day. When I consulted with my colleagues and my community, I believed that September 30 could serve that purpose, but if we think about the bigger picture of reconciliation, I believe June 21 must be a statutory holiday. I think first nations, Métis and Inuit people are more than the trauma they've experienced.
I've said in the past that reconciliation is the burden of government, not indigenous people. I think that if there is going to be only one statutory holiday that recognizes indigenous people in Canada, it should be a day that celebrates the culture, life, ways and futures of first nations, Métis and Inuit people.
A day about indigenous people should not be just for the federal government to apologize for what they've done and for all of Canada to reflect on the dark legacy of residential schools. While honouring the past is crucial, I think that more people in Canada will benefit from a day that is organized around education, celebration and healing of indigenous heritage and life. People in Canada are capable of mourning the past while also celebrating the present and looking toward the future.
June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, has been chosen by indigenous people. It's organized by indigenous people to celebrate the culture and contributions of indigenous people. It would be a momentous step toward reconciliation for the government to recognize that work and to recognize June 21 as the statutory holiday chosen by indigenous people.
If the project of reconciliation is to reverse the harms done by the residential schools, the National Indigenous Peoples Day does the exact opposite of what residential schools intended. The residential school program used the differences between Canadians and indigenous people as a reason to discriminate and eliminate their culture. National Indigenous Peoples Day celebrates that difference. It fosters an understanding of indigenous cultures and provides an opportunity for Canadians who otherwise wouldn't have the chance to see the indigenous people within their community, to see life from their perspective and to learn something about their neighbours.
When I ask myself “What's the best day to create a better relationship between indigenous people and the rest of Canada?”, the answer will always be National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21.
June 21 is marked by community celebrations, concerts and activities in schools. There are barbecues, parades, shared meals, film screenings, ceremonies and lessons across the country. This past year, we saw one of the largest celebrations of National Indigenous Peoples Day, with concerts held across the country and streamed live on the APTN, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, for people all over to watch online.
I've heard a number of people say we can celebrate these positive things on a different day, too, and that's true. First nations, Métis and Inuit people could celebrate the things they've accomplished every single day of the year. I have the opportunity daily as a Dene person to learn from my elders and pass on the lessons they teach me. Many indigenous people across Canada have the opportunity to practise their traditions, to share their stories, to live an indigenous life.
Reconciliation calls for a deeper appreciation and understanding by Canadian society of what I and others practise daily. June 21 is the opportunity now for indigenous people to be publicly proud of who they are and where they come from.
In my view, National Indigenous Peoples Day would accomplish far more for the future of indigenous people in this country than would a day only focusing on the legacy of residential schools. In short, I agree that for this committee to choose a day of truth and reconciliation would not be a good decision, but I firmly believe that choosing National Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21, to be a statutory holiday would be a better decision.
Thank you for your time.
This bill is advocating for the creation of this national holiday. Creating a national statutory holiday for indigenous people will assist in promoting reconciliation. In my role as regional chief, I have seen first-hand the power of this day when we bring people together. We had the Grand-Pré peace and friendship gathering last year, where we brought together the Acadian community as one form of reconciliation—how would we interact, how can we know each other?
As Georgina talked about, not a lot of people come on the reserve to see it. They'd love the experience of our culture and our identity, but how do you get them exposed to it?
We brought it into a national park instead, and we had over 30,000 people attend. It was an amazing opportunity for us to have another group of society—allies—become more understanding of our stories. If we stay out of sight and out of mind, we will never get more dialogue going, and that's what needs to happen for a proper reconciliation in this country. We need to share education with each other.
Media coverage is largely focused on negative circumstances. First nations are facing suicide epidemics, a lack of affordable housing, higher food prices and a number of other critical issues. A study earlier this year by the Angus Reid Institute found 61% of Canadians are optimistic about the future of the relationship between indigenous people and Canadians. We just have to find spaces and spots and times in our busy lives to make sure we have time for this.
We said our commitments of 150 when we celebrated Canada 150 were only the start of the next Canada 150. It means deeper deposits of your commitment. Making days like this happen and not be an inconvenience is crucial. The inconvenience was us being stripped of our land, our culture and our identity. We need leadership in order for us to develop mutual respect and trust with each other. Leadership has to happen to make that firm investment in trust. It's really important that we follow through in the best way we can to cover all the 94 calls to action.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in the UN declaration, calls for all of these to have good input and feedback and work together to make sure that we have celebrations, we have information coming together, and we have investments of time like this so that we can eliminate the lack of education and the racism that's out there. I think it's important that we all take a collective approach to make this happen.
Several provinces and territories have already acknowledged the importance of having a day to celebrate indigenous peoples. In 2017, the Yukon government created legislation that led to June 21 becoming a statutory holiday. In the Northwest Territories, this day has been celebrated as a statutory territorial holiday for 18 years. This is not a new issue. The Assembly of First Nations has been calling for this legislation since 1982.
The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples recommended a special day, and the Chiefs-in-Assembly have several resolutions speaking specifically to this matter. Among them is call to action number 80, which calls for the very measures outlined in this proposed bill. I am aware of Canada's recent commitment to declare a federal statutory holiday to mark the legacy of the residential school system. We will welcome an announcement and a date to honour the history of this period, as called for in the TRC calls to action.
