Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by recognizing that we are, as we are every day in the House, on the ancestral land of the Algonquin people.
Last September, I spoke before delegations from all over the world at the United Nations. I told them the harsh truths about the long and complex relationship that Canada has with first nations, the Inuit, and the Métis nation. I spoke about the colonial approach that led to the Indian Act, which is discriminatory and paternalistic.
It was a colonial approach that systematically ignored the history of the Métis nation and denied its people their rights and that in the name of Canadian sovereignty, forced the relocation of entire Inuit communities, starving individuals, uprooting families, and causing generations of harm.
I am sure that all members of the House are very familiar with these tragic events, but it is remarkable how much Canadians know about them.
I just finished a series of town hall visits in communities all across Canada. Everywhere I went, there was at least one person who wanted to know what our government is doing to combat racism, to help advance reconciliation, to improve the quality of life for indigenous peoples. There were questions about fishing rights, land claims, and pipeline approvals, questions about the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, about clean water, and about the alarming number of indigenous children in foster care.
These were thoughtful questions, and it was immediately clear, every time these kinds of questions were asked, that the room leaned in to hear. This was, in part, a show of support for the people who stood up and asked some tough questions, but it was also a signal that these are questions that Canadians want answered, questions that strike right at the heart of who we are and what kind of country we want to be.
One of those questions is how we, as a government, recognize and implement the rights of indigenous peoples. We have seen those questions grow in number and intensity in just these past few days, as more and more Canadians come to grips with the fact that we have so much more work to do, more work to push back against the systemic racism that is the lived reality for so many indigenous peoples, more work to deal with the fact that too many feel and fear that our country and its institutions will never deliver the fairness, justice, and real reconciliation that indigenous peoples deserve.
There is also reason to be hopeful. Yesterday I had the honour of spending some time with Colten Boushie's family, with his mom, Debbie; cousin, Jade; and Uncle Alvin. Through all their grief and anger, and frustration, their focus was not on themselves and the tragedy they just endured, but on how we must work together to make the system and our institutions better, better for indigenous youth, for indigenous families, and for all Canadians.
We have a responsibility to do better, to be better, to do our best to make sure that no family has to endure what they went through.
The criminal justice system is just one place in which reforms are urgently needed. Reforms are needed to ensure that, among other things, indigenous peoples might once again have confidence in a system that has failed them all too often in the past. That is why we will bring forward broad-based concrete reforms to the criminal justice system, including changes to how juries are selected.
Obviously, indigenous peoples and all Canadians know that change is way overdue.
At the same time, some see our government's ambitious commitments with a certain degree of distrust. If we look at how things have been done in the past, it is difficult to honestly say that such distrust is not warranted.
After all, it is not as though we are the first government to recognize the need to make changes and to promise to do things differently.
Over 20 years have passed since the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples called for the recognition of indigenous people as self-governing nations with a unique place in Canada. Over 30 years have passed since the Penner report and the first ministers’ conferences on the rights of aboriginal peoples.
Last year marked 35 years since aboriginal and treaty rights were recognized and affirmed through section 35 of the Constitution Act. The government of the day, led by my father, did not intend to include these rights at the outset. It was the outspoken advocacy of first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, supported by non-indigenous Canadians, that forced that government to reconsider.
Imagine what that must have felt like, to have fought so long, so hard, against colonialism, rallying their communities, reaching out to Canadians, riding the Constitution express, and in the end, to finally be recognized and included, to see their rights enshrined and protected in the foundational document upon which Canada's democracy rests.
Now, imagine the mounting disappointment, the all too unsurprising and familiar heartache, and the rising tide of anger when governments that had promised so much did so little to keep their word.
The challenge then, as now, is that while section 35 recognizes and affirms aboriginal and treaty rights, those rights have not been implemented by our governments. The work to give life to section 35 was supposed to be done together with first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, and while there has been some success, progress has not been sustained nor significant. Therefore, over time it too often fell to the courts to pick up the pieces and fill in the gaps. More precisely, instead of outright recognizing and affirming indigenous rights, as we promised we would, indigenous peoples were forced to prove time and time again, through costly and drawn out court challenges that their rights existed and must be recognized and implemented.
