Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise today to speak to Bill .
We are in the last stages of this Parliament. It may seem like the election is far off in October of this year, but legislation being introduced right now is on the clock, as we say. It is not unusual for even government bills to take more than a year to pass.
This legislation on indigenous languages was promised by the Liberal government three years ago. It was promised to be introduced last year. It was introduced just this week, and it is going to take a certain determined effort and a willingness, maybe a newfound willingness, on the part of the government to negotiate and make accommodations. While the bill is a good first step towards protecting indigenous languages in Canada, there are some significant and real opportunities the government missed in designing it.
The talks often, certainly more than any previous one, of the need for reconciliation in this country. I would say it is an inconsistent message on the ground, because many of the indigenous people I represent in northwestern British Columbia have heard the words but not seen actions that have taken us along that way.
For many years since coming to office, I have argued for support for indigenous languages and for the proper, stable funding of language programs. Much as we worry about the rare and beautiful species around the world that are becoming extinct or endangered, we are watching ancient and profound languages disappearing before our very eyes, within our lifetime, here in Canada. I have heard ministers talk about this as a crisis many times, yet we do not treat it like a crisis.
Let me start with the good, because it is important to try to give credit where it is due. While the bill is late and has yet to specify funding, the fact that we are now speaking about indigenous languages is something important and needs to be sustained.
We have a piece of legislation that is not necessarily very large but could potentially have a profound impact. It would perhaps allow for stable funding. The reason that is important, as anyone who has tried to acquire a second or third language would know, is that taking a week's course is insufficient. Taking a week's course once a year or every few years is not going to be enough.
What gives a person the capacity to speak with the range required to truly understand and incorporate a language is sustained effort over time, having instruction, and having materials there from the earliest stages of life right through. Learning to express oneself in one's own language in a proper way requires that kind of sustained effort.
While we see statutory funding made available in this legislation, there is no amount indicated. All the legislation points to in clause 7 is that consultations will be undertaken with indigenous groups to establish funding. One has to wonder what the government has been doing over the last three years.
The Liberals have talked about consultation a lot, and we would have assumed that there was a figure attached to this. We have a budget coming in a short while, but Canadians familiar with politics would know that budgets that are introduced in an election year are sometimes worth the paper they are written on, but not always.
The government has grown an addiction to what is called back-loaded funding. It announces a large number. Housing or transportation would be good examples where the number is large but it happens in the eighth, ninth or 10th year of the program. If anyone can predict what the government is going to look like, much less the budget, 10 years from now, I sure would like to talk to that person about the stock market and Vegas.
It cannot be done. These are promises that cannot be committed to. While statutory funding is outlined in the bill, no figure is given by the government even though we have asked several times.
It is frustrating, because that is not treating a thing like a crisis. When the Liberals say they want to consult after being in power for more than three and a half years, indigenous groups and leaders and maternal language speakers will ask what exactly the Liberals have been doing and why it has taken so long.
I need to talk about home a bit, because this is how I can relate to this type of legislation.
In the northwest of British Columbia are some of the most ancient and vibrant indigenous cultures: the Tahltan and Taku River Tlingit in the north, up to the now Yukon border; the Haida and Haida Gwaii down the Tsimshian coast to Bella Coola and Bella Bella, the Nuxalk, all the way up through the interior to the Carrier Sekani, Wet'suwet'en, the Haisla, Tsimshian, Wet'suwet'en, Gitxsan and others.
These languages are something to behold. When I am attending and observing a traditional ceremony in the feast hall, from naming ceremonies and weddings to funerals, smoke feasts and headstone feasts, I am reminded that central to any culture, and in particular indigenous culture, is the ability of a community or a nation to speak its own language to itself in those important moments in life: the passing on of an elder, the naming of young people or a chief acquiring her or his name. It is the ability to tell the stories and the ability to describe the meanings behind the words and locations.
I think of the court case that is often referred to in this place. The case of Delgamuukw and Gisday’wa took place at the Supreme Court of Canada, just a few blocks from here, when two chiefs of the Gitxsan and the Wet'suwet'en, appeared before court day after day to establish an important thing in our law and precedents, that oral tradition and oral evidence counted as evidence.
One of the great corruptions of colonial empires was to dismiss any legal authority of indigenous peoples in order to acquire the land, terra nullius, to say that there was nobody here and that anything that had existed in law here, in some cases for thousands upon thousands of years, was somehow done away with.