I also want to share one other story. I had a phone call from two of my community members from Millbrook. I cover Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, with 13 communities in Nova Scotia. It was Linda Maloney and Matilda Bernard, a sister of Nora Bernard, who started a class action suit across the country. I said wherever I have an opportunity to share your point, I will do that, so this is why I'm breaking away from my notes. It's to make sure I listen to her notes instead.
She said, “Morley, if you can tell whoever is out there about the truth and reconciliation day, we're really happy, but it shouldn't happen on June 21, and it shouldn't happen on Orange Shirt Day.”
She said, “I'm not here to pick the date, but I'm here to tell you why. September is the time we all went away, when we had to leave our families, so September was not a good time for us. June was a happy time, when we were all going home and going to see our families. Rather than getting into a debate about June 21 or Orange Shirt Day, it's important that this fact be presented to whomever you can present it to ”
I just kept my word by doing that today.
I want to thank you guys too. It's important, again, that we can look at truth and reconciliation. Do we need another statutory holiday, and all that? I think we do. If you see a statue of Cornwallis in Halifax become a national issue and a lightning rod, it shows how much more investment we have to do and not be scared. Let the poison come out. Let's drown it out with a young generation of real leaders who are not going to be brainwashed with the old lack of education we got to achieve about indigenous people and the relationship.
We need to just be very proud and loud on how we can actually have reconciliation in the next 150 years, and not just in pieces of our speeches when Canada 150 was here.
That's all I have for that. Thanks so much.
It has carried on since then, so it has been around for a while.
Then when I became mayor, it was rewarding, because my council at the time supported celebrating, not a day off but the celebration and coming together on June 21.
I was the mayor for 12 years, from 2003 to 2015. Throughout the years, I've talked to politicians, agencies, and elders. The way I work, I always get input from elders wherever I go; and wherever I go, I talk to school-aged kids, teachers, even police officers, and everyone else. My conversations for many years have been inclusive of all in talking to Canadians across the country.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you to both of you, really. I think it's an exciting moment for me, as a parliamentarian, to come here, especially with Romeo Saganash sitting beside me. I think that it's probably the biggest discovery for me as the MP for Longueuil and the south shore of Montreal. I know Kahnawake, which is just next to my riding, but the reality and the reconciliation process that's been going on have moved me a lot.
Chief Googoo, I appreciated a lot that when you came here for the artifacts, you came up with this notion that shocked me, which was that you were not talking about museum artifacts or things in a window box but about sacred stuff and very spiritual and emotional stuff. I think that's something that impacted me, and I think it impacted everyone here. Your point of view is interesting.
I have to say that we at this committee had the chance to discuss Remembrance Day, November 11, and we could see good intentions on all sides. People were against or for it, but they all wanted to pay respect to our veterans. I am not afraid of this discussion. I think your point of view is very valid, and I think that obviously the choice of the day should be the first nations' selection.
I think Ms. Jolibois, my dear colleague, has been through a lot of consultations. If the idea is to make a reconciliation, I wanted to ask you what the biggest advantage of June 21 is from a reconciliation point of view.
I have to share that when Romeo invited us to be there at the solstice celebration on June 21 with Peter Decontie, the fire keeper, to me it was a spiritual shock. I must say that to me this was a big reconciliation moment for my little white life, for me.
How is this a possibility to better share and to better have reconciliation across the country?
Thank you for your question.
As an indigenous person, I grew up on the trapline and was taught to pay attention to the seasons and the land and to live off the land. The elders have taught me and continue to teach in my region. Elders teach the children. They go into the school regularly and teach. June 21, in terms of transition, is the end of the spring season and the beginning of summer, so from one end to the next. Also, it is the longest day.
Elders teach about the opportunity. Again, we are very familiar with trauma and pain. It is really important to move forward from the trauma and pain, and we need a significance. Because we pay attention to the land, the waters and the season, that's where many of these discussions I've had come from.
There is an excellent opportunity for reconciliation, healing, coming together and building. That's where I'm coming from.
Absolutely. My elders have told me that they're just ecstatic that the federal government would even look at and consider this. It would be great to have it in June, but if September is going to be picked, we're very happy too. It's important that we don't lose focus.
The other thing I want to mention is that in a lot of meetings I have gone to, we take examples from New Zealand. I just came from a housing conference in Vancouver, and they talked about indigenous people and how they work together. Well, we have 58 different indigenous nations here, so it's a little tougher to not “blanket-think”. That's what got us in the mess in the first place: calling us all “Indians”, then “first nations”, and then “aboriginals”—the new relabelling.
It's time that we rise up as nations ourselves in investment of that day. Obviously, you're not going to know what that statutory day is going to look like, because we have never made deep enough commitments to reconciliation to see what it would look like. We can't have fear.
I'm telling you that when I go to the classrooms and talk to the eight- and nine-year-olds, they know more than the teenagers in some cases, and this is even in the provincial schools. I say that even if our adult population doesn't make that paradigm shift, these kids will. They have figured out how—
Thank you, Madam Chair, and MP Jolibois.