Indigenous peoples, like all Canadians, know that this must change, and we know this too. That is why we have been working hard for two years to renew our relationship with indigenous peoples, a relationship based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. We are on the right track.
We endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples without qualification and committed to its full implementation, including with government support for Bill .
We engaged in new recognition of rights and self-determination negotiations, where the government and indigenous peoples work together on the priorities indigenous partners say are necessary to advance their vision of self-determination.
We signed agreements with first nations, Inuit, and the Métis nation, outlining how we will work together to identify each community's distinct priorities and how we will work together to develop solutions.
We established a working group of ministers to review our federal laws, policies, and operational practices to ensure the crown is meeting its constitutional obligations and adhering to international human rights standards, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
To guide the work of decolonizing Canadian laws and policies, we adopted principles respecting Canada's relationship with indigenous peoples.
To preserve, protect, and revitalize indigenous languages, we are working jointly with indigenous partners to develop a First Nations, Inuit, and Métis languages act. We have made changes in order to recognize indigenous rights and traditional knowledge, as well as to make sure that indigenous peoples are more included when there are developments in their communities.
These efforts are an important start, but they are just a start. To truly renew the relationship between Canada and indigenous peoples, not just for today but for the next 150 years and beyond, we need a comprehensive and far-reaching approach. We need a government-wide shift in how we do things. We need to both recognize and implement indigenous rights, because the truth is, until we get this part right, we will not have lasting success on the concrete outcomes that we know mean so much to everyone.
Indigenous peoples in Canada should be able to drink the water that comes out of their taps. They should be able to go to sleep in homes that are safe and not overcrowded. Indigenous children should be able to stay with their families and communities where they are known and loved. Indigenous youth should not grow up surrounded by the things that place them at elevated risk for suicide, such as poverty, abuse, and limited access to a good education and good health care.
All of these things demand real, positive action, action that must include and be grounded in the full recognition and implementation of indigenous rights. We need to get to a place where indigenous peoples in Canada are in control of their own destinies and making their own decisions about their futures.
Today, I am pleased to announce that the government will develop, in full partnership with first nations, Inuit, and Métis people, a new recognition and implementation of indigenous rights framework that will include new ways to recognize and implement indigenous rights. This will include new recognition and implementation of rights legislation. Going forward, recognition of rights will guide all government interactions with indigenous peoples. The contents of the framework that we build together will be determined through a national engagement led by the with support from the .
Earlier, I cited many reports and a number of previous studies and consultations. I can appreciate that some would see any future consultation as just another hindrance to the struggle for the self-determination of indigenous people. Let us be clear: no matter how responsible, well-intentioned, or thoughtful it is, a solution coming just straight out of Ottawa will not do much good.
We understand that indigenous peoples are looking forward to beginning the considerable work themselves to rebuild their nations and their institutions. As a government, our work is to support First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples and to work in partnership with them to establish the framework and provide them with the tools they need as they lead the way, together with all Canadians.
We will also be engaging the provinces and territories, non-indigenous Canadians, people from civil society, industry, and the business community, and the public at large, because all Canadians have a stake in getting this right. While the results of this engagement will guide what the final framework looks like, we believe that, as a starting point, it should include new legislation and policy that would make the recognition and implementation of rights the basis for all relations between indigenous peoples and the federal government moving forward.
This framework gives us the opportunity to build new mechanisms to recognize indigenous governments and ensure the rigorous, full, and meaningful implementation of treaties and other agreements. With this framework, we have a chance to develop new tools to support the rebuilding of indigenous communities, nations, and governments, and advance self-determination, including the inherent right of self-government.
This framework could establish new ways to resolve disputes so that collaboration becomes the new standard and conflict the exception rather than the rule. By including tools that oblige the federal government to be more transparent and accountable, we can build greater trust between indigenous peoples and government.
Lastly, with this new framework, we will be able to better align Canadian legislation and policies with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the government wholeheartedly supports.
We believe that a framework that includes measures such as this one will finally act on many of the recommendations made by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and set out in countless other studies and reports over the years.
Some may worry that this ambitious approach may require reopening the Constitution. That is not true. In fact, we are finally fully embracing and giving life to the existing section 35 of the Constitution. We will replace policies like the comprehensive land claims policy and the inherent right to self-government policy with new and better approaches that respect the distinctions between first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. This will give greater confidence and certainty to everyone involved.