At the Supreme Court, the challenge was for the Wet'suwet'en and Gitxsan chiefs to be able to describe in their languages, in Wet'suwet'en and in Gitxsan, the place names and histories and stories of their nations. By doing it consistently and over and over again under brutal cross-examination by the Crown, that case was successful. Because they were speakers of their traditional languages in their original form, they were able to establish in front of the highest court in the land their territorial rights and the ability to have some influence over what happens in their homes. That is the most basic concept of human rights we have.
Unfortunately, this is where I struggle with the current government, and I think many indigenous peoples do as well. If we look to the Wet'suwet'en and what is going on right now on their territory and the Unist'ot'en territories, there is a challenge and debate, with conflict from time to time, over a proposed pipeline. One of the things we are trying to establish with the government is that very ability to have some say over the land. We have called upon the and the government just to be involved in what is happening in the Wet'suwet'en territory. From the Prime Minister's Office on down to the , we have been told it is not our business.
On the one hand, Liberals claim reconciliation as a priority. The often says there is no more important relationship than that with indigenous peoples. When there is a moment of conflict, we are able to engage the municipality; we are able to engage the police and we are able to engage with the company and the provincial government, but we cannot engage with the federal government under acts that exist that were created in this place.
The government suddenly wants to wash its hands of any implication and say it believes in reconciliation, except when we need reconciliation, when we need to reconcile things like the Indian Act and the hereditary governance system of the Wet'suwet'en. This would be an important thing to the government if it cared about reconciliation. Let us reconcile.
My family heritage is Irish. I was the first in my family to be born here after they immigrated, back in the 1950s. When I look through the Irish history, particularly the colonial history of Great Britain in Ireland, one of the tactics used by the colonial power was to extinguish language, to extinguish stories and history and where people come from, because if we cannot tell our stories, we do not know who we are. It is an attempt to erase a people. To truly subjugate them requires the colonial power, in this case, to try to remove their history and language.
We saw it in Ireland over centuries, and the British picked up that model and applied it when they were the colonial power in this country, to eliminate the language, stories and history. The settlers could pretend that there were no people here. There was no land taken because it was not in possession of anybody, as they were nomadic people without laws, traditions, language or culture.
Through the residential schools and the sixties scoop, which is not mentioned in the bill, and other oppressive tactics designed in parliaments, in this place, explicitly by successive prime ministers, they tried to extinguish indigenous people entirely and subsume them into the colonial melting pot. We can only imagine the courage and energy required from those indigenous elders to insist, even though it was against the law of the day, on speaking their language.
I was recently at a funeral where an elder was relaying stories of what it was like for him to go to school and the beatings he took any time he spoke Gitxsan. If the teacher, the nun in this case, heard the Gitxsan language spoken at any time, in excitement, in sorrow, in explanation to another student, he would be beaten.
This was a story my grandmother was able to tell from her Irish past. If she spoke Celtic in front of the British nuns, she was beaten as well. Therefore, across oceans and across time, we are able to see the influences. Now my family speaks hardly any Celtic at all, and I wonder what that robs me of as a son of the Irish, that I am unable to access my history, culture and traditions because of decisions made by the mother of parliaments in London.
Much like it is with species, once extinct there is no going back. When I look around at the indigenous communities I represent, I know the effort that has been put in, first when it was illegal, but even now that it is no longer forbidden. It is very difficult to ensure that indigenous languages are being practised.
In some of our communities, we can count on one hand the number of fluent speakers left, and fluency is critical in this. I urge the government to please understand, when designing the spending and ensured programming for the bill, that just knowing a few words, phrases, expressions and counting to 10 is a good start, but fluency is what is required.
As anybody who has attempted to learn another language knows, if one is not fluent in that language and cannot understand the depth and breadth of the language, then one does not understand its people. If that is true for native speakers of that language, they cannot understand themselves, and while that was a government design in the past, we cannot skim the surface of this effort. We have to be able to do it properly.
I will tell the story of being at a Haida feast, which was incredible. It was the chief's naming feast. It was a big deal. A friend of mine, Guujaaw, was getting his name, and it was a long feast. It was done in proper Haida style, with lots of food, song, gifts, performances and speeches. When I was there, I got to be an observer. That is hard for a politician, but I was not there to speak at all. I was just there to bear witness, because that is how a feast is held up, by those who bear witness.