Thank you for being here.
Regional Chief, thank you.
My apologies for having to be out of the room, but I can tell you that you have my support for a day. I think the details can be worked out. Also, if my great-grandmother, a full-blooded Cree woman, Lucy Brown Eyes, were here, she'd be happy. She would say something like this.
[Member speaks in Cree]
It is Cree for “Guests, you are welcome; there is room here.” That's the spirit of reconciliation that I think we need to walk down.
I just want to say that we have to be careful in our language. Anytime we're looking at a new day that might have some expenditures tied to it, tensions can flare up. I just think we should remember that modern Canada does not exist without indigenous peoples, without taking lands, and without the shame and pain of residential schools.
This country has been built on the backs of indigenous peoples. We cannot say that a federal holiday is going to be on the backs of Canadians if we do it. Let us use our language and words very carefully.
We're talking about $11 million. I'm happy to see a federal holiday honouring indigenous culture and history for $11 million. I would do it even if it were higher.
I'm going to go to you first, Regional Chief, and then to MP Jolibois. How does this kind of a day, in its larger form, as we heard in testimony from MP Jolibois, help us all walk down the pathway of reconciliation?
Let's look at our dates that we have right now.
Canada Day makes sense to me; we're going to have a national holiday and we have to work in the spirit of reconciliation. We have a Labour Day, so we are recognizing all the men, women and gender non-binary people who work hard to build our country. Then we have the May long weekend. Unless you really pause, does anybody remember what the May long weekend is for? It's for Queen Victoria, who reigned from 1837 to 1901.
I would like to see in my time in Parliament some sort of holiday that could actually be a modern declaration of reconciliation, so that long past our time in Parliament, when we're 95 and in our rocking chairs, we can all be proud that we got this done.
That's my question for you, MP Jolibois. We get this done, together with whatever date and whatever changes have to happen in the drafting. Let's say that it's 20 years from now and you're looking back. What are you going to be most happy about that you would see happening on the ground because of an indigenous national holiday?
Thank you for that question, and thank you for the support from all of you.
We are today moving forward. I see a positive legacy. We are creating a positive legacy together. That's what I envision.
As for what I see, I see my 10-year-old great-niece's kids in the generations to come. When we're old, we'll be elders. I'll be called upon as an elder when the time comes. Unfortunately, we are all going there. We will all have that role.
For us as indigenous people, that we took this time as Canadians to honour, respect and accept indigenous people as part of Canadian society is a crucial step, and that's exactly what your comment is saying. That's where I'm envisioning this. Canada is built on the backs of indigenous people, yet we're in a marginalized system right now, and we want to be “a part of”, together. That's how I envision it.
Let us resume the session.
With us, we have Guylain Thorne and Kathryn Zedde, from the Department of Canadian Heritage. I notice that the third person we invited is not here.
Thank you for being here today.
We are now continuing with our clause-by-clause review of Bill , . When we left off, we were at clause 2 and amendment LIB-1.
If I may, I'll let everyone know that if LIB-1 is adopted, CPC-1 and NDP-1 cannot be moved, as they amend the same lines.
Does anybody want to speak to LIB-1?
Go ahead, Mr. Long.
I would like to propose a subamendment.
Of course, I completely agree. In the amendment we submitted, we should have written “territories”, but we did not. However, I believe that it's really imperative that we also add that it be done “in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including article 31 of that text”. The wording would therefore be: “…the provinces and territories, and in accordance…”
Personally, if you agree, I would like to turn the text around in order to give more weight to that accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
I will use the text in English; that will be easier. We would be adding this:
“and territories must develop and implement a comprehensive national strategy in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including Article 31 of that text”, and then back to the text.
Is that clear with you?
Madam Chair, this amendment is really about cleaning up the text.
It would replace line 16 on page 1 with the addition of, after “aboriginal”, “human remains and cultural property”.
We also missed words in line 18, so it would say “include measures that seek to”. We also add again, “human remains or cultural property”, after “indigenous”.
In line 4 on page 2, it would say again “human remains or cultural property to return such”, and then the word “material” is new.
Again cleaning up some language, it would replace lines 6 to 8 on page 2 with the following: “support the recognition that”, adding “human remains”. Again, after “access to that", " material” is an additional word.
Then it would replace line 13 on page 2 with “human remains and cultural property; and”.
Then the largest cleanup, if you will, in this clause is replacing lines 14 to 17 on page 2 with the following: “resolve any conflicting claims to Indigenous human remains or cultural property, whether within or between Indigenous communities or organizations, in a manner that is respectful”, and it continues. Then we have “that allows claimants to be self-represented”.
That's a lot of cleanup.
I'll walk people through it, because it's hard to see what's there and what wasn't.
Is there any discussion?
(Amendment agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Shall the short title as amended carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall the title as amended carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall the bill as amended carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall the chair report the bill as amended to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Shall the committee order a reprint of the bill as amended for the use of the House at report stage?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Thank you very much, and thank you, Mr. Casey, for bringing this forward.
This meeting is adjourned.