The federal government's absence over generations in recognizing and implementing indigenous rights has resulted in social and economic exclusion, uncertainty, and litigation, when our shared focus should have always been on creating prosperity and opportunity for everyone. Better opportunities for indigenous peoples and certainty for indigenous youth are precisely what we hope to achieve through this framework.
Engagement will continue throughout the spring, but it is our firm intention to have the framework introduced later this year and implemented before the next election.
This is work not only for the government, but for this Parliament as well. There will be committee work, witnesses, and vigorous debate in both chambers.
The history of Canada’s relationship with indigenous peoples transcends all governments. The Indian Act was passed in this House, as was section 35. Now, as a Parliament, we have the opportunity, and in fact the responsibility, to finally implement section 35.
We all know that we cannot erase the past. We cannot recover what was lost. What we can do, what we must do, is to commit to being better and doing better. As a start, let us do what the Constitution Act, 1982, has required us to do for almost 40 years.
We will work together to do away with legislation and policies built to serve colonial interests. We will work together as we follow through on our commitments to build a new and better relationship.
Indigenous Canadians and all Canadians are ready for change, ready for a new relationship based on recognition, rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership. With a recognition and implementation of rights framework, we can build that new relationship together. It will not be easy, nothing worth doing ever is, but it will be worth it. It will be worth it because we will have taken more steps toward righting historical wrongs. It will be worth it because we will have replaced apathy with action, ignorance with understanding, and conflict with respect. We will have laid the foundation for real and lasting change, the kind of change that can only come when we fully recognize and implement indigenous rights.
Together we will take concrete action to build a better future, a better Canada, for indigenous peoples and for all Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on behalf of the official opposition and the Conservative caucus in response to the ministerial statement.
The and the government have just informed the House that they intend to move forward with negotiations with a broad range of stakeholders, most specifically and crucially, Canada's indigenous communities and peoples on the construction of a new framework for indigenous rights in Canada and the relationship rooted in those rights. This, of course, is a noble and important goal. The rights of indigenous peoples in Canada for too long were ignored, maligned, or bent in the pursuit of other interests, and it is incumbent on all of us to continue moving forward in the spirit of reconciliation.
It is unacceptable that in a nation such as Canada so drastic a disparity should exist between indigenous communities and their fellow non-indigenous citizens. When communities lack even something as essential as drinking water, there is still much important work to be done, and quickly.
The road to reconciliation has not always been easy. Even with the best of intentions, we sometimes falter. Yet, as many in the House know, successive governments have also taken important steps forward to correct and make amends for the diminishing of the rights of Canada's indigenous peoples.
I and many of my colleagues on this side of the House are proud of the previous government's record in this regard. It was, of course, a Conservative government that first made important steps for Canada to endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in a manner fully consistent with Canada's Constitution and laws, almost a decade ago.
Under a Conservative government, there was a significant awakening in Canada's relationship with first nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, exemplified by the apology to the former students of Indian residential schools. There was also the historic creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the apology for relocation of Inuit families to the High Arctic, and the honouring of all Métis veterans at Juno Beach, among other milestones. The contributions and challenges of Canada's indigenous peoples were, and must continue to be, recognized and addressed.
In particular, the recognition of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission combine to create the lens through which so much of our current work is now focused. They remain watershed moments for Canada's relationship with its indigenous peoples.
Together, all parties agreed to a new path for Canada, one wholly devoted to appreciating the depth of this country's diverse aboriginal cultures.
For nearly 10 years, it was a Conservative government that did take action to improve the lives of indigenous peoples in Canada, in partnership with their leadership, communities, and industries.
The challenges were significant, but we did make progress. Economic development, job readiness, housing, child and family services, education, access to safe drinking water, land claims, governance, and sharing benefits of natural resources development were core principles that provided the foundation for a new relationship.
One of the more crucial elements to the plan was the extension of human rights protection and matrimonial real property rights to first nations on reserve. Those were important steps to ensuring that Canada's indigenous peoples saw themselves reflected in the same human rights protections afforded to any other Canadian citizen, with an emphasis particularly on women. No protections or initiatives are more important to any government than those having to do with recognizing the rights of every person who calls Canada home.