At the very end of the speech, it was gift-giving time. It is a beautiful tradition of many indigenous peoples, and certainly the Haida, to offer gifts to those who have come and witnessed what has happened in the feast hall.
As the gifts were being passed out and there were so many it was taking a long time, one of the young Haida got up in the middle of the hall and said, “We'd like to sing a couple of songs. Does anyone want to come up while we're gifting? It's our tradition to sing songs.”
One by one, these young Haida were coming out of the crowd. By the end, there must have been 30 or 40 young Haida, singing song after song for an hour or more. I marvelled at this, knowing some of the history of the Haida, of the smallpox blankets and the almost extinction of their culture entirely. I was watching a renaissance, a rebirth of the language, particularly among the young people.
I was sitting beside one of the Haida elders and I said, “There's a lot of wealth here.” There were a lot of gifts being given, and the Haida, and this chief in particular, my friend, was able to describe his wealth and stature to the community, but the real wealth was happening in the middle of the floor. Their young people are able to speak with each other and their elders in Haida. It is so inspiring as someone who represents the Crown, who represents not just our present but our history. I know that people who previously held my office held the implicit racist views that indigenous people were less than and that their languages were barbaric. Those words were said in Parliament time and again. How barbaric are they was the debate of the day 100 years ago.
We watched the determination of the Haida, the Tsimshian, the Gitxsan, the Wet'suwet'en and on down the line, maintain their understanding of language, without support, and in fact, with aggression from the federal government.
We are here in Parliament. It means “to speak”. We hold and guard jealously our ability to speak in the two official languages. It is against the rules in this place to ever criticize or suggest someone speak in either English or French. We are free to express ourselves as well as we can. That is the rule of the House. We have a whole stack of books protecting that right to speak in Parliament, to express ourselves. If the bill can help move the country forward just a little to say one has the right to protect these languages, to express oneself in indigenous languages, then we will be doing a good thing.
My friend from has spent his life facing challenges, political and personal, and a state determined to ignore him. His generosity and determination has stayed true to this cause, to allowing Parliament to hear speeches in indigenous languages and to seeing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples brought into law in Canada.
That part of the bill needs to move out of the preamble and into the substance of the act. If we believe in section 35 rights, if we believe in the UN declaration, and that should inform our law-making, then let it form our law-making. Allow it to express itself fully, because if Canada ever seeks to be the nation it is promising to be, then we certainly must do these types of things, and more, and do them together.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
First of all, I want to say mahsi cho.
Today is a great day. It is with great pleasure that I rise to speak in support of Bill , the indigenous languages act. This legislation supports a revitalization of indigenous languages, which have deteriorated over the years because of the racist and discriminatory policies of successive governments.
Three languages were spoken in my home when I grew up: English; the language of the Dene, the Dehcho Dene; and the language of the Métis, Métis French, Michif. It all kind of came to an end when I started school, because during that era, we were not allowed to speak anything except English. If we were caught or reported for speaking anything but English, we were strapped with an 18-inch, three-inch wide rubber strap.
There was no defence. We were guilty. It did not matter if we did it or not. A lot of my colleagues would sometimes falsely report their fellow students. They wanted to see them get strapped. There was no way to get away from it. If the principal came out, grabbed us and brought us to the front of the class, and we fought back, he would hit us wherever he could. However, if we let him, he would just strap us on the hands. Usually it was four straps per hand. The only time we could get him to stop was if he drew blood. A lot of my colleagues would take a piece of their hair and put it on their hands to see if they could get their hands to bleed so that after the first strap, they would not be hit anymore.
Why did this happen? Why did we have to go through this? It is because past policies were designed to strip away indigenous identity and discourage the use of traditional languages.
This bill is intended to support and promote the use of indigenous languages. It recognizes that languages are fundamental to the identities, cultures, spiritual beliefs, relationships to the land, world views and self-determination of indigenous peoples.
Throughout the government-led engagement sessions on this legislation, which I think took a total of two years, it was stated that language was integral to who one is as a person, to who we are as a people and to individual and collective pride and strength.
Indigenous youth across Canada need to be exposed to their histories through language and must be supported in their efforts to learn their languages and have pride in their cultures. If they park their languages to survive, they also park a big part of their culture, which is something I have learned from my experience.