Under the previous government, there was significant progress made toward fulfilling and protecting the rights of aboriginal peoples, especially in filling existing gaps affecting the rights of indigenous peoples living on reserve.
Section 67, as we alluded to, of the Canadian Human Rights Act was repealed to ensure that indigenous people in Canada have full access to the protections of the Canadian Human Rights Act when living on reserve.
The Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act was enacted, providing spouses on reserve with basic rights and protections that any Canadian would expect. In so many instances where the act took effect, the primary beneficiaries were women and children.
We also made great strides in the reconciliation and fulfillment of aboriginal rights through the negotiation of modern treaties and the settlement of land claims. These initiatives were all crucial for real and lasting progress and, as is the hope of everyone in this House, a prosperous future for indigenous peoples. It is a record not just of goals achieved but of goals designed to be achievable, to deliver results in the lifespan of a government elected over and over again because it could be trusted to get things done.
Allow me to reiterate that much good work has been done in consultation and in partnership with indigenous leaders to improve every aspect of indigenous life in Canada, not just to improve but to promote, to champion, and to hold up to the world a Canadian example of how all sides can work together to make that future even brighter. Of course, it always must be coupled with the recognition that we are far from perfect. It is heartening to hear the say that any steps forward the government takes in the creation of a new framework for indigenous rights will be done in full consultation with indigenous communities, leaders, and others.
If I were to point to any concern with the 's promises, it is that the government has too often fallen short of them, even in its brief time in office. There is always room for improvement when it comes to Canada's approach, and that is true regardless of the government of the day, but the current Liberal government in particular has had significant difficulty in delivering on the lofty commitments it makes. It has been unable to adhere to its own standard of openness and transparency, despite arguments to the contrary. Community members have been deprived of basic financial information by the government. It is unable to hold its leadership to account and this is not democracy. The government is on track to fall well short of some of the deadlines it set in the most recent election when it comes to promises made.
We all must recognize that there can be no true and lasting reconciliation without considering economic reconciliation, empowering indigenous communities to share in the wealth that Canada is so capable of creating for all of its citizens. We can and will urge the government in its consultations to consider what impediments exist to the financial success of indigenous communities and how they can be removed, thereby ensuring long-term prosperity rather than reliance on short-term solutions.
Finally, the government must take up the leadership role it has so far studiously avoided and address the challenges facing the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
Members of this House will be watching closely at the proposals brought forward by the government. We will be testing them rigorously against standards of what is achievable in the short, medium, and long term. We will be looking to see if the talk around the table is going to lead to meaningful action on the ground that will make a difference in the quality of life of indigenous peoples.
Canada is one of the only countries in the world where indigenous and treaty rights are entrenched in its Constitution. That is a responsibility we should be taking very seriously, not one on which we should ever stake a simple election promise never to be achieved or revisited. We look forward to engaging on the ideas brought forward by the indigenous communities across the country, and working together with the current government to deliver actual results.
[Member spoke in Cree]
Mr. Speaker, I want to start by honouring the memory of the late Colten Boushie, because this tragedy, which I have lost sleep over since it happened, is an equally tragic reminder of where things are in this country they call Canada. The underlying discrimination, the denial of rights, and the impoverishment are pervasive in this country for indigenous peoples, as they are for indigenous peoples all over the world. The discrimination and other human rights violations indigenous peoples face or encounter throughout Canada are at crisis levels. It is as simple as that. Indigenous peoples, families, youth, women, and children are all impacted, with ongoing, devastating effects.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be the framework for reconciliation to ensure that present and future generations of indigenous peoples and individuals will be treated as equal to other peoples, while recognizing our right to be different, and respected as such.
Self-determination is not just a word. Self-determination is the most basic human right, for indigenous peoples as well, without which other human rights cannot be fully enjoyed.
There is hope in the words of the , and I thanked him in Cree for those words. While I appreciate the Prime Minister's words today, we need to make sure that this time it is for real. One of the most unacceptable things politicians can do is to quash the hope of the most vulnerable in our society by breaking yet another promise. That cannot happen. I will not let that happen again. We have known that for 150 years. We have faced broken promises for 150 years. Guess what. We will not let that happen again for the next 150 years.
Everyone's friend internationally, Desmond Tutu, once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
The “rising tide of anger” are the words of the . The rising tide of anger we feel in this country at the moment will reach further heights if he does not deliver on his commitments today, because we all know that there is another case coming down for a ruling: Tina Fontaine. I am frightened by the prospect of another negative outcome for indigenous peoples. I am frightened about that moment coming up.
We need to make sure that we deliver on our promises. We need to go from words to action now. I heard the same words from the mouth of the during the last federal election campaign. I heard the same words from the Prime Minister after his election. I heard the same words from the when he spoke in December 2015, after his election, to the Assembly of First Nations. He talked about the United Nations declaration. He talked about delivering on that promise. Let us make sure that it happens for real this time.
There are many files and issues we can fix right now that we could not fix two years ago when the Liberals were elected. They were elected on those promises, yet indigenous peoples in this country continue to face discrimination and injustice. We cannot claim that we are upholding the honour of the crown if we continue to not respect the human rights of indigenous peoples in this country. The denial of the rights of indigenous peoples continues under the current government, despite its promise of real change. I remember those promises. I was in that campaign as well.
We would like to remind members of the resistance of the government to the ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. It took four compliance orders following the ruling. To give another example, there is a lack of access to the fishing rights of my brothers and sisters in the Nuu-chah-nulth territory on the west coast of British Columbia, despite the fact that they won their court case 10 years ago. Governments have spent millions of dollars fighting this case over the years.
Indigenous women and girls continue to go missing or are murdered. Our youth continue to take their own lives. Free, prior, and informed consent is not being used in major projects, such as Site C, Kinder Morgan, and Muskrat Falls. In fact, we are even threatened by the if we dare to oppose these projects.
I could go on with the list of things we could fix right away. It is possible. The frameworks are there. Let us start going beyond the MOUs, the framework agreements, the engagement sessions, and the litany of expressions the Liberals have been using. I have negotiated for 30 years with governments and third parties. In our jargon, we call that delay tactics. We call that a policy of “we will do it, eventually.”
I believe in reconciliation. I believe in justice for indigenous peoples. I think we all can agree with those concepts in this country now, since the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There were major recommendations contained in that report we should all endorse right now.
When I say that there are already frameworks in this country, I am talking about the section 35 aboriginal and treaty rights. I am talking about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I am also talking about our treaties. I am talking about our international obligations as a member state of the United Nations. We are signatories to major conventions in that regard. The two international human rights covenants speak to the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples. That is another framework.
Before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established, the Supreme Court of this country, the highest court of this land, talked about reconciliation. In doing so, the Supreme Court said, in the 2004 Haida Nation case, that the objective is “to reconcile pre-existing Aboriginal sovereignty with assumed Crown sovereignty”. “Assumed” is not my word. It is the Supreme Court's.
In the spirit of reconciliation, and also in the spirit of collaboration with the government, I want to propose a couple of suggestions for the work ahead of us. I have always offered my support in collaboration with any party in power, and I continue to do so to this day, especially with regard to the human rights of the first peoples of this country.
The framework should contain several key elements.
The first element is that indigenous peoples' rights are human rights. Let us start using that language in this place and in this country. The human rights of indigenous peoples have been treated as human rights for three decades within the United Nations system. I think we should start doing that today in this country.
The second element is that international human rights standards need to be followed, and not just those contained in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The third element is that we need special measures. In view of the ongoing impacts of colonization, which we cannot deny, discrimination, land and resource dispossession, and marginalization, the vulnerability and disadvantages of indigenous peoples are exacerbated. Let us recognize that as well. Therefore, special measures are required for a wide range of matters. These would include safeguarding the cultures, languages, and land and resource rights of indigenous peoples.
The fourth element is equality and non-discrimination, as affirmed in the preamble of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples:
indigenous peoples are equal to all other peoples, while recognizing the right of all peoples to be different, to consider themselves different, and to be respected as such
That is a direct quote from the preamble of the UN declaration.