Acknowledging the importance of indigenous languages in Canada will allow for healthier indigenous people and communities and a healthier country as a whole.
There have been many studies done on the use of indigenous languages and their role, or lack of a role, in the issue of suicide. Many studies have shown that indigenous communities in which a majority of members report conversational knowledge of an indigenous language also experience low to absent youth suicide rates. By contrast, in those communities in which fewer than half the members report knowledge of the language, suicide rates are up to six times higher.
The Assembly of First Nations' report on its national engagement sessions regarding this act states:
Language learning and identity reunification can be sources of healing. Schooling—residential schools, day schools, public schools, technical schools—were sources of disrupting Indigenous language use as a natural process. These institutions made us ashamed to speak our languages and parents were made to believe that their languages would harm their children and keep them from succeeding. Language revitalization can be used to help mitigate other issues such as addictions; people with a strong sense of language have better physical and mental health.
Past studies and reports have acknowledged the importance of youth and intergenerational learning to the revitalization of indigenous languages.
The 2005 report “Towards a New Beginning" by the Task Force on Aboriginal Languages and Cultures calls for funding for immersion programs for children and youth. The task force report reminded indigenous communities to be more mindful of children and youth by stating:
Go home to your communities and do not forget the youth. They sometimes get forgotten and shouldn’t be. They’re important and they’re the next generation. We need to ask the youth what they need and want, and get them involved and get them excited about this.
I have heard chiefs in my riding talk about encouraging people to talk to youth and talk to their children, to say one word or one sentence in their indigenous language, because it does not cost anything.
In the report, elders urge educational institutions to encourage youth to take leadership roles in language preservation. It is important to recognize that youth need access to sufficient financial support to assist in their language journeys so they can learn, use and promote their languages.
Through this bill, the Government of Canada has committed to supporting the efforts of indigenous people to reclaim, revitalize, preserve and maintain their languages in a variety of ways, including by implementing measures that would facilitate the allocation of funding.
A recent report published by the First Peoples' Cultural Council, entitled “Indigenous Languages Recognition, Preservation and Revitalization”, stated:
Youth energy is a driving force for language revitalization. It needs to be encouraged.
Young people need to be encouraged to take control over their languages, as they are the future of this country and will be responsible for the future of indigenous languages.
In 2016, Canada officially adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which proclaims:
Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations, their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.
The declaration also asserts:
States shall, in conjunction with indigenous peoples, take effective measures, in order for indigenous individuals, particularly children, including those living outside their communities, to have access, when possible, to an education in their own culture and provided in their own language.
The bill recognizes the urgent need to support the efforts of indigenous people to reclaim, revitalize, maintain and also strengthen their languages. Indigenous youth and all peoples in Canada need to be supported in their efforts to reclaim their languages. Indigenous communities have been working diligently to revitalize and reclaim their first nations, Inuit and Métis languages, and it is important to acknowledge their work. The role of elders and language keepers is also very important to the languages of indigenous people in Canada, and their efforts should not be overlooked.
This legislation must be implemented with urgency to provide the necessary support for indigenous people before the language keepers are gone. I urge all hon. members to respect and honour the energy and perseverance of indigenous youth by acting swiftly to adopt this legislation.
I will conclude by reminding members that this bill is long overdue. We must continue to recognize the importance of indigenous language revitalization and the invaluable effects it has on indigenous youth, indigenous communities and Canadians. We have to hurry, because many of our indigenous languages depend on it.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to stand today and speak on the ancestral lands of the Algonquin Anishinabeg people. I know that if Algonquin Elder Commanda were here today, as she was on the day when she opened our new chamber, she, too, would be happy to speak to a bill that speaks to preserving the languages of Canada's indigenous people. Many indigenous people across Canada are happy to see it.
In my own language, the language of my ancestors, the Inuit language, Inuktitut, I say nakurmiik or “thank you” for allowing me the opportunity to serve in this place and to speak to the bill today, and to speak in strong support of it.
Bill , the indigenous languages act, is aimed at supporting indigenous people all across our country and for doing what they have been trying to do for a long time in the absence of government, which is continuing to carry forward the language and culture they had been accustomed to and were born into.