The has often said that cultural diversity in this country is important to him. There is yet another opportunity to maintain, protect, and promote the indigenous languages in this country, and we need to do that collaboratively. Again, as a Cree language speaker, I can assist the Prime Minister in this endeavour.
The fifth element is repudiation of the doctrine of superiority. Both the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the UN declaration condemn these doctrines as invalid and scientifically false.
The sixth element is consultation and co-operation, and the mentioned that.
The seventh element is that the free, prior, and informed consent concept needs to be acknowledged, endorsed, and embraced in our country. In many cases, after full and fair consideration of the rights of all those involved, the free, prior, and informed consent of indigenous peoples must prevail.
The eighth element is environment and development, which is important. In order to achieve sustainable and equitable development from an indigenous perspective, environmental protection must constitute an integral part of the development process. It cannot considered in isolation from it.
The ninth element is legislative and other measures. Again, the talked about that today, and I thank him for that. We need to do that in order to move forward as a nation.
The 10th element is a human rights-based approach. The UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues underlined that at the international, regional, and national levels, the human rights of indigenous peoples were always relevant if such rights were at risk of being undermined. Let us recall that again.
The 11th element is that there needs to be some form of restitution of lands and territories. That is also in the UN declaration. It is also says that when it is not possible, just, fair, and equitable compensation needs to happen for indigenous peoples.
Finally, is the revitalization of indigenous languages and cultures. The UN declaration articles 11 to 14 affirm that indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize their languages and cultures, and states have obligations to take effective measures in this regard. Such actions serve to reinforce indigenous peoples' rights to live in peace and security as distinct peoples. All peoples, including indigenous peoples, contribute to the diversity and richness of civilizations and cultures around the world.
[Member speaks in Cree]
Very briefly, those concluding remarks were words of thanks and gratitude for me to be able to stand in this place, as a person who was born literally on the land under a tent some 50-more years ago, and to speak in the House and with the . I am very grateful for that. It has been a long journey.
I offer my collaboration to the government to achieve those commitments expressed by the . One of the most beautiful words in Cree is NaweeDjawaagan, which means he or she who walks by my side. I offer my friendship to all of us.
Mr. Speaker, in keeping with the tradition of independence, the Bloc Québécois has always defended the need to finally establish egalitarian relationships with the first nations. The future lies in constructive nation-to-nation partnerships that respect each side's legitimate interests.
Because Quebeckers are themselves a minority, we cannot in good conscience be anything other than allies to indigenous communities. Quebec recognizes indigenous peoples as distinct peoples who are entitled to their cultures, languages, and traditions, and to the right to decide how to develop their own identity.
Members will recall that René Lévesque made Quebec the first state in America to recognize its 11 indigenous nations. This move was in line with the agreements signed with the indigenous peoples of Quebec, including the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement and agreements that came after it, such as the peace of the braves.
I would also like to point out that at the invitation of the Cree people, the Bloc Québécois was the first political party to participate in the UN initiative that led to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That is something we are extremely proud of.
I am recounting these events from the past few decades simply to remind the House that this is by no means the first time that indigenous people are hearing the kind of speech the just delivered. The basic tenet of his speech was adopted by the National Assembly of Quebec in 1985. That is why when the Prime Minister states that indigenous peoples know that change is way overdue, it will come as no surprise that the Bloc Québécois agrees completely.
We also agree with the Prime Minister's comments regarding how slow the federal government has been to take action on all matters relating to indigenous nations. We realize that establishing nation-to-nation relationships takes time but, above all, it takes political will, something that Ottawa has never had, no matter which party is in power.
So much remains to be done to change the paternalistic relationship that exists between the federal government and indigenous communities. So much remains to be done to ensure that they have access to public services tailored to their specific reality.
It is nothing short of scandalous that education, the key to the future of any people, remains in the hands of a level of government that does not take different indigenous cultures into account. It is outrageous that, when Ottawa is doling out funding, it spends half as much on indigenous children as it does on other children. That leads to problems with employment and career development.
There is still so much to do in terms of health care and social services. Adults and children who need those services still have to leave their communities. Problems with housing, sanitation, drinking water, and more persist. Underfunding affects indigenous communities in ways that would not be tolerated in other communities.
There is still so much to do to enable first nations to manage their land in ways that enable them to thrive, including in business.