In particular, it is appropriate that we are providing this language bill in Canada at this time, simply because it is the year of languages for the United Nations. If we go back in time and look to see when people started advocating for the bill, it was in 1995.
In 1995, Canada was moving in that direction. UNESCO had found that many languages within the world were disappearing. Canada, like other nations around the world, was called upon to preserve language and to preserve the language of indigenous people in particular.
Over that period of time, very little attention was being paid to what was happening. In fact, no action was taken whatsoever.
Also in 1995, the royal commission called upon Canada to begin working, right away, with indigenous people across the country; to start revitalizing language; to start establishing a foundation on which we could support indigenous efforts that were already taking place to preserve language within the country. However, no action was taken.
A colleague across the House asked why it took so long to get where we were. It is a question best asked to that side. In 2005, there was an indigenous-led task force on aboriginal languages. It recommended, very clearly, to the Conservative government of the day that it include initiatives to do just that. It would include legislation, such as what we have brought forward today, that recognized the Constitutional status of indigenous languages in the country, that would be funded, that official languages would also have a national council to coordinate their efforts and that a full strategy be designed, whose only goal was to ensure that indigenous language was revitalized and carried on in the country.
It is 25 years since the time those things happened. Nevertheless, we are here today. We are here because we have listened to what indigenous people have said to us. They have said quite clearly that the Government of Canada needs to do more to preserve indigenous languages in our country.
Over the last two years, in particular, we worked very hard with indigenous groups, first nations, Inuit and Métis, to ensure we would get this right, that we would bring to the House of Commons the very first bill to preserve indigenous languages in Canada and do those things that they had asked. I am very proud today to be part of a government that is acting and doing just that.
I think my colleague from the Northwest Territories probably said it best when he talked about why the languages of indigenous peoples had disappeared over the years.
I come from a region of the country where we are very proud of our indigenous and northern roots. In Labrador, we have two very distinct indigenous languages, Inuktitut and Innu-aimun. A lot of work has been done on preserving those languages, by communities, by the people who live there, by the elders, by generations of people. Over the last couple of years, we have been able to help them by investing in the tools they need, by investing in preserving the language within their schools and after school programs and by helping them prepare the products they need to continue to teach and carry on in that way. It is very difficult.
The area I come from, while I grew up not knowing the language of my ancestors, many others grew up in communities where people continued to speak the language on a very small scale. However, there are huge generational gaps between those who speak it as their mother tongue and those who are just starting to learn the language again. The gap is under 14 and over 65. That is basically where we see the language gap in most of the indigenous languages in my region. In other parts of the country, people do not even have that. Even that has disappeared. Therefore, so many people out there are really starting with the basics.
They lost their language as a result of assimilation and the residential schools, which we have talked about and have heard about in that unfortunate chapter of history that affected so many indigenous people. They lost their language because they were never permitted to speak it, as my colleague from the Northwest Territories said. That opportunity was removed from them, and not throughout just one or two decades but throughout many decades of our history.
Canada will never allow that to happen again. That is why we support bills like Bill before us today to ensure it does not happen again.
When we look back, we know that three times over the past 25 years the issue has come to the attention of government at certain points in time without action. The last call was through truth and reconciliation. When the prime minister of the day made his commitment on behalf of the government and to all Canadians that we would honour the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, this was one of the very things he committed to do.
I am really pleased that we are able to bring this legislation forward. I am also pleased that in so many regions in the country, many people still speak their mother tongue, like the people of Nunavut. Of over 33,000 people in that territory, most still speak their mother tongue, their language of Inuktitut. They are an example for all of us to live up to. However, we also know it will take early intervention and support to make this happen.
Today, as I conclude my comments, I want to thank all of those who had a hand in making this happen. I want to thank all indigenous people in Canada for not giving up and having the resilience to carry on. I want to acknowledge that this is certainly a great step forward in what has been a long journey for indigenous people.
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand today in this place and add my voice to the discussion around Bill .
The House may not be aware that today is End It Movement Day. It is a movement to end modern-day slavery in our country and around the world. The people who participate wear a red X on their hand. Many may not know that within Canada, human trafficking probably happens within 10 blocks of where they live if they live in the city and within 10 miles of where they live if they live in the country.
Modern-day slavery has many faces in Canada, but the vast majority of cases, about 50% of them, involve indigenous women and girls. That is why I am wearing a red X on my hand today.
Bill is about respect and about protecting indigenous languages here in Canada. Many bills have been brought up about this issue, and the government has spoken in length about it as well.
Back in December 2016, the government said it was seized with this issue and would table some legislation. Now, at the eleventh hour of this Parliament, the government has tabled a bill, and here we are, discussing it today.
I find it frustrating to see the government's approach to supporting something. Supply management is a good example. It says all the time that it supports supply management, but it has very narrowly cast that support. The support is purely for the two words, “supply management”. It is the same in this case as well. The government says it supports indigenous languages, but that is really just the two words, “indigenous languages”.
Many times when we support something, the actual thing that needs to be supported needs the entire surrounding infrastructure or the surrounding society to support it. Only supporting the end result does not necessarily help the actual goal we are trying to achieve.
Let us use the case of supply management as an example. It is really great for the government to say it supports supply management, but when it takes milk and dairy products and animal proteins out of the food guide, it is not supporting supply management whatsoever.
A couple of people who work in my office are coffee connoisseurs. They always ask me why I put cream in my coffee. They think I am ruining the coffee by doing so. I tell them I support supply management, so I put cream in my coffee. Supporting supply management means actually supporting supply management and targeting the actual issue.
We are seeing that again with this indigenous language bill. It says we are going to support indigenous language and we are going to have an ombudsman and all of these things, but if we do not support communities and do not support the culture of these languages, they will become dead languages.
I know a bit about dead languages. I know a bit of Latin. It is a language that is used all the time, but it is not a spoken language. There are records of languages that have been brought back. I understand Hebrew is one of those languages that has been brought back from being a dead language to a language that is now alive and well.
I failed to mention at the beginning of my comments that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
This is a great bill. I am sure that we will take the language, codify it and keep a record of it. Many organizations around this country are working on translating the Bible into all indigenous languages.
The House may be aware that both the German language and the English language were codified when the Bible was translated into those languages. There is a language known as High German. It was not really a language spoken by anybody, but it was the language that the Bible would have been translated into for a big swath of the world that spoke Germanic languages. It codified the whole language into a common language.
We are seeing work being done on that around the country. The funding that will be coming through this legislation will probably support many of those initiatives. I support that idea.
The point I am trying to make is that we would like these languages to be living languages, not dead languages, and in order to do that, we need to support communities. What does supporting communities look like? For one thing, we have a rich heritage in this country around the fur trade. Canada was built on the fur trade. I always say Canada was built on a number of things, such as the fur trade, the railway and other things, but the fur trade for indigenous peoples was a major part of the economy. It is a shame that today we do not champion the fur trade in this country.
Representatives of the fur trade association were in my office the other day, and they told me that fur will not even be on the winter Olympics uniforms. I do not know if anyone saw that Canada Goose recently came out with a new lineup of jackets designed by an Inuit designer. They are amazing jackets. They have nice fur on the hood. I am sure there are more fur products on the inside as well, though I could not see. The fur trade is what made these communities sustainable. Their languages were able to survive with or without government funding, and the Inuit are a prime example of that. Most them still have their languages because it is a vibrant community.
Where I am from, many of the Woodland Cree people still speak the language, and their communities are thriving. Why are they thriving? It is because the economy is thriving. No doubt a generation has lost the language due to the residential schools, but when communities come together and operate well, the language continues to thrive, so we see that bills like Bill do nothing. We say we want to support languages and indigenous communities, but then the government introduces a bill like Bill C-69, which hamstrings all of the northern Alberta communities that rely on the economy that pipelines, the oil patch and resource development bring to northern Alberta. The government says it supports indigenous languages, but it supports them in a very narrow way. We need to ensure these communities have a good economy; then the language will flourish.
Another area that is frustrating to me is the language around firearms that the Liberals in particular use all the time. They seem to be very suspicious of people who own and use firearms on a regular basis. It is our indigenous communities that use, own and work with firearms on a regular basis. The language and laws coming from the Liberal government, particularly Bill , are onerous to all first nation communities for sure. Firearms are a big part of their culture. Firearms are a way of life for them, so to say we are going to support their languages and culture and then make it more onerous to own a firearm is not supportive of the culture whatsoever.