There is still so much to do to make sure children in indigenous communities have an equal opportunity to flourish and succeed.
Nevertheless, we are not here just to point out what is sorely lacking. We also need to remember that the government has made repeated promises to indigenous communities and did so again today. We also need to acknowledge that a speech will not make up for generations of federal neglect and mistreatment.
There are many challenges, as we must rebuild the relationship between Ottawa and first nations from the ground up. We agree with the principles set out in the government's statement. Naturally, we will wait and see if anything comes of it before applauding.
These words must translate into concrete action and real success for communities. The government must ensure the participation of all stakeholders and respect its constitutional limits. The government must respect the needs of each nation. The government has always had an institutional preference for one-size-fits-all plans that are not appropriate for anyone.
We have all heard the Prime Minister's speech before. However, today, by reiterating his commitments and his willingness to take action, the Prime Minister has clearly established that the success of his mandate will be judged by the success of the new agreements with indigenous peoples.
The time for talk is over.
Mr. Speaker, we stand on traditional territory of the Algonquin people and accept their extraordinary generosity, again with thanks. In the language of the people whose territory I am deeply honoured to represent here, the W_SÁNEC people, I raise my hand to all people this place and say Hych'ka Siem
. It is with honour and gratitude that I address them.
I am deeply grateful to the for taking this opportunity to make a major statement of commitment to address historical and current wrongs that are reflected in the recent and deeply unsettling case of Colten Boushie's death and the absence of justice.
I am very grateful to the , the , and to our . I do not think there has ever been a time in our country when broken promises set that aside. As individual human beings of deep integrity, I know those ministers mean what they say and will do everything possible to make it so. I join with the honourable and astonishingly courageous member for in saying that we will do anything together to make it so.
I think this place is deeply colonial. Look around us. Could anything look more like the vestiges of Queen Victoria? We are in a deeply colonial place, and we need to de-colonialize; we need to indigenize. We will do that better if we leave partisanship aside.
We are members of Parliament dealing with the reality that we have 150 years of injustice, of deep and systemic racism, and, as my hon. friend for has referenced, a history of a system of separating children from their parents, generation after generation, for the purpose of breaking their spirit and denying the reality of who they are. We have a long way to go, and one afternoon of speeches does not get us there. However, as it has been an afternoon of speeches, I will be brief.
With deep respect to the member for , I want to suggest something humbly, because of the idea that as a non-indigenous person I should add anything to the list of principles we should adopt. We should also repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. If we are to de-colonialize, we need to start there. To recognize the sovereignty of the nations of the indigenous people who were here first, we really need to find a way to roll back 150 years. As the said, and surer words were never spoken, “It won't be easy”.
I turn to the pages of a very important book for settler-culture Canadians to read, which is Thomas King's The Inconvenient Indian. He said:
The fact is, the primary way that Ottawa and Washington deal with Native people is to ignore us. They know that the court system favours the powerful and the wealthy and the influential.
When Thomas King was referring to that court system, he was referring to the long, protracted, and financially exhausting process of pursuing treaty rights, of chasing fishing rights through the court, and of chasing the right to say “you can't log that place”. However, it applies to the court system as visited on the Boushie family.
We have some very specific recommendations that I hope the will consider, such as abolishing pre-emptory challenges in jury trials, as recommended recently by legal scholar Kent Roach. There are things we can do and there are things we must do.
We also need to put out a message of love and embracing hope that says to those, as I know indigenous communities and first nations as the voice of non-violence, that this is a plea for non-violence that permeates all calls for civil disobedience. It permeates all calls for justice. It lets them raise their voices higher. Let us ensure that we pray for mutual understanding, love, and deep consideration.
My friend, the former president of the Haida Nation, Miles Richardson, was asked what reconciliation meant. What did it look like once we had gotten there? He said, “If you can see me as I see myself, and I can see you as you see yourself”.
In other words, it is the foundational principle of mutual respect, of human rights for each and every one of us, which means that in this country, with the history that we have and the present that we experience, we have a long way to go. That road is made possible through the resilience, courage, and incredible leadership of indigenous peoples and we hope to be deserving of their ongoing patience, consideration, and friendship.