Lots of people say we already have languages and ask me why I think it is so important. We all have a world view, a narrative, a place that we belong in the world, and being part of a culture that has identifiable languages and creeds and those kinds of things gives us our sense of belonging in the world. A language does that to a large degree. Studies bear out the idea that when people feel they are tied to a language, a people, a land and a culture, they are much more successful in nation building and culture building.
For all of those reasons, I support this bill, but I find it ironic that we are here at the eleventh hour debating a bill to support indigenous languages.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill , an act respecting indigenous languages. We, of course, support the bill and support sending it to the heritage committee after it gets through the House.
I want to thank all the speakers today. There were a lot of well-thought-out comments on the bill.
We believe that the bill before us is both pragmatic and reasonable. My colleague from said that “the Government of Canada was part of the destruction of indigenous languages and we need to be part of the solution.” Hopefully, Bill will be a step toward that.
The Right Hon. Stephen Harper said in his June 11 residential school apology that:
First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages and cultural practices were prohibited in these schools....
The government now recognizes that the consequences of the Indian Residential Schools policy were profoundly negative and that this policy has had a lasting and damaging impact.
That is very true.
The legislation before us was first promised in 2016, so I have to ask, as has been asked by previous speakers, why the delay? Why is it so late in this session that it is finally introduced? We have just 13 more sitting weeks before we break for the summer and the election. Although, I am sure that there will be hopes otherwise, there appears to be very little chance that the bill will actually become law before the House rises.
Over a year ago, the government seemed to place a higher priority on other bills instead of this one, and I will give the example of Bill , which was called the Seinfeld bill about nothing. What was Bill ? Basically it was to codify the name change from Public Works to Public Services and Procurement, and also to change the accounting within the appropriations on how we pay the old ministers of state. That is it.
I have to ask, if no relationship is more important to the government, why was a bill codifying a name change of a ministry more important than bringing this bill forward? This issue encapsulates the lie about the government's claim of no relationship being more important.
I will talk about the issue of safe drinking water on reserves. The government has promised to eliminate the drinking advisories by 2021, which is fantastic and we support that. However, government members stand time and time again in the House and say how far they have come, and that they have take so many off, but they never mention the fact that for every two they have taken off since coming to power, one has been added.
In fact, it was even on its June website that 62 had been lifted but 33 had been added. If we go to the website today, we will see that it has actually taken off that portion of how many water advisories have been added. I have to ask, as the government members stand up again and again touting their success, why have they taken this off the website? What are they are trying to hide?
On the fiscal transparency issue, one of the first things the government did was lift the law for first nations to have fiscal transparency for their members. If we go to the government's departmental plan for Indigenous Services, which is the plan the government has to fill out, publish and table in the House and that the minister herself signs off on, one of its goals states that it is going to reduce the number of first nations complying with the First Nations Financial Transparency Act. Literally, the goal that is stated right in the departmental plan is to reduce the number of first nation bands complying with the transparency act by 23%. Now, I have to give the government points, as it actually succeeded partly on that. The departmental results plans that were just published show it reduced it by 8%.
The Auditor General Michael Ferguson who recently passed away, in his 2018 report, commented about the government splitting Indigenous Services and Northern Affairs. He stated that splitting the department into two different departments could be a step forward toward improving services for first nations, but that we won't know unless there's a way to track outcomes.
This goes back to the departmental plans. The departmental plans tabled in the House show what the government's priorities are, where it will be spending the money and what its planned outcomes and targets are going to be for the money spent and the actions for the year. In Indigenous Services, 50% of the targets set are to be determined.
In his report, the late Michael Ferguson stated that if we want to move forward in serving first nations, we need to see planned outcomes, but the government's response is to table a report where 50% of the goals for Indigenous Services for the year, their targets, their planned outcomes, are left blank. As well, 55% of the dates in their planned outcomes are left to be determined and 61% of the previous year's results are left as not applicable. Here is the government, again, with no relationship more important, stating the goals for Indigenous Services but that the government is not going to say what it did last year for comparison.
Again, I bring my colleagues back to what the late Michael Ferguson said, which was that we are not going to get better services unless we can judge the outcomes.
Remember that 50% did not have any targets at all. When they did set them, 21% of the targets show a decline or no improvement over the previous year. How are we going to move forward and help improve indigenous services when the government, for half of the Department of Indigenous Services, says it will not set a goal, and when it does set a goal, fully 21%